Tuesday, May 1, 2012

It “Sounds” Like Love: Learning to love articulation/phonology therapy and how to keep it fresh and fun for students and for you!

Prior to the position I currently hold in an elementary school, I had very little experience with true articulation and phonology therapy.  Honestly, it was the furthest thing from my mind when I went into this field because I became a Speech-Language Pathologist to work with students with severe needs, AAC, and the like.  I was not artic’s biggest fan.  So, when I accepted my current position I was incredibly excited until I realized that the artic monster would most likely be chasing me throughout the school.  I felt underprepared and lacking in knowledge and skill, and had very few tricks in my bag.

I was greeted by a caseload of mostly language students with a few articulation-only students mixed in, and a Response to Intervention model of sorts.  I went back to my grad school materials and books (the ones I had deemed keepers and had not sold back) and began at square one.  Of course, my grad program did a great job of preparing us for every type of client we might see.  However, I admit that I wasn’t the best at listening with intent during my phonology classes and with articulation clients on some days.   I first looked into what RtI model might work best within our school and accidently stumbled into piloting a program.  (That’s a post for a different day!)  Then, before I knew it, the year was upon me and I had students to help.  We pulled out the artic cards and played anything from Go Fish to Crazy 8’s but I could see that my students were quickly tiring of the same activities.  Luckily for me, SLPs were about to have some new friends, Pinterest and Bloggers!

Now, I will say, that not all of what I came up with for therapy this year came from Pinterest and my Blogger friends.  But, the crafty side of me woke up and off I went!  I quickly learned that craft sticks, permanent markers, and dot paints are some of my favorite items.  I created an Artic Sticks game to add an element of competition and something new to my groups.  Then, I took it a bit further with Silly Speech Sound Sticks.  These portable options are a great change up to worksheets and cards.  I also fell in love with the cup stackingideas and modified it for speech sounds.  Each of my students who has participated in this has requested it regularly since!  I also take cues from my students’ favorite reinforcer games.  From that I created the Artic Battle Boats game and Jumbling/Tumbling/Jengatowers.  I found that it’s so easy to take an activity like this and modify it for your articulation students!  They definitely appreciate the change of pace and will be more involved in therapy if you keep it fresh and exciting!

I also started looking at options for going techie in speech.  Now, having an AAC background means that I am already enamored with technology and its ability to help students achieve great things!  We love to grab the iPad during speech and laugh over a MadLib full of their speech sounds or go on a speechhunt throughout our building for items which contain their sound.  I can also take pictures of and use worksheets on the iPad that my students would not typically do in paper form.  There are also so many apps for targeting articulation that I cannot wait to begin using in the future!

Now, as we are approaching our final weeks of the school year, I look back at how much fun I have had with my articulation students.  We’ve laughed over everything from mad libs full of speech sounds to using a flashlight in a dark room to make our speech words sound eerie.  We’ve had competitions for cup-stacking, tower tumbling, and speech sound hunting.  We have worked on “Do-At-Homes” (homework has such a negative connotation with them it seems!) and so much more. 

It has been a year full of an incredible amount of learning, trial and error, and creativity.  I now see the importance of keeping a balance of productivity and fun in therapy sessions and encourage all SLPs to do the same by seeking out materials that are available and experimenting with your own ideas.  There are so many amazing blogs, free materials, and resources available to us now.  I can see the positive effect of my extra effort with my students this year and it has been very rewarding.  Now, if I could just get them excited about completing their Summer Homework!

I'd love to now direct you to this post on PediaStaff as it is my FIRST time being featured on their blog!  Thanks PediaStaff, y'all rock!


  1. You're one that I turn to for creative ideas. I, agree, burnout is so real in the school based world. If artic kiddo after artic kiddo doesn't help with burnout, than the immense amount of kiddos on the caseload will. You, along with the other fantastic bloggers out there, allow for ideas and insight. I appreciate that there are therapists out there looking to amp up their therapy rooms and those same therapists are willing to share their creative ideas with others. Pinterest has made me realize I might have a creative side afterall...I just have to find some time!

  2. I am fairly new to blogging, but it is has turned out to be such as great resource in my teaching ( teach in a resource room setting). I am now following your blog. It's great!