Archive for July, 2010

July 31st, 2010

Language and Literacy Book of the Year

We’re so excited. We’ve been notified by Creative Child magazine that Ready for R has won Language and Literacy Book of the Year 2010!  During a 2 day event in Nevada parents and educators reviewed, scored and commented on many different products for children. We feel honoured to be chosen. Although the 2010 results are not yet posted on the Creative Child Magazine website, we couldn’t wait to let out the news.  If you’re looking for toys and books recommended by parents and educators, you might want to check out their website.

You might need some creative board games or puzzles. You can practise the R sound while you take turns at these games.  Ask your child to say one or two R words before he spins the spinner or before he puts a puzzle piece in. Taking a turn is the reward and he doesn’t even realize he’s working for it.  You can even find bean bags on this website (look under toys and games).

Our thanks to Creative Child Magazine, from Silvana Bevilacqua, illustrator and Marian MacDougall, author, Ready for R.

Check it out at:

July 25th, 2010

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

R at the Beginning of Words – Part 3 – Sentences

After a few weeks or a few months of working on words that begin with the R sound, your child might be ready to move on to the next step.  Don’t rush it. Here’s the test; go through the Ready for R word lists.  Ask your child to say each word in the yellow section (words with R at the beginning).  If he can say about 80% of them correctly he’s ready to move on to trying to use these words in sentences.  If not, keep working at the word level, one word at a time.  All children progress at their own rate.  Sometimes, more frequent practising is the key, but not always.

If you don’t have Ready for R, make up 10 of your own R words.  Put a picture or the word on a recipe or index card.  Go through them one at a time. Ask the child to name each one.  Again, if the child is correct 8 out of 10 times, he’s ready to move on to sentences.

This is a handout I use to explain the different levels a child goes through in therapy for the R sound.  I also use it as a reward to show the child what he has accomplished.  We check off each step of the way.

Not yet ready to move on to sentences?  If you continue to read this blog, you’ll still get new activities and teaching tips that you can use as you practise one word at a time

Teaching Tip: Read these sentences out loud at your normal rate of talking.   “Slow down your rate of talking. For some people, this seems to be almost impossible.  It just takes practice.”

Now try reading them slowly. “Slow        down       your       rate       of     talking.      For      some       people,       this       seems      to      be       almost     impossible.     It      just      takes        practice.

If you want to hear fast talking, listen to one of those all-news radio stations. Then, find a John Wayne clip on Youtube.  He’s a good model of a sloooooow talker.  You might want to tape yourself and listen to see how fast you talk.  Monkey see, monkey do, don’t forget.  If your child slows down, it will be easier for him to get the new sound out correctly.  If you slow down, he will be able to pay more attention to the good model you’re giving him.

Activity: Use coloured construction paper cut into quarters.  Either you or your child draws faces. Fortunately, children are very forgiving of artist talent.  No child has yet looked at one of my attempts and said, “That’s really ugly!”  Luckily, the odder the face, the more they like it.  Make as many faces as you like, then give them each a name beginning with R. Ready for R has some examples.  You could use names of people you know.  Here are some to get you started:   Rahim, Ronaldo, Rachelle, Raoul, Raymond, Roxie.  To work on R in sentences, say, “He is Rahim” or “She is Roxie”. You or the child can print the name on the picture.  When they’re all ready, turn them over.  Have the child say, “Where’s Rina?”, for example, or, “I’m looking for Rasputin.” Then, he turns over the one he thinks is Rina or Rasputin.  If it’s not correct, it goes back on the table.  If it’s the right guess, he keeps the picture in a pile.  Make sure you take a turn too, if he enjoys a little competition.  See who ends up with the most pictures at the end.

Variation: In a pinch, to save time, you could use a deck of cards.  Give all the jacks, queens and kings a name-like Ralph.   Print the name on a piece of masking tape and attach it to the card.

July 18th, 2010

The Best Laid Plans–When Things Go Awry

Have you hit the wall, tried everything and your child is still not making progress with his speech sounds?   If you’ve tried all the suggestions I’ve made in the previous blogs and you’re not making progress, don’t despair.  The most experienced speech-language pathologists have times when the usual strategies don’t work.

Just recently, I ended a session early because I knew there wasn’t anything I could do to make it fun.  If we kept going, there would be a power struggle and the child wouldn’t want to come back.  We all have “off” days, kids, students, teachers and parents.

When practice isn’t going well, these are some questions you can ask:

  1. Before starting to teach R at the beginning of words, did you check to see if the child can imitate a correct R sound by itself?  If he can’t say “rrrrrr” when you say it first, either seek professional help or just let it go for a few weeks and try again.  Sometimes the motor skills of the tongue and lips need to mature a little more.  In the meantime you can talk about the R sound and you can emphasize the sound occasionally.  If you’re at the park, talk about “rrrunning, rrrocks and things that are rrrough.  You could have a “rrrace” and say, “rrready , set, go”.
  1. Are you putting too much pressure on the child to perform?  Maybe you’re feeling anxious and impatient and he’s reacting to that.  Children are really good at clamming up just when you want them to perform.  Relax a little, learning new skills takes time.
  1. Are you and/or the child too distracted?  Too tired?  Is the T.V. on?  Is there a lot of noise or activity going on?  Turn off the T.V., radio, computer and focus for just a few minutes on the speech activity.
  1. Are you giving clear instructions and positive feedback?   Remember to use words like, “Not quite, try again” if he’s made a mistake and “Good work” if it’s correct.
  1. Are you asking the child to practise in front of other people and he’s feeling uncomfortable?  You should be aware of how individual children feel about this.  Some don’t mind performing for grandpa or practising in front of siblings.  Some enjoy a small group, but others prefer to make mistakes in private.  Find the right space and time of day that works for you and your child.
  1. Are you taking time to make it fun?  Let’s face it — saying the same sound over and over is pretty boring.  Do what your child likes to do.  Some kids love to do the same game again and again and others need something new every time.  Cutting and pasting R word pictures is fascinating for some, while others love to endlessly throw a bean bag into a bucket, saying an R word each time.

If things aren’t going well, don’t blame yourself.   We all have different talents.  It’s hard to be a parent and a teacher at the same time.  It’s hard to specialize in second language learning and accent reduction.  Some teachers and parents will read this and ask, “What’s the big deal?”  For some children this is a piece of cake and with very little effort they are on their way.  And then there are those children, whom we love to pieces, but they just don’t ever want to do what we want them to, when we want.

Give yourself a pat on the back if you’re making even a little progress.  You deserve a reward too—put your feet up, go for a walk or have a cup of tea and don’t give up.

July 11th, 2010

The Power of Positive Practising

R at the Beginning of Words – Part 2

Once you start down the path of helping someone who has difficulty with the R sound, there’s no turning back.  You’ll begin to see and hear R words everywhere.  Right now, I’m relaxing in my garden looking at the roses and the red leaves of the Japanese maple.  When you’re in the R groove, you’ll find it hard to turn off.  If you’re in the grocery store muttering, “rrubber gloves, rradichio, rred cabbage, rrolled oats”, you know you’ve arrived in the world of speech therapy.  Your job as a parent/teacher is to help your child/student think more consciously about R too.

To get there, you want to be as positive as you can so your child/student will be more inclined to want to practise R. As you’re teaching R at the beginning of words, think about the cues and the feedback you’re giving.  Make sure your cues are clear and consistent.

Cues might include:      “Say rrrraft.” “Look at me.”  “Use the bear sound.” “Remember the bear sound.”

Then, make sure your feedback is immediate and consistent.  A good teacher gives feedback right away. Sometimes, all it takes is a smile, a nod, and an enthusiastic, “mmhmm”.   More likely than not, however, especially with younger ones, I’m inclined to be over-the-top with enthusiasm in my voice and my facial expression.  That’s what gets results and tone of voice or intonation is everything when you’re giving feedback.  If you say “okay” with the expression of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh you won’t get anywhere.

Positive feedback might include:      “Good bear sound.” “Way to go.” “Give me five.

If my client doesn’t say R correctly, I avoid saying, “No” or “That’s not right.”  Rather, I use phrases like; “Try again.”, “Oops!”, or “Good try”.

Teaching Tip:  Some people have a hard time thinking of different ways to give positive feedback.  Here are  some words that might work for you.  Don’t forget the enthusiastic tone of voice!

Awesome!  Yeees!   Great!  That’s it!   Okay!   Alright!   You got it!   Good R sound!  Excellent!”

Activity: If you’ve read the previous post, Let the Games Begin, you’ll have looked at each page in Ready for R several times naming all the pictures that begin with the R sound.  Don’t forget there are many more objects on each page than just those in the word list and many common R words are repeated throughout the book, for example, “red” is everywhere.  Maybe you’ve made some picture cards with simple words like, round, rabbit, rock etc.    To extend these activities you could make and use cue cards.


  1. Buy some cue cards (or recipe cards).  Get coloured ones, if you can, to make the game more interesting.
  2. Print short hints on the card.  You read the hint and the child/student guesses the word you’re talking about.
  3. Make up hints for the pictures you’ve talked about in Ready for R or pictures you’ve practised naming.
  4. Put the hints upside down in a pile.  Your child/student chooses a card and you read the hint.
  5. Have the child/student find the matching picture in Ready for R or among the picture cards you’ve made.  Ask him/her to say the word out loud.

For example:

Hint:  A flower                                  Answer:               Rose

Variation: Sometimes children like to be the teacher.  He/she can read the hint.  You give the answer and he/she tells you if you’ve said the word “the new way”.  The key is to make it fun.  Ask, “Did I say it with the bear sound?” If you sometimes make a mistake he/she will love catching you out.