Talking Phonics Flashcards

Carter’s Yard Phonics


I am a massive fan of augmented reality.  From the first programs that I experienced with dragons crawling out of holes on my floor, desk, settee – through Pokemon Go – to a virtual chicken in my conservatory whilst I was learning Spanish and convincing my eldest son there was a ghost in the room that could only be seen using the phone camera!

 (It’s OK the Dog didn’t notice – he is real!)

Carter’s Yard Phonics have developed a set of flashcards which use augmented reality to introduce young children and those learning the sounds of the English language to phonics.  The company very kindly sent me a set of their cards to experiment with (I’m pleased to announce there were no elephants, chickens or ghosts!)

Zappar is a free to download and use app available from the App Store and Google Play.  It looks a little like a QR reader, utilizing circular ‘zaps’ rather than the linear box we are used to seeing. 

Zaps are read quickly by hovering the camera of your device over them. 

The talking phonics flashcards have a zap in the top right corner of each double-sided phonic card.  Hovering over them opens a series of buttons which can be clicked on to generate new events.

Following traditional phonics structures the first card is /s/

The four options provided are image, sound, word (or phrase), blending.

Image brings up a picture of the item on the card (in case you have moved your screen away from the card). 

Sound plays a clear recording of the pure phonic sound.  I’m pleased to say that the accent is very British and not digitized or American (which is often the issue with phonic audio tracks.)

Word clearly announces the word associated with the phonic.  In this case ‘sock’.

At higher levels this is replaced by Phrase where the short sentence or phrase is read out.

Blending takes the phonic sounds in the target word and sounds them out before citing the word.  The pace for blending is appropriate and the audio is unbelievably crisp. 

I enjoyed playing with the cards, but the true test would be their target audience – children!

My youngest is only 2 (literally 2 days ago) so a little too young to appreciate the nuances of phonics and the next son up is 8 where we would hope he knew all his phonic choices by now!  (The eldest two are teenagers.)  Fortunately, all my children are used to working with me on my projects, so I borrowed them to give me an opinion.

We were really pleased to see two cards showing the difference between the /th/ sounds – hard /th/ in ‘the, ‘this’ and soft /th/ in ‘think’ and ‘three’.  My husband (who comes from south of the Watford Gap) wasn’t too keen on the /oo/ sounds.  My children and I with our Midlands accents were happy with the /oo/ making a short /u/ sound.  Hubby, however, would have preferred his longer /ew/ sound instead.  Fortunately, there were no pictures to start a path, bath, castle argument! 

Everyone agreed the images were appropriate and would help with recognition of the words and sounds which is of vital importance if using with EAL students.  My eldest son pointed out that the /igh/ card used an /igh/ sound written with a different grapheme (letter combination) which he found confusing.  (The sentence reads ‘high in the sky tonight’), whereas the other one said that the long /oo/ card used a phrase (need the loo soon) that many children who have learned English as a foreign language would not have come across. 

My 8-year-old has a visual difficulty and although he could see everything on the cards and the screen easily he did have some problems trying to click the option he wanted.  At one point he asked me to find the settings to stop the display from spinning (it’s quite slow) but this wasn’t an option.  Perhaps @Carters_Phonics might like to consider this for the future.

The target audience is 3+ years and EAL learners.  I would conclude that this is appropriate for use by those groups.  As someone who spent a good chunk of their career working with much older students who still needed to secure their phonics knowledge I could also see a use for these in those classrooms.  Although, I’d probably be tempted to generate a large sheet with the sounds and the zaps, but without the pictures and words, for older pupils.  I imagine the targeting of the camera would have to be very accurate at this point!

I’d love to see the characters on the cards animate – for example the ‘toad on the road’ going off on a short hop, or the ‘train in the rain’ shunting off down the track.  Perhaps this could be a development for a ‘teacher’ version of the cards with the smaller ones then being used for follow-up in the classroom either by small groups or individually, or at home.

All in all, an innovative use of augmented reality to deliver basic skills. 

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