Now Showing: Speech Stars on Stage Inject some performance magic into skill-building by adding stage shows to treatment. Have You Tried This?
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Have You Tried This?  |   July 01, 2017
Now Showing: Speech Stars on Stage
Author Notes
  • Diana G. Hayes, MA, CCC-SLP, is a clinician with the Boonton Township (New Jersey) Public Schools. dianaa78@aol.com
    Diana G. Hayes, MA, CCC-SLP, is a clinician with the Boonton Township (New Jersey) Public Schools. dianaa78@aol.com×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / School-Based Settings / Language Disorders / Social Communication & Pragmatics Disorders / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Have You Tried This?
Have You Tried This?   |   July 01, 2017
Now Showing: Speech Stars on Stage
The ASHA Leader, July 2017, Vol. 22, 44-45. doi:10.1044/leader.HYTT.22072017.44
The ASHA Leader, July 2017, Vol. 22, 44-45. doi:10.1044/leader.HYTT.22072017.44
“Mom! Mom! You have to come see this! This is the stage I was telling you about. The one we use in speech class. Look!”
These were the words of one of my students as he passed by our speech room one afternoon. His enthusiasm was overwhelming and contagious. It showed how being elevated even a little bit on a stage can change your view of the world—and, more specifically in this case, heighten your awareness of speech skills.
How is it that a portable miniature stage was added to our speech room? My husband constructed it out of two pieces of 2-by-4 plywood that he screwed together. The platform is spray-painted black and stands three-and-a-half inches off the ground. We folded red bulletin board paper, accordion style, to create curtains. A music stand, donated by the music teacher, holds our speaking parts.
Speech in the spotlight
Now that you know the how, you’re likely wondering why we installed this stage in the speech room. It’s because, on stage, a student puts together all the components of speech: volume, body language, eye contact, rate of speech and sound production. As speech-language pathologists, we often focus on drills as part of treating articulation disorders. But too much emphasis on drill practice can make us lose sight of the big picture.
Putting a student on stage changes the dynamic: As an audience member, I tune in more to specifics such as volume and rate of speech—and their overall impact on effective communication skills. These important features tend to get lost in the repetition of drills.

On stage, a student puts together all the components of speech: volume, body language, eye contact, rate of speech and sound production.

This year we took our speech-room stage productions to a new level, naming them “Speech Stars on Stage.” During a “show,” students introduce themselves and read aloud from a variety of materials, including plays, passages focused on targeted sounds, classroom speeches, Mad Libs, child-created commercials and news stories. Before students perform, I remind them to focus on sound production, volume, body language, eye contact and rate of speech.
The audience of me and other students (ages 7 to 13) receiving speech-language treatment applauds students’ efforts after each performance. Audience members play key roles as respectful listeners and observers of important details. We’ve also created our own “Speech Idol”: Judges in the audience rate the performances and provide positive, constructive feedback. Occasionally, when feedback is hurtful or inappropriate, we use it as an opportunity to work on perspective-taking.
In the weeks leading up to a show, students spend two to three treatment sessions practicing their speaking parts—each about five minutes long. And they’ve quickly embraced this aspect of treatment. They used to ask, “Are we playing a game today?” Now they eagerly inquire, “Do we get to go on stage today?” The stage has become a welcome tool in our treatment toolbox.
Bridge to the classroom
Besides offering a fun way to practice articulation, the stage also can promote carryover of skills—often a particularly challenging aspect of treating articulation disorders. In our case, the stage bridges treatment room and classroom, helping students generalize skills learned in treatment to the general education classroom.
How? We invite teachers to have speech-language students practice speaking tasks such as classroom presentations and school performances on our speech stage. That way, students work on their skills in a comfortable place, and then generalize. A teacher recently took us up on this offer and noted how relieved her formerly anxious students were when they learned of the stage practice. The stage had a surprisingly calming effect.

The stage bridges treatment room and classroom, helping students generalize skills.

In addressing stage fright, we discuss the term “butterflies in my stomach.” This phrase—and others like “curtain call” and “break a leg” (this list goes on)—provide opportunities for learning figurative language. The stage also provides strong pragmatic language-learning opportunities: We focus performers on the importance of eye contact and body language, and we focus audience members on respectful listening and performance acknowledgement. As time goes on, we see performers’ confidence grow.
Recently, my son and I were watching the children’s movie “Kung Fu Panda 3.” I was struck by something the animated character Father Shifu says to Po (the kung fu panda) to encourage him to try a new skill: “If you only do what you can do, you’ll never be better than what you are.” I immediately related this quote to our work with the stage.
We’ve integrated these words into our speech-language treatment, adapting it to help students step outside the usual treatment zone to learn an array of skills, including articulation, pragmatics and understanding of figurative language. As a result, we’ve raised the value of speech and language treatment for students and teachers. It all comes together on stage, especially during that final performance.
Now it’s show time! Ask yourself: Are you ready for your clients to take center stage?
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July 2017
Volume 22, Issue 7