What’s a Dog with no D?

FarSide Deer

Gary Larson’s work is great. Why the deer?  ‘What do you call a deer with no eyes? No idea’ (no-eye-deer). So what do you call a dog with no ‘d’? A car with no ‘c’? A chair with no ‘ch’? If your child is getting to grips with reading and if they have a fairly good grasp of how sounds make words then they can probably tell you.

This week I wrote a short essay about introducing my daughter to the relationship between letters and sounds. I read a great deal around the subject but got completely engrossed in the work of one psychologist, Ellen Bialystok. Bialystok has researched not just aspects of bilingualism, but also the research about bilingualism. In one such paper entitled “Acquisition of Literacy in Bilingual Children: A Framework for Research”, she reviewed the work of countless researchers in order to compare findings. Most of the research included tests to determine in which ways (if any) bilingual’s acquisition of literacy differed from monolingual’s (it does btw). One of the studies mentioned phoneme deletion. Read more about it here (with activity ideas) on a useful site called Speech Language Development.

So, recently I asked my daughter ‘What’s dog with no ‘d’ (duh)? She thought about it for a second and didn’t seem to understand. I told her it is an ‘og’. After a couple more examples she understood and now it’s our favourite word game. She quickly started giving me quizzes: What’s television with no t (tuh)? What’s shelf with no ‘sh’? Hysterical!

We have done this kind of activity using her letters blocks since she first learned the phonetic alphabet, but the big difference here was that it was an oral challenge. There was no visual referent. The advantages of this on the cognitive level would be the increased awareness of the sounds that make words and the ability to manipulate them (something that Bialystok’s research showed bilinguals to be good at). The other more practical aspect for parents looking for fun ways to keep their kids speaking is that it can be done on the go, anywhere and any time. It doesn’t need props and it really is good fun, especially when the end product is a word itself: shelf minus ‘sh’ is elf!

Don’t push children if they’re not ready, but for those who can grasp the concept it’s a new world of linguistic development!

Oh, and the deer joke? You may want to leave that for a while, or at least not try to tell it while they are just starting to enjoy the phoneme deletion activity. “But there is no I in Deer!” It could really blow their fuses.

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