Need initial s words speech therapy lists? If you’re a speech-language pathologist looking for a quick list of initial s words and final s target words to practice during speech therapy, make sure to bookmark this post. You’ll also find some great ideas for making therapy more fun with a variety of engaging games, resources, and speech therapy activities for teaching the s sound. Not only does this blog post provide a list of initial and final s words, but it also suggests a variety of strategies for teaching correct placement. SLPs will be able to have a list of words on hand to easily use in the therapy room.
Correct Production of S
This blog post focuses on the correct production of s, but the production of z can be mentioned in this section as well.
A lot of time, s and z are speech sounds that a speech therapist will need to target during articulation practice. The s sound is a lingua-alveolar fricative sound. It is a voiceless sound, meaning the vocal folds do not vibrate. The z sound is voiced. The soft palate is raised during both s and z production. S and z can be made with the “tongue tip up” or the “tongue tip down”.
The lateral sides of the tongue need to be elevated and touch the sides of the upper top teeth (the upper molars). This allows for sagittal grooving of the tongue.
The middle of the tongue creates a funnel for airflow. The tongue tip lowers just slightly to create a channel to let the airflow pass through. This takes a lot of practice and coordination!
The jaw is in a high position, but it shifts forward slightly during the production of s.
The airstream moves forward and out of the mouth. The airstream continues while the tongue remains in place.
Common S Sound Errors
Children with articulation disorders may demonstrate a frontal lisp or lateral lisp when trying to produce /s/ or /z/.
An interdental lisp can be more common in young children. In fact, it can be developmentally appropriate while children are young. When your student is demonstrating an interdental lisp, the tongue is forward and protruding past the front teeth. The result is a “th” in place of the “s” sound (example: “thun” for “sun”).
When a child is demonstrating a lateral lisp, the tip of the tongue may be lifted, but the sides of the tongue are flat. When the sides of the tongue don’t lift, it results in the air flowing freely into the cheeks and mixing with saliva. Hilda Fisher described this as a “slushy L”. It is important to note that a lateral lisp is never developmentally appropriate. Learn about the straw technique for a lateral lisp.
Learn more about the different types of lisps here (which may include an interdental lisp, addental lisp, lateral lisp, palatal lisp, or strident lisp).
A few phonological processes may result in s or z speech sound production errors. A child may demonstrate the phonological process of stopping if he or she has a phonological disorder. When this occurs, the airstream is “stopped”. An example of this might be saying “tail” for “sail” or “do” for “zoo”. A speech pathologist may find minimal pairs to be a helpful tool when the phonological process of stopping occurs. Initial consonant deletion or final consonant deletion of the s sound may also occur.
How To Teach the S Sound in Speech Therapy
Speech Therapy Suggestions
Learning how to say the s sound can be hard work for many people. Students in articulation therapy must learn how to move and place the tongue correctly. The next step includes learning how to control and maintain the airflow steam.
Teach Normal Lingual Resting Posture
A lot of times, a great way to start is by explaining the normal lingual resting posture of the tongue and articulators. The tongue tip needs to rest near the alveolar ridge. The body of the tongue needs to be up and lightly suctioned to the roof of the mouth. This is the starting point for speech. I love to use a typodont to provide a visual for this. I use my hand raised into an arch to demonstrate how the center of the tongue needs to be lifted instead of flat.
A simple way to figure out if your student has normal lingual resting posture is to ask them! This is especially beneficial for children in the upper elementary school years.
I ask, “When you aren’t talking… where is the tip of your tongue?” Many of my students who have interdental lisps tell me their tongue tip is touching the front teeth at rest.
Teach the Long T
It may be helpful to teach your student a “long t”. This is a sneaky way to produce the s sound by shaping it from the /t/ sound. Your student will say /t/, then carefully add airflow to elicit an /s/ sound.
After your student can say a long t, it can also be helpful to then focus on /ts/ at the final positions of words. For example, you might practice words like “cats” and “hats”.
Read more ideas for correcting a lisp here.
Decrease Stopping of S Words (Speech Therapy)
If a speech therapy student is stopping, a speech pathologist might it beneficial to use minimal pairs. An example of this might be practicing picture cards with “Sue” vs “two”.
If I am practicing the s sound in a target word, I keep it simple at first. This may mean practicing the s sound in simple syllables. Words like “see” and “say” may be useful targets. Following this, a speech therapist could choose simple CVC target words, like “sip”. After a while, these words may be practiced in simple phrases or short sentences.
More General Tips for Eliciting the S Sound in Speech Therapy
Speech pathologists may benefit by having the child keep the jaw in an elevated position.
Finally, speech therapists may want to address letter-sound knowledge while teaching articulation.
Speech Sound Word Lists for the S Sound
The following word lists contain words with the initial s sound, medial s sound, and final s sound. These articulation word lists allow the SLP to easily work on a target sound in speech therapy. Quickly pull these word lists up during your speech therapy session and pair them with the game or activity of your choice. These lists make it easy to practice this sound at the word level! SLPs could also use these lists for auditory bombardment listening activities.
Initial S Words Speech Therapy List
Here is a list of s occurring as the initial sound in words (s in the initial position of words):
Medial S Word List for Speech Therapy
Here is a list of s occurring as the medial sound in words (s in the medial position of words):
Final S Word Lists for Speech Therapy
Here is a list of s occurring as the ending sound in words (s in the final position of words):
Speech Therapy Activities for the S Sound
A school speech therapist has a busy schedule and needs effective activities to use in therapy. These initial s and final s articulation cards are very effective for children who have speech sound disorders. For each articulation sound, a speech sound mouth placement visual is provided. These articulation cards are also easy to send home for home practice. Family members can easily review the articulation s words as a carryover activity. To assemble, simply print out the cards, laminate them, then cut them out. Assemble them together using a binder ring for easy storage.
Here is another fun articulation activity to try! Your students can create manicures using play dough, magnetic chips, or dry erase markers. Have fun practicing target speech sounds while creating a manicure. This is the secret to making articulation drill fun! If you are a speech therapist working with students in person, then simply print and laminate the cards. Or, try using an annotate button with students to use this material during distance learning!
Finally, these minimal pair no prep worksheets will definitely become a staple in your speech therapy room! The minimal pair visuals used help reinforce contrasts between target speech sounds. Use these stopping minimal pair activity sheets to decrease the phonological process of stopping. These no prep phonology pages feature a simple layout to help the speech session run smoothly. According to one SLP reviewer, “This is a handy resource to have on hand with a great variety of targets. It’s easy to get so many trials with the targets immediately accessible for your target. The instructions for use are also clear and easy to implement.”
Some other simple articulation drill ideas for teaching the s sound might include:
- play articulation tic tac toe
- place articulation cards in a sensory bin
- build “s” sound snakes out of play dough
- go on an s sound scavenger hunt at school
- hide articulation cards in a fun bin or container
- fingerpaint a “snake” while practicing the s sound in isolation
- do a simple “sink or float” experiment to practice the word “sink”
More Articulation Ideas for Speech Pathologists
Read more about correcting a lisp and the biggest mistake I’ve made in speech therapy while correcting a lisp.
Finally, you can dig deeper into minimal pairs here.