Space Commander

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About Space Commander

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

Task. Identify or manipulate shapes according to the instructions presented.

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

Language & reading skills

Following directions

The ability to listen to spoken directions of increasing length and complexity, comprehend them, and keep them in memory long enough to plan and carry out the required action.

English language conventions

The ability to understand the elements of the English language including proper word order, syntax, vocabulary, prefixes and suffixes, plurals, and subject-verb agreement.

Listening accuracy

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

Cognitive skills


The ability to hold verbal instructions in working memory while retrieving knowledge of colors and shapes from long-term memory.


The ability to remain focused and sustain attention.


The ability to process aurally presented sentences for meaning (auditory and linguistic skill building).


The ability to use word order to comprehend simple and complex instructions and organize a response that follows the specified sequence of actions.

About the science

Space Commander includes Scientific Learning’s patented speech processing technology.

  • At first, Space Commander presents instructions in which the speech sounds have been digitally altered using patented methods (including selective intensity increases and duration extensions) to provide enhanced learning opportunities. Initially, the consonant sounds in each word have been lengthened and enhanced relative to the vowel sound. For example, the word red is initially presented with acoustically modified versions of the /r/ and /d/ sounds.
  • As the student progresses through the exercise, Space Commander decreases this processing, and eventually presents the instructions using natural speech.

How students use Space Commander

Space Commander presents a three-dimensional flight deck with rows of colored shapes. The object of the exercise is to correctly identify or manipulate those shapes according to the instructions presented.

To work on Space Commander, the student clicks the Go button on the control tower. Admiral Bird, the flight commander, presents an instruction and illuminates the shapes on the flight deck. The student must then follow that instruction. To touch a shape, the student clicks it. To move a shape, the student drags the shape to the new location. If the instructions are followed incorrectly, the flight commander clears the flight deck, repeats the instructions, and indicates the correct action.

Replay button. During each trial, the student can click the Replay button to repeat the stimuli again. The Replay button is only available during a trial.

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


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.

How students progress in Space Commander


Space Commander begins with a short introduction that explains the task. Additionally, each new session begins with 2 warm-up trials to help prepare the student for that work session.

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


In Space Commander, the student progresses through five speech processing levels in the exercise. Within each level, Space Commander presents multiple instruction groups that range in difficulty.

The student does not work on all instruction groups in each speech processing level. Instead, as the student progresses in the exercise, Space Commander introduces new groups and removes mastered groups. This helps the student move through the content at an appropriate pace while focusing on the content that challenges the student. To master a group, the student must pass that group within two levels, and pass it on the first attempt in at least one of those levels.

  • Level 1 presents Groups 1-2
  • Level 2 presents Groups 1-4
  • Level 3 presents Groups 1-7, excluding mastered groups
  • Level 4 presents Groups 1-7, excluding mastered groups
  • Level 5 presents all content, including mastered groups, as one large group

The number of trials in Space Commander depends on the student’s performance:

  • Students who pass groups in fewer attempts get fewer trials (a minimum of 180)
  • Students who struggle and repeat groups get more trials (based on performance)


In Space Commander, the student must pass all the groups in a level to advance to the next level:

  • Groups 1-3. The student must answer 90% of the trials correctly.
  • Groups 4-7. The student must answer 80% of the trials correctly.

If the student fails to meet the advancement criteria for a group, the student receives an intervention and repeats the group.

Space Commander adapts to student performance within each level by evaluating each group individually. The student only repeats groups that were not passed. This way, the student can focus on learning the material that provides more of a challenge. However, to make sure that the student has learned the material, the student will work on all content at the highest level (Level 5), regardless of previous performance.


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.

Space Commander provides a variety of in-product interventions when needed, such as:

  • Basic vocabulary
  • Higher level vocabulary
  • Coaching
  • Memory strategies
  • Practice with complex commands

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 Space Commander rewards progress

Points. The exercise awards points as follows:

  • 2 points for each correct response
  • 20 bonus points after 9 correct responses (do not need to be consecutive)
  • 30 bonus points after completing a speech processing level
  • 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 flight commander counts the number of consecutive correct responses on her fingers. Additionally, the signal officer on the flight deck raises his signal flags.
  • When the student answers three consecutive trials correctly, the signal officer directs the pilot bird to fly into the globe and the counter resets.
  • As the student continues answering trials correctly in a session, more and more birds fill the globe.