New Partnership with SoapBox Labs Brings Speech Recognition to Phonics, Reading, and Me ™
June 27, 2022 – New Orleans, LA – Today at ISTELive 22, early childhood learning leader Learning Without Tears announced Phonics, Reading, and Me™ – a K-3 supplemental phonics program designed to help children learn the skills they need to become proficient readers. Learning Without Tears also announced a new partnership with SoapBox Labs, the Dublin-based speech recognition company that powers joyful learning and play experiences for kids, to leverage speech recognition technology to provide digital assessments and give educators a more streamlined and accurate view of a student’s reading progress, making it easier to personalize instruction.
“We listened to teachers and educators,” explained Learning Without Tears CEO Terry Nealon. “Teachers have more work to do with more students than ever before. But they also lack the resources and time to allow them to assess, monitor, and individualize reading instruction based on a clear understanding of each student’s progress. We know that word study and morphology skills are fundamental to all other learning and overall literacy. Phonics, Reading, and Me incorporates speech recognition technology from SoapBox Labs into the LWT personalized learning environment, providing teachers a more streamlined and accurate assessment of a student’s reading skills. With this single program, teachers get tailored recommendations attending to the needs of each student. And, with our embedded professional learning, we have made it incredibly easy for teachers to implement the program.”
Typically, assessing a student’s phonemic awareness and oral fluency is a highly manual process, requiring educators to sit and listen carefully--often in a loud and bustling classroom--as each student reads out loud. By using SoapBox Labs’ voice engine designed intentionally for the unique speech patterns of kids, digital assessments can now accurately listen to a student and return that data back to the teacher. Voice-enabled oral reading assessments ensure that every child gets the personalized instruction and support needed to ensure their literacy success.
“Acoustically, it’s very difficult to distinguish between short, individual utterances and sounds made by a young child at the foundational stages of learning to read. The SoapBox voice engine’s ability to return highly accurate feedback down to the phoneme level is a game changer for early literacy companies like Learning without Tears and the educators they serve” said Martyn Farrows, CEO of SoapBox Labs. “With timely, automated and granular data on each student's progress in phonemic awareness, letter names and letter sounds, educators can focus on what matters most: building relationships of support through more personalized instruction that matches students’ individual needs.”
"Differentiated instruction, especially when dealing with early foundational skills like literacy, is absolutely critical for the success of young learners. And after the last two years of lost instructional time, there is a deep urgency to help educators do this more easily and quickly,” said Andrew Clute, Vice President of Product and Technology at Learning Without Tears. "As a result of SoapBox’s extensive research and experience in developing speech recognition specifically for kids, we have a great new tool in our toolbox to help educators differentiate students' learning pathways. Their technological breakthroughs mean we can unlock an instructional pathway that wasn’t easily available before, to better serve millions of kids."
Lessons within Phonics, Reading, and Me focus on rich texts that give decoding and skills practice. All components – student books, lesson cards, digital learning, reading response journals, sound-spelling activities, formative assessment cards - work together to provide ample opportunities for children to read, talk, and write, all vital steps on the path to successful reading. A student’s reading success builds by reading more.
“Research has shown that students spend inadequate time actually reading themselves, with support, during the school day – often as little as 10-20 minutes of a 90- to 120-minute literacy block,” continued Terry Nealon. “This exceptional curriculum means that teachers no longer must choose between focusing on skills or fostering the type of curiosity that comes from reading great books. With Phonics, Reading, and Me, students build skills and build knowledge while they contribute their own experiences from diverse cultures. The result is an accelerated personalized learning plan that balances instruction and practice, and – most importantly – provides an unprecedented degree of equity and access for all students.”