Treating articulation disorders in the school setting is very common for the speech-language pathologist. Based on your state’s educational eligibility code, you may see students with articulation disorders on an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) or through a speech improvement Response to Intervention (RTI) site-based program. 

We know that with students with articulation disorders, the end goal is to establish the target sound and to help the student be able to correctly produce that sound in conversation with a variety of speaking partners across many different settings. 

When working in the school setting, I find that it can be difficult to move through those stages because lesson planning time is limited. Today, I want to refresh us all on the traditional articulation therapy approach to help us plan therapy more efficiently for our articulation students. 

Explanation of the Traditional Articulation Therapy Approach

The traditional articulation approach was developed by Van Riper in 1978. With this approach, the SLP works on one sound at a time and progresses to working on the sound in isolation, syllables, words, phrases, sentences, reading, and conversation. This approach uses a hierarchy approach (vertical) where the sound is worked on one position at a time.

The approach focuses on the phonetic placement of the sound in error and teaching the motor skills to correctly produce that sound. This method of intervention uses a hierarchy to help children establish the correct sound and learn the motor movements to use that sound into conversational contexts.

When to Use the Traditional Therapy Approach

This approach is most recommended for younger children who are exhibiting a few sound errors. Furthermore, children who are exhibiting sound errors that are relatively developmental in nature are good candidates for using this approach. 

Five Steps in Van Riper’s Traditional Therapy Method

Discrimination Training – Can they hear correct vs. incorrect productions of the sound?

Stimulability – Is the student able to correctly produce the sound when given prompts for the correct placement and manner for the sound production?

Sound Stabilization – The child expands the contexts in which he or she can correctly say the sound.

Generalization – when the child is able to correctly produce the sound, regardless of the environment or the person to whom he or she is speaking.

Maintenance – monitoring the child’s speech over time to ensure that he or she is continuing to correctly produce the correct sounds in all contexts of conversation.

The Hierarchy Stages of the Traditional Therapy Approach

When planning therapy, SLPs will want to work on one sound at a time. It is important that you go through all the stages in order. Typically, the stages follow working on the single sound in isolation, syllables, words (initial, final, medial), phrases, sentences, reading paragraphs, and conversation. 

Want a little cheat sheet of the stages? Click here to download a copy!

How Do I Know What Stage to Start with Using the Traditional Therapy Approach?

The best way an SLP can determine where to begin in therapy using the traditional therapy approach is to collect good baseline data. When we know what the child can do with his/her articulation sound, it is easier to plan therapy at the correct stage. Busy Bee Speech has a great baseline data resource to use at the beginning of the year or when you first get a student. 

Articulation Materials to Help Plan Therapy Using the Traditional Therapy Approach

Implementing the traditional therapy approach is a lot easier when you have activities that align. Make therapy planning more efficient by using these tools for articulation!

Isolation Articulation Activities 

Helping your students elicit the sounds in isolation can sometimes be tricky. This book, Eliciting Sounds: Techniques and Strategies for Clinicians 2nd Edition,has a lot of helpful information for how to cue and elicit sounds from your students.

Once you get the child to elicit the sound, you want them to get those high repetitions of saying the sound. My Race to 100 game is great for working at the isolation, syllable, or word level. Grab it HERE (free printable). 

Syllables Articulation Activities

Practicing the target sound in syllables is an important stage for your students. Your students can get in a lot of meaningful drill with syllables. When you allow your students to practice without a word context, they can better focus on the motor patterns for the sound productions. Use this FREE Syllable Practice Sheet with post its, speech sound cue cards, or put in a page protector and use with a dry erase marker!

Word Articulation Activities

Once your students are at stage 3 and are ready to practice more complex words, my Interactive Articulation Flipbooks are perfect for words, carrier phrases, and sentences. Check out how  you can use them in sessions HERE. For more therapy ideas to get those high trials at the word level, check out this post.

Sentence Articulation Activities


Sentence Articulation Challenge Sheets are great for stage 5 when your student is ready to work on their sound with two sound targets in a sentence. There is also carryover practice with homework sheets!

If you need easy-to-prep activities, then you can use my No Prep Articulation Sentence Practice sheets as homework or for quick drill. 

Paragraphs And Conversation

For your students working on reading at the paragraph level, as well as structured conversational tasks, my Articulation Carryover Sets have lots of activities that you can use. The reading passages control the phonetic environment so your students can focus on their target sound. Plus, collecting data is super easy for you! Need more ideas for generalization? Check HERE for the blog post.

What Resources Do You Use in Articulation Therapy?


I would love to know what you use to help your students make progress in articulation therapy. Do you have a book, a therapy material, a game, or a manipulative that really helps motivate your students to practice? Share in the comments.