Thursday, December 20, 2012

Initial R: Free Speech Therapy Articulation Picture Cards

If you like this free card set, you might want to check out the premium speech therapy kits now available in the Testy Shop. Kits include expanded card sets, illustrated minimal pairs, homework sheets and more in a single download.

Initial /r/ Card Set

(Initial /r/ is also referred to as consonantal /r/ and pre-vocalic /r/.)

To download click on the image to open it full size. Then right click on the image, choose "save as" and save the page to your computer.

I recommend you print on cardstock and laminate for durability.


This articulation picture card set is designed to be more comprehensive than the typical sets you might find elsewhere. The target audience for this set is young children or children with more severe speech delays that need intensive practice with initial /r/ at a simple, one-syllable level. No blends or vocalic /r/ sounds are included in this set. The set pairs the initial /r/ with as many different vowel sounds as possible to maximize co-articulation variety.

Key Features

  • This set includes 30 therapy cards with the target word and picture on the front, and the difficulty level and a carrier phrase on the back.
  • The words are all CV or CVC in syllable shape.
  • The words are easily understood by or easily taught to young children.
  • Combines the target sound with a variety of vowel sounds.
  • Words are sorted by difficulty level for an easy progression from easy to hard.


I give permission to copy, print, or distribute this card set provided that:
  1. Each copy makes clear that I am the document's author.
  2. No copies are altered without my express consent.
  3. No one makes a profit from these copies.
  4. Electronic copies contain a live link back to my original and print copies not for merely personal use contain the URL of my original.

Looking for Feedback

I would love to hear back from anyone who uses this card set. Let me know if you find errors or there is anything you would change. Comment on this page, or send me an email at testyyettrying(at)gmail(dot)com.

Where can I find more?

More sets are on my Download/Print Free Speech Articulation Materials page. Other card sets include /p, b, t, d, m, n, h, f, v, k, g, w, j, s, z, l, r, th, ch, sh, ʤ, s-blends, and l-blends/ and more sets are being added regularly.

What kinds of activities can I do with this cardset?

  1. 10 Card Set Game and Activity Ideas
  2. Simple Speech Card Puzzles
  3. Speech Card Stories
  4. Speech Card Caterpillar
  5. Speech Card Game: What's Hiding?
  6. Speech Card Game: Speech Switcheroo (An Uno-Style Game)
  7. Speech Card Set Activity: Magnetic Speech Cards
  8. Speech Card Game: Speech Fours
  9. Speech Card Game: Old Maid
  10. Speech Card Set Activity: Bang!
  11. Speech Card Set Activity: What's Hiding Behind Door Number...?
  12. Speech Card Set Activity: Customizing a Homework Sheet
  13. Speech Card Set Activity: Making a Simple Sentence Flipbook
  14. Speech Game: Find-It
  15. Speech Card Set Activity: Speech Art Collage
  16. Speech Card Set Activity: Speech Crowns
  17. Speech Card Set Activity: Simple Treasure Hunt
  18. Speech Card Set Activity: Speech for Beads
  19. Speech Card Set Activity: Easy Speech Sort

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


My husband recently acquired our first "real" camera - a secondhand purchase from a friend upgrading to something better. Now, don't ask me anything about the camera. I just know that it's a lot bigger than my phone and I'm scared to touch it. All right, I know one other thing about it. My husband can take gorgeous pictures with it. Here are a couple of pictures he snapped of the children yesterday. I found these two gems sitting in a folder as I passed by the computer and fell in love with my children all over again. It's always their eyes that capture me.

I also wanted to wish my mother a wonderful birthday. I am simply not eloquent enough with words to properly express how essential she is to our lives. Either directly or indirectly, she plays a part in every single day in our household. I love you, Mama.

To celebrate her birthday, here's a picture of her from...let's just say 50ish years ago. I think Ava looks a lot like her. What do you all think?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Back to Basics: Syllable Shape in One-Syllable Words

Learn why it is necessary to control syllable shape in your target words and how.

Why does syllable shape matter when choosing words for speech therapy?

Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a neurological speech disorder that disrupts the sequencing, transmission, and execution of the motor-planning commands of speech. For most people, this process is automatic and effortless, but for children with CAS, each sequence must be taught and then practiced over and over again until it becomes automatic.

Think of it this way. Pretend that children with motor-planning problems have a circuit breaker somewhere in their system between their brain and their mouth. If the demands on the circuit are low, the breaker does not trip and the word is produced correctly. If the demands are high, the circuit breaker is overloaded and word production fails.

Words with many sounds are more demanding than words with fewer sounds. Consonants put more stress on the system than vowels. A new sound or sound combination takes more effort (putting more demand on the system) than one that has been practiced many times. As a therapist, you always want to find that balance between stimuli that are demanding enough to teach new skills, but not so demanding that the circuit breaker trips and the student only experiences repeated failure. Controlling syllable shape is one way to create an appropriate list of target words for children with CAS and other children with a motor-planning component to their speech problem.

Children who have no motor-planning problems can learn a new sound like /p/, practice it at the beginning and ends of words, practice it in phrases and sentences, and then use it in conversation. Once taught a /p/, children with a motor-planning component to their speech disorder can say the /p/ in some one-syllable words, but not others. Why? Not all one syllable words are the same.

Understanding Syllable Shape

One-syllable words are words that contain only one vowel. "A" is a one-syllable word. "Springs" is also a one-syllable word. "A" is a one-syllable word comprised of just one vowel sound - /eI/. "Springs" is a one-syllable word comprised of six sounds (five consonants and one vowel) - /s/, /p/, /r/, /I/, /ng/, /z/. One-syllable words are not all created equal. A one-syllable word with 6 sounds has motor-planning requirements that are significantly more demanding than a one-syllable word comprised of only one or two sounds.

One-syllable words can have a variety of syllable shapes. Typically more sounds = more difficult. More consonant blends = more difficult. You can break down the sounds in the words into consonants (C) and vowels (V). There are also R-colored vowels or vocalic R sounds (like in the words car, fur, and air), but we will save discussing those for another time. If there is a vocalic R in your word list and you are working with a child with a severe speech disorder, discard that word for now.

The simplest one-syllable words have a vowel-consonant (VC) or consonant-vowel (CV) shape. Whether you are targeting a consonant or vowel, it is interesting to note that some children may find production easier in a CV context and other children will have an easier time with VC. Experiment to find out which is easier for the child you're working with. Remember that you're working with sounds - not letters. "bee" and "she" are both CV words even though the first is spelled with one consonant and two vowels and the second is spelled with two consonants and one vowel. You are looking for words that are pronounced with only two sounds regardless of how they are spelled.

In terms of complexity of syllable shape, consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words are next. To keep things simple, you want to choose CVC words that include two sounds your child can make and only one target sound. For example, if your child has trouble with /k/ and /n/, and you're targeting /k/, do not choose the word "can". Choose "cab" instead. Another thing to remember when creating a CVC word list is word position. Again, the child may find words with the targeted sound at the beginning of the word more difficult or they may find words with the targeted sound at the end of the word more difficult. Adjust your word list accordingly. Remember to keep your focus on sounds. Words like "ship", "with", "cheat", and "those" are all CVC words.

One-syllable words with consonant blends come next in terms of complexity. If you're working with children who have a severe speech delay I would avoid these for now. Consonant blends are two or more consecutive consonants in the same syllable that are produced in a blended fashion. Your one-syllable word could have one or two consonant blends. CCVC, CVCC, CCVCC, CCCVC, CVCCC, CCCVCC, CCVCCC, and CCCVCCC are all potential one-syllable syllable shapes.

Guidelines for Creating Word Lists by Syllable Shape

  1. Include only one target sound in each word. Make sure all the other sounds in the word are in the child's phonemic inventory. (Alternately, accept approximations of the other sounds in the target word.)
  2. CV and VC words are the simplest. CVC words are more complex. Work at the highest level of complexity the child can handle to maximize speed of progress and generalization.
  3. Avoid words with vocalic /r/ and consonant blends.
  4. Experiment with words that include your target sound in initial position and words that include your target sound in final position. A child may find one position easier than the other giving you a starting point for therapy. As soon as possible, mix the word positions together to increase difficulty and improve generalization.
  5. Remember to focus on sounds, not letters when searching for words to include in your list. All of your words will be two or three sounds, but may be spelled with more letters.

Moving Beyond CVC Words

If your child has mastered production of your target sound in one-syllable CVC words move to simple two-syllable words or focus on the CVC words in short phrases before trying to work on the sound in consonant blends. The simplest two-syllable syllable shapes are VCV, CVCV, and VCVC.

A useful technique when moving past CVC words is to introduce a simple carrier phrase that is used over and over again with the target words. ("Give me the _____." or "That is my _____.") Another strategy is to find a nursery rhyme, children's song, or children's book that contains some of your target words and use them with the child pausing to let the child fill in the target words at the appropriate times.

Motor-Speech Articulation Method (MSAM)

Controlling syllable shape is one of the fundamental underlying strategies I use when designing the illustrated card sets that are the core of my free and premium speech materials. Other strategies involved in target word selection in the MSAM method include controlling the phonemic complexity of the individual sounds that are the building blocks of the target words and maximizing co-articulation variety.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mixed K Speech Song: Mucky Mucky Hockey Puck

Somewhere I came across an adorable book of word family songs. They were a collection of songs someone had written to the tune of familiar children's songs designed to work on word families. (Please don't ask me where I found the book. Or when. Or how. As I approach the grand old age of 40 I'm finding these sorts of details more and more difficult to hang on to.) Anyway, the point of this rather tangential story is that I was inspired to create a speech song. This is where you promise to not laugh!

Given that /k/ is apparently the target sound that will never go away in our household, I decided to make a mixed /k/ song my guinea pig. Here you go. It won't be winning a Grammy I suspect, but it should be amusing to little ones while providing a whole new way to work on the /k/ sound in initial, medial, and final position.

You sing the song to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I've provided the printable with a cute blue background and with a more practical white background (below - to save printer ink). Choose whichever you prefer.

Let me know what you think of the idea. Do you like it? Would you enjoy using speech songs during articulation therapy? Would it be worth my time to make some more?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

New Survey: Help me choose which sound to target in my next Therapy Kit.

I put up a new survey in the right sidebar. The flurry of activity revolving around planning Michael's 5th birthday party and then our 10 day vacation is passing. Instead of focusing on all the holiday shopping I haven't done, I'm procrastinating by beginning to plan the next premium speech kit for the shop. I probably won't get to actually work on it until the new year, but I wanted to ask you all which sound you'd find most useful: /p/, /f/, or /l/-blends? Please take the time to let me know by voting. The poll will stay open through midnight next Friday.

Speaking of the speech kits, I wanted to thank those of you who have taken the time to write to me and let me know how the kits are working for you. I read every email and comment I get and although I haven't had time to respond to each of you personally, those letters and comments are extremely important to me.

I wanted to share a couple with all of you.

"I am an SLP supervising college students in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I use the picture/word lists with our apraxic/phonologically impaired kids. We just used the /st/ words in therapy today!! I recommend your website frequently to the parents and students I work with. I LOVE your homework page where you specify watch, listen, say.! That is just awesome for parents to use!"
"I really do love your kits and have vowed to not buy anything else from a store!!! I love your tips and reminders, I love the way they are organized. I send home the sheets and my parents LOVE the little books. I originally started viewing your site as I was searching for materials for my two new students with Apraxia..this was last year. NOW two are doing fabulous! I’m very impressed with everything you do as a working mom! Know you are appreciated! "

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Visits Vs. Vacations

Until now, our "vacations" have always been visits. We take time off of work (and school if necessary) and travel to visit with family. We have family spread across three different states and we take our visiting seriously. I think family ties are gifts and I want our children to love their extended family the way we do.

Family visits are wonderful, but exhausting. We prepare to travel. Then we spend entire days in the car with two preschoolers. Next we visit. The spending time with family part is wonderful. The non-stop parenting while at someone else's house is... effortful. We are usually ready to be back at home by the time we get there. Then we spend at least a week trying to return our home to it's usual slightly messy and cluttered state from the disastrous state caused by packing and unpacking. It is all 100% worth it, but the experience isn't exactly restful and rejuvenating.

We just came home from our first ten day family vacation. Two of those days were spent on the road and one day was spent visiting. The other seven days were spent cruising with our two children. The best part is that we were accompanied on our cruise by 9 extended family members. It was truly the best of both worlds.

It was a lovely bonding experience for our children. They got to spend time with parents, grandparents, great-aunts and uncles, and godparents. A lovely time was had by all. They experienced their first ship, first beach, first magician, and first stage show. So much wonder found in one place.

Freed from all the mundane chores of daily life at home (laundry, meal preparation, school and work, etc.) the days floated along in a stress and schedule free manner. We spent more time with the children with almost no fussing. We snuggled, tickled, played games, and experienced new things together and there was no need or desire to watch a clock through any of it. The children stayed up late and I didn't care.

We took advantage of the free child-care on board to give us all a change of pace for a few hours most days. The children loved going to "ship school" and were rather disappointed to see us when we showed up to pick them up a few hours later. The cruise provided us with a cell phone so we could be reached if they needed us, but fortunately it wasn't necessary.

Our one extravagance was paying for an excursion to a private beach. It was going to be their first time at a beach and I didn't want to deal with huge crowds. I had this idyllic daydream of a gorgeous sunny day on a deserted beach and a happy, memorable family experience. Well, it was certainly memorable...

That particular morning was the only morning of the cruise that dawned significantly cloudy. I didn't let that worry me though. We dressed for sun and swimming and packed our preschoolers up for a day of fun at the beach. By the time we had followed the tour guide for a half mile (mile?) to where the boat would take us to the beach, it was raining. We were assured that rain never lasts more than 20 minutes in the Bahamas and our sun hats at least kept the rain out of our eyes.

The thunder, lightening, and rain gusts soaked everyone in the boat on the way to the island cove. Everyone huddled under their beach towels. We played up the "exciting adventure" to the children as we shivered under the towels. When we got to the island 20-30 minutes later the beach was closed due to weather and we huddled in the lunch area wringing things out and trying to dry off with wet towels waiting for things to blow over.

An hour or so later (the details of which are best left undiscussed) the rain had passed and the beach was open. It was still overcast, extremely windy, and freezing, but I was going to get my children in the water and they were ready to go. And you know what? We all managed to have fun anyway. The children loved their first experience at a beach. They loved the sand and the shells and the waves and the water. They didn't seem to notice how cold they were or the fact that their lips were blue. We squeezed as much fun as we could into the hour and a half we had left before catching the boat ride back from the island to our ship. We built sand castles, found shells, buried feet in the sand, and engaged in water horseplay. Ava even made "sand angels" on the shore. The children played so hard in that hour and a half that they were both tired enough to sleep through the rum punch/extremely loud music experience fellow shore excursion passengers were enjoying on the boat ride back.

It wasn't exactly the sunny, leisurly first beach experience I had been hoping for, but it was a memorable adventure that was ultimately enjoyed by all.

And so now we're back. I'm trying to hang on to a little of that vacation mentality. I want to focus more on snuggling my children than rushing through our bedtime routine.

I also need to focus on all the things that were postponed until after the trip (like holiday shopping - how many days are left?).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Usborne Very First Reading - More Printables and Teaching Tips

I have been continuing homeschool using the Usborne Very First Reading Set (and the extra UK only expansion) with Michael on his reading. I am still very pleased with the sets and the extras available online.

We finished the six books on my first progress chart so I needed to make another one. I just made the full set while I was at it. If you have any need for them, here they are.

I continue to fine tune the implementation of the reading program. This is what I'm doing right now.


  1. Print progress charts in this post.
  2. Go to the Very First Reading Resource Page (US) and download and print the activity sheet for each book and the word bank for each book.
  3. If you have the UK expansion set for levels 1-7, go to the Very First Reading Resource Page (UK) and download and print the activity sheet for the extra level 1-7 books. (If you're teaching UK English, just print everything from this page.)
  4. Cut out the word bank cards.
  5. (Optional: Pre-print child's name and answers to activity sheet questions on clear labels. Use a simple font in a light grey color. You can place these labels on the activity sheet for the child to trace if you're still working on handwriting/letter formation with the child.)


Modify this to suit your needs. This is just what we do with the books and materials. We do this over three-four different days. Since we homeschool twice a week right now, it takes us 1-2 weeks to do each level.

Day 1 (and sometimes an extra day)
  1. Read the book with the child. You read the words in the smaller font. The child reads the words in the larger font.
  2. Do the first activity in the back of the book with the child.
  3. Practice the word bank cards sorting into a "fast" and "slow" pile. Teach the words in the "slow" pile. Keep those pile separated for future use.
  4. Do the activity sheet for the book with the child. I use my pre-printed labels and work on Michael's handwriting during this activity.
  5. Put stickers in the appropriate spots on the progress chart.

Day 2
  1. Review the word bank cards. I review both piles and move any cards Michael's learned from the slow pile to the fast pile.
  2. Read the book a second time.
  3. Do the second activity in the back of the book.
  4. Put stickers in the appropriate spots on the progress chart.

Day 3
  1. Review the word bank cards. I review both piles and move any cards Michael's learned from the slow pile to the fast pile. (Usually he's learned all the word bank cards at this point. If not, I sneak any leftover "slow" cards into the set for the next level.)
  2. Read the book a third time.
  3. Do the third activity in the back of the book.
  4. Put stickers in the appropriate spots on the progress chart.


I am particularly pleased with the word bank cards. The "rule breaker" words (words that "break" the regular phonics rules) are outlined in red. High frequency words are outlined in green. The rest of the words are words chosen because they do follow the phonics rules introduced in that level's book(s).

Reading the books multiple times is essential for developing reading fluency and confidence. The multiple activities in the back of each book and additional materials online keep the child interested in multiple readings. Once they've learned the book, have them read it with an older sibling or a grandparent for additional practice and so they can proudly show off their reading.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Are you superstitious?

I do not consider myself to be a superstitious person. I do not immediately think of seven years of bad luck when I see a broken mirror. I am not concerned about... (hmm, what is it?) something negative when someone walks under a ladder. I am not worried about Friday the 13th, black cats, or opening an umbrella in the house.

I do, however, compulsively knock on wood. Whenever I make a statement aloud, or even in my own mind, that acknowledges good fortune I immediately follow it with "knock on wood" and I physically knock gently on some nearby object (although, oddly enough, that object does not literally need to be made of wood to satisfy my compulsion). It isn't, really, that I logically think I need to knock on something to avoid negative consequences. It -is- something more than simple habit though.

I think that, subconsciously, it is a way of acknowledging that I recognize my good fortune and that I am grateful for it and do not take it for granted - only in shorthand. I have to make a deliberate and not insignificant effort to refrain from the motion under circumstances in which it would be inappropriate.

I was thinking about all of this when I recently found myself knocking on the dashboard of the car when having a conversation with the children. To date, they've never asked me why I'm randomly knocking on things in the middle of a conversation but at some point they will ask. I'm not sure how I will answer. I'm not sure it is a habit I wish to pass on.

Do you consider yourself superstitious? What superstitions do you believe in? How do you explain them to your children?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mixed V Printable Speech Fishing Activity

Practice V in Initial and Final Position While Playing with Speech Fish

Click on the image to open it to full size and then right click to save it to your computer. Print the sheet with a program of your choice on cardstock for durability. You might even want to laminate these. Put a few heavy-duty staples in each fish or put paper clips on them to use them in a fishing game with a magnetic wand.

Children might also enjoy lining the fish up, pretending to feed the fish or feed the fish to another stuffed animal, sorting the fish by color, using the fish to make patterns, or tossing the fish into a pond (small bowl, bucket, or blue piece of paper).

You can practice the words in isolation, in pairs, in phrases, or in sentences. You can use the words with or without cues. Adapt the stimuli to the level your student needs to work at.

This worksheet is modeled after Speech Fish worksheets included in the Simple Vowels Speech Kit and the /S/- Blends Speech Kit.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Coat Closet Remodel

We have a teeny-tiny, oddly-shaped coat closet near our front door. Think a triangle that you can just barely stand in upright. It had a wire shelf with a bar for hanging coats about two feet long. The bar went from the front of the closet to the back (rather than horizontally, so that hangers and coats in the front would obscure the ones farther back making them inaccessible). The bottom of the closet was a foot-high pile of shoes - some of which my children hadn't been able to wear for at least two years.

I detested going in the closet. It was almost unusable. I hated digging in an old pile of dirty shoes for the one pair I needed. I started having the children put their coats on a nearby seat instead of in the closet and their shoes in the hall so I could find them quickly. This just contributed to clutter. Not an ideal solution.

I came up with an ideal solution. Tear it all out and have my husband install hook style coat racks on the walls of the closet at varying heights for shoes and coats. It wasn't supposed to take more than half an our to tear out the old stuff and stick in the new ones....

As usual I vastly underestimated. It took two hours just to sort through the years of stuff we had crammed in there. Then coat racks were prohibitively expensive. Who knew those things cost $30 each? So my husband bought individual hooks and boards at a home improvement store and made his own. That took... well... a long time. Several hours at least. And then there was something about finding studs that I didn't pay a lot of attention to. I was busy entertaining children.

So, it is only half done. We ran out of screws, and hooks, and boards. But this is what it looks like so far. I LOVE it. It makes me very happy. The children love it. We all actually enjoy hanging up our coats and shoes when we come in the house. Eventually the baskets for hats and mittens will be hanging on the wall instead of on the floor, but it a wonderful, small-child friendly solution to a coat closet. I highly recommend it.

(The picture just shows the bottom half of the closet, but the top has another row of similar hooks. There will be an additional row of shoe hooks on the left below the current row and right below the children's coats. The baskets for hats/scarves/mittens will go above the children's coat hooks on the right.)

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