I am constantly thinking about how to isolate a skill. Turtle Talk has helped me isolate the blending skill for early intervention and then the idea grew to help with so much more.
The idea started with this book:
The idea is that the turtle talks so slowly that he only says one sound at a time.
Early intervention starts, for me, with games of oral blending. This isolates the blending skill. I ask if the child can understand turtle talk and I proceed to make the sounds of the word and the student blends them together. I often use different colour unifix cubes and point to each one as I make each sound so that the student also has visual reinforcement of different, separate, sounds. I start with short, 3 phoneme words, and build up from there.
“My turtle is so slow and tired. He can only say one sound at a time. Can you tell what he is trying to say? /c/ /a/ /t/”
The second step is asking the student to do turtle talk, perhaps with an “eye spy” game.
“How about you be the turtle and I will try to guess what your turtle is saying?”
Third, once the first two are well on their way to being mastered, I will ask a child to say a word in turtle talk and then ask which letter matches each sound and I will write each letter as they go through the process.
“What is ‘cat’ in turtle talk? What letter matches /c/? I will write it. What matches /a/?….”
Fourth, students do the turtle talk and try to match and write each sound independently.
As students get older I still refer to the turtle. To spell a word we will first count the individual sounds using turtle talk and then we will discuss how one sound might be spelled with two letters. I have found that this reminder helps activate the memory of phonics skills that they have acquired.
“Let’s do turtle talk to figure out how to spell ‘chair’. We hear 3 sounds – /ch/ /ai/ /r/.Two of the sounds are spelled with two letters. How do you spell /ch/? How would you spell /ai/ with two letters?…..”