Are you trying to write speech therapy goals for your 4th and 5th grade elementary students and feeling stuck? No worries! In this blog post, I’ll dig deep and discuss some of the most important areas that I like to treat (hint, a lot of these areas involve expressive language and articulation), and I’ll also share some “get started” materials and resources you could use in therapy. Make sure to grab the PDF mini ebook version of this post for future reference, too!
Keep in mind, that these are simply ideas. You would always want to individualize these objectives for your specific student’s needs. For more information on writing objectives using the SMART framework, this n2y.com blog post is very helpful.
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Speech Therapy Goals for Articulation
If you’re working with upper elementary students (such as 4th and 5th graders), there’s a solid chance you’ll be focusing on either vocalic r or lisps.
That doesn’t mean that’s EXCLUSIVELY what you’d target, of course.
But as an SLP who spent 5 years of my career dedicated specifically to treating 4th and 5th graders, I can pretty confidently say there’s a high probability you’ll be treating these two areas of articulation.
Having a Game Plan for Treating Vocalic R in Speech
Many SLPs have reached out to me and asked how I specifically write my vocalic r goals.
First, it’d likely be helpful to understand my approach.
Therapy is meant to be individualized, and what works for one student may not work for another. This will ALWAYS be true, no matter what the area is.
If you are working with a student who has failed to make progress with r, and you need some fresh ideas- I highly recommend becoming familiar with the basics of orofacial myology.
Basically, this has allowed my students to:
- have a better understanding of the articulators
- realize they can control, shape, and move the tongue
If you’re interested in earning CEUs, I highly recommend Sandra Holtzman’s Techniques and Interventions to Correct R course for SLPs.
How to Write Goals for Treating Vocalic R
You’d want to make sure to add components such as the prompts or cues you’d provide, the percentage you expect them to master (it doesn’t always have to be 80%), the number of sessions you hope they accomplish this, and more. Objectives must be specific and measurable, among other characteristics.
Here are some ideas:
- produce vocalic er in isolation
- vocalic er when paired with a variety of sounds/ blends in nonsense word combinations
- produce vocalic er in real words
- vocalic r (i.e. air, ear, ar, or, rl) in words
As you can see, I put a huge focus on mastering vocalic er before we move on to the other vocalic r sounds.
To establish vocalic er in isolation, I like to use flavored tongue depressors. I also find having a typodont on hand especially helpful, so I can show where lingual-palatal contact occurs. A third item you might find helpful is a mirror.
Goal Writing After Vocalic ER is Mastered
That said, once your student HAS mastered vocalic er in isolation, nonsense word combinations, and real words, I might write more specific vocalic r objectives, and even carryover objectives, such as:
- produce vocalic air in the final position of words
- say vocalic or in the initial position of words
- correctly produce vocalic rl in the medial and final positions of words
When your student is ready, you could move on to phrases, sentences, and carryover activities.
Examples might be:
- will produce vocalic /rl/ in the final position of words at the phrase level
- produce vocalic /or/ the initial, medial, and final position of words at the sentence level
- produce vocalic /rl/ in sentence read aloud tasks or carryover activities
By that time, you may only have a few specific vocalic r articulation targets to address.
You get the idea!
Here’s what I don’t recommend.
This is my professional opinion only, but…
I don’t recommend writing one huge, generic R goal, that expects your student to be able to say all the variations of R, in every position. At least, not if that’s your starting point. I highly doubt this will be attainable if your student has struggled with R for years.
That’s why I break things down with R: to make the objective attainable.
How to Write Speech Therapy Goals for Treating a Lisp
Now I’ll share how I write speech therapy goals for treating a lisp.
You May Want To Teach Normal Resting Posture First
Your student may have a lateral lisp or a frontal lisp, but it doesn’t matter: I always start with the same foundational skill.
This doesn’t necessarily need to be a “formal goal”- but it’s not a step I usually skip.
I like to teach my student what a normal lingual resting posture is (aka, proper resting tongue position).
The tongue needs to be in the correct resting posture because our resting posture is the starting point for speech. It shouldn’t be flat or resting against the back part of the front teeth.
Instead, it should live up within the dental arch.
Also, proper resting posture of the tongue is important for other reasons, as well.
In my clinical experience, if a student is demonstrating a tongue thrust or improper tongue resting posture and is also demonstrating a lisp, I find it useful to teach correct resting posture in addition to working on speech. It may be important to note that I have taken coursework in orofacial myology.
Ask Your Speech Therapy Student About His Normal Resting Posture
So basically- I make sure my student understands the correct lingual resting posture as a foundational skill.
The best part about working with 4th and 5th graders is that many are able to actually describe their normal resting posture.
I usually ask, “While you’re sitting there and not talking- can you tell me where your tongue is? Is it pushed against the teeth? Or is it up at the top of your mouth?”
Most tell me their tongue is pushing against their teeth.
To introduce this concept, I use a typodont.
I point out the alveolar ridge. We call the alveolar ridge “home”.
I explain to my student that the front part of their tongue should be resting against home when they are not talking.
This is a concept I teach if I feel it is necessary for success with s and z.
Here’s Why I Write the Lisp Goals I Write
Normal resting posture is important. It’s very important. And if you don’t at least mention it to your students, no one else will.
The goals I write, however, are geared towards speech.
I typically first work on “s” in isolation- however, I never call it “s” to my students. I call it a “whisper t” and a “long t”. We simply “add more air” to the “t” sound while remembering to keep the tongue tip “near home”. Once air has been added, you can hear the /s/ in isolation.
Next, I like to use “the long t” to elicit final “ts” words. I might say, “We’re going to say the beginning of a word, ‘ca’, then add ‘a long t’ to the end.” The resulting word would be cats.
Once this has been mastered, you could use co-articulation to elicit initial s words.
You might use “cats-see me” or “bats-say hi”.
But now that you understand a little bit about my approach, the articulation goals I write will hopefully make more sense.
Speech Therapy Lisp Goals
Here are some examples of speech therapy goals I have targeted while treating a lisp:
- correctly produce s in isolation
- final ts in words (example: cats, bats, hats)
- produce s in the initial position of words
- after listening to a clinican model or a speech recording, will identify between “distorted” or “forward” airflow
While working on any of these goals, they need to make sure they are:
- maintaining the correct lingual positioning (i.e. not “flat” or “pushing against or though the teeth”)
- directing the airflow forward and straight (i.e. not into the cheeks)
- controlling tongue movement and shape
- moving the tongue separately from the other articulators (lingual mandibular differentiation)
Your next question is probably, “but what about articulation goals for z?”
Yes, you definitely get there.
Basically, I break things waaaaay down before expecting my speech therapy student to produce s and z in all positions and all levels (i.e. words, phrases, sentences, etc). Those more straightforward articulation goals occur after my student has mastered the foundational skills.
P.S. Want to dig deeper into some lisp therapy techniques? Make sure to learn about the straw technique for a lateral lisp.
Articulation Carryover Goals for Speech Therapy
Learning to Self-Evaluate Speech
By this point in speech therapy, many upper elementary students are likely working on articulation sounds at the carryover level. One task I like to use for articulation carryover is teaching my student how to self-evaluate speech performance.
An idea would be to record the student, then play the recording back. Let your student determine if any errors were made. This concept is not one I invented and has been around for some time in the field. Your goal might read like this:
- After listening to a recorded sample of his speech, the student will identify speech sounds produced in error
Letter to Sound Connection
Another articulation carryover idea might include having your student identify words that contain his or her targeted speech sound in written text.
I think it is important for our students to see the connection between the sounds we say and how they are written.
Vocalic r words, for example, are not always spelled how one might think. The words “hurt” and “germs” are spelled very differently, but both contain the vocalic er sound, whereas ‘cherry’ and ‘dairy’ both contain vocalic air spelled in very different ways.
I used highlighter tape and paired it with student textbooks or AR reading books- just have your student bring a book from class. I also often used a map of the United States– we located all states and cities containing our target speech sound.
P.S. Here is another fun articulation carryover activity to try. This one is a bit of a “challenge” and perfect for the competitive students on your caseload.
Example objectives could include:
- The student will identify written words that contain targeted speech sounds
Functional Structured Articulation Carryover Activities
You might also find it helpful to identify certain school activities that will require your student to speak in front of peers. One student I worked with was part of the announcements team. We practiced announcing the weather, birthdays, and lunch menu items in speech therapy the day before it was his turn to read them to the school.
Another idea might be checking with the teacher to see if any upcoming presentations or book reports will need to be presented to the class. I often paired this with the EET (expanding expression toolkit).
After we defined and described the topic, we went through and highlighted our target speech sounds. Then, the student would practice a presentation in the speech room, while focusing on correctly producing his target articulation sounds.
- The student will produce targeted speech sounds in structured carryover activities (examples include spoken presentations, book reports, reading the school announcements, and reading aloud from a classroom textbook)
Speech Therapy Goals for Grammar and Sentence Structure
Need some ideas for grammar and sentence structure goals?
This area can be overwhelming, but it’s really important to work on grammar and syntax in speech therapy.
I love to use this sentence diagramming program when I’m teaching sentence structure. This is such an amazing way for my students to really visualize how words and sentence parts work together to form meaning. This program provides an easy way for SLPs to scaffold grammar and sentence structure skills from the ground up.
Here are some example speech therapy goals for grammar and syntax:
- identify parts of speech or sentence parts within spoken or written sentences
- complete sentence fill-in tasks using targeted parts of speech or sentence parts
- arrange scrambled words into meaningful sentences
Here’s how these goals might look during a typical speech therapy session.
Teaching Grammar and Syntax in Speech Therapy
Let’s say you’re focusing on adverbs that day.
I start my session by explaining what an adverb is, exactly.
Then, I have some ready-to-go practice sentences– and my student finds the adverbs within the sentences.
After that, I let my students take a turn thinking of an adjective to use to finish a sentence.
Then, we take some scrambled up words and make a meaningful sentence out of those words. (And yes- that sentence does contain an adverb).
I follow it up with a nice serving of sentence diagramming.
Now, you might have noticed I used a more generic term like “parts of speech”. This allows me to cover a wide variety of areas.
Your student may need to focus on specific parts of speech, and that’s fine too. You can write your goals accordingly.
Speech Therapy Goals for Conjunctions
Although I tend to use the approach above (and cycle through a variety of parts of speech and sentence parts), there are definitely times where you want to hone in on specific area. For students who require more structured support, I like to do either fill-in-the-blank conjunction activities or “sentence starter” activities. When my students have the basics down, we practice in a more open-ended way, creating complex and compound sentences using conjunctions about pictures.
If you need a conjunctions review, coordinating conjunctions can be remembered using FANBOYS. Coordinating conjunctions include: for, and, nor, but, or, so, yet.
Subordinating conjunctions can help explain reasoning (because, since, so that), time (after, as soon as, until), make comparisons (whether, as much as), provide conditions (if, only if), and use concessions (though, even though). They also include relative pronouns (such as who, whoever).
Coorelative conjunctions are “pairs” of coordinating conjunctions. Examples include both…and, if…then, and either…or.
Example conjunctions goals might include:
- create sentences using subordinating conjunctions during sentence fill-in tasks
- create sentences using coordinating conjunctions when provided with sentence starters
- create sentences about a picture using target conjunction (ex: subordinating, coordinating)
- when provided with a sentence, choose the correct conjunction (ex: subordinating, correlative) to complete the sentence
Speech Therapy Goals for Defining and Describing
The ability to define and describe is so important!
It is important that your student is able to label the category for an item, but also be able to provide even more attributes. This task can be used for basic describing (A banana is a food that you eat. It is yellow), but can also be used for more advanced describing with older students.
Every year, my fourth graders had to write biographies on famous historical people. They had to research these people, then present a report explaining what they’d learned.
We would use the book recommended by their teachers and go through and find the important details to use in the report.
My students would identify the category for their famous historical person (a baseball player? a former president? an author?), important things they did, what they looked like, where they lived, and list out key events from their person’s life.
Defining and Describing Example Objectives
Example speech therapy goals for defining and describing could include:
- label the category for a named item or picture
- state the function of an object (explain what an item is used for, or what it does)
- describe the appearance (i.e. shape, size, color, etc)
- explain the location for a given item (where you might find it, where it is located)
- list parts or associated parts for a named item or picture
- complete analogies related to descriptive features/ attributes (i.e. dog is to animal as chair is to…furniture)
- identify an item or object when provided with descriptive features/ attributes (i.e. It’s an animal that gives us milk. It lives on a farm)
- define an object or item by providing the category and at least 2 additional attributes
- explain similarities and differences between named objects or items
I loved completing these analogy worksheets with my 4th grade students. The analogies were broken down into different areas (i.e. category analogies, object function analogies, etc).
Speech Therapy Goals for Semantic Relationships
Working on semantic relationships in speech therapy is important.
My 4th and 5th graders often have difficulty understanding spatial relationships, comparative relationships, and time vocabulary.
To address these needs, I write semantic relationship speech therapy goals such as:
- the student will answer spoken/ written semantic relationship questions which target comparative relationships
- the student will answer spoken/ written semantic relationship questions which target temporal- sequential relationships
- student will answer spoken/ written semantic relationship questions which target spatial relationships
- student will complete spoken/ written sentences using targeted spatial, time, or comparative vocabulary
You can make these objectives very functional.
Your student can answer semantic relationship questions related to time vocabulary using his own daily school schedule. He can practice understanding the difference between “before” and “after” by explaining if he has art class before or after lunch.
Spatial relationships can be targeted by simply looking around the room. You can talk about how the pencil sharpener is to the right of the door. You can talk about how today’s date is written on the top left corner of the board.
For ready-to-go practice, check out these semantic relationships worksheets.
Following Directions Speech Therapy Goal Ideas
4th and 5th graders (and even some middle schoolers) working on complex following directions can get- well – bored when doing the “same old, same old” following directions activities.
I like to challenge them- by using these complex following directions worksheets.
My students are engaged. They love trying to see who can finish the direction first. I often have to remind them- it’s much more important to listen carefully and focus.
Goal Ideas for Complex Directions Include:
- student will follow complex spoken/ written directions containing embedded temporal / sequential concepts
- follow complex spoken/ written directions containing embedded spatial concepts
- follow complex spoken/ written directions containing a) a variety of embedded concepts (to include spatial, temporal, or sequential) and b) multiple modifiers
More Upper Elementary Speech Therapy Ideas
Now that you’ve got some ideas for goal writing for your upper elementary speech therapy students, keep on reading to dive deep into the world of 4th and 5th grade! You can read about my favorite games for 4th and 5th grade– and don’t forget to learn about my favorite straw technique for tackling a lateral lisp.