Do you have a student who’s finding s blends extra tricky? Try these tried and true tips for getting those pesky S blend cluster reductions. For students, especially the younger ones, I’ve found visuals super helpful with reminding them to add their ‘snake sound’ (or whatever label you have for ‘s’).
Here’s a FREE S blend Visual that includes two different visuals you can use with students. There’s a ‘snake sound’ visual and one with just the letter S. These are super great for getting the motor pattern down at the beginning of treatment. I get the students to trace the paths with their finger and provide a quick verbal or tactile prompt if needed to get the correct sounds.
After establishing the motor pattern, I find it helpful to teach s-blend minimal pairs. By showing students how the meaning of the word changes with and without the S, it helps build their understanding. These S blend Practice Worksheets are great for that! They combine the visual for remembering their ‘s’ with the meaning of the words.
Depending on how easily the student is picking up this sound, I might try a few of these tips:
1. S blend Tip: Add a Pause
If your student is inserting an error sound, or omitting the second sound after they’ve done the long ‘sss’, try adding a quick pause. For example, sss…pause…tick. After going through a few of the words with a pause, try reducing the pause little by little until they’ve ‘glued’ the word back together.
Sometimes I find it also helpful to use hand gestures to make this concept clearer. I might start with my hands far apart with ‘sss’ represented on one hand and the rest of the word on the other hand (e.g, ‘tick’). As we work on reducing the pause, I bring my hands closer and closer together until we’ve ‘glued’ the word together.
2. S blend Tip: Backwards Chain
Sometimes students understand what they need to do, but they just can’t link the ‘sss’ sound with the second part of the blend. In that case, try backwards chaining. Have them repeat just the last part of the word, then add the ‘sss’. For example, “tick …tick…tick…ssstick”. Sometimes switching up the order helps get them unstuck.
3. S blend Tip: Minimal Pairs
I find one of the best ways to work on s-blends is to use minimal pairs (especially if it’s a phonological error). This S blend Minimal Pairs SENTENCES Activity is perfect for this. Students fill in the blank of the sentences by choosing between two S blend minimal pairs. These flashcards (or worksheets if you don’t cut them) can be used for younger or older students since they have visual supports. It’s a great time to discuss the meaning of the word and how the ‘sss’ sound changes it.
Students love picking the answer by putting magnetic chips, play doh, mini erasers, and more on the correct picture. You can also print and laminate and use dry erase markers for a reusable activity all year long.
My favorite part about this activity is that it comes with a data sheet. The data sheets have a list of 10 words for a quick probe. It makes data tracking SO easy during the session. There’s also a blank data sheet so you can select your own target words if needed.
Once they’ve mastered minimal pairs, I quickly move on to fun and engaging practice at word level and then sentence level. I might try this Articulation Say and Find for S and S blends activity, or make this Articulation Cootie Catcher for S and S blends. For students who love crafts, I might try this Articulation Paper Chain Dog Craft. For older students at conversation level, I love these S blend Would You Rather Cards or these S blend Sound Loaded Paragraphs with Data Sheets.
Try these tips out next time you have a student stuck on S blends. Hopefully these no prep worksheets help you out a bit as you plan for the next week! Continue changing the world one voice at a time, Super SLPs!