Activities to help say ‘s’ clusters

When I heard ‘I just can’t do it!’ from a nine-year-old client who was struggling to say their /s/ clusters, my heart broke. Regardless of age, our kids can be really aware of what they find hard to say, and it’s our role to help them be successful with how they learn best.

Sometimes it can help to break down something that is hard and complex, into smaller, easier-to-say chunks.

S snake sound
The snake says the /s/ sound

You might start by using a snake picture as imagery so that they can relate it to the “s” sound. 

We point to pictures of snakes while saying “s” so that they have that connection, and for extra fun, the child might wear a snake finger puppet to point to it!

This typically takes about 1 minute at the start of your activity.

If we are using these visuals, I will then point to the picture that is next to the snake and familiarize the child with those words.

e.g., this is “lip, lamb, leap, leave, led, lime”.

I might then say to the child, “hey, do you think we can say these pictures? Let’s start with that snake sound we learned, ssssss..lip, ssssss..lamb…”.



s cluster trick

what if that doesn't work?

If the child leaves off or deletes the /s/ sound: I draw the child’s attention to the snake and say “Oops! You forgot the /s/ snake sound. Let’s try it again (point to snake) ssssss..lip

If the child leaves off or deletes the second sound: I would acknowledge and praise that they used the snake sound, and say something like, “but this picture (e.g., point to the lip picture) didn’t make sense. It sounded like you said ip. Let’s practice this word again, lip. Remember to say the whole word.”

Once the child is able to say these, I then go on to explain that if we join these together, it makes a new word!

It’s almost “tricking” the child into saying their /s/ clusters because we’ve broken it down into smaller, manageable parts.

The one thing you need to be careful of is how you model and use this type of chaining. We want them to smoothly blend together vs. isolating each part.

SAY: ssssssslip

DON’T SAY: sss  ……  lip


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  • THIS is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’ve tried CV syllables, visuals when working at the worder level, tactile strategies, and visual phonics. My 4 yr old client can sequence /sn/ in isolation but it falls apart in vowel syllables. I’m hoping this will help!! Thank you 🙂

    • Hope so too! Sometimes I start a little slow and then really work on blending all the sounds together and speeding it up once they have the ‘mechanics’ figured out. Good luck 🙂

  • Looking for free version of [S] blend trick! I read your post but the link may have expired…any chance I can still get?

    • I recently updated this entire set and have not updated the freebie yet! It’s on my big to-do list 🙂


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