Sentence Segmentation to Improve Communication – Part 1 of 2



phonological awareness developmental continuum


Echo Singing or Chanting

One of the skills I almost always include in both one-on-one and group music therapy sessions with young children is an echo song or rhythmic exchange.  During this type of intervention, the following areas in the Phonological Awareness Developmental Continuum are targeted simultaneously:  Listening Games, Beat Competence (ability to keep a steady beat), Auditory Discrimination, and Sound Matching.  It is also a preparatory skill that will improve focus and help with academic learning during all stages of a child’s education.

In the downloadable FREEBIE for a simple echo experience available at the bottom of this post, I use the lyrics of “I sing, you sing, my turn first.”  A variation of this is “My turn, your turn, listen to me first.”  I recently have experienced success using this variation and the skill of sentence segmentation to improve communication abilities for a little girl who just turned six.

With Emma (not her real name), we focus on echoing a sequence of 3 body parts including the verbal label and touching the body part at the start of each session.  We have been working on this for quite a while.  Originally, if I said, “knees–knees–tummy,” she would often repeat as “knees–knees–knees–tummy–tummy” or some other variation.  As she has become more accurate in her ability to echo accurately, I have seen improvement in other goal areas.


Sentence Segmentation as a Visual and Rhythmic Prompt

sentence segmentationWhen Emma takes her turn being the leader, rather than saying, “My turn, your turn, listen to me first,” she will usually say, “Myturn, listen me first.”  That’s not a typo, as I recently discovered that for Emma, “my turn” was one word.

To get Emma to produce all eight words, I wrote the words on a dry erase board with dots under each word.  In my charting after each session, I refer to this strategy as “Dotted Sentence Segmentation.”  To practice left to right directionality and the return sweep (moving from the end of the first line to the beginning of the second line), I make a point of writing the text as two lines.


Gradual Release of Responsibility

We then used a strategy of fading prompts that I recently realized meets the criteria for using the “Gradual Release of Responsibility.”  It is fun to have a functional example of what that means, as Gradual Release of Responsibility is currently in “vogue” when it comes to educational verbiage.  But when it comes down to it, what really matters is that it works!

Here are the specific steps:

Step 1)  I model the sentence slowly and clearly while pointing to each word.

Step 2)  I point to each word but wait for Emma to repeat each word before moving on the next one.

Step 3)  Emma points to each word while I read the words one at a time and wait for her to repeat each word.

Step 4)  Emma reads the sentence independently while pointing.

Step 5)  Emma says the sentence within the context of our echo game without the visual.


Rhythmic and Visual Cues to Increase Sentence Length

Of course, Emma is not truly “reading” at this point.  Although she has picked up some sight words and does attend to the clues provided by the first letter of each word, she has essentially memorized what we rehearsed.

In the process, however, she has developed a very clear understanding of sentence segmentation — essentially, the awareness that a sentence can be segmented into words.  AND the visual and rhythmic cues help significantly with her ability to clearly enunciate a complete sentence.

More about intentional teaching and the gradual release of responsibility in my next post!


Oh, and don’t forget to click here for your freebie — a pdf download of a simple Echo Experience!

Read part 2 of this post here.

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