I finally found the perfect use for the “12 Days of Christmas Song”. The repetitiveness of this song, that can at times drive us crazy, is precisely what makes it so great for children with language difficulties. Repeating words frequently is often recommended as a language stimulation strategy because the more children hear words, the more likely they will be to say them.
Combined with repetition is predictability. Saying the same sentences the same way each time is a great strategy to support children’s language development because they can start to predict what will be said next. This means the adult can pause and give the child a chance say the last word(s) from the line.
To help the child learn the song, I would recommend finding the book . The book provides visuals that can help to cue the child about what to say next. Depending on the age of the child, another way to provide visuals, with or without the book, is to hold up the number of fingers to cue the child what number to say.
Using the book while singing this song will naturally makes it go slower (because it wasn't long enough), however, you can also sing it more slowly if you don’t have the book. Oftentimes songs (and stories) are said too fast for children with speech-language difficulties, as they need more time to process information. When songs are sung too fast, it impacts the child’s ability to participate because they can’t keep up. I've heard countless stories about children with speech-language difficulties who have responded to a question or greeting several moments after their communication partner has given up and resumed talking or, worse yet, after their communication partner has left.
This brings me to the last strategy I would recommend using with this song: waiting. After the child has heard the lines several times and you are going through it again, providing visuals, singing it slowly and pausing for them to fill in the last word(s) from a line - make sure to wait, longer than you think you need to, to give them plenty of time to say their part.
It should probably go without saying (and this is why I didn't count this as the 6th strategy) that you will want to respond with warmth and enthusiasm, every time the child makes an attempt at saying something from the song, as this will encourage them to try more. In fact, it will probably be hard not to respond enthusiastically as you see the proud look on their face, as they are able to say a little bit more each time.
I like to incorporate seasonally appropriate vocabulary and activities like this into my sessions, as I believe it is important for children to be able to talk about the exciting events that are happening in their lives and for them to be able to participate in the festivities to the best of their ability.
Can you think of another way that this song and/or book can be used to support speech-language development? Or do you know another Christmas song or story that makes use of these strategies for language stimulation?