This summer I was working with my adorable, 5 year old twin girl clients on the dreaded “aww pwoblem” (correct articulation of /r/ – the nemesis of many a speech-language pathologist!). Pulling from my standard cache of strategies, I gave the following cues for correct articulatory placement for /r/. In kid-speak that is, “bite down on your back teeth, smile and push the tip of your tongue waaaay back!” I generally follow this with, “and no CHICKEN LIPS!” (Adult translation of chicken lips – lips rounded in a pucker. Try saying, “no chicken lips with your lips puckered the entire time – it is more fun than you would think and it cracks up the kids every time!). With these cues on our minds, we set out to practice our /r/ words. Close….but not there yet! Too many substitutions of /w/ for /r/ (caused by lip rounding, a.k.a., the troublesome chicken lips!) and substitutions of /l/ for /r/ (this means the tongue tip is behind the front teeth when it needs to be in the middle of the hard palate). Digging deeper in my bag of tricks, I exclaimed, “Ladies, we need to be PIRATES! Bite down those back teeth, give me your best pirate sneer and shout ARRRR!” Eureka! We had an /r/! A bit dramatic, but a start nonetheless! However, pirates are not known for their best behavior and chronic silliness ensued! Time for some behavior expectations and the birth of the Pirate Princess Girls Club! (I thought the princess part was a little over the top, but I was quickly out-voted!)
Rules of the Pirate Girls Club
2. Our tongues stay in our mouths! (My girls also had a frontal lisp, so this rule served as a reminder.)
3. No BOYS!
4. No sad faces (Much to my delight, the girls came up with this rule on their own!)
Quite pleased, I figured these were excellent rules and certainly rules that I could live with! We quickly determined the need for Pirate Princess names and became the scurvy band of pirate girls known as Twirly, Curly and Sprinkles (that’s me!). Having friends and family who indulge my quirks, I promptly informed them of my intentions to be a pirate for the summer. Luckily, they were all on board and no one was forced to walk the plank! Now we needed pirate activities to practice our good /r/’s. Being generous pirates, we will share our pirate secrets with you!
Pirate Girl Activities
1. All pirates need treasure, so make pirate bracelets, stringing beads to spell your fearsome pirate names. One bead earned for every 5 /r/ words practiced.
2. Make pirate hats and eye-patches and other pirate-y crafts with materials found at your local craft store. Be sure to have your pirates earn their “booty” (glittery foam letters to spell their pirate names, stick on jewels, and sparkly skull and crossbones are standard pirate wages for good /r/’s). (A word to the wise adult pirate….look for crafts that have peel off sticky tape so that you don’t have to bother with glue or worse…hot glue gunning! Pirate Girl Sprinkles took home an ambitious foam pirate ship that we could not construct during speech and attempted to hot glue it…my fingertips are just beginning to heal!).
3. Create doubloons (or yellow construction paper cut in circles) with /r/ words written or drawn by your pirates.
4. Build and decorate a treasure box! We took a box that formerly held sugar packets, covered it in tissue paper and decorated it with more glittery stick-ons that were of course acquired through /r/ practice. The treasure box held our stash of doubloons and was used to transport /r/ words home to practice with pirate parents! (Added bonus – hide the doubloons and have your pirates search for them, saying the word on the doubloon 3 times each upon discovery!).
5. Create a pirate word list! Fortunately, pirate words are loaded with /r/’s! Here are some of our favorites: ”shiver me timbers,” ”me hearties,” “ye scurvy dogs,” jolly roger,” “quit yer caterwaulin” and of course, “ARRRRGH!”
6. Read pirate books which are loaded with /r/ words! Curly, Twirly and I recommend the following:
- Everything I know about Pirates by Tom Lichtenheld
- How I Became a Pirate and Pirates Don’t Change Diapers by Melinda Long and David Shannon
- Pirate Girl by Cornelia Funke
- Do Pirates Take Baths? by Kathy Tucker