While choosing an intervention approach for targeting cluster reduction is important , so are the cues that you use! Every child learns differently, and if we truly want the child to understand this “rule”, we should be teaching and engaging the child in the learning process!
I’m going to share three different explanations that I use to help the child understand when and why they need to use their clusters.
helper sound & stuck sounds
With this cue, we describe the toe truck as our “helper” sound. Toe trucks help to pull vehicles that are stuck, and sometimes our words get stuck too! Let’s say that our student says the word “no”, when they really meant to say “snow”.
Using the cards, we would say something like, “Oh no, I think you meant to say snow, but it sounded like no. Our helper sound (toe truck card) is going to come and help! He makes the “s” sound to help the car that was stuck. Listen, “sssss..no” (join the cards). Can you try helping the stuck car? Remember to use you “s” helper sound first”.
With this analogy, we inform the child that just like animals have friends or buddies, so do some sounds. These seahorses are “sound buddies” and they need to stay together when we say some words. Each seahorse represents one sound in the cluster (e.g., “s” and “l” for a “sl” cluster). Having a visual representation of the sounds in the words helps children to understand that they need to say those sounds so that what they say makes sense.
If the child says “lime” when they look at a picture card showing slime, I would simply remove the seahorse sound buddy card on the left (it’s also shaped like the letter “s”) and say, “Oh no! We lost one of our sound buddies! Remember, our sound buddies need to stay together in our words, or it doesn’t make sense”.
I then bring back the “lost” sound buddy card and tap each seahorse as I say the word “sssssslime” slowly.
engine & carriage sounds
This is a fantastic metaphor that is also great to use with real toy trains! The engine represents our “s” sound, while the carriage represents the rest of the word. If we want the train to move, then engine needs to connect to, and pull the carriage along.
In this analogy, we again remove the engine card if the child reduces their “s” cluster word (e.g., they say nail for snail), to show them that they have “lost” their engine sound and need to join it so that the train can go.
These cue cards are available in the Bjorem Speech Publications “S Cluster Reduction Minimal Pair Cards” set.
Our goal is to provide you with flexible and engaging cues that you can use with your students to help them consolidate their speech sound error patterns.