Pixel Ponderer | Grammar Gizmos
Pixel Ponderer | Grammar Gizmos

Grammar Gizmos


In recent years there has been a concerning decline in literacy skills among Kiwi children. If unchecked this problem will continue to grow and impact our ākonga as they progress in their learning journey. Almost 2 in 5 ākonga are below the required curriculum level for year 4 [1], rising to a staggering 3 in 5 by the time they reach year 8. It's clear that additional support is required to assist our teachers because if children are struggling to read then they’re struggling to learn. The core idea was to create an interactive set of physical tools that break down the key parts, connections and actions in Subject-Verb-Object structured sentences for children aged 7 - 8.

The Brief

In 16 weeks - Research and develop a body of work to test the validity of media and concepts, or experiment. The primary purpose of basic research is discovery, interpretation or development of a particular subject of your choice.

My Role

Solo Project - Led the project as primary and secondary researcher, including creative direction, mockup and illustration, testing and surveys. Developed and conceptualized the product and all collateral. All pitching and presentations.

Field of Practice

Physical learning tool development and testing, including mockups and visualizations of collateral and product material, illustration, photography, and publication design.


Wooden literacy learning tool design, testing and surveys, brand system and guidelines, publication design, printed cards.

The Solution

Inspired by Montessori-based learning, Grammar Gizmos is a set of 4 “tools” which take the form of interactive wooden books. The main component is the interactive shape sentences which introduce hands-on interactivity to language learning. This is made stronger with the storytelling approach to exploring sentence structure, adding a narrative dimension and helping children connect the abstract ideas of the 4 types of verbs to real-life scenarios. The “going tool” is about the subject of the sentence going toward or away from the object, exploring the direction of action in sentences. The “doing tool” explores sentences where the subject is performing an action which results in the object of its sentences changing or reacting in response. The “having tool” is about possession, it focuses on the subject and whether or not it’s in a state of having the object of the sentence. The “being tool” explores how the subject gets from one state of being to a different state of being and what transitional things happen to get from one state to another.

Testing, Development and Supporting materials

Through secondary research, interviews, desirability testing and surveying with NZ educators each component was assessed to ensure it taught the key concepts and that the design choices were accessible and engaging. The shapes and use of pure colours are simple and consistent, which serve to reinforce the same underlying formula across each tool. The font - Andika is designed for the needs of beginner readers and literacy use. The toolset comes with a guide that explains how to use the tools in the classroom and connects the abstract concepts of the 4 types of verbs to real-life situations; this is done by asking students to remember times when they experienced one of these concepts. To solidify their understanding, students link these concepts to the sentences on the left of each tool. Then by utilizing sentence-building cards, children are able to visually grasp the concepts of subjects and objects. Lastly, this is reinforced by the corresponding worksheets for each tool. The early years are critical for learning, Grammar Gizmos seeks to effect change at a critical stage in a child's literacy development. If we want to make a difference in these declining skills then the message is the same from designers to educators to policymakers, giving children those key skills is crucial to their future prospects.

Want to look a little deeper?

Do you want to learn how the testing went in detail and take a deep dive into the research and development completed for this project? Read the designed project report here.
N.B. The physical copies of the toolset were produced by Embrace Design in Wellignton. Concept, design and all imagery produced by Pixel Ponderer.

Grammar Gizmos
Have an idea? Get in Touch!