About Sentence Mosaics

We are excited to share a new, free, speech-language therapy app developed through the mutual efforts of Carnegie Mellon University students on the Design for America Team and a Pittsburgh-based speech-language pathologist, Alyse O. Baker, CCC-SLP. Work was begun on this app in the spring of 2016. The app was launched in April 2018. The final features were added to the app in the fall of 2020.

Purpose

The purpose of this app is to assist individuals in their formulation of novel, complete, and meaningful spoken or written sentences produced in context with a photograph or illustration and with a language “coach” (speech-language therapist, teacher, family member, tutor, etc.) to assist in facilitating meaningful communications with correct syntax.

Users

Individuals who can profit from the app include:

  • Speech-language students with receptive and expressive language needs at any level
  • Students whose hearing loss has impacted language skills
  • Learning Support students who have written language goals
  • ELL (English Language Learners) students at any level
  • Tier II Reading or English students at the middle school level
  • Regular education students in Language Arts at the elementary level
  • Adults post-CVA (cerebrovascular accident/stroke) with aphasia
  • Adults with dementia for whom familiar pictures can be a key to memory retention.

Background

There have been many other commercially available sentence-building programs over the past several decades. The present app evolved over several decades from personal, clinician-made materials – first as a series of colored one-inch wooden cubes with key words written on them, then as laminated colored squares in a simple frame, and finally as soft foam color tiles upon which words easily could be written and which readily could be moved on a foam sentence frame with the attachment of Velcro “buttons.” While the color-tile foamboard system helped many individuals on caseload to produce longer and syntactically more correct sentences, the foamboard was awkward to carry and to use in settings outside of school, clinic, or home.

Historical Reference

This app builds upon the original work of Edith Mansford Fitzgerald who published Straight Language for the Deaf in 1926. Her seminal work utilized six symbols to represent parts of speech and correct word order. Bessie Pugh made additional modifications to Fitzgerald’s system with the 1947 publication of Steps in Language Development for the Deaf. The use of color to represent parts of speech (noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb, verb, etc.) were added later, as use of the Fitzgerald Key as a tool for instruction was expanded for students who did not have a hearing impairment but who had language needs. For the “Sentence Mosaics” app, additional categories for prepositions, punctuation, and functional usage of words (“social” and “wh-words”) were added.

Additional information

Both the “i” (Information) and “?” (Questions) sections within the app contain more and very specific information about app use and development for clinicians, therapists, teachers, and researchers who are interested.