May 10, 2012

Reaching the "100" goal

If you are an SLP who sees most of their students in small group therapy, raise your hand.

If you are an SLP who sees students in articulation therapy and finds themselves getting "creative" to practice articulation skills "around the table", touch your nose.

If you are an SLP who struggles to get more than 30 trials per student of articulation practice during a small group therapy session, pat your head.

If someone near you is looking at you strangely by now, then that means one or all of these scenarios apply to you, and we have something in common!

If there is one thing that we all know as SLPs, it's that getting a child to correctly articulate their speech sound target is a great feeling (whatever level they are at). Getting that child to do that 20 times in a session is great. Getting that child to achieve that target 50-75 times per session would be ideal! And, for that matter, getting that child to exceed 100 trials correct in a single session would be AMAZING! This is so important because we typically only see these students once or twice a week for an average of 30-45 minutes per session. That means, in 7 days, the child MIGHT say their sound correctly 100-200 times. This also means they might say this sound incorrectly when they are outside of the therapy setting 500-1,000+ times (depending on their sound target)! I just kept thinking about these odds and wondering, "How can I possibly achieve a minimum of 100 correct trials per session?"

Then it hit me one day. . .I want to try using the "speech lab" concept IN the therapy setting. The idea of "Speech Lab" was presented through RtI presentations in our district and has been used in many districts around the country. The idea during RtI is to use a "general education articulation lab" and see if students would be able to master their articulation errors in a short, intensive program without going through a full referral and evaluation process.  In the "speech lab," students rotate through various "centers" to practice their sound targets and are facilitated by a "roaming" SLP.Programs seem to vary around the country, and in our district we have "piloted" such an idea; however, we have not fully implemented this. Super Duper Publications even has a product specifically for implementing such a program in RtI with their resource "ARtIC Lab: A Bilingual Response to Intervention Program for Articulation." Follow this link to find it.

So, as I said, we do not currently implement an articulation lab in our district, and I do not currently own a specific program. However, I have taken the concepts and practices, and started to implement them in my own speech room. I needed to be more efficient with my time and my students' time in groups of 4-5 students. In my speech lab, I have students rotate through stations for 4-5 minutes per station. My stations include "Listening Center", "Table Time", and "Sounds on the Carpet". Here is a description of each station:

Listening Center--In this station, I have students sit at my desktop computer and listen to their targets. I have done this a few different ways. I have used the "Garage Band" software to have students strictly listen to words that I voice recorded. I also used "Power Point" to create several presentations where I have paired pictures and words with my voice recorded. This seems to be more motivating for the students because they can "click" through the pictures. While the Power Point presentations are my favorite, they take a little time to create. Unfortunately, my files are too big to share here at this time. For students who have minimal stimulability, I have them "listen only." As my students increase their accuracy of production with minimal cues, they are instructed to listen AND say the words they hear.

Table Time--I use this opportunity to get 1:1 time with each student. While they are with me one on one, I target the sound that is the hardest or least stimulable for them. My goal while I'm with them individually is to increase their stimulability so that target can be transitioned into a more "independent" station.

Sounds on the Carpet--In this station, it is VERY important to have the students practice their targets at the level that requires the least amount verbal cues. I have taught my students how to provide "friendly cues" to each other and encourage each other. Also, since my speech room is pretty small, I am in "earshot" of each student and can offer added cues or change their target if I don't hear accurate productions. Also in this station, the students can engage in "quick" games to motivate them such as "Trouble" or "Uno".

During speech lab, I use the tools that I have on hand and I have even created some new ones. Here is what you might need if you want to try this, too!

1. A schedule for the "Speech Lab" rotation.--Grab mine here. This is what my schedule looks like:

I have it laminated and hanging on my white board. Since it is laminated, I am able to write the students' names on the schedule to let them know what "station" they are scheduled for. On the carpet, I usually have 2-3 students at a time (my preference is 2)

2. Articulation targets per student--I use artic cards or worksheets for this. My younger students do better with cards or sheets they can access in the speech room. My older students each have their own folder with their individual speech targets and they bring them to and from their speech sessions.

3. A Table or "area" with tools you will need for some 1:1 time such as a mirror, tongue depressors, gloves, data collection sheets, etc. for "table time". You might also want to keep a Speech Target handy. Grab mine here: Speech Target.

4. Motivating games for "sounds on the carpet". We like "Trouble", "Uno", "Topple", "Look Who's Listening," or just a pair of dice.

5. Counters. We used to use tally counters; however, they broke easily (guess I shouldn't have "cinched" on the brand). Now we just use post it notes and the students tally count their sound productions. Each student is responsible for keeping up with their own count and they use tally marks. At the end, they count up their sound productions and they love counting by fives, even my kindergartners!

6. Computer or voice recorder and headphones for listening station. We use a desktop, but anything that records your voice will work. My next step is to try my new Live Scribe Echo Pen (but that will be saved for a future post).

7. A timer. I set it for 4-5 minutes per station. When they hear it, they look at the schedule and make the switch!

8. Motivator chart. This can be accomplished in ANY way. I challenge each student to say their sounds at least 100 times per speech lab session. Then I set a "group goal" to work for a prize speech day such as a "Game Day" or "Popcorn Party". I have used a pom pon jar, a sticker chart, and a graph to track their progress. They are increasingly excited when they see their progress against another grade level!

In my experience since starting "Speech Lab", here is what I have noticed:
  • Taking the time to "teach" the expectations for each station is a MUST!
  • It works BEST with students once they reach the syllable or word level of their target sound.
  • It's best for speech practice up to the sentence level. (Once a student starts connected speech tasks, it can be done, but you have to get creative.)
  • It works best with at least 3-5 students; more or less I have found to be less effective and less motivating.
  • It doesn't work very well for students with minimal stimulability.
 I have shared my experience with some of my colleagues, and the most common question that I have received has been: "How can you say that you are giving them their speech time when they are not face to face with you?" My response is, I AM face to face with all of them while they are in my room, and they are CONSTANTLY practicing their speech targets instead of waiting for their peer to finish before they can start. They are still required to be active listeners also, and I have TRIPLED the targets produced correct per session. I have now seen more students reach connected speech tasks at a much faster rate than ever before!

If "Speech Lab" sounds like fun to you, I challenge you to try it out! So, put your had down, take your finger off of your nose, and quit patting your head. . .instead, get started toward reaching the goal of 100 trials correct per session!

Have Fun!


  1. Hi! Thanks for the instructions on your Speech Lab. I am determined this year to implement centers in my speech therapy. My question is what do you do about the students practicing incorrect production of their target sounds? Do you only begin to implement your lab once your students are successful at a certain level of production? I would hate to set my students back by their practice of misarticulations.

    1. Thanks for reading! I am glad to hear that you will find the "Speech Lab" helpful for your students. Regarding students using incorrect productions, I don't typically "let them loose" until they are able to produce the target sound correctly at the word level. Also, the student should be able to correct their production with a simple verbal cue at the word level. For example, when they are at the "listening station" they are given auditory feedback prior to making their own production. Also, when I have students partnered together, they are instructed on how to cue each other (in a friendly manner) with specific cues that I use for each target sound. Lastly, my speech room is not very big, so my students are only a few feet away at any given moment. When I am working 1:1 with one student, I can always hear the other students practicing their productions, and this allows me to offer additional cues if needed. I hope this helps! ~Orlanda

  2. I have been trying to incorporate speech centers in my class for a while... these are amazing ideas!! I shared this link on my Facebook page since centers have been our big discussion lately! Thanks so much!
    Kristin [simply speech.]

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed these ideas, and thanks for spreading the word! I am currently trying it out with kinder and 1st grade students. It's a little harder, so I'm working on ideas to help them stay more focused and attentive to complete these tasks with some independence! And thanks for all that you contribute, too!

  3. I love these ideas! I hope to implement them some day. Perhaps over Christmas break I will have enough time to get organized and start the "training" periods in January. Thanks!


    1. Thanks Abby! Good luck, it's super easy and I have had lots of success once I work through the initial steps with each student! It doesn't work for all of my students, especially if they have challenges with attention, but I am working on some new strategies to get these guys rolling on this, too! Look for updates to this post soon!


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