In this lesson, we will discuss the seven levels of articulation therapy, using F and T as the primary examples of the sounds that students have difficulty articulating.
There are several ways teachers and parents can instruct students in producing speech sounds, and there are more techniques being developed all the time. However, in this lesson, we will discuss articulation therapy.
Articulation occurs on the phonetic level and is concerned with the act of producing consonants and vowel sounds. Articulation therapy is needed when a student has difficulty producing one or more sounds. Did you know that Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and King George VI of England all had some difficulty with their speech? Not only that, but each one of them sought out therapy to correct their difficulty. The fact that Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson overcame their speech difficulties can be seen by watching any of the numerous movies that they have made. In addition, in the 2010 movie The King's Speech, King George VI is shown overcoming his speech difficulties.
There are many different types of difficulties that a student may exhibit when learning to communicate. For example, they may stutter, incorrectly pronounce vowels or consonants, substitute one sound for another, delete a syllable or add sounds and syllables that shouldn't be in a word. However, regardless of the difficulty in communicating, the techniques of articulation therapy can be applied to any sound that the student has difficulty articulating. For the sake of clarity, in this lesson we will use the letters 'F' and 'T' as primary examples of the sounds that students have difficulty articulating.
There are seven levels to articulation therapy, with each level building upon the next. Since each level builds upon the previous level, it is critical that a student successfully passes each level before he or she can move onto the next. If the student has difficulty articulating the 'F' sound, for example, he or she is taken through each of the seven steps. If the therapy is successful, by the time a student reaches the final step, he or she will no longer have that particular articulation difficulty. The seven levels are isolation, syllables, words, phrases, sentences, reading and conversation.
The seven levels of articulation therapy
The first level in the process of articulation therapy is known as the isolation level. Isolation is verifying that the student can make an individual sound. The process is done by observing the student mimic the individual sounds that the teacher makes. For example, the teacher models how to make the 'V' sound by biting the lower lip and breathing out. If the student is able to correctly make the 'V' sound, this means that just by observing the teacher, he or she is able to determine how to manipulate their mouth to physically produce the sound. In other words, they lift their tongue into the right spot in their mouth and breathe out with enough force to make the 'V' sound.
If students are not able to mimic the sounds, then they must be instructed as to where to put their tongues in their mouths in order to make the sound. For example, if you wanted to make the 'T' or 'D' sound, the tongue is placed behind the upper teeth. If you want to make the 'K' or 'G' sound, the tongue is placed in the back of the throat.
Once the student is able to make the individual sounds, he or she is ready for the second level in the process of articulation therapy, known as the syllable level. The syllable level is where individual sounds are paired with a vowel. The syllable level can be thought of a baby step that eases the transition from the isolation level to the word level.
For example, the student can already make the 'F' sound, and now that sound is taken and placed into all possible syllable arrangements that can occur in the beginning, middle and end of a word. The process is done by observing the student mimic the syllables that the teacher makes. For example, the teacher models how to make the 'F' sound in the beginning syllable position by saying, 'Fee, fi, fo, fum.' Once the student is able to say all of the sounds at the syllable level, he or she is able to move on to words.
The third level in the process of articulation therapy is known as the word level. The word level is where students practice saying words. For example, the student originally had difficulty articulating the 'F' sound, but now he or she can say the 'F' sound and also say the 'F' sound in syllables, so now that 'F' sound is put into words. The process is done by observing the student mimic the words that the teacher makes. For example, the teacher says, 'Feed, funny, furry, fishes, Friday,' and the student correctly articulates the words back to the teacher. This process is continued until the student is able to correctly say at least 20 'F' sound words correctly.
The fourth level in the process of articulation therapy is known as the phrase level. The phrase level is where several words are put together. The students are not saying complete sentences, yet they are saying more than just individual words. The process is done by observing the student mimic the phrases that the teacher makes. If the student has difficulty articulating the letter 'T,' for example, in the phrase level the teacher could say, 'Time to eat, take it tonight, thanks to you too.' Once the student is able to correctly articulate all of the phrases for the sound that he or she has difficulty with, then he or she is ready to move on to the sentence level.
The fifth level in the process of articulation therapy is known as the sentence level. The sentence level is where students speak in complete sentences. In the sentence level, the student is simply putting together phrases and words to make a complete sentence. This process is done by the teacher saying a sentence and the student practicing that sentence over and over again until he or she has the correct articulation sounds. Once the student has mastered one sentence, he or she will move onto another one. For example, a practice sentence that a teacher gives a student who has difficulty with the 'T' sound is, 'Thanks to you that three-toed tree-tiger is too tired to eat at my table tonight.' Once the student is able to correctly articulate the complete sentence several times with 80% accuracy, then he or she is ready to move on to the reading level.
The sixth level in the process of articulation therapy is known as the reading level. The reading level is where students read out loud. If the student is not able to read, the teacher can ask him or her to tell a story. The stories most likely will contain the sounds that the student is working to correctly articulate. The role of the teacher is listening to see if the student can smoothly articulate all of the words in the story without difficulty.
For example, 'Settling into a new country is like getting used to a new pair of shoes. At first they pinch a little, but you like the way they look, so you carry on. The longer you have them, the more comfortable they become. Until one day without realizing it you reach a glorious plateau. Wearing those shoes is like wearing no shoes at all. The more scuffed they get, the more you love them and the more you can't imagine life without them.' (from In Arabian Nights, by Tahir Shah)
After the student is able to read a story aloud with approximately 80% accuracy, he or she is ready to move on to the conversation level.
The seventh level in the process of articulation therapy is known as the conversation level. The conversation level is where students have almost effortless conversations. At this final level of articulation therapy, the student should be able to articulate all of his or her words into sentences and only have occasional errors. This stage can be lengthy, as daily conversations consistently change and the students are continuously tasked to think about how to properly articulate their words into sentences. However, continuously challenging students to keep reading will greatly expedite their ability to hold conversations without articulation difficulties.
In summary, articulation therapy can be applied when a student has difficulty producing one or more sounds. In this therapy there are seven levels, with each one building upon the next. The seven levels are isolation, syllables, words, phrases, sentences, reading and conversation. If the sequence is correctly followed, the therapy should prove to be successful for the student. In other words, when they reach the conversation level, they will no longer have their particular articulation difficulty.