On Thursday, I was walking a group of kindergarten students to the speech room when they all began talking at once. Joel, one of the three, abruptly stopped walking and grew quiet. He had been very animated moments before but I couldn’t catch what he was saying because of the verbal outpouring around him. When I turned to check on him he had a frustrated look on his face so I asked what he’d been trying to tell me. He spoke again, very loudly, repeating one word from his previous sentence, “dose”. I had no idea what he was talking about and probably looked confused so he repeated the word, louder this time. That didn’t help at all so I asked him to tell me more. He didn’t. He repeated the one word again, leaning closer to me, willing me to understand. After a few more one-word attempts he finally expanded his question and I realized he was asking for a particular story. The single word he was trying to say was “ghost”.
As you might have guessed, Joel uses “d” for “g” sounds. He moves his tongue forward when it should go back - speech therapists call this “fronting”. He also leaves out sounds in consonant blends, like “st” in ghost. We call that tendency, “cluster reduction”. If I had thought hard enough, I might have recognized “dose” was his attempt at saying “ghost” but it took a few more clues (and help from the other students) before I got his message.
I was happy he wanted to hear “The Ghostly Night” again because it would give him practice making the “g” sound. In fact, that is the reason I created the story, to give students like Joel an opportunity to practice their target sound without relying entirely on drills.
In the book, Kristy cannot sleep.
“The wind rattled her window. The full moon threw grasping shadows across her bedroom wall. They swayed with the rhythm of the wind.”
Soon, Kristy calls her mother,
“Mom!” she cried. “There’s a g - g - g ghost in my room.”
She calls again when the wind howls, when a branch scrapes her bedroom window, and when she sees her curtains move. Each time the kids join in on the repeated line, “There’s a g - g - g ghost in my room.” They can’t seem to help themselves. That gives them a lot of speech practice pronouncing the “g” sound as well as giving them an understanding of the sound the letter represents. We call that “phonemic awareness.”
At the end of the story there is a twist that the leaves the kids laughing, even on the second and third reading. They seem relieved there is no real ghost in Kristy’s room and when the tables turn on the Mom . . . well, I’ll stop there. I don’t want to spoil it for you.
This book isn’t a Halloween tale but it is especially popular with my students at this time of year. I’m glad of that since I work with several kids who mispronounce “g”.
When the students got ready to leave the speech room on Thursday, Joel asked about our speech session for the next day. He wanted to know if we could play a “dose dame”. Obviously, we still have a bit of work to do.