Practising Sounds in Isolation- How to get 100 Trials or More!

As a Speech and Language Therapist, I spend most of my days assessing children with speech sound difficulties and providing therapy to address any speech sound errors.  When I begin working with a child I initially work on sounds that they can already produce and then we progress to sounds that are more difficult.  After we have done the auditory discrimination tasks, we progress to producing the sounds in isolation.

There’s only really one way in which we can get children to work on their sounds in isolation and that’s by drilling.  Constant repetition of their target sounds in isolation. Over and over again.  As Caroline Bowen states in her book ‘Children’s Speech Sound Disorders’ (1st Edition- 2009) “there must be sufficient trials within a practice session for any motor learning to take place and for it to become habituated.  Habituation is a step towards more automatic speech output processing”. (pg255) (If you want to check this book out for yourself head over to her website for more information!- it’s also available in all good book stores/websites!)

When working on drilling of the sounds in isolation, I typically aim for 100 or more repetitions of the target sound per session (my sessions are around 30 minutes long- minus time for greeting & chatting/homework at the end so ~25 minutes of working!)

The problem with constant repetition of sounds is that it can get rather tedious quite quickly!  In order to keep children engaged, the activities need to be highly motivating!  They also need to not take too long or distract from the task at hand.  I like to provide praise and modelling too, where needed, but this can’t take up too much time either as it will distract from the target sound which can make it difficult to achieve again.

Today, I wanted to share some of the ways that I like to practise sounds in isolation while aiming for the highest number of trials and keeping children motivated!
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Speech Sound Bowling.
What you need: Children’s bowling set & a set of speech sound visual cue cards (whichever you typically prefer to use).

How to play: Set the bowling set up as normal.  The child bowls the ball and you count how many pins have been knocked down/are left standing (whichever is the most!).  Then get the child to repeat their sound that many times.  For example, if you’re working on the /k/ sound, and they have knocked down 8 pins, the child has to repeat the sound 8 times.  Praise for good productions while you’re setting the pins back up again.  It’s important to keep the pace quick so as not to waste too much time.  I have found that this game is highly motivating and is a really easy way to achieve high numbers of repetitions.

Do A Dot Worksheets.

What you need: These ‘Do A Dot’ Worksheets are available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store and you also need either bingo dabbers, counters or crayons (not provided).
What are they?: I really love ‘Do a Dot’ activities.  They don’t require any preparation, are really easy to use and gain so many repetitions!  The pages are covered with 55 “dots” and children have to say the sound 3 times, so this particular set of worksheets helps you achieve a total of 165 repetitions per sound!  There is a picture in the centre which acts as a visual reminder of the sound (e.g. fish, sock, key etc.), plus a small image of the mouth position in the corner which acts as a visual prompt.
How to use: I generally challenge the children to see how many dots they can cover up/colour in during the session.  We practice the sound 3 times then use a bingo pen to stamp the worksheet.  I usually try and “trick” them into doing more repetitions before they stamp a dot by pretending I didn’t hear! (don’t tell them my secret!) We try and cover at least 15-20 dots in the sessions, achieving between 45-60 repetitions of the sounds.  I then send the worksheets home for them to practise as homework.  I have found that the children are really motivated by these worksheets and they enjoy trying to cover up as many of the dots as possible in the sessions.  One thing that’s good about these worksheets is they’re great to use in groups- even if children are addressing different sounds because while children are awaiting their turn to practise, they can colour in the picture in the middle!
What you need: Any simple, motivating game that has pieces that can be earned when children do multiple repetitions of sounds.  I find it useful to use a game that’s quick and can be repetitive; I like to use a “Monkey Tree“,  Pop up Pirate or Buckaroo!  I never use a board game.  I personally feel they take too long, are far too distracting and children focus more on the rules, winning or who has cheated, rather than their sounds!
How to use: Set the game up as per the rules, then you keep all of the pieces.  Prompt children to practise their sounds- I like to aim for 5-10 repetitions per sound and then they earn a piece for the game… a sword for the barrel, monkey for the tree etc.  This is a great way of gaining multiple repetitions in quick succession.  Again, in this game I like to pretend I didn’t hear them, so they have to repeat the sounds again, thus meaning they have to produce even more repetitions!

Springtime Open-Ended Game.
What you need: We created a free Spring themed opened-ended game which you can read about here and get from our TpT store here.

How to use:  We created this game with the aim of getting as many trials as possible in a session. Each animal is worth a different number of points, children choose a card, match that with the base board to know how many points they get.  They then say their sound that many times to earn the points, e.g. get a green chick, say the sound 10 times to get 10 points!  I’ve found that this game is highly motivating and a really quick way to reach multiple repetitions of 100 or more in a session!

Card Games.
What you need:  Any set of playing cards where there are numbers on the cards will do.  I like to use these fun Avengers and Toy Story ones (pictured above), but a normal 52 card deck would be OK to use too!

How to use:  Play cards as per the rules of the game- I like to play snap, memory pairs, or happy families.  For every card that players turn over, the children have to say their sound the number of times represented on the cards, e.g. if the card has a 4 on, they say their sound 4 times.  Keep a tally of repetitions- it is easy to achieve a high number repetitions during these games!  If modelling is required, this can be done quickly and easily, without distracting from the game.

These are just a few of the ways I like to work towards achieving 100+ repetitions of speech sounds in a session, while maintaining a quick pace and high motivation!   Most of the ideas are suitable when working at syllable or single word level too!

Want more ideas?

I’ve asked a few other Speech Therapy bloggers about ways they like to work towards 100+ repetitions of speech sounds, here are some of their ideas too:

  • Kristin over at Talkin’ with Twang likes to keep activities fun.  “I have a sounds in syllables product that can also be used for sounds in isolation. Each spin and color has 50 pictures to keep track. Just make sure the student says their sound twice for every picture they color and then you know they’ve had 100 trials by the end of the sheet.”
  • Linda over at Looks Like Language shared about a 100 day poster she got from the dollar store and adapted for articulation; check that out here.
  • Felice over at The Dabbling Speechie shared a great idea for racing to 100 repetitions over on her blog and has a great set of Interactive Flip Books which are useful for achieving multiple repetitions of sounds too; find out more about them here.
  • Jenna from Speech Room News has shared 5 ideas for eliciting 100+ repetitions over on her blog too.
  • Tracey from Gold Country SLP has two great products in her TpT store which help achieve a high number of repetitions per sheet; check out her Mystery Pictures and Articulation Worksheets.
  • Christy from Mrs Jones Speech Room shared a great idea using a card deck: “I use a simple deck of Sponge Bob cards. The students take turns choosing 2 cards, add the numbers and say the number of words the cards add up to. Wild cards are 15 points, ace is 11, face cards are 10. The student with the most points win. Students love it because it is Sponge Bob. This particular deck has hidden letters which are a bonus of 5 points. Points add up quickly!”
  • Kristin from Kiwi Speech has a fun “Mystery Tile” game that’s simple enough to get multiple repetitions in a session, check out the bundle here.
  • Meredith from Peachie Speechie has some fun & free reinforcer pages that help children achieve 100 repetitions!  There are loads available in her TpT Store- check out her 100 Challenges here.

I hope that this post has given you some new ideas of how to elicit 100+ repetitions of speech sounds during Speech & Language Therapy sessions.  I’d love to hear what activities you use; drop a comment below!