We’ve all heard or said, “walk before you run!” As SLPs, we know it’s the same for speech. We learn to say smaller syllables like “sah” or smaller words like “sat” before we say multisyllabic words like “Saturday.” It’s that golden ladder speech sound hierarchy that all SLPs learned and often live by when treating speech delays and articulation disorders. We start by establishing the sound in isolation for our students with speech sound disorders. It might be tricky to decide on syllables or words from there. If we go to syllables, how can we keep our support of our students at this level while also keeping them engaged? My FREE tool, Syllable Level Articulation Activity Worksheet, can help with that.
Traditional Articulation Therapy Approach Refresh
Following the traditional articulation therapy approach, we move from the smallest unit (a single phoneme) and gradually climb up the speech sound hierarchy. If you remember from grad school, the articulation hierarchy follows this system:
- Sounds in isolation
- Reading Paragraphs
- Generalization across settings and people
Often, we’ll move right from the isolation level to words. When following the traditional articulation therapy approach, however, we should have the child practice their articulation productions in syllables. By removing the contextualized context, drilling their speech sound in syllables allows the student to focus on the motor patterns. Need more of a refresher on the traditional articulation therapy approach? Check out my blog post about it here.
If you need a visual articulation hierarchy chart, check this free one out from Allison Fors.
Where to Start With Articulation Therapy
Before grabbing the worksheet, you’ll need to determine where to start with your student. The best way to decide where to begin in therapy is to complete baseline testing about where the child is correctly producing the sound. The SLP can determine if the child can discriminate a correct versus incorrect sound production. Then, the SLP can assess if the sound is stimulable in isolation, syllables, words, and so forth. Once you’ve determined their baseline, it’s time to help them climb that ladder!
The Syllable Level Articulation Activity worksheet helps both our students and us. We can quickly plan for sessions with little to no prep. Grab the worksheet and
- Use post-it notes to add your student’s sound to it
- Stick it in a page protector and write the target sound with a dry-erase marker
- Use sound cue cards (you can get free ones from Speechy Musings)
Amazon affiliate links are provided for your convenience.
The worksheet helps provide a visual for students while they focus on the motor patterns with their new sound attached to short, long, or mixed vowels in CV or VC syllables.
Tips for Using the Syllable Level Articulation Sheet
Practicing syllables may seem “boring” or even “weird” to some students, but it’s an important step. Explain to your students that these are the building blocks for words. I once had a parent question why I practiced such simple words in therapy with their child. I took the time to explain that practicing their child’s speech sound in syllables would later prepare them for correct productions in multisyllabic words. For example, working on final /s/ syllables such as “ace” could help produce this syllable in acid, baseball, asymmetrical, racing, and replace. After, she was more open and appreciative of the CV and VC words. A few weeks later, she could hear these CV and VC syllables in longer words. Some of our students (or their parents or teachers) might need this explanation, too! For younger students, you should tell them that you’ll be practicing silly nonsense words during the session.
Once you’ve explained your goal for the activity, it’s time to practice. You can pull out the worksheet for drilled practice before between turns in a game or craft. Cycle through each vowel before your student takes a turn. You could also have them repeat one vowel per turn. The choice is yours!
Additional Articulation Activity Ideas To Do With the Sheet
If you’re doing more play-based therapy, brainstorm the syllables that might come up during play or that you want to use during the activity. Many of these CV or VC syllables are words that we use daily. For example:
- Make a car GO. Put a GUY in the car. “Oh no, the car is covered in GOO!”
- Do you SEE that dino? It is SO cool. What does the dino SAY? The dino’s name is SUE.
- The dolls are IN the house. Oh NO, the cat is stuck ON the roof. NAH, we can get it down. Ouch! The doll fell on her KNEE. Look, here’s a NEW band-aid to help. Now she’s hungry and needs AN apple.
- Create silly names for the characters (dolls, dinosaurs, animals, monsters, etc.) you’re using. My dino’s name is SAH! or This animal is POH!
Ensure your worksheet is handy to help your student practice these syllables during play. When the worksheet is out during play, it allows your students to shift their attention to practice and provides a visual.
Strategies for Incorporating Self Awareness
Have the child rate their productions with visual supports. You can record your student producing their syllables and then have the student listen to the recording. The student can say or write down the words they said correctly or incorrectly.
Make sure your positive and negative feedback is clear and specific. For example, you can say, “That was a perfect L.” or “Oops, our tongue wasn’t in the right position, so I didn’t hear an L sound.”
Have your students visually see their performance at the end of the session by graphing how well they did or explaining which words they produced correctly.
Once they’ve mastered this syllable level, it’s time for words with their target sound!
Sticking At The Syllable Level A Little Longer
Practicing at the syllable level provides our practice students with these essential building blocks to larger words. They can focus their energy on the motor plan for their new sounds. Planning sessions around such small syllables can be challenging. Still, the Syllable Level Articulation Activity Worksheet can help give students a visual when practicing during games, a craft, play, or more! How do you practice the syllable level of the Traditional Articulation Therapy Approach? Share your activities and tips in the comments!