All posts by lwillcox

Targeting Speech and Language Goals through Book Read Alouds

One of the best and easiest ways to practice your child’s speech and language skills are to read with them. By talking about the story or asking questions about what you read, you can practice and reinforce many important language skills.

Articulation/Speech Sounds: 

  • Pick 1 or 2 sounds your child is working on to target while reading a book. They can read to you and you can both listen for correct or incorrect productions of their sounds. If you are reading to them, listen for their correct or incorrect sound productions in their responses to questions or discussion about the book. If they make a mistake, have them correct the sounds. You could prompt them by saying the following: Oh I heard Tan I have a tard, let’s try can and card again with your good /k/ sound. Another prompt could be: Is it tan or can?
  • You can also look for words with their sounds in them while you are reading. When you come across one, model it for them and see if they can say it correctly. For younger students, this is a great activity to improve their ability to recognize letters and produce their sounds, also known as letter-sound correspondence.

Language Skills:

  • Talk about the characters in the story.
    • Questions to ask: What makes them a good character, what makes them a bad character, what will the character do next, would you like to meet this character, what character are you most/least like, why or why not? etc.
  • Talk about the setting of the story.
    • Questions to ask: Would you like to visit that place, why or why not, have you ever seen __, what do you like/not like about the setting, etc.
  • Talk about the sequence of events.
  • Talk about the problem/conflict in the story.
  • Make predictions about the story.
  • Talk about new vocabulary your child doesn’t know.

Social Skills:

  • Talk about the characters’ feelings throughout the story. Look at how they changed based on different events or situations. Talk about whether they expressed their feelings appropriately or inappropriately.
  • Talk about character traits in the story.
    • Questions to ask: would you want to be friends with this character, why or why not, what do you like/dislike about them, etc.

Grammar Skills:

  • It might be easiest to read the book completely first. Then go back to look at the different grammar structures you can find in the book.
    • Verb Tenses: See if you can find examples of future, present, and past tense sentences.
      • Present tense: The princess is walking through the forest. Past tense: The evil queen sent her away. Future tense: The princess will find a friend to help her.
    • Possessives: Look through the story for examples of possessives. The princess’ crown, The queen’s mirror, her friend, etc.
    • Plurals: Look through the story for examples of plurals. The horses, the mice, the slippers, etc.


  • If your child stutters and has learned some strategies to produce more fluent speech, you could try to practice these strategies while they read the book. An easy one to practice is using slower speech. When your child is reading, have them use a pacing board by pointing to each circle while reading each word. Just practice using slower, more relaxed speech while reading. You can print pacing boards by searching the web or make one at home by drawing 5 or 6 shapes or using stickers on a piece of paper.

Examples of questions you can ask during the story:

Before you read the book you can ask:

  • What do you think the book will be about?
  • What do you think the book will be about based on the title?
  • Based on the cover artwork, what do you think the story will be about?
  • What do you already know about the topic? (Have you ever seen a horse, been to a farm, gone camping, etc.)

During the story you can ask:

  • Who are the people/characters in the story?
  • What is the setting of the story? Or Where does the story take place? 
  • What is the problem/conflict in the story? 
  • How do you think the characters could solve the problem/conflict?
  • Why did the character do that?
  • What would you do in this situation?
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • How do the characters feel on this page?
  • Why did the illustrator draw the artwork this way on this page?
  • If you were in the story, what would you hear, taste, see, or smell right now? 

After reading the book you can ask:

  • Did you like the book? Why or why not?
  • What was your favorite part of the book? Why?
  • What character did you like the most? Why?
  • What character are you most like? Why? 
  • What character are you least like? Why?
  • What surprised you the most in the book? 
  • If this story had a sequel, what would it be about?
  • What do you think the author’s message is? What is the big idea from this book?
  • Do you have any questions for the author of the book?
  • Tell me the story in your own words.

Don’t feel like you have to do everything suggested here during one book reading. That would be a lot. The main goal is to make sure they understood the story and to help them think a little deeper about it. Happy Reading!

Why practice describing objects?

Describing objects can be a great way to practice naming adjectives, functions, locations, and category labels. Describing also encourages students to expand the length of their utterances or how much they speak. They practice thinking about an object as a whole. Students are asked to describe often in the classroom so let’s look at how you can encourage them to give a complete description of an object.

Describing an object can include:

  • What category is the object in?
  • What does the object do?
  • What does it look like?
    • What color is it?
    • What size is it?
    • What does it smell/taste like?
    • What sound does it make?
    • What is it made of?
    • What parts does it have?
    • What shape is it?
  • Where can you find it?
  • Anything else you know about it?

Let’s practice by describing an apple:

  • What category is the object in? It’s a food or fruit
  • What does the object do? We eat it, we cut it, we cook or bake with it
  • What does it look like?
    • What color is it? It can be red, green, or yellow
    • What is it made of? It has skin, a core
    • What does it taste like? It is sweet
    • What parts does it have? It has seeds, a stem
    • What shape is it? It is round
  • Where can you find it? It can be grown on a tree, in a store, in the produce section
  • Anything else you know about it? It is juicy, there are many varieties

Pick objects around the house and practice describing it to someone. You can say the attributes out loud OR write it down for practice.

This game can be a fun way to practice describing objects. Kids can ask questions to figure out what is on their head OR you can change the rules and take turns describing the object on one person’s head! Don’t be afraid to change it up!

Regular Past Tense Verbs

When we talk about events in the past, present, or future we change the verbs in our sentences to reflect the tense. This can be difficult for kids sometimes so we break these skills down and practice different verb forms for past, present, and future. It can be confusing when someone is talking about events in the past but not using the correct grammar to reflect it.

Rules for Regular Past Tense Verbs

In English, the “usual” rule is to add “-ed” or “-d” to the base form of the verb to create the past forms.

  • walk –> walked
  • love –> loved

If a verb of one syllable ends [consonant-vowel-consonant], double the final consonant and add “ed”:

  • chat –> chatted
  • stop –> stopped

If the last syllable of a longer verb is stressed and ends [consonant-vowel-consonant], double the last consonant and add “ed”:

  • incur –> incurred
  • prefer –> preferred

If the verb ends [consonant + “y”], change the “y” to an “i” and add “ed”:

  • cry –> cried
  • fry –> fried

Try some practice:

  • Say or write a sentence in present tense, then change it regular past tense. For example, Today I walk to the park. Yesterday I walked to the park.
  • Find examples of regular past tense in a book, TV show, or movie.
  • Tell someone in your family about something you did yesterday, last week, over the weekend, etc.

Verb List for Practice

  • Accept
  • Add
  • Adopt
  • Allow
  • Bake
  • Borrow
  • Call
  • Chase
  • Cheer
  • Collect
  • Count
  • Deliver
  • Earn
  • Explain
  • Help
  • Introduce
  • Kick
  • Like
  • Need
  • Paint
  • Print
  • Remember
  • Return
  • Save
  • Select
  • Start
  • Talk
  • Acheive
  • Agree
  • Announce
  • Ask
  • Beg
  • Brush
  • Challenge
  • Cheat
  • Clap
  • Compare
  • Copy
  • Destroy
  • Enjoy
  • Gather
  • Hope
  • Joke
  • Kiss
  • Listen
  • Offer
  • Park
  • Pull
  • Stare
  • Study
  • Stop
  • Thank
  • Travel
  • Walk
  • Argue
  • Allow
  • Appreciate
  • Attack
  • Behave
  • Bury
  • Change
  • Chew
  • Clean
  • Complain
  • Cry
  • Divide
  • Exercise
  • Guess
  • Identify
  • Jump
  • Laugh
  • Move
  • Open
  • Play
  • Push
  • Type
  • Use
  • Visit
  • Wait
  • Worry
  • Yell

Play Games and Practice! A win for everyone!

Games are an excellent way to target MANY language skills. The bonus is kids often don’t realize they are even practicing anything. That’s the secret of many therapists! Here are some ways that you can target speech and language skills while playing any game.

Articulation/Speech Sounds: Pick 1 or 2 sounds your child is working on to target while playing (for this example /k/). When the child is talking, listen to how they are making these sounds. If they make a mistake, have them correct the sounds. You could prompt them by saying the following: Oh I heard Tan I have a tard, let’s try can and card again with your good /k/ sound. Another prompt could be: Is it tan or can?

Language Skills:

  • Sequencing: talk about whose turn it is now, whose turn is next, who already went, etc.
  • Location words: talk about where the person moved, are they going forward, backward, up the ladder, down the slide, you landed on this space, you jumped over me, etc.
  • Vocabulary: Different games will use a different set of vocabulary. Talk about colors, numbers, game characters, places in the game (Ex. Candyland- you are moving to Grandma Nut’s house), and so much more! Again, each game has a different opportunity to target vocabulary so play often and switch up the games!
  • Asking and answering questions: How many did you get, Where did you land? Who is that, How many more to win, Who is in front of you, Who is behind you, Who is in the lead right now, Who is last right now, etc.


  • Verb Tenses: Games give a good opportunity to practice making complete sentences. You could target past, present, and future tenses in your sentences. For example, I moved 5 spaces, I am moving 5 spaces, I will move 5 spaces. I jumped over you, I am jumping over you, I will jump over you.
  • Possessives: When asking the question Who’s turn is it you could get a variety of responses such as:
    • Mine, yours, his, hers, ours (if playing on a team)
    • Have the child turn it into a sentence: It is my turn, it is your turn, it is his turn, etc.
    • It is Johnny’s turn, It is Sarah’s turn, etc.

Social Skills:

  • Taking turns: Some kids have a hard time realizing that they have to take turns. Games are a natural way to practice this skill.
  • Good sportsmanship: Model being a good sport and practicing congratulating others when they win and comforting others when they lose. (Congratulations, good game, better luck next time, it doesn’t matter who wins because we all had fun, etc.)
  • Using social language- You can practice asking for things the child needs to take their turn. Instead of handing them the dice, pretend you don’t realize they need it. Force them to ask for what they need. Can I have the dice please, I need another card, Can you help me, etc.
  • Commenting: Each game will have different things to comment on. Many of my students like games where unexpected things happen. In Pop the Pig you don’t know when the pig will “pop” so they often talk about that while playing and say things like: Ahh you’re going to win, It’s going to pop, oh man I don’t get any burgers, etc.
  • Emotions: Some games elicit suspense like my Pop the Pig example. Some kids get scared when they don’t know what will happen, some get excited to see the action. You can talk about whatever emotions your child is feeling. If they have a hard time losing, this could be a natural way to talk it through and label the feeling for them and talk about how they can deal with that emotion. For example, It looks like you’re sad (or angry, upset, frustrated) that you lost. It’s ok to feel a little sad but sometimes we win and sometimes we don’t. What can we do to help you feel better? Let’s try taking a deep breath to feel better. You can model strategies for feeling calm.

Fluency: If your child stutters and has learned some strategies to produce more fluent speech, you could try to practice these strategies while playing the game. An easy one to practice is using slower speech. When it is the child’s turn, have them use a pacing board by pointing to each circle and say a simple sentence. It could be: it is my turn. Just practice using slower, more relaxed speech to decrease stuttering. You can print pacing boards by searching the web or make one at home by drawing 5 or 6 shapes or using stickers on a piece of paper.

Great Board Games for Therapy:

  • Candyland
  • Chutes and Ladders
  • Guess Who
  • Guess Where
  • Sorry
  • Memory
  • Pop the Pig
  • Greedy Granny
  • Zingo
  • Don’t Break the Ice
  • Sequence
  • Jenga
  • Apples to Apples Jr.
  • Uno
  • Hedbanz
  • Ned’s Head
  • Pictureka
  • Go Fish
  • Spot It
  • Shark Bite
  • Bingo
  • Pop Up Pirate
  • Sneaky Snacky Squirrel
  • Yahtzee

Making and Practicing Speech Sounds

When most people think of speech therapy, they think of kids working on their sounds. That is a big part of speech and language therapy but not all we work on. But, that is the focus of this post!

Once a speech therapist figures out what sounds a child needs to work on, most therapists follow the same basic therapy structure to practice those sounds. Once a child can make the sound reliably (80% of the time or more), it is time to move to the next level of difficulty. Here is an example with the /m/ sound:

  • Isolation- can the child make the sound by itself: mmmmmm
  • Word level- can the child make the sound correctly in a word:
    • Beginning of a word: make
    • Middle of a word: hammer
    • End of a word: jam
  • Sentence level- can the child make the sound correctly in a sentence: I make a sandwich, I use a hammer, I eat jam.
  • Reading level- can the child make the sound correctly when reading aloud
  • Conversation level- can the child make the sound correctly when speaking spontaneously in a conversation with someone else

Generalization is our ultimate goal: can the child use the sound correctly in any situation

It can take a lot of practice to break the old habit of saying a sound incorrectly and form a new habit. Articulation therapy is all about practice, practice, practice.

Below are some prompts for children if their speech therapist has already started working on the sounds with them. I wouldn’t recommend trying to teach them a brand new sound with these prompts alone. They are just meant to be reminders about what they’ve already learned and practiced in therapy.

Here are some prompts you can say to your child for various speech sounds:

  • p/b/m- “Put your lips together”
  • t/d/n- “Put your tongue up behind your teeth”
  • k/g/ing- “Put your tongue tip down and pull your tongue back in your mouth”
  • f/v- “Put your lip under your top teeth”
  • th- “Stick your tongue out and blow”
  • l- “Put your tongue up to your teeth”
  • s/z- “Close your teeth and smile”
  • ch/j/sh- “Close your teeth, round your lips, put your tongue up to the bump behind your teeth”
  • r- “Close your teeth, round your lips, pull your tongue back and up”
  • w- “Round your lips”

Other ways to prompt your child- These are some examples to prompt the s sound-  “I heard pit, can you say sssspit?” “Is it pit, or spit?” “Try that word again with your good s sound.” “Remember to close your teeth and smile”

Ideas For Practice

Activity 1: Pick at least 20 words from your child’s word list and practice saying the words correctly using their sounds (The focus is on the child saying it correctly, not reading the word. Say the word for your child and have them repeat it). Then have them try to say the word correctly in a sentence. Make note of words pronounced correctly and incorrectly.

Activity 2: Play a board game with your student/family. Talk about whose turn it is, where each person has to move to, colors on the board, how many spaces they need to move, etc. Have your child ask for things they need to complete their turn- I need the dice please, Can I have a card, etc. Board games encourage turn-taking, color identification, counting, social language, asking/answering questions, following directions/rules, etc. Some great board games for language are Hedbanz, Ned’s Head, Guess Who, Guess Where, Pictureka, Sorry, Spot It, Pop the Pig, Memory Games, Uno, Apples to Apples Jr., Go Fish, etc. Encourage them to use their speech sounds. If they forget to say their sound, ask them using their error (for example- “is it dame or game”). Have your child repeat the word again with their correct sound.

Playing gamees is a great way to target many speech goals!

Activity 3: Read a book together. Look for words that have your child’s sound(s) in them. Have your child say the word correctly while they read. If a parent is reading the story, stop and model the word for your child and have them repeat it with their sound. For example- “There is the word lion, say lion with your good L sound”. 

Activity 4: Play I spy- in your house, in the car, outside, wherever! Try to find objects that start with your child’s target sound(s). For a child working on s- I spy something with eight legs, that builds a web, it’s an insect- I spy a spider, I spy a stick, I spy a sock, etc.

Activity 5: Play catch/roll a ball to each other. Every time you get the ball you have to name a word that starts with your child’s sound(s). Depending on your child’s skill level, it may be easier to focus on one sound at a time if they are working on multiple sounds. If they won’t get too confused- go ahead and name any word starting with any of their sounds.  

Activity 6: Look for objects in the newspaper, magazines, or around the house that start with your child’s sound. Cut out the pictures or write down the things you find on a piece of paper. Send in the pictures or words you found for me to see so we can practice them too.

Activity 7: Pick 5-10 words that start with your child’s sound(s). Write them on notecards or a piece of paper. Leave the paper in a room of your house. Every time you go in that room, your child has to say those words correctly. Make several lists for various rooms in the house. You could also do this before he can turn on the TV, open the fridge, play a video game, etc. If you do this consistently, they will start to get really good at saying these words correctly and reading the words. After a week or when they have mastered them, change the words on the list to target more words.

Activity 8: Record your child reading for 5 minutes.  Listen to the recording and stop it when you hear an error. Try and correct the error. Make note of words pronounced correctly and incorrectly. Send in the words pronounced correctly and incorrectly so we can practice them too.

Activity 9: Pick a time to talk about your child’s day (or whatever topic) for 5 minutes while you listen for correct and incorrect speech sound productions. If your child makes a mistake, have them repeat their words again correctly- for example, “I heard pit did you mean pick?”

Activity 10: Pick 10 words from your child’s word list and write a story with them using the words. After you use all the words and complete the story, underline or highlight the target words. Have your child read the story, if they can, or have them say the words when you get to it. Send the story to school so I can hear your child read it.

Try different ways to practice and have fun!

What makes a good conversation?

Having a conversation with another person is kind of an art. A lot more goes into it than we realize. A conversation can break down for many reasons leaving everyone feeling awkward. To avoid this awkwardness, let’s look at what is involved in making a conversation successful.

Rules for a successful conversations:

  • Make eye contact with your partner to show you’re listening
  • Take turns speaking and listening
  • Use body language to show you’re listening (face your partner, keep your body still, nod along with what they are saying, smile)
  • Try to pick a topic that is interesting to all people in the conversation
  • Listen to what your partner is saying so you can respond appropriately
  • Respond appropriately to the topic
  • Stay on the topic until it is finished
  • Don’t interrupt your partner
  • Make sure your partner is understanding you, if not fix it so they do
  • Ask questions and make comments about what your partner is saying

Watch the video below. What makes this a “bad” conversation? What should these two people do differently to make the conversation more successful?

Now watch this version. Did they fix the errors you saw? Why was this conversation more successful? What else could they talk about?

Practice your conversation skills with your family. Remember the rules to make it your best conversation yet!

PrAACtical AAC Website

This website has so much great information about Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). AAC is all the ways we share ideas or feelings without talking. People with severe speech and language difficulties may need a form of AAC to help them communicate with others.

This was taken from their website description:

“PrAACtical AAC supports a community of professionals and families who are determined to improve the communication and literacy abilities of people with significant communication difficulties. It was founded in 2011 by two SLP professors, Carole Zangari and the late Robin Parker, around a shared passion for AAC.”

What is vocabulary?

Vocabulary consists of all the words we use and understand. It is all the words we use in various situations, subjects, and settings. We continue to learn new vocabulary throughout our lifetimes.

Speech-Language Pathologists often talk about vocabulary in terms of receptive and expressive vocabularies. Receptive vocabulary is what a person understands when someone is speaking. Expressive vocabulary consists of all the words someone uses to speak and express an idea, thought, or opinion.

How can we organize vocabulary?

One way we practice organizing vocabulary is through naming category labels and naming objects in a category. Practice naming objects in your house and naming the category they belong to. This is a great language activity to practice and help with organizing information in your child’s brain!

Below are some categories to get you started:

  • Colors
  • Body Parts
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Farm Animals
  • Furniture
  • Things you read
  • Kitchen Objects
  • Hot Things
  • Cold Things
  • Bathroom Objects
  • Pets
  • Ocean Animals
  • Vehicles
  • Sharp Objects
  • Yellow Objects
  • Types of Buildings
  • Toys
  • School Supplies
  • Clothing
  • Loud Things
  • Electronics
  • Appliances
  • Drinks
  • Breakfast foods
  • Sports
  • Musical Instruments
  • Desserts

What other categories can you think of? How many objects can you name for each one? How quickly can you come up with 5? Or even 10?!

Idioms: It’s all Greek to me…

What is an idiom? Are they important? Do we even use them?

An idiom is a group of words that are used together but might not mean what it sounds like it means. Well, that’s confusing. Here are some examples:

You crack me up means you make me laugh!

I have a frog in my throat. Hopefully, not literally! I have a frog in my throat means that your voice is hoarse or cracking. Those are three common idioms that you’ve probably heard or maybe even used before.

Here are some more idiom examples.

Here are 25 more common idioms and their meanings. Try to use the idiom in a sentence. Look for idioms in books or movies. Look for pictures or draw a picture to explain the meaning. They are more common than you think and it can be a little confusing if you don’t understand the meaning.

  1. A piece of cake- something is easy
  2. A slap on the wrist- a mild punishment
  3. A toss up- the decision could go either way
  4. Actions speak louder than words- it’s better to do something than just talk about it
  5. Backseat driver- people who criticize from the sidelines
  6. Back to the drawing board- when an attempt fails, start over
  7. Baker’s dozen- 13 items
  8. Beat a dead horse- keep talking about something even after the topic has ended
  9. Bend over backwards- do whatever it takes to help
  10. Between a rock and a hard place- stuck between two bad options
  11. Once in a blue moon- a rare occurrence
  12. Iron stomach- someone who can eat anything without any problems/issues
  13. Charley horse- a leg cramp
  14. Chew someone out- verbally scold/yell at someone
  15. Crack someone up- make someone laugh
  16. Cut to the chase- leave out unnecessary details and get to the point
  17. Devil’s advocate- someone takes a position for the sake of argument
  18. Down to the wire- event ends at the last minute/seconds
  19. Dropping like flies- a large number of people falling ill/dying
  20. Every cloud has a silver lining- being optimistic that every bad situation has a positive side
  21. Hit the nail on the head- do/say something exactly right
  22. Icing on the cake- when something good gets even better
  23. Kick the bucket- die
  24. Loose cannon- someone unpredictable and can cause damage if not in check
  25. Out of the blue- something unexpected happens

Get your head out of the clouds and go find some more idioms!

See what I did there….