Browse Month

June 2015

Free Speech Pictures Reviewed

There are lots of picture resources available for free on the internet for people wanting to develop a child’s articulation and phonology. I find that many of my colleagues aren’t aware of some of the sites that I use, so here are some links and reviews to save you lot the job of searching around. If you’re a parent planning on using any of these on your child, you should get the advice of a speech and language therapist first.

Caroline Bowen is the undisputed queen of online speech and language resources. Unfortunately her website is difficult to navigate. The link above takes you to the ‘Resources Index’, and the picture resources are linked towards the bottom of the page, under the heading ‘Worksheets; Pictures and Words’. The bulk of the pictures are found in ‘Worksheets: Consonants, Clusters and Vowels‘. Word medial pictures are on a separate page, as are minimal and maximal opposition pictures. (Incidentally, some good advice about using maximal and multiple oppositions in therapy can be downloaded from David Newman’s excellent

This is undoubtedly the most comprehensive set of resources on the internet. The documents are presented as pdfs. Caroline’s pictures all come from free clip-art sources, so they are somewhat inconsistent in style and quality. Some sets of sounds have bigger pictures than others, as she has changed the way she makes the sets over the years. Word choice is a little haphazard – low and high frequency words sit next to one another, as do long and short words. Some of the pictures are more aimed at older children, and there is an evident American (actually Australian) slant.

The /f/ word initial words are: Fiona, feel, feast, feet, feed, Felix, fever, female, fiesta, Fiat, field, feely bag, fat, food, four, five, fig, fan, farm, fish, fork, fox, phone, fern, face, foot, fairy, fight, feed and funny. The pictures look like this – with 6 pictures to the page for /f/.


Testy Yet Trying

Odd name, magnificent word selection. The therapist who runs this site has focused on CVC words, and then very helpfully presented the words that include the earlier-developing sounds first. The words are good for young children. The pictures are a mixture of clip art and photographs, and to be honest the style is a little over-saturated for my liking. The pictures come up rather small (15 to a page), and the documents are presented as png image files. These words are ideal for therapists trying to work with children who have multiple substitutions because it is so easy to identify which words the child will have a chance of saying (i.e. fan is much easier for a child to say than fish or fall).

Pictures are provided for all sounds (except /ng/ and /zh/, which don’t feature at all) word initially and word finally. Clusters are not here in huge numbers, but they are represented. There are a few word medial sets, and a couple of sets of minimal pairs, but it’s not what you’d come here for.

The full list of /f/ word initial words is: fan, fat, feed, feet, fin, food, foot, fun, fight, foam, phone, face, fez, fig, five, fizz, fog, fuss, fuzz, fall, fang, feel, fell, fetch, fish, foal, foil, fall, fudge and fall.



Thanks ‘mommy’. I always expect these images to have disappeared, since they plainly use Widget Communications’ images. I won’t tell them if you don’t. As such, the images are consistent, simple, and rather beautiful. They are very small (20 to a page) but they scale up very well in the photocopier. The word choice is mostly good. There are pictures for all sounds in all positions, but it is quantity over quality at times, particularly for the word medial pictures (for example, /f/ word medial has /fr/ clusters such as ‘afraid’, three syllable words such as ‘elephant’, and words with /f/ in very complex contexts such as ‘blindfold’).

There are no minimal pairs pictures, but there are some for the simple clusters word initially. There are pictures for most of the sounds in some rather forced sentences, I don’t personally see a lot of use for these. The pictures are presented as pdfs.

The /f/ initial words are feet, fingers, fairy, fork, farm, fire, fox, feel, fast, food, fish, fair, fan, fight, fall, face, find, first, fat and family.


Carl’s Corner

Much more of a resource for teachers of literacy than speech therapists, there are still some gems to be found here. Firstly there’s a page of well thought-out resources to develop Phonological Awareness. There are also 94 workbooks for different rhyming ‘word families’ (words ending with -ed, -ook, etc). These workbooks have a lot of games, puzzles, etc, but there are around 12 -20 fairly decent pictures to extract from each set. The pictures are drawn especially for this series, so they’re consistent and quite clear. It all looks rather American, and it’s not a style that appeals very much to me. The workbooks are indexed on the bottom half of this page.

Because of the literacy focus, digraphs (ch, sh, ph) get their own workbooks (listed on the top half of the above-linked page), and so, most importantly, do clusters. I often come to Carl’s corner for her cluster resources – there are workbooks for word initial /bl/, /br/, /kl/, /kr/, /dr/, /fl/, /fr/, /gl/, /gr/, /pl/, /pr/, /sk/, /skr/, /sn/, /sp/, /spl/, /spr/, /st/, /str/, /sw/, /thr/, /tr/, /tw/ and /shr/.

Things I do now that I didn’t do before

My current job, working directly for schools, has enabled me to focus on the way I do therapy. It’s a rare opportunity, because the administrative side of the job for community SLTs can be overwhelming. I do very little but therapy, and I can’t help but get better at it. So here’s a couple of things I do now, that I didn’t do before.

I work on speech and language at the same time
The last picture of my most recent post demonstrates that I tend to work on everything at once. If I’m working on the /k/ sound, for example, once the child has started to use it at single word level, I’ll get my soft toys out, act out some scenarios (e.g. teddy dropping a car) and ask the child ‘what’s happening’. I’ll use my Colourful Semantics pictures, combined with Jolly Phonics pictures, to help the child to structure her sentence. Teddy will drop it over and over again, start saying things like ‘the car hurt my foot’, ‘it’s a heavy car’, and so on, and the child is expected to say some phrases for herself. I’ll also throw in the occasional semantic task when I’m working on phonology because it is both the phonological and the semantic features of a word which anchor it to others, and make it accessible during sentence-building.

I have found a way to support language and play for children in small groups
The single best way to support a child’s language development (children under 6, who simply lack linguistic experience, or speak English as an additional language) is to play with them, patiently following their lead and providing the language that matches their thoughts. Supplement, augment, and mildly dramatise what they’re doing. Repeat words and structures over and over again. And don’t ask lots of pointless questions. This approach has the added benefit of developing a child’s attention skills, play skills and their ability to interact purposefully with an adult while enriching their receptive and expressive language.

However the problem we face in nursery and reception classes is so enormous that education staff and SLTs working together can never be resourced well enough to provide this level of input per child. That’s why what I do is to take the best bits of that optimal ‘modelling language in play’ experience, and adapt them into a group session.

I conduct phases of sentence building (essentially picture description, see example pictures below, using the Colourful Semantics system) followed by phases of adult-led play, where toys identical to the toys in the pictures ‘make it happen’. The child whose turn it is is encouraged to get involved in a defined manner, and language is modelled and stimulated like mad. Then that phase is over, the toys go back behind a barrier and then the next child starts sentence building from a new picture.

This is the essence of what is a very involved and fiddly system. I even draw speech sound targets into this if appropriate (see the fifth picture below for a cheeky way I do this). I’m working very hard on putting together a pilotable version of my programme at the moment, then my plan is to publish it, along with the toys (different toys, and pictures, of course). In some kind of massive suitcase. It’ll be a monster, and, if it ever gets made it will be phenomenally expensive (if the eye-watering £360 for the rather basic Symbolic Play Test is anything to go by).

So this is what the little slices of play that I set up for my kids look like…

boy reading a book
dog knocking over a tower
boy spilling water
dog drinking water
the boy is drawing a saw