Inexpensive Speech Therapy or Classroom Material to Promote Active Participation

Sometimes the best materials are ones that are inexpensive, readily available and easy to use. I am someone who is never without her cup filled with water and a straw. 

I have straws stored at home, in the car and at school so I always have a ready supply. They are very inexpensive, colorful and durable. I love using them as an easy way to make treatment active.

I use them to make easy puppets for some of the songs and poems I use in therapy.

5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed


5 Little Snowflakes

The students use their puppets to sing and say the poems in class.

5 Little Snowflakes Interactive Differentiated

Another way to use these tools is to do it in articulation therapy. I like to use them to work on auditory discrimination and self-monitoring skills. I have the student indicate ‘old way’ ‘new way’. This could be when listening to the clinician say the sound correctly and then incorrectly or when the child is doing practice indicating whether the sound is being produced in the ‘old way’ or the ‘new way’. As they are essentially raising a paddle to indicate it, this does not take much time and allows the repetition drill to proceed. It also allows you to take data both of correct production and self-monitoring skills. You can stop the student when you are seeing that they are incorrectly indicating the production. This can focus the student on really listening especially when doing multiple repetitions.

I like the student to be involved in the selection of the material so that the ‘old way’ and ‘new way’ pictures are personally relevant. The below example was used for a nine-year-old that was working on his /s/ sounds. He was an avid tennis player so the use of an old tennis ball and a new tennis ball worked well. I have also had children chose a villain and a hero for the old way and new way.  For this activity, I do like to choose the colors of the straws with red being the old way and green being the symbol of the new way. This color coding is helpful for when the pictures are turned around or when it might not be obvious to the family which is the correct and incorrect pictures (sometimes the children’s choice of pictures can be obscure). This is a great home to school activity especially when it is the parent’s production that is being monitored. Often families want to know what they can do to spur a student’s success especially at the beginning of treatment. As the child may not be able to correctly produce the sound in any position having them practice at home can be counterintuitive. However, having the student listen to correct productions or a combination of correct and incorrect production can be a helpful exercise. As this material is so inexpensive you can easily send it home and not be worried that it is not returned.

New Way, Old Way
Articulation therapy


Another way that is really fun to do is to use the straws with pictures as a paddle or a silent indicator that a student has discovered something. For some reason holding up a paddle is more exciting than just raising your hand. I recently had a class indicate when they heard elements of a fairy tale as I read the story ” The Gingerbread Man”.  This was during the holiday season a typical time that students begin to have difficulty in active listening, however when given a task while listening I had their rapt attention. The children would raise the wand when they heard an element and I was able to again acknowledge silently that they were correct without stopping the flow of the story. Once I finished my sentence or passage I was then able to ask those that had raised their want what was the feature that they heard allowing me to reinforce the story elements in a natural way.

Fairytale wand
Story Element Paddle

Gingerbread Man Book Companion


What are some of you inexpensive therapy tools that you love?

Have you used straws in another way?


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