Why do some students get stuck on the Fast ForWord Sky Gym game?

A lot of students get stuck on the Foundations I Sky Gym game. To learn more about Fast ForWord intervention, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Sky Gym is one of the hardest games to beat. Nevertheless, it is crucial to beat Sky Gym. Why is it so important? Why is it so hard?

There are actually four reasons. Keep reading to find out what you can do to help someone beat the Sky Gym game.

Why is the Sky Gym Game Hard for some People?

Reason 1: Fast ForWord Sky Gym relies on an Awareness of Pitch

Happy BirthdayThe Sky Gym game uses tones, not speech sounds. The tones are at different pitches. Some are high pitch and some are low pitch. Students who do not have an awareness of pitch don’t earn points and don’t move up in Sky Gym.

Do you know how to sing in tune? Can you sing “Happy Birthday?” Can you tell which notes are high and which notes are low? Can you hear the difference, not just see the difference? If you can do it, then you have pitch awareness.

Many brain scientists say that pitch awareness is organized in the right hemisphere of the brain.

The people who struggle with Sky Gym are the people who need it the most.

Pitch Awareness is Necessary for Language Comprehension and Social Interactions

Say this as a compliment: “I like your shirt.”

Now say it as an insult: “I like your shirt.”

What did you do with your voice to turn it into an insult?

You changed your pitch, intonation and stress. This is called prosody.

Many students with autism have trouble with prosody. For example, they speak with a monotone pitch and similar stress on each syllable. These students also have trouble with comprehension and social skills.

It is important to hear the subtle changes. Pitch awareness helps you figure out if your peers are being sincere or being sarcastic. Once you can detect these subtle shifts, it is easier to produce them with your voice.

Sky Gym is included in Foundations I because pitch awareness is so important for language comprehension and social interactions.

Reason 2: Sky Gym relies on Memory and Sequencing


Fast ForWord Sky Gym Screenshot

Sky Gym is difficult because you have to remember exactly what you heard, in the correct order. Are you working with someone who can’t do this?

Use Imagery

The game gives the learner two musical tones. You can sing weep for the high pitch and woop for the low pitch. Naming the sounds and adding some imagery can help. Any associations that make sense to the person will help.

High sounds = weep, bird flying up, squeak, flute

Low sounds = woop, rock plopping into a pond, bonk, tuba

Focus on the Identical Pairs First

Start with the pairs that are identical. You can call these twins.

I ask the child, “Did you hear a twin?”

Anna Krueger

High – High          (weep-weep)     (two flying birds)

Low – Low            (woop-woop)   (two rocks)

People become confident with the identical pairs first. They will be able to enter the correct answer and will be rewarded with with a point.

Yes I heard a twin.

Most people with auditory processing difficulties struggle to figure out the contrasting sounds. Again, singing and imagery can help.

No, I didn’t hear a twin. What did I hear?

High – Low          (weep-woop)     (bird – rock)

Low – High          (woop – weep)     (rock – bird)

Memory and Sequencing are Necessary for Language Comprehension and Literacy

Say these pairs of words:

Tap – Tape

Tip – Type

What changed? Only the vowel sound in the middle. Now say these pairs:

Tap – Pat

Tip – Pit

What changed? Only the sequence of the sounds.

People have to be able to hear the differences between sounds. They need to remember the sounds, in the correct sequence. Language comprehension and literacy rely on underlying cognitive skills like auditory discrimination, memory and sequencing.

Reason 3: Inaccurate Mouse Clicks

At first, the pairs are presented slowly. Learners using a mouse will respond by clicking the mouse slowly. After a while, the game speeds up. When the pairs are presented quickly, people try to click the mouse just as quickly.

What happens? They make mistakes because they can’t move the mouse quickly. They end up clicking on the wrong arrow. They lose points for a physical error.

This problem is magnified in young children, people with autism and people with motor impairments. Anyone who has trouble with rapid movements struggles with Sky Gym.

Use Keyboard Shortcuts Instead of the Mouse

Teach the person to push the mouse out of the way and use the keyboard instead.

Start = Press SPACE BAR

High Sound = Press UP ARROW

Low Sound = Press DOWN ARROW

Provide a keyboard that has full sized arrow keys. Take a good look. Some keyboards have 1/2 size arrow keys. Avoid using a keyboard that has small arrow keys. The small keys are too cluttered or hard to press accurately.

Arrow Keys

Use a Device Instead

Using an iPad or tablet allows the person to use finger pointing instead of using a mouse. The programs will run in a browser on tablets. You don’t need an app.

Reason 4: Some Students need more Visual Training than Sky Gym Provides

At Neuroplan, we help people with serious deficits. The Sky Gym game provides some visual training at the beginning. The correct answer actually lights up.

Unfortunately, this is not enough visual training for many people. Their auditory processing abilities are so bad that they don’t understand the point of the game.

Use Neuroplan’s Charts to Provide a Visual Prompt

We have created two graphics that you can use to provide visual prompting. The first one is a two tone chart. It can be used for Sky Gym in Fast ForWord Foundations I and for Ocean Explorer in Essentials I. Click on the image to download it.

Fast Forword Sky Gym 2 Tones


The second one is a five tone chart. It can be used for Jumper Gym in Fast ForWord Foundations I and for Sky Rider in Fast ForWord Literacy Advanced. Click on the image to download it.

5 Tone Chart

In the picture below, you can see a teenager using the 5 tone chart for Sky Rider. The red circles are plastic poker chips. I printed the chart and put it into a page protector to make it slippery. I added a blank sheet of card stock to the page protector so that the chart wouldn’t bend.

The student pressed the space bar and listened to the beeps. While listening, the student produced the sequence of tones on the chart. In this case, it was Weep Weep Woop Woop Woop. After analyzing the sequence using the chart, he pressed the correct arrow keys on the computer: up, up, down, down, down. 

Fast ForWord Sky Gym Jumper Gym

These two charts are available as a free download if you enter your name and email.

Instructions for the Tone Charts

Print the graphic, put it into a plastic page protector and add some card stock for strength. Get several coins, tokens or poker chips.

Step One: Hit the space bar.

Step Two: Listen to the sounds.

Step Three: Use the tokens and the graphic to create the pattern you heard. Yes, you are actually SHOWING THE ANSWER to the student. You can also repeat the auditory stimulus. If you are an adult who can sing on pitch, go ahead and sing. Is the first token a WEEP or a WOOP? Is the second token a WEEP or a WOOP?

Step Four: Prompt the person to look at the pattern you created on the graphic. Now the person can enter the correct answer  on the computer arrow keys. If necessary, use hand over hand assistance. Help the person click on the first arrow key. Then help the person click on the second arrow key. Remember, don’t use the mouse.

Step Five: Put the tokens back in the middle.

Step Seven: Hit the space bar…. and so on.

Keep the Chart Available for Independent Work

If you are working with a person with severe auditory processing deficits, keep using the chart for a long time. At about the 30% complete stage, stop showing the answer. Eventually the person will be able to use the chart to analyze the sounds without your help.

It can still be difficult for people to enter the pattern into the computer correctly. Seeing their own analysis on the chart and then entering it is easier than keeping the sounds in memory.

Is this cheating? No. It is a scaffold for people with severe auditory processing deficits. It prevents them from giving up. At Neuroplan, we have seen that by the time they get to the 40% mark, they have learned to work slowly and carefully rather than just guessing. They are so proud of themselves when they beat Sky Gym.

The cognitive skills of pitch awareness, sequencing and memory lay the foundation for success with academics.

Frequently Asked Questions about Fast ForWord

There is a lot of information about Fast ForWord on this site! Keep reading…


About the Author Neuroplan

Online speech language therapy and literacy apps. We offer treatment programs for people who struggle with Dyslexia, Learning Disabilities, ADD/ADHD, Autism, Auditory Processing, Acquired Brain Injury, Stuttering and English Literacy.

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