One of my most common goals for patients is to master irregular plural nouns like fish (not fishes), shelves (not shelfs), sheep (not sheeps), and mice (not mouses).
I always start this target with flash cards and use a least-to-most cueing hierarchy (unless the child needs a consistent level of support in which case I’ll start there and then gradually give them less). So I’ll show them the card with a single child while saying, “1 child and…” then switch to the 2 children and say, “2…” If they need help I’ll ask, “Are they childs?” If they need more help then I’ll ask, “Are they 2 childs or children?” and switch the position of the target so that I either say it first or second.
Once a patient masters the flashcards I switch to play-based activities because they’re more effective and motivating. Here are a couple of my favorite play-based activities for irregular plural nouns.
Lil’ Woodzeez & Calico Critters
My in-person patients of all ages are loving my Li’l Woodzeez and Calico Critters sets. I originally bought the Li’l Woodzeez camper set (for $34.99) and the Li’l Woodzeez chipmunk family, which is apparently no longer available, (for $9.99) because I thought they were adorable, but I’ve since added pieces and sets to target various grammatical features. For irregular plurals I added the Li’l Woodzeez family of “sheep” (for $9.99), the Calico Critters family of “mice” (for $22.95), the Li’l Woodzeez family of “wolves” (for $9.99), the Li’l Woodzeez Health Clinic for “teeth,” “shelves,” and “leaves” (for $19.99), and the Li’l Woodzeez “Boating Set” for “fish” (for $9.99). The camper I originally bought came with 3 loaves of bread, which is also helpful for irregular plurals. Using any a single family set I can target “children” and “feet” and with any 2 sets I can target “men” and “women.”
In an appointment I usually start by asking kids what family they want to play with. I’ll say things like, “This family has one wolf, and another wolf, and another wolf – so what are they?” If the need more help I’ll ask, “Are they a family of wolfs?” with emphasis on the “f.” I’ll do the same thing for the “teeth,” “shelves,” “loaves,” and “fish” before I give the patient the toys. I’ll then let the kids play and listen in for any errors and ask them to fix them as we go. If they’ve been playing for a while and they haven’t used more targets I’ll use the same kind of prompts as before to target “leaves” (outside the clinic), “feet,” “men” (using a second set for the second man), “women” (again using a second set), and “children.” I always try to give them the singular version so they know what I’m looking for. For example, I’ll say, “They don’t have one child, do they?” because if I ask, “What do they have?” I’ll get answers like, “2 kids” since many of my patients are smart enough to avoid the targets they struggle with.
Right now the biggest challenge is having the right toys disinfected and dry for the kids who need to work on specific targets. When I’m not able to keep it all straight and have it ready I’ll either ask the kids if they remember about the toys we’ve played with before or hold them up (although, children usually want to play with a toy if they see it and it feels cruel to then tell them they can’t. It’s like literally “dangling it in front of them”).
Here are some more ideas for using Li’l Woodzeez and Calico Critters for speech and language treatment.
Toca Life World
I’ve made a room in Toca Life World for irregular plurals. I only have to prepare the room once (unless the game crashes). For each child I’ll load the room and then move the children while saying, “Here’s 1 child and 2…” Just like with the flash cards and move through the cueing hierarchy (again, unless a child demonstrates a consistent need for the same level of support).
Here’s my tutorial for preparing a room so that you can target irregular plurals in the FREE version of Toca Life World. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many irregular plural targets with the free version of Toca Life World. Here are the addons you can buy to add more targets:
- Barn (for sheep) – $0.99
- Dentist (for teeth) – $0.99…
- …or the Misty Cottage (also for teeth, but it’s helpful for articulation, too) – $1.99
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