Alliteration and rhyme

Alliteration refers to words that share the same initial sound, like Peter Piper, Bugs Bunny, or Mickey Mouse.

Rhyme refers to words that share the same final sound or sound sequence, like me and tree or tap and cap, or fun and sun. Rhyme is actually quite complex and difficult to explain precisely, so you'll want to keep it pretty simple, at least at first. My advice: stick to one-syllable words with a simple sound structure, at least at first.

Awareness of rhyme and alliteration is a basic skill for phoneme sequencing. For both, there are two basic levels of awareness: discrimination and production.

Discrimination refers to the ability to identify whether two words rhyme or begin with the same sound. A child with good rhyme discrimination will be able to identify whether or not a given pair of words rhyme (boot/scoot, yes; boot/leg, no), or to pick out the rhyming words from a list where some do rhyme and some don't (look, book, egg), or to group words into rhyming sets given a list like pear, cake, hair, tip, make, sip.

Production refers to the ability to produce a real or nonsense word that rhymes with one which the child has just heard. A child with good rhyme production skills will be able to hear a word like cake and name a rhyming word like take or bake. If the child cannot think of a real word that rhymes, s/he will be able to make one up (orange, splorange; boomerang, toomerang, soomerang).

Here are a few speech therapy activities you can use for exercising rhyme and alliteration awareness.

1. Read aloud to your child. Lots of children's books contain rhyme and/or alliteration (e.g. Dr. Seuss). I also recommend Puffins Climb, Penguins Rhyme by Bruce McMillan. Each page has a picture with a two-word rhyming narrative like Puffins walk. Puffins squawk. or Penguins brawl. Penguins call. I like it because it's not very "wordy" and you can focus right in on the rhyming pair. A similar title (unfortunately out of print, but available used) is One Sun: A Book of Terse Verse , also by Bruce McMillan.

2. Singing. Not all children's song lyrics rhyme, but a lot of them do. I like to have the children I work with fill in the rhyming words; for example:

Brown bear, brown bear, what do you ____?
I see a red bird looking at _____.

You can also substitute new words to familiar songs. A nice example of this is Raffi's song Cluck Cluck Red Hen to the tune of Baa Baa Black Sheep. You don't have to be that ambitious, though. Try this one:

Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
No sir, no, sir, now I'm nice and ____.

3. Jump to me. Stand facing your child, about ten paces apart. Read pairs of words to your child, some that rhyme and some that don't. Every time you read a pair that rhymes, your child gets to take a jump (or hop, or step--whatever you agree on) toward you. When your child reaches you s/he gets a reward of some sort (a hug, a chocolate chip, a piece of apple, a sticker, or whatever motivates your child). You can also do this with alliteration--your child gets to jump forward every time you read a pair of words beginning with the same sound.

4. Name the animal/vehicle Find pictures of animals, vehicles, or other objects your child finds interesting in a magazine or children's book and think of an alliterative name for each item (e.g., Freddy the Fire Engine, Lisa the Lizard). Make sure the names you choose begin with the same sound, not just the same letter: Charlie the Crocodile, Theodore the Toad, and Peter the Pteratactyl don't work.

5. Mail the postcards. For this activity, you will need an assortment of picture cards sorted according to the beginning sound of the object, action, or concept pictured. These can be cards you've made yourself or you can purchase articulation cards from Linguisystems, Super-Duper, or other suppliers of speech therapy materials.

Find two containers to use as "mailboxes". You can use small paper bags or plastic food storage boxes for this; or, if you are really ambitious, you can create and decorate mailboxes together out of card stock or construction paper, complete with "mailing slots" appropriately sized for the "postcards" you are using. Just be sure and make them so that they can be easily opened to retrieve your "postcards"!

Pick two sounds (let's just say /f/ and /g/ for illustration) and shuffle together all the cards with items that begin with those two sounds. Explain to the child that all the cards beginning with /f/ go in the first mailbox and all the cards beginning with /g/ go in the other. Pick up one card at a time and pronounce the word represented by the picture on the card. Then have the child put the card into the appropriate mailbox. As your child becomes more skilled, you can select sound pairs that are more similar, like /f/ and /v/.

6. Rhyme catch. Stand or sit facing your child, and play catch using a beanbag, balloon, beach ball, or whatever works for the space you are using. Each player says a word before throwing the ball, and the other player says a rhyming word before throwing it back. See how many times you can go back and forth before you run out of rhyming words. When you and your child can't think of any more rhyming words, start a new set.

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