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How To Teach SM Words in Speech Therapy: Guide and Activities

These sm words speech therapy activities are perfect for speech-language pathologists to try using in speech therapy. Young children often have difficulty producing s-blends. Many children who have difficulty with s blends are exhibiting an articulation disorder or phonological disorder. This blog post provides a definition for a phonological disorder, as well as a link to a complete list of phonological processes. There are also suggested strategies for teaching s-blends in speech therapy and 5 specific sm speech therapy activities that speech-language pathologists will want to try out in therapy! 

This is a blog post that provides strategies and activities for SM words in speech therapy.

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Phonological Disorder

Speech sound disorders can include a phonological speech disorder. A phonological disorder can be diagnosed by a certified speech-language pathologist. A phonological disorder involves patterns of sound errors that are rule-based.

Some speech pattern simplifications might include consonant cluster reduction, fronting, stopping, and gliding. Speech therapists may wish to see a complete list of phonological disorders.

What is Consonant Cluster Reduction?

Have you ever heard a child say the word “mile” when they mean to say “smile”? Or how about another child that says “sell” instead of “smell”?

Both of these are examples of consonant cluster reduction. Basically, consonant cluster reduction just means that one consonant sound in a consonant cluster was omitted. 

Consonant cluster reduction can be somewhat common with younger children; however, according to ASHA, consonant cluster reduction involving s should be eliminated by the age of 5.

Reference: Selected Phonological Processes. (2023). Retrieved 9 April 2023, from https://www.asha.org/practice-portal/clinical-topics/articulation-and-phonology/selected-phonological-processes/

Word Lists for SM Consonant Clusters

Speech therapists looking for target words should check out these cluster words word lists. They include s-blend words. For a variety of consonant blends, check out these L-Blend Words and these R-Blend words.

5 SM Words speech therapy activity to target s blends

Strategies to Teach S Blends in Speech Therapy

There are many effective strategies to teach s blend sounds in speech therapy. Here are a few tried-and-true methods that I have personally found to be successful for teaching s-blends in my speech therapy room:

Change the name of the “s” sound to the “snake sound”! 

Trace your finger down your arm while saying the “s” sound. 

Use minimal pairs to help children both see and hear the difference between their inaccurate production and the target word. Check out these consonant cluster reduction minimal pairs

Choose a small set of words or minimal pairs, around 4-6, to focus on during the speech therapy session.

Pause between saying the “S” and the rest of the word when modeling s-blends. For example, “smile” could be modeled as “s….mile“. While doing this, trace your finger down your arm for the s, then point to your lips for the “m” to emphasize both sounds in the consonant cluster. 

Check out these snake sound articulation cards to try with your students for articulation therapy!

Read a book in speech therapy that features tons of speech sound targets! Check out sound-loaded books for articulation, including s-blends

Create a “snake” out of play dough while practicing target words.

Or, make a snake out of Wikki Stix while practicing target s-blends!

Play a game like Rattlesnake Jake while practicing the “snake sound”! Check out my favorite games for kids in speech therapy.

Complete a snake craft with your students! Make a snake out of a paper chain, paper clips, or paint rocks, and create a long snake. 

SM Words Speech Therapy Activities

Try out these sm words speech therapy activities in your speech and language session today. These motivating articulation and phonology activities and worksheets are appropriate for a variety of age ranges. 

Minimal Pairs Activities

If a speech therapist is working with students that exhibit a variety of phonological processes, minimal pairs can be a helpful tool. These minimal pairs activities target consonant cluster reduction. If desired, they could be paired with a cycles approach. 

A busy speech pathologist doesn’t have much time to search through piles of minimal pair cards. Talk about stress!

This Minimal Pairs Bundle will fix those chaotic pile woes. Everything required for a speech therapy session to target phonology is on one organized page.

This is a consonant cluster reduction minimal pairs activity for speech therapy to target phonology. Minimal pairs targeted include SM vs M words.

Your student can practice their target sound at the word level- for example, sm words. Different sounds and phonological processes are included in this useful bundle. Phonological processes targeted include backing, fronting, gliding, stopping, cluster reduction, voicing, devoicing, initial consonant deletion, and final consonant deletion.

Jennifer H reviewed, “Love this!  I love that it is all on one page and very easy to print and pull out in a hurry.  The pictures are great and it is so comprehensive.  I did not really have any GOOD minimal pair card decks but I do now.  Thank you so much for this great resource!”

I like to laminate these printable sheets. My students enjoy pairing these pages with play dough or a magnetic wand and chips. There are colorful minimal pair pictures on each page, and mouth visuals to assist with speech sound production. 

When I start the session, I read the auditory bombardment list of words to my student. For example, if we are doing an sm words speech therapy session, then I will read words with the sm-blend sound aloud like “smile, smell, small, smoke” and “smear”. Because this is an auditory bombardment activity, my student does not repeat the words back to me. This is important; I want the focus to be on listening to the SM blend in each word. 

We complete an auditory discrimination task as well. I will ask my student if he heard his target sound or not. 

If my student heard the sound, then he gives me a thumbs up. If not, he gives me a thumbs down. This is another great listening activity that encourages my student to differentiate and perceive the differences between the sounds within words. 

After that, my student takes turns practicing the minimal pair targets. If we are practicing sm words, for example, we might practice the minimal pair “smile” versus “mile”. My student then gets to smash play dough on the target minimal pair that we practiced. Or, if preferred, my student gets to pick up a chip using a magnetic wand

If there is enough time at the end of the session, I will read the auditory bombardment list one more time. 

Snake Sound Articulation Activity

What better way to practice the “snake sound” than to use a snake articulation activity

Your students will love these s blend snakes. Speech pathologists will love the fact that they fit easily on a binder ring, so you can take them with you anywhere! 

This s blends resource is interactive and fun! The snake visual will help your students remember to use their target sound. 

Your students will love smashing play dough onto a circle after practicing a target word. Your students will get so much practice, but they won’t even realize it, because they’ll be so engaged!

This is a snake sound activity that targets s blends for speech therapy. Initial SM words are included.

Alternatively, your students could pair this activity with a magnetic wand and chips or mini erasers. How high can your student stack the erasers? 

These s blend snakes make data collection a breeze! Each snake features a target s blend. There are s blends in initial, medial, and final positions. 

Alessia N. reviewed, “This is a brilliant articulation resource to target s blends in a fun and engaging way! My students love squashing the Play-Doh onto the words once they have practiced the target word!”

These s blend snakes can be used in individual or group therapy. Speech pathologists may also wish to print extra copies to send home for home practice! 

Play Dough Smash Mat Articulation Activity

Of course, it’s always fun to break out the play dough in speech therapy! There’s something so fun about smashing a bit of play dough after practicing a target word.

But why not switch things up, and make it even cooler?

I’m talking about an Articulation Manicure!

You pick the target word or consonant cluster. Your student can choose a color of play dough.

This is a smash mat for speech therapy that targets articulation. S blends (SM words) are pictured

Your student says the target word, then covers that nail.

Eventually, your student will have said each target word for articulation drill practice, and the manicure will be complete!

As a warning, your students will ask to complete this activity over and over again! It’s that much fun.

Dinosaur S-Blend Articulation Worksheets

Do you have students who love dinosaurs? Or maybe you’re trying to do a dinosaur theme in speech therapy?

Either way, you’ll want to check out these Dinosaur Articulation Worksheets

They target a variety of s blends, r blends, and l blends in the initial position of words. S-blends targeted include sk, sl, st, sm, sn, sp, and sw. 

You will simply print out the page with the target speech sound. For example, if your student is working on sm words in speech therapy, you would print out that specific page.

Your student says the word on each space in order to make it to the fossil.

You can use these pages with crayons, markers, daubers, paint, mini erasers, or a magnetic wand and chips. All of these are motivating options for students! 

This is an articulation worksheet with a dinosaur theme that targets s-blends (initial sm words).

Santia S. reviewed, “Very cute addition to my dinosaur theme materials!  I appreciate the low-ink consideration and like the inclusion of the vocabulary teaching material about paleontologists.”

My students in particular love using glitter daubers and switching out colors for each target word. By the end of the session, we have practiced the target words several times. As a bonus, I get to send home this articulation worksheet for carryover practice! 

No Prep S Blend Worksheets for Older Students

A middle school student could practice s blends with these no prep worksheets for articulation therapy. A variety of speech sounds and consonant clusters are targeted. There are initial s blends, medial s blends, final s blends, initial s, medial s, and final s, in addition to other sounds. 

These unique “challenge” articulation worksheets are perfect for your older students. Many students at this age are very competitive, so try using that to your advantage during articulation drill!

Here’s how it works. You print out the page that targets a sound in a specific word position. For example, your student might be practicing sm words, so you would print out the page targeting mixed initial s blends.

Your student has to practice “typing” the word onto the keyboard on the printed page (*this isn’t a digital activity), then practice saying the word. 

This no prep articulation worksheet for upper elementary and middle school speech therapy worksheets targets s blends.

Jane B. reviewed, “Oh gosh – how creative! My students have fun with this, a great way to drill/practice in an interactive way, with no prep! Nice job!”

This articulation drill activity for upper elementary and middle school students is interactive and engaging. It’s a simple way to switch things up during a therapy session. 

Your student could also generate their own phrases or sentences to practice at the phrase level or sentence level. 


In summary, this blog post addresses several ideas for teaching s blends in speech therapy. One method is calling the “s” sound the “snake sound”. A speech-language pathologist could trace her finger down her arm while modeling the “s” sound.  It also provides a definition for a phonological disorder and specifically addresses consonant cluster reduction. There are several recommended sm words speech therapy activities to try with your articulation and phonology students! These activities and worksheets are interactive and fun for children of a variety of ages. They could be used in individual or small group therapy sessions.

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