“Mr. Raj, how do we talk?” -2nd grader
Wow. Just. WOW! What a beautiful question! The fact that this student is inquiring about his speech helpers makes me want to do at least a dozen back flips. I wholeheartedly believe that one of the best things that we, as speech-language pathologists, can ever teach the students on our caseload is the speech mechanism. Regardless of what students’ goals and objectives are, whether they are articulation, fluency, language, or anything in between, knowing about the basic anatomical structures that help us to effectively produce speech will benefit all students within the speech therapy room.
Are YOU taking the time to talk about talking?
Not too long ago, Kim Lewis and I were chatting about the importance of introducing the speech helpers to our speech students. Together, we exchanged some fun and functional ideas on the ways that we enjoyed teaching this specific lesson. Feel free to borrow the dialogue below that Kim and I consistently use within our speech therapy setting. (Free download at the end of this post.)
Learnin’ about lungs!
“My friends, can you point to your lungs? (Students point to their chests). Correct! So, what do you think we use our lungs for? (To breathe in air?). Yuppers! Our lungs fill up with air, which is us breathing. We need that breath to talk. Did you know that we can’t talk when we hold our breath or when we don’t have any breath inside of us? Let’s try. (Attempt some silly non-breath “talking” here). We need to keep the air moving in and out of our lungs to talk. The air helps our words come out of our mouth. (Then, practice breathing in and out, speaking on the exhalation).”
The diaphragm is important, too!
“There is a really important part inside of our body that sits below our lungs (Students point just above their bellybutton). It is called the diaphragm and it helps with pushing the air out of our lungs so that we can talk.”
Time for the voice box, buddy!
“Have you heard of a voice box? It is in our throat. We have a voice box or vocal folds right here. (Point to your throat). The folds come together and apart (Demonstrate the vocal fold movement by making your hands come together and apart, index finger to index finger, with your fingers tight together and thumb tucked under). When the folds move together and apart, they change the way the air moves and makes different sounds. Have you ever taken a balloon and let the air out? If you pull the top, you can make different squeaky sounds (Use a balloon to demonstrate it). Our voice box does the same thing. It moves the air when it’s coming out and helps us make words. (Also, depending on the age and maturity of my client, I sometimes show this YouTube video that shows the vocal folds in action.)”
Let’s chit chat about the tongue!
“What about your tongue? (Stick your tongue out). What do we do with our tongue? We can stick it out, move it from side to side, or even try to touch our nose with it. Why do we need our tongue to talk (usually they have something to say about this). You’re right! We put our tongue in different places to make different sounds. Let’s try to make the /L/ sound with our tongue. Now, let’s try to make the /L/ sound without our tongue. That sounds silly! Now, let’s try to make the /T/ sound with our tongue. Now, let’s try to make the /T/ sound without our tongue. Hey, that sort of sounds like the /K/ sound! How interesting!”
Oh teeth, we could never forget about teeth!
“What about our teeth? (Make a big smile to emphasis your teeth). What do we do with our teeth? Yes, we use them to bite and chew our food, but they are also important for talking. Let’s try to make a /S/ sound. Notice how your tongue is touching the back of your teeth when you make that sound? Well, if you didn’t have your teeth there, your tongue would come out of your mouth when you make that /S/ sound. Let’s see what that would sound like (make a sloppy /S/ sound with the tongue out of your mouth).”
Show some love for the lips!
“What about our lips? (Make a funny kiss face). What do we do with our lips? Do our lips help us talk? Yep. Our lips help change the sounds we make. (Experiment with different sounds we make with our lips coming together). Say mama. When we say mama, our lips come together for the /M/ sound. If we couldn’t have our lips come together, we wouldn’t be able to say mama. (Attempt to say mama without having the lips come together, it sounds like ahah).”
In closing . . .
In order to help you with teaching your students the speech helpers, I have created a FREE DOWNLOAD for you. You can go HERE to download the male version and/or you can go HERE to download the female version. I’ve been using these sheets over the past few weeks and they’ve been a hit with my kiddos. Enjoy!