What Is the LiPS Program?

Now that I’ve announced that I’m trained in the LiPS Program, what is it? The LiPS Program is designed to develop phonemic awareness.

Phonemic awareness is the understanding that words are composed of individual sounds (phonemes) and that the sounds within words can be manipulated to change the words. For example, if you change the first phoneme of “cat” to a “b”, you get “bat”, then, if you change the middle phoneme to an “i”, you get “bit”, and if you change the last phoneme to a “g”, you get “big”.

Frequently, a student hears a word as just one unit that cannot be changed, which creates a lot of difficulty in reading.  As Patricia Lindamood and Phyllis Lindamood, the authors of the LiPS program, explain in the LiPS Program Teacher's Manual, “For students who lack phonemic awareness — the ability to think about and manipulate the individual sounds within spoken words – phonics information and rules appear to have no logic.” So, trying to teach phonics to a student who does not have phonemic awareness is very difficult.

One unique aspect of the LiPS Program, and the piece that I consider to be most valuable to struggling students, is a focus on how sounds FEEL. When you are working with a student who is having difficulty hearing the individual sounds in a word, asking them to say the word again and tell you what sounds they heard is very difficult. If they could hear the individual sounds, they probably wouldn’t be struggling.

What the LiPS Program teaches a student to do is to become keenly aware of how each sound feels, in their mouth, their throat, and even in their nose. For example, /p/ and /b/ are called “brother sounds” because the mechanics of making the two sounds are the same; you pop your lips (hence the reason they are called “lip poppers”) and release a short burst of air. The only difference between the two sounds is that the /p/ is unvoiced and the /b/ is voiced. (Feel your throat while you say each sound and you will feel it.) So, if a student tries to read a word and substitutes a “d” for a “b”, the teacher can ask the student to feel what his or her mouth is doing for that sound. In this example, the student’s lips are not popping, so he or she needs to take another look how that word is read.

When a student is having difficulty hearing the sounds in a word, it just makes so much more sense to teach them how to feel that word than to keep trying to get them to hear it in the same way. Once they learn to feel the difference, hearing the difference will be much easier.