How to target articulation and language in the same session

how to target language and articulation together

Those of us who work with school-aged children know that its rare to have cases with only one isolated problem. Because of that, we need to to expert problem-solvers who can figure out how to cram as much in to our sessions as possible.

Since it’s common to have students with both language and articulation issues, I talked about how to decide when it’s appropriate to work on speech sounds and language goals all at once in my last post.

If you haven’t read that one yet, you can hop over to the post here: When can you treat articulation and language at the same time? 

For those of you that did read it, it’s time to move on to the next step. Now, I’m going to show you an easy task you can use for those students who are ready to work on language and articulation simultaneously.

This treatment protocol is what I like to call “What do you know? How do you know it?”

The good news about it is you don’t need to go on a scavenger hunt through a bunch of craft stores to gather a ton of materials to do it. All I use when I do this activity is an I-pad app called What’s the Pic Articulation. I’m going to walk you through the activity and explain some of the features of the app so you can see how it’s done.

To give a little background on What’s the Pic Articulation-this is an articulation app created by Luke Barber from Home Speech Home. He’s an SLP himself, so you can trust that this has come from someone who’s been in the trenches treating students.

The app provides picture cues for a comprehensive list of target sounds, and there is a voice activation feature that helps motivate students to say their target words. While they are saying their target words, they are rewarded as a picture on the left side of the screen is gradually revealed the more words they say.

If you have students who have gotten over that initial hump of articulation therapy and they are pretty good at saying their target words in a number of different “easy” sound contexts, this app will give you a wide variety of words, so your student will get to practice their target in a number of different challenging phonetic contexts.

There are some difficult vocabulary words as well, so you could easily integrate some vocabulary goals as well.

I’ve used this app a lot for R for my students who are working on carryover.  The R sound is broken down in to blends and vocalic R across multiple positions, and there are also a number of prevocalic R probes in the “R initial” section.

I’d have to say the most interesting feature of this app is the voice activation. This adds a whole new level of variety and motivation for your students. When students say their target word, a star underneath the picture prompt lights up as a reinforcer.

The kids absolutely love this…and are actually excited about practicing their words when voice activation is turned on. When you’re bored out of your mind with articulation therapy, this simple feature can be your saving grace from the monotony…both for you and your students.

If you’re using What’s the Pic for articulation alone, you might be able to start introducing it as your students are working at the word level…and it will definitely help them when they are working at the sentence level. But the possibilities open up when you use it to target language as well.

Now, we’ve all had those days when we haven’t had ample time to prep, and we rush in to our sessions feeling unprepared.

Though I don’t like to admit it, I’ve had many days I didn’t spend as much time as I should have preparing, which meant I was winging it.

I would grab the most accessible app or game and improvise; planning on-the-fly.

These days, although unsettling, can be blessings in disguise. Sometimes this is when we come up with our most inventive treatment activities.

It was on one of these “on-the-fly” days that I created, “What do you know? How do you know it?”

Time to Target Language and Articulation Together…How do I do that?

“What do you know? How do you know it?” can be used to target the following (but not limited to these things):

Articulation goals, preferably across multiple positions or the sentence level

What questions

How Questions

Inferencing/Problem Solving


Here’s how to do it:

Step 1. Say the target words

When you enter the main screen on the app, you’ll see a section where you can scroll through the target sounds to choose what sound you’d like, and what position of words you’d like to target it. Once you choose your target, the left screen will turn in to a picture with a bunch of objects completely covering it. You’ll see a picture in the bottom right part of your screen with the target word, and there will be between one and five starts under it (the number of star changes for each word).

As you say the target word, a star will light up. You’ll want a student to say the word until all the stars are lit up, and then you can enter your data for that word and move to the next word. Once you light up all the stars, one of the objects covering the picture will lift, which means that you will start to see some of mystery picture.

For this first step, what I do is have one student take a turn to say the target word and make all of the stars light up. Once the stars are lit up, I have them say the target word in a sentence to facilitate carryover.

It’s probably obvious here how we are targeting articulation. We are providing drill and practice with target sounds. However, the beauty of the voice activation comes in to play here and helps us target turn-taking at the same time.

I should warn you, the kids may have a hard time containing themselves when they see the stars. They will all want to start shouting out the words to make the stars light up.

The thing is, the voice activation doesn’t work when there is a lot of white noise or multiple people talking. It works best when one person is saying the words precisely-which is exactly what you want.

This provides a natural consequence that reminds students to wait their turn. I use this feedback from the voice activation feature to integrate turn-taking in to the session; because students are encouraged to be quiet while the other student is talking. When they’re talking out of turn, many times the voice activation won’t work for them.

Step 2: Ask, “What do you know?”

After you’ve completed the first step of having one student say the target word to light up each star, an object should disappear from the picture on the left. This should reveal a portion of the picture, but only a small section. At this point, you might be able to see a small detail on the picture, but may still not be able to see enough to know what it is.

It’s at this point that you do “Step 2” by asking the students, “What do you know?”

This task has several purposes. First of all, it requires them to use words to describe the details that they are seeing. This allows you to target descriptive terms, actions, or any words that could be used to describe what you are able to see. Secondly, it makes students think critically about the parts they see, and start to infer what the “whole” picture might be, which targets the skills of inferential reasoning and problem solving.

Lastly, many students with language disorders have difficulty answering direct “what” questions. So this provides an opportunity to practice this skill.  You might be able to vary the wording of the question to add variety, such as “What’s happening?”, “What are they doing?”, or “What’s in the picture”?

You want to coach students to tell you things they see, and explain what they can infer about it. For example, they might tell you they see a window, so they can tell there might be a house in the picture.

Step 3: Ask, “How do you know?”

After you ask the students what they know now that part of the picture is visible, you can ask them, “How do you know?” In “Step 2”, you asked the students to state an observation and draw a conclusion about it. For this second question, we’re asking them to state their evidence. Taking questions a step further and explaining how we know what we know adds a further element of inferencing, and also makes students aware of their own thought processes.

For example, my students and I once had a picture of two girls greeting their father as they were coming home from school. However, in the beginning, we were only able to see the grass at the bottom of the picture. Therefore, the first thing we said for “What do you know?” was that we thought the picture was taken outside.

For “How do you know?” I coached the student to answer, “Because I see the grass.” Here, we are targeting inferencing by stating our evidence, and are also working on answering “How” questions by coaching students to use the correct sentence structure and content needed to answer appropriately.

Once you’ve completed steps 1, 2, and 3, you want to repeat these steps until the entire picture is revealed.  As you do this task with more target words, more objects will lift, and you will slowly be able to see more of the picture.

Each time an object is lifted from the picture, you’ll have more visual information you can discuss and use to answer the two questions (What do you know, How do you know).

Once all of the objects have been lifted from the picture, you’ll see some type of on-screen celebration, followed by a voice saying “You did it!” The kids go nuts over this…and no matter how you’re using this app they’ll want to get to this part.

I had a group of 10-year old boys who stayed a few minutes extra just to get to this screen, and they were missing kickball day in P.E. Needless to say, it’s pretty motivating for them.

The key thing to remember is that these staple therapy activities can be the key to delivering highly focused therapy that addresses both articulation and language. We just need to know when and how to use them.

These multifunctional activities are the secret sauce that keeps our therapy for those combination groups from getting watered down…and keeps us on track to help our students meet their goals.

I hope you’ll try this one out and let me know how it goes. You can check out What’s the Pic Articulation by clicking here. Its affordable, the kids love it, and it’s the perfect addition to your collection of “staples”.

Did you like this article? Do you want more like it delivered straight to your inbox? If so, sign up for my mailing list and this free training that will show you how to select target vocabulary for language therapy .

tier 2 vocabulary; school speech therapy; language therapy techniques


Leave a Reply Text

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software