smu guildhall academics

Codex: Lost Words of Atlantis

An Adult Literacy Project

People ForWords, a collaborative research team, won the grand prize out of over 700 entries in the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPrize for Codex: Lost Words of Atlantis. 

The team is a partnership between SMU Guildhall, SMU Lyle School of Engineering, SMU Simmons School of Education and Human Development, world leading literacy experts, and non-profit Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT). Together, their shared expertise in game development, education, and adult literacy built an immersive and fun mobile application to advance the adult literacy field. 

Created to empower low-literate adults to take control of their literacy education, this app couples engaging gameplay with phonological decoding and encoding, as well as morphological awareness. The game is accessible on mobile devices so that learners can operate it from anywhere, at anytime, thereby overcoming key barriers to literacy learning. The pedagogical approach for the game supports research-based practices in literacy learning and game-based learning. All instructional elements are positioned in the context of the gameplay as learners solve challenges to solve mysteries of Atlantis, identifying letter sounds, CVC patterns, sight words, and eventually sentences. The game begins with support in the form of guidance for the learner that decreases as they demonstrate mastery of basic literacy skills. Core gameplay revolves around crafting English phonemes, onset-rime patterns, and sight words to “decode” an ancient language. In the gameplay, players find a ‘codex’ in an attic and then use it to translate letters and words from the lost city into English pronunciation sounds, building phonemes and words to unlock secret locations inside major archeological sites around the world. 

Sites are based upon real-world and mythical locations, such as Egypt and Atlantis. After completing each location, a player will see the level transform with images of real locations. This helps keep users engaged in progressing further in the game, as it enables them to see and learn more about real-world areas outside of their current city. At each location, players are presented with new artifacts to decode. As the codex translates each artifact, it helps the player understand the ancient language and unlock the next set of doors to progress in the game.


 People ForWords Developer Corey Clark


Download the Codex app



Learn More  |  Codex in the News:

XPrize Competition

Two Teams Tie for Grand Prize in $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE

People ForWords named XPRIZE semifinalist

Guildhall partners to develop app that will teach adult literacy

KERA Feature