Many children who have difficulty with speech and articulation also struggle with early literacy skills. As speech-language pathologists who work with school-aged children, we are uniquely positioned to facilitate strong communication skills by implementing a solid literacy foundation in everything we do—including our articulation sessions.
Incorporating literacy does not have to be complicated—but it does have to be focused. Here are five simple, effective, and functional tools to integrate literacy into your articulation sessions while still addressing your student’s target sounds.
1. Letter Names and Sound Games
Phonology and phonemic awareness are extremely important for the youngest scholars on our caseloads. We can foster emergent literacy skills by ensuring children know the letters that correspond to the sounds on which they are working. This can be done in a few ways:
- Reinforce the alphabet by using simple words to drill those target sounds. I like to include fun songs and gestures to correspond to each sound (e.g., “/b/ is the bouncing sound, /b/ is the bouncing sound, /b/ /b/ /b/…” while pretending to bounce a ball).
- Alphabet flashcards are a great option for quick drills at the beginning of each session. The sooner our students can identify letter names and sounds, the sooner we can expect carry-over.
- CVC words are another effective way to target phonology, while still addressing target sounds. CVC words have the pattern consonant-vowel-consonant, like the words hat and dog. The ability to discriminate sounds in words is a prerequisite to mastering the production of clear, articulated speech and helps tremendously with decoding words as students learn to read.
- Online, age-appropriate phonology games offer a fun and engaging mode of practice for the repetition involved in phonemic awareness. Two learning platforms that include high-quality games are ABCya.com and ABCmouse.com.
2. High-Frequency Sight Words
High-frequency sight words are critical to learning how to read. The use of high-frequency sight words to address target sounds reinforces the key concepts that carry over to the classroom in a meaningful way because students are allowed to practice words used in their everyday curriculum. Using high-frequency nouns is a great way to address vocabulary, naming, and articulation targets which is excellent practice for those mixed groups, too!
Students need to understand the relationship between the work done in small group sessions and their work in the classroom. It ensures a more meaningful approach and gives students multiple opportunities to practice outside our therapy rooms.
Creating your own simple high-frequency sight words flashcards is easy and effective. You can even include students in the process of making them. They can then use their cards to drill in the therapy room, classrooms, and home for reinforcement!
3. Spelling Words
Incorporating weekly spelling words into your sessions will reinforce the curriculum while also focusing on target sounds. Students will appreciate this extra support as it will not only help them master the production of their spelling words but also prepare them for weekly assessments.
- Ask your students to bring their spelling list to your sessions at the beginning of each week or coordinate with their classroom teachers to have the list emailed to you. In addition to helping the student work on relevant material, this offers an avenue to collaborate with classroom teachers to keep the line of communication open.
- Make simple interactive notebooks to address targets. Start with a composition notebook that students will add their spelling words to each week. Be creative with this and include pictures, either drawn or cut out. This activity can be done with mixed groups as well. Include definitions and write a sentence for each word in their notebooks. The notebooks also serve as a helpful tool for continued reinforcement at home.
- The use of digital interactive notebooks eliminates the need to print out pages and allows students to update them weekly using Google Slides or Google Classroom. If your students are 1:1 with their own devices, have them bring their laptops or tablets to speech. Help them become familiar with practicing their speech targets using their digital interactive notebooks.
Books offer a wealth of possibilities to address a variety of targets, and they work great for mixed groups. There are many important concepts that can be addressed using books, while still ensuring your students have multiple opportunities to practice their target sounds during spontaneous speech.
- Create a simple word list before the session to use for practice drills that include words in the book containing your students’ target sounds.
- Encourage auditory discrimination by challenging students to listen carefully as you read aloud and then identify when they hear a word that contains a target sound.
- Engage students in discussions about what has been read. This is excellent for articulation carryover but also a very effective way to address language targets. This includes sequencing the events of the story, answering questions about the story, retelling the story, and more.
There are a variety of curated book lists to will help you select diverse, culturally responsible books that are inclusive to all populations you may work with. eBooks are a great option both for face-to-face and teletherapy sessions. Get Epic has a wide variety of eBooks to choose from, and as an educator, you are eligible for a free membership. Vooks is another site that is full of digital book options and offers multiple options to help ensure you can find books that are of high interest to your students.
The use of high-interest articles can help make your sessions engaging, particularly for older students you may be working with. The focus is still on addressing target sounds, but with literacy as the foundation. NewsELA is a great place to find a wealth of reading passages on a variety of topics that are of interest to your students. Ask them what they’d like to read about!
Encouraging your middle and high school students to bring their curriculum-based expository text to your sessions is an easy yet effective option as well. Not only will they be able to address their target sounds, but it is helpful for them to have additional support with their curriculum.
When incorporating literacy into your articulation sessions, remember that the tools you use do not have to be fancy to be effective! To help facilitate carry-over they need only be meaningful, functional, and engaging. Be creative and allow your students to help guide the process, and keep in mind that these tools are applicable and easily transferable to any ongoing work in teletherapy.
All of the materials mentioned in this article including sight word Boom Cards™, interactive notebooks for Google drive, and more can be obtained on bvgslp.com and used in conjunction with the activities and strategies presented above.