You may already know how I feel about flashcards (spoileralert: I hate them), but there is something to be said for repeated practice as a way to cement new skills. So how do we help children with hearing loss improve their articulation in a way that allows them enough opportunities to practice without resorting to drill-and-kill? Give me five!
Consider this scenario: A little girl with bilateral hearing aids is baking with her mother. One of the ingredients is cinnamon, which the little girl pronounces “cimmamon” (darn those trickily similar nasals /m/ and /n/ all mixed up in that multisyllabic word!).
STEP ONE: Catch and correct!
Once the adult communication partner (here, the mother) notices the child’s misarticulation, it’s time for a catch-and-correct. The adult can use strategies like the auditory feedback loop(“I heard you say cimmamon, but it’s cinnamon”) and acoustic highlighting (“Listen. The wordis ciNNamon“) to help the child improve her production.
But that’s not enough! Modeling the word with acoustic highlighting helps the child lay down new “brain tracks” to build a correct internal model of how this word should sound, but it doesn’t give her an opportunity to practice the motor patterns necessary to produce the word correctly. So it’s time for step two…
STEP TWO: Give me five!
Now it’s time to move from perception to production. I like to build the child’s metacognitive skills and emphasize, in an age-appropriate way, that it’s all about the brain, by saying, “Let’s make sure your brain remembers that new word and say it a quick five times.” Then I hold up my fingers as the child practices saying the word correctly, 1… 2… 3… 4… 5!
The level of support necessary will vary by child and by word. Sometimes the child needs a model each time to practice the word. Sometimes we can provide a model for the first few attempts and then fade it out so the child produces the word independently. Sometimes the child is producing it correctly and independently from trial #1. If the child can get the word (with or without support), knock out a quick five to cement that motor pattern and auditory feedback loop and move on!
Two caveats to keep in mind:
No wrong practice! If the child is struggling to produce the word even with modeling and support, don’t have her practice it wrong five times. Dig deeper to find out where the breakdown is occurring and work on those prerequisite skills.
You know your child best. Sometimes they’re in the right mood for a catch-and-correct + give me five, sometimes they’re not. Don’t push it and make the communicative interaction unpleasant. Keep it light, fun, and focused on connection and success.
Moving forward, we’re going to take the information obtained from the child’s error (mistakes are such awesome learning opportunities!) and weave it into future activities for more practice, but the point of the catch-and-correct + give me five strategy is to help the child improve production, give a bit of practice to solidify the new skill, and move on.
Are you considering Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS) certification? One of the first steps is to reach out to a mentor — someone currently certified who will work with you over the 3-5 year candidacy period. A good mentoring relationship can be transformative for your career. A bad mentoring relationship? Yikes…
If you’re looking for some guidance on the qualities you should look for in a prospective mentor, here you go! Presenting… the LSLS Mentor Quality Checklist!
There’s a saying that “Language is caught, not taught.” It would be impossible (and boring for both the adult and child!) to sit down and directly teach a child every word, phrase, or sentence structure he needs to know. It also wouldn’t lead to very natural results. Instead, the best language that children learn is picked up incidentally (indirectly, informally, in the course of daily life). So, how do we make our language more “catchable”?