Moon Ranch

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About Moon Ranch

The Fast ForWord Foundations I exercise Moon Ranch focuses on the following tasks, goals, and skills.

Task. Identify when a new syllable interrupts a repeated syllable.

Goal. Develop the following cognitive and language & reading skills:

Language & reading skills

Listening accuracy

The ability to distinguish differences between sounds and to correctly identify sequences of sound. This skill helps one recognize and discriminate the rapidly changing sounds that are important for discriminating phonemes.

Auditory sequencing

The ability to recognize and remember the order in which a series of sounds is presented, which is critical for mapping sound sequences to letter sequences when decoding or spelling.

Cognitive skills


The ability to hold a syllable or word in working memory, while comparing it to a series of potential matches.


The ability to focus and sustain attention.


The ability to process spoken syllables and words.

About the science

Moon Ranch presents six phoneme contrast pairs of syllables that include Scientific Learning’s patented speech processing technology:

  • gi/ki
  • chu/shu
  • si/sti
  • ge/ke
  • do/to
  • ba/da

At first, Moon Ranch presents syllables that have been digitally generated using patented methods (including selective intensity increases and duration extensions) to provide enhanced learning opportunities. Initially, one of the syllables in each pair includes a silent gap in between the consonant sound and the vowel sound, which emphasizes the difference between the two syllables. For example, for the pair ki/gi the syllable ki is initially presented as k-i.

As the student progresses through the exercise, Moon Ranch reduces the silent gap until both syllables in a pair are presented using natural speech parameters. Also, as the student progresses through the exercise, Moon Ranch decreases the length of time between the repeated syllables.

How students use Moon Ranch

Moon Ranch presents a futuristic farm run by Granny MacDonald. The object of Moon Ranch is to help Granny get her farm animals out into the pasture by correctly identifying when a new pronounced syllable interrupts a repeated pronounced syllable.

To work on Moon Ranch, the student clicks the Go button on Granny’s tractor to hear a syllable repeated in rapid succession. When the exercise interrupts the repeated syllable with a new syllable, which differs by a single phoneme, the student must click the farm animal to be moved into the pasture. If the animal is clicked too early or too late, the trial is counted as incorrect. When the student answers the trial correctly, the exercise raises the animal a little higher toward the fence.

Help. If the student needs assistance identifying the sound sweeps, the student can use the Help button See Help.

Time. The timer at the top of the screen shows the amount of time the student needs to work on the exercise that day, which is based on the student's protocol. It fills in from left to right as time elapses. When the time requirement is met, the exercise automatically closes and returns to the remaining exercises scheduled for that day. If this is the last exercise for the day, Today’s report opens.

Menu. The student can use this menu to exit the exercise early, to check the network connection status, and to see exactly how much time is left to meet the day’s protocol for that exercise. To learn more see Exiting an exercise.

Keyboard shortcuts. Students who are not able to use a mouse can use the following keyboard shortcuts (not available on touchscreen devices):

  • Go button. Space bar
  • Farm animal (response button). Up arrow


To help speed up progress, the student can use Autoplay to take a set of multiple trials with a single click of the Go button. Autoplay becomes available early in the exercise, after the student demonstrates a basic understanding of the concepts (usually after passing a small group of trials). Once introduced, Autoplay turns on by default. The student can turn it off or back on at any time.

When Autoplay is on, the student clicks the Go button one time to start a set of trials. Autoplay always starts with a set of 3 trials. The Autoplay counter shows the number of trials in the current set. If the student gets all of the trials in the set correct, the exercise adds one more trial to the next set. If the student gets any of them incorrect, the program removes one trial from the next set. An Autoplay set will never be less than 3 trials.

The student can earn bonus points by responding correctly to all trials in an Autoplay set. For example, in a set of 3 trials, if each trial earns 2 points, the student would earn 6 bonus points after responding correctly to all 3 trials in the set.


If the student needs assistance identifying the syllables, the student can use the Help (?) button to see three streams of syllables at the current set and stage.

  • When the Help screen opens, the student can click a Go button to hear the corresponding syllable streams:
    • 2 repeated syllables + new syllable
    • 4 repeated syllables + new syllable
    • 3-6 repeated syllables + new syllable
  • Using Help does not affect the student’s standing in Moon Ranch.

How students progress in Moon Ranch


The first set in the exercise begins with an introductory mode that includes longer inter-stimulus intervals and longer times allowed for the student to respond. This helps the student become familiar with the task.

Students who struggle early on will get a longer introductory sequence with additional supports, such as simplified instructions and words or sounds that are very easy to tell apart.

Tip: You can choose to present the introductions, instructions, and any interventions in another language, if needed. See Fast ForWord exercise intro languages.


In Moon Ranch, the student progresses through 6 stimulus sets. Each stimulus set presents phonologically similar syllables (1 target syllable following 3 to 8 repetitions of the alternate syllable).

Each stimulus set includes 18 stages, depending on the student’s performance (see Advancement). Across these stages, the following changes occur:

  • The difference between the target syllable and the alternate syllable is exaggerated and then becomes progressively less exaggerated.
  • The possible number of alternate syllables presented in a trial increases from 6 to 8 after stage 9.
  • The time between the syllables (inter-stimulus interval or ISI) is reduced from 500 ms to 300 ms.
  • The time allowed for a response is progressively reduced.


In Moon Ranch, the student must meet the following criteria to advance in the exercise:

  • To advance to the next stage within a stimulus set, the student must answer 3 consecutive trials correctly. If the student answers a trial incorrectly, the student moves back one stage. When doing well, the student may be allowed to skip some stages. When struggling, the student may need to work on more of the stages.
  • To complete Moon Ranch, the student must pass all stimulus sets at the highest stage.

Moon Ranch adapts to student performance within each stimulus set, and will transition to a new set if the student is continuously moving between the same few stages in a set. The set will be revisited at a later time.

Wacky trials

To keep the student engaged and attentive, Moon Ranch occasionally presents wacky trials—short, easy-to-answer trials that provide a fun, unexpected break in the exercise.

  • Moon Ranch presents one wacky trial after every 15 to 25 trials in a session, usually at the start of a new stage.
  • For each correct wacky trial answer, the student gets a reward animation and earns double the number of points.
  • Wacky trial responses do not count toward exercise progression, so the student cannot be penalized for incorrect answers.

Moon Ranch includes the following wacky trial stimuli, depending on where the student is within the exercise:

  • a/i (vowel sounds)
  • low/high tones
  • weep/woop (Sky Gym sounds)


The exercises use built-in, responsive technology to detect when a student is struggling and administer targeted, inline instruction—right when the student needs it—without any external resources or assistance required. This “smart learning” design helps reduce frustration as it quickly gets students back on track, where they can continue making progress and achieving gains.

Moon Ranch provides a variety of in-product interventions when needed, such as:

  • Coaching
  • Alternative instructions and stimuli
  • Modified progression
  • Focus mode (a simplified exercise screen with minimal elements and motivational features to minimize distractions)
  • Guided Help (the Moon Ranch Help screen with guided instruction)

The student can receive 1 or 2 of these interventions at a time, depending on the task and difficulty level in which the student is struggling. Each one can take anywhere from a few seconds to 2-3 minutes to complete. When appropriate, the student’s progression in the exercise stops temporarily while working through an intervention, then resumes when the student returns to the regular exercise content.

Tip: You can choose to present the introductions, instructions, and any interventions in another language, if needed. See Fast ForWord exercise intro languages.


To complete the exercise, the student must master all of the skills in the exercise and reach a percent complete score of 100%. To learn more see Completion.

How Moon Ranch rewards progress

Points. The exercise awards points as follows:

  • 2 points for each correct response
  • 4 points for each correct response to a wacky trial
  • 5 bonus points for 3 current streaks (3 consecutive correct responses, 3 times)
  • During Autoplay, students earn double the usual amount of points when they complete a set of trials without any errors. For example, in a set of 3 trials, if each trial earns 2 points, the student would earn 6 bonus points.

Feeder meter. The feeder meter tracks and celebrates every 1% of content completion. At 10% complete, the meter is full, and it “feeds” that percentage into the progress meter and resets. For more on percent complete scores see the student’s Progress report

Progress meter. The progress meter tracks and celebrates every 10% of content completion. Each marker represents 10% of the exercise. When all 10 markers light up, the exercise is complete. For more on percent complete scores see the student’s Progress report.

Completion status. The completion status sign shows the actual percent complete score for the exercise. The score updates each time the student completes 1%. For more on percent complete scores see the student’s Progress report.

Current streak (3 in a row). At the start of each new session, the exercise tracks and shows the current “winning streak” of consecutive correct trials. After 3 consecutive correct trials in a session, a “3 in a row” sign slides onto the screen. The score increments until the streak is broken (on the first incorrect trial), at which point the sign disappears from view. The current streak sign resets to zero at the end of each streak, and at the start of the next session.

Highest streak. At the start of each new day, the exercise tracks and shows the student’s best “winning streak” of consecutive correct trials. The score appears after the first 3 consecutive correct trials, and remains on the screen throughout the day. Any time the student surpasses his or her highest streak that day, the sign updates to show the latest number. The highest streak score resets to zero at the start of the next day.

More rewards. In addition to the current streak sign, the exercise uses other fun animations to encourage progress.

  • The animal raises a little higher toward the pasture with each correct response, but drops back to its lowest position after an incorrect response.
  • When the student answers three consecutive trials correctly, the animal moves onto the next step.
  • When the student answers three consecutive trials correctly three times, the animal is transported over the fence and the exercise awards bonus points. As the student continues answering trials correctly in a session, more and more farm animals can be seen in the hills behind the pasture.