Speech Articulation Disorders with Themes – Tips for How to Do It!

Speech Articulation Disorders with Themes – Tips for How to Do It!

It can feel relatively easy to come up with language-based activities using speech therapy themes. When it comes to theme planning with speech sound disorders, it can be tricky to brainstorm target words, get enough trials and keep your students engaged. There are lots of pros and cons when using a theme-based approach for articulation-based activities. You can listen to more about these pros and cons on this podcast episode

I do have some tricks up my sleeve for using themes with speech sound disorders! I’ve already shared my FREE-themed word lists for Back to School, All About Me, and Pumpkins to give some ideas but that’s just a starting point to making this therapy easier, more effective, and more fun. So today, I am sharing my best tips for using themes with speech sound disorders.

Tip #1: Picking the Right Themes for Speech Articulation Disorders

Get 5 tips for how to use themes with your speech sound disorder goals!

Pick themes that have a lot of vocabulary options so that you can adapt to various speech sounds. For example, food is an excellent theme because you can target a LOT of different sounds…recipe, ingredients, pot, mix, hot, cook, oven, stove, vegetables, fruits, chef, restaurant, kitchen, juice, wheat, healthy, knife, bake, taste, delicious, sugar, sour, measure and so many more. The Themed SLP Membership includes a food theme in June with lists of articulation and phonology words, lists of target words in food-related books, and more.


Another option when picking a theme for articulation and phonology is being more specific in your choice of a theme. You can choose a theme that has its sound in its name. For example, a Superhero or Spider theme would be great for kids working on /s/ or /r/. A Picnic theme would be great for kids working on /p/ or /k/.

Tip #2 Drill First, Play Later with Speech Sounds

Structure your sessions strategically when using speech therapy themes. 

Students can start their sessions by doing structured drills for a set amount of time, like 5-10 minutes. The second half of your session will involve a themed activity such as a sensory bin, pretend play, toy, or hands-on activity in which you can embed more natural practice with the student. 

When you do drills as your first activity, you can get a burst of high trials, so you aren’t as stressed about getting the repetitions during the second activity.

You can use themes with your speech articulation disorders and we give 5 tips for how to do it!

Tip #3 Find Sound Loaded Materials within your Theme

Get free theme speech therapy sound word lists for back to school, all about me, and pumpkins

Find YouTube videos, and non-fiction passages or create stories related to a theme with words that have their speech sound. For example, if doing a summer theme, find a reading passage on NewsELA about lemonade for /l/ sounds, or use a themed word list to have students create short stories. For a list of summer-themed YouTube videos to use in speech, you will find a bunch in this free download

Another activity I love is going on a sound hunt with my students using different themed materials. Go on a sound hunt in themed pictures scenes. You can also go on sound hunts in themed books. 

For example, students can go on a sound hunt while reading “At the Supermarket.” A student can look through pictures and listen to the story while searching for pictures or words with their /l/ sound. They’d find the words roll, like, lettuce, loaf, little, laundry, cold, vanilla, yellow, all, bottle, and full

If you’re looking for books with specific speech sounds, try using Ashley Rossi’s book search feature

Recently, an SLP shared in the FREE Themed Therapy SLP Facebook group that she will switch out some of the words in the text that has the child’s sound to maximize opportunities for auditory bombardment and practice. This is a great way to adapt materials so it’s more suited to your student’s needs!

Tip #4 Give Challenge Words Related to the Themed Activity

If you are doing a speech therapy theme activity that doesn’t feel aligned with your student’s speech sounds, make a short list of challenge words that they could use during the activity.

For example, if you’re playing a treasure hunt game or with a pirate sensory bin, and your student is working on r-blends, have them say “treasure” or “I found a treasure, I didn’t find a treasure.” when playing.

If you’re doing a beach theme and targeting “CH,” have a “beach bag” and play a mystery game to work on inference. Every round, the child could say “What’s in the beach bag?” or explaining if you can or can’t take the item to the beach.

Get tips for how to use themes with articulationspeech disorders

Tip #5 Use Themed Open-Ended Reinforcers with Your Speech Articulation Disorder Students

Learn how to use speech therapy themes for your articulation and phonology disorders

Like many (if not most) SLPs know, many of our groups are mixed with students with language goals, speech sound disorders, and phonological disorders. Planning for all these different goals can be challenging. While using speech therapy themes can be helpful, sometimes you might find that you’re using an approach that doesn’t have many targets aligned with your theme. Try using themed open-ended reinforcers that have themed vocabulary. You can easily adapt these with different speech words! This could be a beach-related board game or a pirate ship game.

Overall, speech therapy themes can be a game changer when it comes to planning sessions. It can feel challenging when planning for themed sessions when working with articulation or phonological disorders. Start by picking the right theme with the target sounds in mind, then choose how you want your students to practice their sounds. 

What are your tips for using themes with speech articulation disorders? Share with us on social media!

Speech Therapy S Sound Activities and Articulation Games

Speech Therapy S Sound Activities and Articulation Games

I still remember my first client in graduate school working on the /s/ sound. I spent hours preparing S Sound activities for our sessions. It’s genuinely wild to think about how long I’d spend planning for these sessions compared to the time I spend planning sessions now! Looking back at it now, this was just the start of my SLP Toolbox, and it will never stop growing. I’ve compiled a speech therapy S Sound activity list from my toolkit in this blog post! 

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Speech Therapy S Sound Resources for Elicitation

Learn about resources for the s and z articulation sounds to use in therapy!

The goal of the very first treatment session? Elicit the /s/ sound in isolation. I spent so much time preparing activities and lists of cues to help him produce it! I still use the cue “lock your tongue up behind your teeth!” when helping my current students. Here are even more ideas.


  • You can find tips for elicitation and picture cards for the S Sound on Speech & Language at Home
  • Check out the The Marshalla Guide for loads of tips for producing many sounds including the S sound. 
  • If you need visuals, word lists and tips for eliciting the S sound, check out this Speech Sound Handbook from Peachie Speechie
  • Watch this video to show your students how to say S from Peachie Speechie.
  • When working with lateral lisps, watch this video from Peachie Speechie and read this blog post from Amy Graham.
  • Another favorite of mine for /s/ sound in isolation is super simple-yarn and space! Hold the spool of yarn while your students hold the end of it. As students make and hold the /s/ sound, walk and un-roll the spool of yarn. See how long your student can make the /s/ sound by cutting the yarn when they finish and measure the length of the yarn.  

S Syllable and Word Speech Therapy Activities

Once established in isolation, it’s time to think about S words for speech therapy. Here are some ideas to help you with sessions with your students.

Get speech therapy s sound activities to help you get high trials and keep sessions fun!

S Words for Speech Therapy

Get speech therapy s sound activities to help you get high trials and keep sessions fun!

Here are even more activities for S words articulation practice.

  • Home Speech Home has a word list for S for words to use during your sessions.  
  • Another activity is to make sound-loaded phrases with your students on paper that you can practice in the session and then take home for the weekly homework.
    • For example, you can use the phrase “I see  ______.” Then, students think of different words. They don’t have to have an S because the word your student will be working on is “see.” When using mixed groups, give them a category group to name items. 
    • If you’re doing a theme-based approach, you can do this activity but use the theme’s vocabulary. See this IG for more details
    • Here are more examples for sound loaded phrases:
      • Sam wants ________
      • _____ is in the recipe.
      • Pass _____ to _____.
      • Put ____ on your face.
  • Harre SLP has a free Fun zoo articulation map. Students can talk about what they see and like at the Zoo. You can pair this with fun toys to make it more interactive!

S Articulation Sentence Worksheets and Activities

  • Compare and contrast similar nouns that contain the S sound. For example, soccer, baseball, popsicle, and ice cream would be great S words to compare. Check out the S and Z articulation carryover set if you need pre-selected compare-and-contrast flashcards
  • Play a sentence articulation challenge game that keeps the student motivated to practice high trials in a short amount of time. 
  • Have your students create tongue twisters with your word lists that they can practice. You can even have them illustrate their tongue twister to make a fun speech sound book. For example, you could use “The snake slithered silently through the grass” or “Sam’s silly socks are stylish.”
  • Make alliteration S poems, and then students can draw their poems. 
  • Play guessing games for secret words that only have the S sound. Add in carrier phrases for students to use, like “My best guess is…” or “Listen carefully before you answer.” 
Get your kids excited to practice their s sounds with ideas for s articulation worksheets and activities.

Speech Therapy Crafts for the S Sound

Need some s words speech therapy activities? This blog post has lots of easy activities for your speech therapy sessions.

Crafts are a great way to keep kids engaged during sessions, get repetition of their sounds, and a great way to show their caregivers what they’re working on in speech! Here are some craft ideas for S sound articulation.


Articulation Games with the S Sound

“Are we going to play a game today?” is a phrase every pediatric SLP hears quite often. Here are some ideas for you when your students ask this golden question. 

Have s and z words for your speech therapy sessions and activities to do that will get high trials in your sessions!

S Sound Conversation Activities

Speech Therapy S sound activities for easy planning to work on S in conversation.

At last, it’s time to work on the /s/ sound in conversation. The /s/ sound occurs so frequently in our language so ideas for this level are endless! Here are some more ideas for speech therapy s sound. 

  • Try these S and Z Sound conversation activities to save yourself prep time and provide your students with a fun way to practice the /s/ sound. 
  • Use sound-loaded non-fiction articles to read aloud and discuss. 
  • Make sound loaded questions or play “Would You Rather?”
    • Have students answer questions “Would you try…” and they can answer “Yes” or “pass.”
  • Have students read the directions of a game, or read the cards while playing a game like Bubble Talk
  • Create a list of words that start with the S sound (city, sand, race, messy, whistle, mouse, sick) then have students make silly sentences or create a story trying to get the sound-loaded words in the story.

It’s safe to say my toolbox s sound activities has expanded since my first client in graduate school, and of course it just keeps growing! What are some of your favorite activities when working on the /s/ sound? Leave a comment or tag us on social media!