Cued Articulation: Seeing a sound, by Adrienne Bamberger
Cued Articulation: Seeing a sound
By Adrienne Bamberger
Published in S&L World bulletin April 2011, page 24
1998. What happened in 1998? Well, France minted the first Euro coin; Hugo Chávez Frías was elected President of Venezuela; the European Court of Human Rights was instituted; Auckland, New Zealand had a 66-day blackout and I discovered Cued Articulation. Out of those events, the one which has had the most personal and lasting impact on me is – learning about Cued Articulation!
In 1998 I was working as a peripatetic SEN teacher and was just finishing an ACE in Speech and Language difficulties at Birmingham. Whilst studying for this qualification, I had begun to realise how little I knew about phonology and phonetics. Also, it had become obvious that more and more children in my caseload had severe problems with their phonological awareness, leading to poor reading skills and in many cases extreme frustration. So, when my Line Manager suggested I went on the Cued Articulation (CA) course I was intrigued; a method that would show children a sound?
I arrived at the ICAN training venue to find that the trainer was actually Jane Passy, the deviser of the system. Later on I found out that all the other participants were SLTs; I was glad I found out later as it may have made me a touch inhibited! As the day progressed, I became more and more enthused. This was brilliant. How logical it all was. A way to visually cue children in to a particular sound and, what’s more, a method of colour-coding that could help them with their reading.
At the end of the day I asked Jane if there was a way I could train other teachers in this method. Yes, there was a pack for trainers… and so began my relationship with Cued Articulation.
For the next few years I used CA every day, with children who had a variety of needs: SpLD (dyslexia and dyspraxia), moderate learning difficulties, receptive and expressive language delay and phonological problems. I will never forget Tom who, aged 7½ , was unable to read and deeply unhappy. After the usual settling-in period we began using CA and Tom immediately saw its value. He liked the cognitive aspect; understanding where and how sounds were made. He would colour-code me messages and I wasn’t allowed to start work with him until I had deciphered the messages. Within 3 months, Tom was reading and within 6 months he was a fluent reader. His mother was really overcome by his progress and the change in his temperament. Tom was certainly a changed boy.
As I worked within a small London borough, the word got around about this new method of teaching children who had difficulties with phonological awareness. Soon I was running courses and INSET for 20 or so teachers and Learning Support Assistants at a time. One school decided to adopt CA as a whole class teaching method and I went along to see 30 happy Reception children learning the cues together. The head teacher declared it ‘the best thing since sliced bread.’
In 2000 I was employed as teacher i/c of a Speech and Language resource Base in a mainstream school. CA was already part of the resource base’s curriculum and we continued using the system with great success. The hand cueing appealed to many of the children who were on the autistic spectrum and highly-visual learners. In 2002 I was asked to contribute a chapter to a book about CA and its many uses: A Handful of Sounds, ed. Jane Passy (ACER 2003).
In 2003 I changed direction and retrained to teach adults, taking a CertTESOL and later a Level 4 Literacy qualification. During this time I had the opportunity to present CA as part of a Level 2 TA course. I continued to use it in my teaching – in a small group for adults with learning difficulties and also in workplace learning. Teaching adults opened up a whole new vista for me. I began to see CA’s value in helping those who do not have the equivalent of certain Standard English phonemes in their 1st language. Understanding how vocal organs are used and where sounds originate – lips/teeth/palate etc. – allowed learners to make good progress with their spoken English.
Later on I worked at a women’s residential college. Here, many women came for a ‘last chance’ attempt at achieving educational goals. I saw first-hand the detrimental effects of interrupted schooling; undetected SpLD; early childhood problems which had impacted on learning and the ensuing lack of confidence and self-belief. There were many students from many different countries. Some students were able to have some CA training and it certainly improved one woman’s use of English to a remarkable degree – in fact, to degree level!
In 2010, circumstances allowed me to set up a small training business. I have spent many months updating my CA courses, refining and rewording to make them accessible to all, whatever the level of knowledge. Last week, I ran a course at a Special School for SLTs, class teachers, EAL teachers and TAs, teachers of the Deaf, SEN teachers and specialist SEN TAs. It was a very rewarding experience to see how a day of thinking about sounds, using them, putting them together, learning the visual cues and colour-coding, enabled many of those there to go away and immediately carry the knowledge through into their daily practice.
I know this because?… they emailed me the next day to say they had started using CA, with great success.
So, here’s what Cued Articulation is: a unique system, based on linguistic principles, which supports the recognition, acquisition, understanding and production of speech sounds. It can be used in whole-class learning, or for individuals or small groups. It is an easy-to-use method with many applications in the teaching of literacy skills such as onset and rime, syllabification, segmenting, blending, phonemegrapheme correspondence, morphology, enunciation and production.
Speech & Language Therapists have found CA invaluable for supporting those with auditory processing problems; articulation disorders; phonological delay; and dyspraxia, and have realised how their knowledge can be extended beyond the clinic to the classroom. It can also be used with those recovering from head injuries or strokes.
Teachers of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired can use CA so that children can ‘see’ the sounds they cannot hear, and produce these sounds accurately.
Teachers and Teaching Assistants working with The Primary National Strategy understand that children should be equipped with the phonic knowledge and skills they need to become fluent readers by the age of seven. The Strategy advocates a multisensory approach to actively engage children. That’s what CA is!
EAL Teachers and ESOL Tutors find the visual cues of CA very helpful when reinforcing the sounds of English. The colour coding system supports encoding and decoding skills. It is particularly valuable as an alternative approach to tackling pronunciation difficulties. It helps learners to discriminate between, and use, sounds which do not occur in their 1st languages. For instance, errors of positioning when using vowels are a common problem and CA gives a visual cue to show where the vowel is produced e.g. front or central. It is a helpful tool to promote reading fluency, particularly in blending and segmenting multi-syllable words. Additionally, CA has a practical application in the learning of new vocabulary.
Consistent use of the colour coding is encouraged. It enables the learner to see the difference between voiced and voiceless sounds, showing how word endings such as the regular past tense, possessive nouns and plurals are pronounced.
I hope I have been able to communicate my abiding interest and belief in the system and its effectiveness, by giving you an insight into Cued Articulation and its variety of uses. There is a Cued Articulation book, cards, wall charts and an interactive DVD. However, to start using CA, all you need is enthusiasm, knowledge of the system and 12 coloured pencils. Cued Articulation is practical, portable, fun – and it works!