Browse Month

March 2016

Free Download – “Meaning to Rhyme” activity

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I have designed this monster resource (a 36 page pdf with 67 examples to work through and full instructions) to help children aged 5-10 who have phonological impairment and poor language processing skills. Click here to download (5MB).

I wrote about this task last week. Essentially it involves asking the child to do something such as ‘think of an animal that rhymes with house‘, while presenting the child with a few possible onsets to work through. As the child learns how to freely generate rhymes, with increasing independence, the task forces her to simultaneously consult her semantic store. This dual activation (essentially, top-down, and bottom-up) makes for deeper learning, about sounds and meaning, and supports language processing.

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I would absolutely love to hear any opinions from therapists, teachers or parents on how this activity is working out for their kids. All of the clipart is in the public domain, downloaded from the excellent openclipart.org.

Review: CLEAR phonology screen

There are speech sound assessments for all sorts of budgets and purposes: from the £355 DEAP – so good you have to administer it three times; to the £55 STAP-2 – as ugly and as effective as ever in its second edition. I’ve used both, but my preference has always been for the £60 CLEAR from Clear Resources.20160327_203156

20160327_203439The CLEAR’s unique selling point is that each sound is probed, roughly in developmental order, in each position (i.e. word-initially, medially, and finally). The assessment form is then presented in this order, with rough ages of mastery for each sound.

This means that normal and delayed development can easily be demonstrated to parents and teachers by means of the clinician ticking the sounds that the child has mastered, and transcribing in the boxes where the child is making substitutions or errors.

As a means for showing a parent that their 4 year old, who is stopping /s/ to [d], is doing roughly OK, the CLEAR cannot be bettered. It doesn’t have a focus on establishing the aetiology of the problem in the way that the DEAP does, nor does it walk you thorough a phonological analysis like the STAP does. However experienced clinicians will know how to focus their efforts, to do these things when required, using this set of pictures as a foundation.

20160327_203258As far as the choice of pictures goes, things are a little mixed. There are words which I wouldn’t have chosen personally, some because they are too familiar and tend to have odd, islanded productions, such as dog and cat; and other, less familiar words that children often can’t name spontaneously, such as teapot, dice and t-shirt (the kids just say ‘top’). The pictures themselves are quite fun. I love the cat picture, described recently by one of my kids as ‘a cat having a sunbathe’. There’s also some wonderfully dramatic pictures that appeal to all, such as treasure and dragon. 

The CLEAR is well-constructed, double laminated, well-bound, fit to be pulled out of phonology bags for years and years to come.

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Free Download: Colourful Semantics Resource

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This pack of pictures makes the Black Sheep Verbs pack (reviewed on Monday this week) infinitely more useful. Included are individual, colour-coded pictures of all of the subjects, verbs, direct objects and locations in the example pictures, as well as some sentence frames for arranging the pictures into. I’ve used clip art from a range of sources on the internet for this (copyright free material as far as I could ascertain).

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By having the individual pictures to break down the sentences into their component parts, we can:

  • Support children who miss out grammatical words and morphemes such as ‘the’, ‘is’ and ‘-ing’.
  • Put the focus on the verb for children who have limited verb knowledge.
  • Show children how to systematically think about ‘who’,’ doing what’ and ‘what to’ as they go about describing an event.
  • Give children forced alternatives when they are stuck and unable to name an object or action.

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The resource comes in two parts:

  • A 20 page pdf file with the subject, verb, direct object and location pictures.
  • single page pdf file to be printed on A3 paper which has sentence frames that you can use with the pictures.

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Developing language processing skills (2)

neural-pathways-221719_960_720Last week I posted about developing processing skills when the focus is on enhancing the child’s semantic knowledge. This week I’ll look at the phonological side of the coin. There are certain things we know about word sorting / word learning / word finding which play into how we tend to go about boosting phonological form and metaphonological skills:

  • Words are ‘sorted’ in the brain by initial sound, giving us that tip-of-the-tongue feeling when we’re searching for a word. This means that we highlight initial sounds when we’re talking about words with learners, and we require them to do tasks such as ‘I spy’ and initial-sound odd-one-out.
  • Words which rhyme share phonological features. The words ‘hat’ and ‘mat’ have more in common with each other than not, and they therefore share some neural architecture (in terms of their production and in their recognition). Working on rhyme is one thing – showing the child how they can break the onset off from the rest of the word, and swap different onsets in and out. But the real trick is to get them to access their store of meanings as they go about such a task. This is what the task I have been developing is about.
  • Words can be long or short. Traces of word-length and syllable-structure do also seem to come into play in the tip-of-the-tongue feeling. We therefore work on children’s ability to count syllables, to complete words with missing syllables, and to delete syllables from words.
  • Words are composed of individual sounds, or phonemes [fəʊnimz]. Older children are encourage to identify medial sounds, final sounds, to append sounds, to delete sounds, robot talking, and so on.

These are tasks that are designed to support a child’s phonological awareness. Countless studies have proven the link between metaphonological knowledge and reading skills, and there is evidence that working on these kinds of tasks can pay into a child’s development of speech sounds as well.

My new task doesn’t seem particularly innovative, but it is working. Essentially I ask the child ‘think of a word that rhymes with bear which is a piece of furniture’. I also give the child a number of possible onsets to work through (i.e. s, gr, sp, ch, l). The idea is that the child will centre in on the correct answer from both directions at once – one part of the brain is thinking of different bits of furniture and checking them against ‘-air’, while the other is blindly spooling off ‘-air’ rhymes, guided by the onsets that are provided, and checking whether they are a member of the category furniture. I will share the resource just before Easter.

 

Babies talk and listen through their dummies

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The current state of the thinking around mirror neurons is a little up in the air, but anyone who works with children will have seen behaviour that points to the theory holding some truth. Children huffing and puffing during bubble-blowing, partially in request, and partially in sympathy; and children with phonological disorder who cannot hear distinctions that they cannot realise themselves are two examples that spring to mind.

There is no other way for a child to make a theory about how an adult is moving their articulators other than to refer to their own anatomy. And if a part of that anatomy is disabled (as anterior movement of the tongue is when a child is using a dummy), then the dummy-using child will basically assume that we are all speaking through dummies as well. This has always been my inkling, and it has recently been confirmed in the paper “Sensorimotor influences on speech perception in infancy” published in November’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

“This study indicates that the freedom to make small gestures with their tongue and other articulators when they listen to speech may be an important factor in babies’ perception of the sounds” Prof. Janet Werker, senior author of the study.

The study adds to the evidence that we can point to when we talk to parents about their use of dummies. Although the evidence is somewhat mixed regarding the impact of dummy use on language development, there is at least evidence that extended use is a risk factor for multiple ear infections. I’ve never met a Speech Therapist who didn’t recommend ditching the dummy as early as possible.

Review – Black Sheep Press Verbs Pack

Colouring in. Page after page of black and white resources. This isn’t mindfulness, this is mindlessness. Luckily for speech therapists who don’t have access to SLTAs (or to teenage kids who need to get back in their good books), Black Sheep Press are going through their resources and colouring them in for us. One of the classic Black Sheep press resources is the 3rd edition of Verbs, which is available for download as a 33 MB pdf file for £15 (£18 including VAT).

LIP1_3Verbs-7In their choice of verbs, BSP have found a good mix between words that are acquired early, and those that are imageable. The pack features transitive, intransitive and ‘locative-type’ verbs, specifically: walking, running, standing, crying, waving, pushing, hiding, climbing, throwing, jumping, falling, kicking, cutting, washing, carrying, brushing, eating, reading, sleeping and sitting.

There are six pictures for each verb. The transitive verbs feature the same subject with different objects (so all pushing pictures feature a bear, pushing a pig, a car, a bed, and so on; all washing pictures feature the mum, washing the car, her face, her baby’s face, and so on). The transitive verbs, such as waving, sittingwalking and running, all have contrasting subjects.

LIP1_3Verbs-8Helen Rippon’s art is clear and fun. She chooses what to put in and what to leave out with the type of confidence that can only be found in someone who has presented a lot of picture material to children. On one hand, she puts things in that will stimulate discussion: the bear is running away from a fierce-looking lion, the people and the animals who are being washed and brushed have very cute sad looks on their faces. On the other hand, the pictures are free from the types of spurious, complicating details that tend to make the children get hung up when you use the pictures to stimulate language.

These pictures are so versatile. I use them to:

  • Develop vocabulary and phrase building. Ask the child ‘who is doing something?’, ‘what are they doing?’, ‘where are they doing it?’, ‘what are they doing it to?’
  • Develop use the pronouns he, she and it.
  • Develop use of the prepositions in, onunder and off.
  • Develop use of simple past tense. Simply ask / model ‘what did she do yesterday?’
  • Get the child to think about sequencing, picking up on clues / inferencing, thinking about ‘what might happen next?’

LIP1_3Verbs-6The pictures are introduced with a host of suggested activities such as lotto games and barrier games that can be played with the cards. I find the pictures useful for children aged upwards of about 3 and a half (as long as they have good attention skills). One thing I often do is to marry the pictures with corresponding toys and act out some of the scenarios, in a small group, modelling the language as I go.

Another big part of how I use these pictures is to mix in the Colourful Semantics approach to developing children’s phrase-building. To this end, I have created a resource which has separate, colour-coded pictures of all of the subjects, verbs and objects from these pictures. I’ll share that on Friday.