Swamp Talk as Word Study

Swamp Talk is a fun word game that’s full of potential as a learning tool. Swamp Talk can be played on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. When playing Swamp Talk, students…

  • Activate their word knowledge to construct words from a constantly-moving letter stream
  • Use common consonant blends and vowel combinations
  • Think about word formation in a different way than is common
  • Strategize and plan ahead to make longer, higher-scoring words

Playing Swamp Talk is one way students can use word study knowledge without feeling like they are “studying.” Meanings of 60% of mulit-syllabic words in English can be inferred by analyzing word parts.* When students form these word parts during the game, they demonstrate that they’ve learned the word part’s meaning!

Teachers, click to learn about the Swamp Talk Teacher Ambassador program.

*Bromley, K. (2007, April). Nine Things Every Teacher Should Know About Words and Vocabulary Instruction. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(7), 528–537. doi: 10.1598/JAAL.50.7.2


New Characters on the Horizon: Help Us Choose!

Tertl is working hard to prepare Swamp Talk 1.1 (with a multiplayer option, and wildcard letters!) for its upcoming release. At the same time, we are also looking further ahead. A major enhancement for later in the fall will be a collection of new characters that players can purchase for use in both single and multiplayer games. These new avatars will let players enjoy a new look and choose a distinctive swamp resident to represent them while playing alone or with others.

Here’s a peek at some characters we’re considering: an alligator, a heron,  a dragonfly, a duck, a slimy swamp creature, and a newt.

Please help! We need your input to decide which of these new characters should be the first to play alongside our iconic frog. Please vote for your favorite in our poll, and feel free to leave us some comments as well. We’ll keep you posted as characters are selected and refined.

Swamp Talk Combines Fun and Learning

As the return to school looms, kids bemoan the end of summer fun while parents and teachers focus anew on learning. Vermont software maker Tertl believes the two can coexist quite nicely.

Tertl, which strives to combine a love of learning and ideas with the fun of games, recently released Swamp Talk, a new word game app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Swamp Talk is quickly becoming a favorite of experienced word game lovers, but it also has educational value, according to Tertl founder Chris Hancock.

Unlike other mobile word games which tend to be static, Swamp Talk has the dynamic action and pacing of an arcade game. Players receive a steady stream of letters and must think fast to arrange them into words. Instead of ordering letters from the beginning of a word, players might construct common consonant or vowel combinations and hold those combinations until a complementary letter arrives in the letter stream.

“As they build up words from letter clusters, adding letters in whatever order they arrive, players—especially younger ones—are broadening their perspective on how words are put together,” Hancock says.

They may be learning, but Swamp Talk is first and foremost a fun game. Players have described Swamp Talk as “very engaging” and “the freakishly addictive offspring of Scrabble and Tetris.”

Kids can play Swamp Talk on family car trips, while waiting for their back-to-school doctor’s appointment, or instead of TV. The game encourages players to stay on their toes (well, fingertips) and look for words to build—young children as well as crossword pros can create words at their level. Families can play together and practice spelling skills learned in school, though the kids might not notice the learning part of this fun game!

Swamp Talk features three game modes. One encourages strategic thinking, another requires quick thinking, and a custom mode allows players to design a game that suits their preferences. In all modes, players tap on the screen to place the letter where they want it. Once the letter has been placed, it can’t be moved—meaning that players must think quickly and tap carefully.

Players swipe the touchscreen when they’ve built a word, and sometimes learn new words in the process. A “family” game option ensures ensures that kids don’t inadvertently learn some of the dictionary’s less family-friendly entries.

In a fantastic TED talk in 2010, Jane McGonigal, a researcher with the Institute for the Future, said that young people from countries with robust gaming cultures log 10,000 hours playing games by the time they reach their 21st birthday. In the U.S., students log 10,080 hours in class if they have perfect attendance from grades 5-12. That’s an approximately equal amount of time!

Clearly, young people are spending a lot of time playing games, and we have to assume they’re learning something from gameplay. Parents looking to integrate their kids’ love of technology with an intellectual challenge need look no farther – this is THE back-to-school app for families looking to improve their vocabulary together.

Wild Card letters, coming soon to Swamp Talk?

We’re just now in the process of implementing wild card letters, in preparation for the next release of our word game app. When the idea of wild card letters came up a couple months ago, we didn’t think it was too interesting. It didn’t particularly resonate with the simplicity and purity of the basic Swamp Talk game. But we’re changing our point of view. Two things seem really promising about wild cards.

First, they bring more words into the game. For example, in the current Swamp Talk B’s are fairly uncommon, so you’ll almost never play BUBBLE. But with a wild card, you could play BUB*LE, using a wild card for that third B. More words makes the game better.

Second, Swamp Talk is all about juggling different scenarios for where a cluster of words might go. If you’re looking at LIVE, you might be able to turn that into ALIVE, or LIVED, LIVER or OLIVE. Cool! But with a wild card in place of the L, there are even more possibilities that use the letters differently. Adding just one more letter, you could get anything from WAIVE or DRIVE to CIVET or SIEVE. The wild card amplifies that Swamp Talk experience of seeing a cluster of letters one way at one moment, and completely differently the next.

We’ll be test playing with wild cards next week. We’ll see if they live up to their promise! Wild cards also have a special role in our new multiplayer game…more on that later.

Would you like to see wild card letters in Swamp Talk? Share your thoughts with the development team in the comment box below.

Swamp Talkers: how do you like ‘dem Letter Pods?

If you’ve made it up past Level 5 in either 100 Letters or Survival game mode, you’ve earned yourself at least one letter pod. These are handy places where you can stash a letter before it’s been placed on your line. Letter pods are a recent addition to the Swamp Talk game design, and we’re still deciding how best to use them.

The design team would like to know your perspective. How do you use letter pods? What do you think of them? Do you enjoy the added flexibility, or do they slow you down too much?

One option we’re considering is to reduce the number of letter pods at the highest level of the game from 3 to 2. There will still be ample rewards for advancement, as we are adding wildcards in the next version (more on wildcards later!). What do you think? Do you treasure that third letter pod, or is it expendable?

Talk to us!

Lunchtime Swamp Talk Slam at Bear Pond Books – Wednesday, August 3

Tomorrow, head out at lunchtime and stop by Bear Pond Books to try your hand at Swamp Talk. We’ll have iPads and screens set up so passers-by (that’s YOU) can try a preview version of the multi-player game now in development.

Bear Pond Books–selling independently in central Vermont since 1973–is located at 77 Main Street, Montpelier.