Oral communication skills are essential for expressing ideas or conveying thoughts. We, human beings, are unique in having a language. The language offers us a script to strike a conversation, put forth an argument, or simply instruct. To be an efficient communicator, one has to start from the point of building speech. It is why teaching speech sound is an important part of the early schooling curriculum.
Teaching speech sound – A therapy as well as educational support
Speaking and walking are the two most important determinants of a child’s growing skill-set. We all have seen moms waiting eagerly for their little angels to utter the first word, and making videos of the first step walked. If all goes fine, the progress happens as stipulated in the child’s growth chart. A common course on speech sound generation is provided to all kids; the need for additional support is decided based on the progress the kids demonstrate. Hence, even if there is no learning difficulty, teaching the speech sound examples is the educational support offered to the early language learners.
A few problems that demand the use of speech sound lessons as therapy are:
- Delayed speech: It is a common problem found among preschoolers. The multi-lingual environment at home, or stressful family environment leaves the child confused and makes incapable of developing oral communication skills naturally. Sometimes, poor to nil effort from parents or almost absent communication also create deficit of requisite impetus required for the child to speak.
- Learning deficiencies: The problem of absence or delay of speech may be more severe if the child is suffering from a speech disorder or learning deficiency. They need additional and alternative ways to develop ability to produce speech sounds.
- Traumatic injury to brain: Apart from congenital defects, the injury to braincaused by traumatic impact may require special interventions to develop speech sounds in adults too.
All these reasons justify the use of speech sound lessons in early schooling days and at speech rehabilitation centers. So, how to develop speech sound when the usual methods prove insufficient? One solution may lie in creative activities. Let’s delve further into some effective activities that help develop speech sound.
Activities to develop speech sound skills among children
Doing is a much better way of acquiring skills than forcing the mind to memorize. Activities keep the children pulled into the learning process and drive them to put in requisite efforts. Here are a few interesting activities that can help bring fluency in speech sound recognition and application:
1. Making an anchor chart
Design an anchor chart where you put the speech sound example in the first column and leave the second column blank for kids to write spellings with a targeted initial or ending sound. For instance, write ‘th’ in the first column and encourage kids to come up with words with this starting or ending sound. Similarly, you may write ‘ew’, ‘k’, ‘wh’, ‘e’ on different days and help them practice these with a more focused approach.
2. Pick out articles from the goodie bag
The purpose of this activity is to reinforce a particular speech sound in the minds of little learners. In this activity, you share at the start the target speech sound of the session. The goodie bag or tote bag contains various items starting with the same speech sound. Bag, balloon, bus (its small model), bear (teddy bear), ball are some items you can put in the bag and ask kids to utter the name of the item while they take them out one by one. It can ingrain the speech sound example firmly. You can do this activity with the child at home too.
3. Cross-motor activity with flashcards
Combining action with reading out the words on the flashcards help learn by applying associative memory. Select a few target words for the day with the same speech sound, say car, cap, duck, kite for the sound /k/. Decide an action for the kids while they read out the words given in the flashcard. For instance, ask kids to clap with every word. Change the action with the next set of words with another targeted sound. It helps divert the mind to learning without stress.
4. Fly-swatter activity
It is an attention-boosting activity that comes with a bonus of fluency in recognizing speech sounds. You keep a mix of cards with items that have different speech sounds. Give a cue at the start that the kid has to swat only those pictures that have a target sound. For instance, ask them to swat cards with ‘l’ sound words. Keep flashing cards and kids will hit the card with swatter only when the card with the ‘l’ sound word appears in front of them. Start slow in the beginning and then speed up to help kids improve their fluency level.
5. Puppet activity
Recognition and reinforcement of speech sound also require discriminatory skills. A child must be able to differentiate a correct sound from an incorrect one. This activity offers an opportunity to practice differentiation skills. First, a demonstration is given to the child. Show pictures to the puppet. The puppet may replace or omit the correct sound. For example, it says ‘tarrot’ for carrot, ‘ba’ for bag, and these faulty ones do have correct ones too in between. The child will say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ corresponding to the correct and incorrect sound.
6. Sound sorting activity
The aim of the activity is to reinforce the correct beginning sound in the children’s minds. It will require picture cards and the cutouts of initial speech sounds. You will ask the child to sort the beginning sounds and their corresponding pictures together. For example, putting /t/ over tap or toe, /b/ over the ball, and so on. You can challenge the kids further by doing the sorting pictures activity in a timed manner.
7. Look under the picture
It is an interesting activity to help kids differentiate fricatives (long sounds). You can have picture cards and hide the item under the correct card. For example, put a candy, or a penny under the corresponding picture cards. The children are asked to keep their eyes closed while doing so. Then prompt them by asking ‘where is candy?’, ‘where is a penny?’ and so on. It is how kids learn to recognize and sound out fricatives in words.
Resources that ease doing activities
Speech sound activities require ding a little preparation at the start. You need a lot of intervention materials to ensure carrying out activities smoothly. Either you make those by yourself or shop for them from the suppliers. A few effective enablers for teaching speech sounds are:
- Articulation program and materials kit: The teachers can use this kit to provide step-by-step building of speech sound skills. Introduction of new sound, lip movement, spelling, etc. become easier and systematic with this kit.
- CVC word structure cards: These are quite useful for strengthening the concepts of initial, middle and ending sound.
- Picture cards: You can attach speech sound cutouts with picture cards for easier association
- A few board games: Chutes & ladders, Candyland, etc. are some effective board games useful for teaching the skill.
Go creative with various household items and you may have your home-build set of intervention materials for teaching speech sounds the fun way.
Speech development is a common requirement of all growing children. The kids do sound out several letters differently like they usually use /t/ a lot in place of /k/. With suitable interventions and active learning offered by the speech sound activities, kids may grow out of their erroneous speech sound use. Also, those requiring additional effort to develop speech also get meaningful and effective enablers in the form of activities.
- Fan, S., Zhang, Y., Qin, J., Song, X., Wang, M., & Ma, J. (2021). Family environmental risk factors for developmental speech delay in children in Northern China. Scientific Reports, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-83554-w
- Cabbage, K. L., Farquharson, K., Iuzzini-Seigel, J., Zuk, J., & Hogan, T. P. (2018). Exploring the Overlap Between Dyslexia and Speech Sound Production Deficits. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49(4), 774–786. https://doi.org/10.1044/2018_lshss-dyslc-18-0008
- Herzog, J. (2001). Communication Disorders Following Traumatic Brain Injury. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 16(6), 612–613. https://doi.org/10.1097/00001199-200112000-00010