Practicing Speech Sound Discrimination on the WonderBus

By: Jillian Klatt
Mrs. O and a student using gems to represent different speech sounds.

On this day, Mrs. O used a Lindamood-Bell program, called LiPS®, to practice speech sound discrimination with a student who struggles with reading. Speech sound discrimination allows a listener to recognize the individual sounds that make up a word, rather than the letters that may show up in text. For example, the word “knock” has five letters but only three speech sounds (n, long-o, and k). This skill also helps students detect differences between sounds in separate words, like the fact that “fate” and “fight” only have one sound difference—the vowel—even though there are numerous spelling differences. In this activity, two gems of each color are laid out and each gem represents a different sound in a word. Mrs. O gave the student a word, and the student had to line up gems to match the speech sounds within the word. Then Mrs. O would change one or more sounds in the word, and the student would add, subtract, or rearrange the gems to match the new word. In the “fate/fight” example, the gems may have been pink, green, and blue at first to represent the three speech sounds (f, long-a, and t) in “fate.” To transform this gem arrangement to “fight,” the student would swap out the second gem, representing the long-a sound, to a different color which would represent the long-i sound. This activity can go on infinitely by changing the beginning, middle, or end of each word as well as rearranging the existing sounds in a word like turning “pat” to “tap.”

Nonsense words are also helpful to use in this activity. A nonsense word is one that follows the speech sound rules in English but does not have any real meaning in English. For example, “fet” is a possible combination of sounds in English, but it does not hold any meaning. Using nonsense words prevents a student from relying on their previous knowledge of spelling to count the letters in the word, so they must use their ears to listen to the number of sounds present. Mrs. O’s students are familiar with using nonsense words in their activities, so they understand have to focus on applying the skills she teaches them instead of memorization.

This form of speech sound discrimination practice by Lindamood-Bell® is extremely easy to set up and play almost anywhere. All it requires is a handful of some small object to represent the speech sounds, and a surface to rearrange the objects on. Any type of tokens can be used for any length word. It is important to choose materials that will keep children engaged throughout the activity. Mrs. O mentioned how much all of her students love to play with the shiny and colorful gems, I even noticed some students asking to take gems with them to play with at home. It probably wouldn’t have been as fun to the student if she was playing with pieces of cardboard!

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