Jaw Stability/Jaw Grading in Tongue Thrust

TongueThrust Eng Vowel Ex Pix page jpgIf you have a student or client with tongue thrust (as known as oral myofunctional disorder)  you may need some information about the jaw.

Learn more about the jaw here and see my resources for therapy ideas on Teachers Pay Teachers.com.

Vowel QuadrilateralThe vowels are often affected by the position of the jaw. If you are teaching English pronunciation to a foreign-born speaker, they may improve their low vowels /ae/ as in /cat/, and /ah/ as in /pot/, if they open their mouth wider (move their jaw to a low jaw position).

See my free printable English Vowel Quadrilateral here.

See my free printable Mouth Openings Pictures & Words Page here.

The entire Tongue Thrust/Jaw Stability handout packet is available on TeachersPayTeachers.

10 Ways to Improve your English

10 Ways to Improve Your EnglishImprove_English_ESL_classes_SanJose_CA


1.Join an ESL class for regular practice in English.

2.Practice with a native English speaker every day for a few minutes. Tell your American friend, neighbor or workmate you are trying to improve your English, and ask them to chat with you each day.

3.Learn English sounds and pronunciation rules. Most helpful to learn are TH, R,L and the different vowel sounds. Use the expected stress in longer words. Learn to link your words together smoothly in a sentence, and not pronounce each word separately.


4.Watch TV programs with the subtitles on. Pre-recorded shows are best. Newscasts and live shows will have a lag between the dialogue and the printed caption.

5.“Eavesdrop” on English speakers around you. Listen to others conversations and try to figure out what they’re saying.

6.Listen to books on CD. It may help to have the printed book to look at as you listen. Listen without text for an added challenge. Check you public library for books on CD.


7.Read “easy reader” or “graded readers” children’s books. Your public library has hundreds of easy readers in the ‘juvenile’ section.


8.Write more in English – letters, emails, cards, or keep a diary.


9.Keep a small notebook handy for jotting down new words and their meanings. Review your list and use new words in a sentence to help memorize them.


10.Make a goal for your English learning. Setting a goal is the best way to improve a skill.

Click here for the free printable 10 Ways to Improve Your English.

(Reprinted with permission – original post 4/23/12015)

Bilingualism and Translanguaging

Hello HolaHave you heard of translanguaging and its benefits for bilingual learners?

“If you haven’t, ‘translanguaging’ is the “ability of multilingual speakers to shuttle between languages, treating the diverse languages that form their repertoire as an integrated system” (Canagarajah, 2011, p. 401).   In other words, translanguaging allows bilinguals to make “flexible use their linguistic resources to make meaning of their lives and their complex worlds” (Garcia, 2011, pg. 1).”

Read more about this fascinating concept in a post written by fellow SLP Tatyana Elleseff on her blog at smartspeechtherapy.com.



The Mistakes You’re Making Teaching Pronunciation

Pronunciation Teachers can be focused on teaching certain things, while missing valuable lessons for students.  Here are some mistakes to avoid when teaching English pronunciation:

  1. TALKING TOO MUCH – This is a common error among ESL and English pronunciation teachers! Make sure you are allowing time for students to listen, think and respond in English. Don’t fill up all the air with your talking!  A good rule of thumb is for the teacher to talk less than 25% of class time and for the students to talk more than 75% of class time. Read an earlier post on Using Pauses in ESL Class.
  2. Not including STRESS, RHYTHM and INTONATION – Many teachers think if they teach English sounds, this will be enough. This is a big mistake! Teachers must give instruction on correct stress, rhythm and intonation also. Much more than individual sounds, a student of English must stress the correct syllables, or risk changing the meaning of words (person vs. percent) or the meaning of sentences. Many ESL students were taught to have intonation rise at the end of a question – but that only applies to questions that can be answered “yes” or “no”, or are clarifying questions.  Wh- questions and choice questions (coffee or tea?) can have falling intonation. Read an earlier post on Stress, Rhythm and Intonation.
  3. Not including LINKING – Her’s another area that foreign students often miss. Many students are told to slowly and carefully pronounce each word, but this is not helpful in sentences and conversation. As soon as possible, students should learn how to link words together in sentences. Read an earlier post on Linking.
  4. Working on FOSSILIZED ERRORS – Let’s be frank.  Working on errors that are not making any changes are not going to be very satisfying for the student or the teacher. If you have a student who has made a particular pronunciation error for 15 or 20 years, be sensitive that this error might never change! Work on skills that show improvement.
  5. Focus on PERFECTION – At the risk of saying this too many times, let me say this again: Your goal is progress, not perfection. It is almost impossible to get rid of a foreign accent! There will always be some pattern that will show others that English is not a student’s first language.  Students need to work on improving their communication skills.  The goal is for a student’s English to be clear and understandable in conversation.

Teachers, please keep these ideas in mind and your teaching will be more effective. Keep up the good work teaching English!


Kids and Social Skills

kids social skills

kids social skills

I was recently asked by a friend what would help her son develop his social skills.  We talked for a bit and here are the ideas I shared:

  • Vocabulary – To begin a dialogue on social skills your kid needs to know and use words like feeling, thinking, expectation, intention, reaction, meltdown, repair? All these vocabulary words, and more, will be needed if you are going to talk about interactions with people.
  • Enlist their cooperation by using a team approach.  Be a coach or mentor to help them improve their social interactions.
  • Social interaction autopsy – Take the time to take apart the event and look at what went wrong. Social interactions happen quickly, and your child can miss things that seem obvious to you. (Remember you are older, more mature and more experienced. Your child is not, yet.)  Tell him what you observed. Can your kid see in other situations when he offends someone?  Help him to look at, and remember, this when someone offends him.  If he doesn’t see his behavior having an affect on others, yet, try this in reverse. Help him to identify when he feels bad, or good, with another’s behavior.  Discuss it and give your child time to think about it.
  • Practice – set up the situation and have him practice new skills. If he gets a gift that is awful, he can practice saying “This is thoughtful of you.  Thank you for giving me a gift,” instead of saying whatever he thinks without regard to the other’s feelings.
  • Learning social skills takes time. Be patient. Everyone learns at their own pace. As long as he’s moving forward, this is success. It may seems like it’s taking a long time, just keep trying.  You’ll be glad you did.

Many social thinking resources are available.  I like Ted Baker’s and Michelle Garcia Winner’s books and materials.

Also it’s probably better to talk side-by-side, both you and your child facing the same way. This approach gives the nonverbal message of acceptance and cooperation.  Do this by taking a walk, driving in a car, or sitting side by side.




Linking Vowel to Vowel Using W or Y

Linking Vowel to VowelLinking a vowel to a vowel in English will sound smoother with adding a W or a Y sound.

Here are the rules.

Rule #1.  When a word ending in iy, ey, ay or oy is followed by a vowel, use Y

  • Be a sport = Beya sport.
  • Play a game = Playa game.
  • Tie it up = Tiyit up.
  • Employ a professional = Employa professional.

Rule #2.  When  a word ending in uw, ow or aw is followed by a vowel , use W

  • through it all = throughwit all
  • slow and steady = slowand steady
  • How are you? = Howare you?

See the free printable here (includes teacher notes and key.) These pages are from this resource for linking Hawaii EDU Pronunciation

Free R Screener – Articulation of All Positions of R

free R articulation screenerToday I’m sharing my Free Printable – R Screener.

When kids have trouble saying their R sound, I find there are usually a couple of words where they get it right.  Sometimes they can say their vocalic R like are, ear, or, air, ire and erSometimes they can do R consonant blends well, like  free, truck, present and three.  Sometimes they can even do a good intial R, like red, right and run Not usually all of these though, and that’s why they come to speech therapy!

When they have a couple of good Rs, it’s easier to teach the ones they need.  This screener will help you determine which Rs they have and help you build on those.

Kind in mind, kids need to have good control of their tongue and jaw in order to make a good R.  The tongue is usually tensed and pulled to the back of the mouth and pressed tightly up against the skin on the inside of the upper teeth on the right and left sides. So check for myofunctional skills and help them in this area, if needed.

If you like my free R Screener, you may like my Initial R, Vocalic R, R Blends Assessment Comprehensive on Teachers Pay Teachers

Using a Stress Ball to Teach English Stress & Intonation

english stress lessonWhen you teach English stress you must emphasise the strong and weak parts of words and sentences. I do this by using a child’s play ball.

Teach the basics: Strong stress will sound longer, louder and have a higher pitch. Weak stress will sound shorter, quieter and have a lower pitch.

Practice it with words: com PU ter, SA tur day

Use the ball to show the stress intonation. For com PU ter, hold the ball low-high-low.  for SA ter day, hold the ball high-low-low.

I like to have the students move the ball in a left-to-right progression.  This is how we read in English. Since I stand in front of them, I use right-to-left, and they copy me (mirror-like) and do left-to-right.

stress intonation EnglishThe balls I use in class can be purchased at a party supply or toy store, and they should be about 3 inches in diameter.  Large enough to fit comfortably in the hand.  The soft ones, or the ones designed to use as water toys, are best.  Bouncy balls will go shooting, or rolling, across the room when dropped.  The soft balls do not roll away.

I like these stress game activities from Mark Hancock’s Pronunciation Games book.pronunciation games  Hancock is writing about British English, so some of the words may have an unexpected spelling or accent, and may not be appropriate if you are teaching North American English.  Still it’s a good resource.  I introduce the Rhythm Dominoes first (just the lesson, no game) because there are only 6 stress patterns covered.  More advanced classes can play the dominoes game afterward.

Then I do the Fishing game next.  It has 11 stress patterns so it will take more time to go through and have your students practice.  Whether you play the Rhythm Dominoes or the Fishing games, help your students by practicing the stress patterns many times.  Some students might even need hand-over-hand demonstration of how the pattern rises and falls.  So be prepared to put your hand over theirs and help them make the rising and falling movements.

It may help with multi-syllable words to instruct students to “jump” up, and “step” down in the intonation.

You may notice that weak syllables may have reduced vowels, and I explain that more in the next post.



What I Learned From My Pronunciation Students

What Ive Learned From Pronunciation StudentsIt’s been 5 years since I started on this journey of teaching the American English accent to foreign language speakers.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

I am qualified.  At first I was nervous if I knew enough to teach others to speak with an American accent.  But I was willing, and quickly learned what I could about accent reduction.  The surest way to learn something is to try and teach it to others!  This is true. As soon as I could explain the rules and patterns of English, I became qualified.

Students need “pause” time.  My initial nervousness caused me to fill up the spaces of quiet with words!  This was bad for my students because they were using the spaces of quiet to

  1. translate what I said into their first language
  2. think of an answer, and
  3. translate their answer into English.

Read my earlier post on how valuable the quiet pause is for students learning another language.

Don’t expect to get through the whole lesson.  It always seems to happen that students have questions, new topics come up and things need to be reviewed or repeated.  Take your lesson plan in, but expect to only cover part of it.  Be flexible about how much you can actually teach in a year.

Language students are the most appreciative.  After 25 years teaching speech and language students, I find that adult ESL and Pronunciation students will be able to express how very much they appreciate your time and effort in the classroom.  Sort of makes up for when the little ones are so unhappy to come to speech therapy, and the parents are miserable toward you!

I notice all the ways Americans butcher the English language.  I can never again sit back and hear speakers of English say “prolly” for “probably”. “axe” for “ask” and “nucular’ for “nuclear”.  Yes, I know language is a living thing, and words change all the time. I notice it all the time, but good manners prevent me from saying anything.  I just keep moving.

My students are the best and I love them dearly!