How to Help with Mumbling
If children have all the necessary and expected speech sounds, but are still not understood, it’s likely because they’re mumbling. This is particularly an issue with younger children in preschool and elementary school. It can be frustrating for the child, as they never feel heard and are constantly asked to speak up or to repeat themselves. It can be frustrating for teachers and parents, as well.
Record the Child Speaking
A lot of times, the children don’t realize they’re mumbling, so record them speaking, and then play it back so they can hear it. When they hear what they sound like, they’ll realize their speech isn’t what they thought it was.
Tell Them What Mumbling Is
Explain the concept of mumbling, and why you’re aiming to fix it. Use audio and video examples to show what you mean. There are plenty of examples available on YouTube to demonstrate the concepts, and to show the difference between mumbled and clear speech.
Practice Pacing Speech
Sometimes, children mumble simply because they are speaking too fast, so the words jumble themselves together and make it difficult for others to understand what they are saying. It’s a good idea to work on some speech pacing exercises to help children learn how to speak at a pace that is more easily understood.
You can do this with teaching children to visualize their speech as a road where they are driving and the audience is along for the ride. Speaking too quickly means you’re driving so fast the scenery around you is nothing but a blur, but speaking too slowly means you’re never going to arrive at your destination. It’s important to speak quickly enough to maintain a slow and steady speed that allows the audience to soak up the scenery, but gets them to the destination on time.
Teach Nonverbal Cues
Whether it’s putting your finger on your lips, or placing your hand by your ear, work with the student to find a nonverbal cue you can use to remind them when they’re mumbling and need to increase the volume of their voice or change the pace of their speech. This allows them to remain alert, without interrupting what they’re trying to say, which can help avoid embarrassment, especially when in front of peers or larger groups of people.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Make sure students know when it is important to speak clearly, such as when they’re speaking to adults, or on the phone. Place them in various scenarios where they can practice speaking to learn how to do it without mumbling.
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