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Cod, Tongue Twisters and the Science of Reading

• Christy Hovanetz, Ph.D. and Cari Miller

Today’s post celebrates everyone’s favorite obscure holiday: International Tongue Twister Day.*

She sells sea shells by the sea shore.

Think that’s tough? Try talking through this treacherous tongue twister ten times: Pad kid poured curd pulled cod.

You tried it, didn’t you…?

When we hear tongue twisters, we immediately want to check whether we can repeat it correctly. Albeit, agonizing about achieving an auspicious attempt. Give it a shot!

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that this is the most difficult tongue twister in the world. The brain coordinates its articulation of words according to which muscles it needs to move, not by what the resultant phonemes sound like. Sounds that use the same or similar muscles can confuse the brain. Participants in the study typically failed to repeat all the words or just stopped talking all together.

Tongue twisters are funny, but they are a great way to practice and improve pronunciation and fluency to speak clearly. Tongue twisters provide a plethora of payoffs including, strengthening and stretching the muscles involved in speech, understanding the difference in different sounds, highlighting the hardest sounds for you, improving articulation, learning about homophones and exposure to new words. Teasing tots, ‘tweens, teens and teammates with tongue twisters will assist in learning a language skill in disguise!

Some of our favorite tongue twisters come from, Fox in Socks, the classic Dr. Seuss book by Theodor Geisel. For generations, Geisel has inspired readers through clever rhythms, rhymes and repetition. In fact, his book Cat in the Hat is considered as the gateway to the phonics-based approach in the U.S. Check out a blog of ours from earlier this year to learn more about the science of reading and the battle between phonics and whole-language pedagogy.

As kids we liked repeating these tongue twisters and had fun testing others and trying to catch them if they were wrong, but they are not just for kids. Tongue twisters are a great warm-up exercise before you make a presentation, speak in public, teach a class or lead a meeting!

Are you still trying to say Pad kid poured curd pulled cod? Check out some tips on how to learn tongue twisters.

*International Tongue Twister Day is always observed on the second Sunday in November.

Learn More About the Science of Reading at #EIE19

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About the authors

Christy Hovanetz, Ph.D.

Christy Hovanetz is a Senior Policy Fellow for ExcelinEd focusing on school accountability policies. Dr. Hovanetz served as the Assistant Commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Education and Assistant Deputy Commissioner at the Florida Department of Education. She has worked in education policy for the state of Florida since 1999 serving as the Director of Evaluation and Reporting, Director of Reading First and a Policy Analyst for Governor Jeb Bush. She graduated summa cum laude from St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education with a minor in mathematics and is a certified teacher in the state of Minnesota. She earned her Masters of Public Administration at the University of Minnesota and a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University.

Cari Miller

Cari Miller serves as Policy Director of Early Literacy for ExcelinEd. She works hand in hand with states pursuing a comprehensive approach to K-3 reading policy, and she supports state departments with effective policy implementation. Cari is a former elementary teacher and reading coach. She also served as the Deputy Director of Just Read, Florida!, Governor Jeb Bush’s statewide literacy initiative. At Just Read, Florida!, she served in other capacities, including: Elementary Reading Specialist, Director of Reading First and Director of Elementary Reading. Her sole mission is to improve student reading achievement across the nation.