Valentine’s Day: Peer Interaction & Friendship in the Development of a New Language

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By now, the Christmas and New Year celebrations are long gone but, for some of you, cold weather and snow are still lingering. The good news is that days are getting longer and we don’t have to wake up in total darkness. Also, at least for me, anticipating celebrations may facilitate going through some personal hurdles and world crises. As a matter of fact, as I have gained more experience in the profession, I have found that daily events and celebrations assist in planning activities for speech and language therapy. What better way right now, as February is approaching, than focus on Valentine’ s Day so widely advertised weeks ahead of time (even now, in the middle of January as I am getting this ¿QUE TAL? column ready).

When I was growing up in Mexico, I was not aware of Valentine’s if it not were for my father’s cousin who used to send me cards. Today, the day is celebrated with as much anticipation in Mexico as it is in other parts of the globe. This holiday as I found out in reading about it, originated several centuries ago, although there are conflicting stories about details regarding its beginnings. Romans had a god who symbolized love, Cupid. Three centuries after the death of Jesus Christ, a Christian priest by the name of Valentine was beheaded on February 14, because of his teachings after serving some time in prison. While in custody he had performed some miracles, and the community was well aware of his actions and good deeds. Apparently, February 14 was also a Roman holiday when young men escorted young ladies to several festivities and this tradition spread to all of Europe during the Middle Ages and the Colonies.

In the United States, the use of cards to celebrate this holiday was initiated in the late 1800’s. Planning for this holiday has been occurring sooner and sooner since I have lived in the United States (for more than 35 years). In many ways, this is very fortunate because this holiday symbolizes friendship and love that need to be in everyone’s mind. So many definitions for each one of these two terms exist, that it would take too much space to discuss them in this column. However, friendship and love are universal concepts that may be expressed differently depending on the times, the given culture or language. The following quotes capture the meaning of friendship and love throughout various centuries and cultures.

“Friends show their love in times of trouble…”
and “One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.”
Euripides (408 B.C.)
“A friend loves at all times.”
The Bible: Proverbs 17, 17.
“Friendship makes prosperity more brilliant,
and lightens adversity by dividing and sharing it.”
Cicero (44 B.C.)

“The death of a friend is equivalent to the loss of a limb.”
German Proverb
“Life without a friend is like death without a witness.”
Spanish Proverb
” A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.”
Arabian Proverb
“It is better to be in chains with friends, than to be in a garden with strangers.”
Persian Proverb
“Who finds a faithful friend, finds a treasure.”
Jewish saying
“Hold a true friend with both your hands.”
Nigerian Proverb

How can this topic be translated into therapy to assist students who have a variety of speech and language disorders? Activities that are planned around a theme have been found to be helpful because the student has an opportunity to review the same topic across various areas of the curriculum. For example, the book Historia de la Nube Que Era Amiga de Una Niña (The Story of a Cloud That Befriended a Girl) that focuses on the friendship between a girl and a cloud, can be used to review weather concepts, descriptions of clouds and cloud formation in Science; to follow the weather in other cities and countries in one given day in Social Studies; and graphing of weather over a week or a month and description of shapes of clouds in Math. In speech and language therapy the use of books can assist by integrating strategies that incorporate language into the curriculum in the following manner:

  1. Include activities that use whole texts, themes, events, and experiences
  2. Incorporate children’s home/community communication events into activities
  3. Connect intervention activities to a larger curriculum context
  4. Create an environment conducive to a wide range of language uses
  5. Integrate form, content, and use in activities (Beaumont, 1992, p. 272) (In Langdon, H.W. with Cheng, L. (Eds) Hispanic children and adults with communication disorders. Assessment and intervention. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen, Publishers.

Bilingual and Spanish books can searched on the Internet by typing “Bilingual Books about Friendship” onto the Google engine. You can read about the book and decide if you wish to purchase it, and you can do so online. Some books that I recommend and include many aspects about friendship and appreciation for others include:

  • Friend From the Other Side-Amigos del Otro Lado by Glora Anbzaldúa. Emeryville, CA: Children’s Book Press (1993). This book includes the Spanish and English version of the story.
  • Historia de la Nube Que Era Amiga de Una Niña (The Story of a Cloud That Befriended a Girl) by Bertrand Ruillé. Madrid, Spain Susaeta Ediciones, SA (1990). A Spanish adaptation of a book originally written in Catalan
  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister El Pez Arcoiris- translated into Spanish by Ana Tortajada North-South Books (1992-1994). San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. This book exists in the oversize edition as well.

You may share the books with the classroom teachers and plan activities that will be complementary. You may also find which books are read in class. Even though this takes time, it will be ultimately effective to assist the student.

In this day and age where you have multiple sessions with children of various ages with various communication and learning challenges, you may select two books that you like best and work with those for one or more weeks. You may adapt your lesson plan according to the curriculum as well as the particular objective and language level of your students. Also, because listening, speaking, reading and writing are all intimately linked processes; you may want to follow activities which integrate these four processes. Adaptations will always be necessary depending on the students’ ages, abilities and goals.

I will illustrate some ways in which I have used a book to meet speech and language goals where listening, speaking, reading and writing can be targeted. These ideas are only a small portion of infinite ways to utilize the same book or material. Possible adaptations are infinite!!

Historia de la Nube Que Era Amiga de Una Niña
Speech and Language Therapy Ideas

LISTENING
  • Raise hand when hearing word that includes /N/
  • Raise hand when hearing /nube/
  • Rephrase comments made by SLP or another student
  • Same as above but what SLP or another student read.
SPEAKING
  • Look at the cover of the book. Predict about the content of the story.
  • Discuss the meaning of friendship and help.
  • Predict the text based on the pictures.
  • Compare and contrast the predictions provided by theby the students with the content of the book.
  • Select key words from the story and analyze their grammatical function. Make up sentences using those words.
  • Look for words or phrases that depict emotions, and states.
  • Model words that may be mispronounced.
READING
  • The SLP and/or students take turns reading the book.
  • Analyze words according to their syllabic structure.
  • Select words from the text that have specific specific beginning sounds. Alphabetize those words. (In Spanish there are few consonants ending words).
  • Select some words to make rhymes
WRITING
  • The SLP and/or student write words, phrases, or whole sentences about the story on the board or on butcher paper.
  • Students write words they remember from the segment that was read and/or where they need further practice with articulation. These words can be targets for homework
  • Students

Please be sure to read my next ¿Qué Tal? column that will focus on translation issues. I do welcome your comments.

As always, I do welcome your comments.

Henriette W. Langdon, Ed.D., F-CCC-SLP
Professor
Communicative Disorders & Sciences
College of Education
San José State University
San José, CA 95192-0079
408-924-4019 voice
408-924-3641 fax

hlangdon@email.sjsu.edu

Gracias – Thank you.

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