Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The good ole Popsicle Stick...How do I use it?

Last year, Kelly over at Speech2U inspired me to write about 3 ways to use popsicle sticks and tongue depressors in therapy (besides the obvious of holding popsicles and depressing tongues of course!).  

Now Miss Speechie at Speech Time Fun is linking up for more popsicle stick fun! 

 You know you all have these hiding away in a cabinet :)
So here's how I use them...

1) Make-a-Rainbow (DIY) STICK GAME! 

This is one of my very favorite ways to use tongue depressors that I have blogged about before. 
It's great for reading practice, speech practice, basic reading comprehension, and reasoning. 
You can read all about how to make and and use it HERE and catch the freebie to use for the DIY in my store by clicking HERE

2) A Twist on the French Fry Articulation Game! 

There are loads of french fry artic games out there- this is my version- super simple and amazingly irresistable to kids....

First you have to convince some nice person at McDonald's to hook you up with some free french fry containers. 
Disclaimer: This is not as easy as it sounds! 

I like the little baby french fry containers that you get in a happy meal these days.  
Sidenote: my own children are grown so I hadn't ordered a happy meal in years. 
When I saw these baby fry containers a few months ago....well, first I thought it was the Happy Meal toy..... then I thought it was a joke.  
 I LOL'd for real.  
Now that the shock has worn off, I just think they're just too cute so I tried to score some. 
Not easy. 
I even offered to pay for them but it was a NO GO for some of these hardcore McD employees.  
It took me a few tries to find a nice McDonald's employee to give me some.  One resistant cashier only gave me three but then I hit the motherload one day when one of the cashiers recognized me as someone who worked at her elementary school. OH YEAH!  
(see motherload below!) 

Kids cannot resist these- just the thought of french fries at school makes them happy.                                        

Honestly, it makes me happy, too.   
To play is simple.  Each child gets a container.  They spin the spinner to see how many times they have to say their sound, word, phrase or sentence and that's also the number of "french fries" they get to put in their container.

Either when a timer rings, you run out of popsicle sticks or the session is over, the child with the most sticks wins! 

Easy, peasy and motivating!
 I can get TONS of drill knocked out using this!
3)  Mustache in the Mirror
Ok is it me or do kids just NOT focus on themselves in the mirror??? When I'm trying to work on articulator placement, I whip out my mirror.  We are SLPs.  We ALL USE THE MIRROR.   Why oh why don't kids LOOK in them!?   The look at me, they look at each other, they look all over the room.  I could NOT for the life of me get them to focus on their face in the mirror let alone their mouth.  Problem solved...

I put paper mustaches on popsicle sticks and now they LOVE looking at themselves in the mirror. They look right at their mouths like I've been dreaming of!! These mustaches are magic I tell you!! Most of the little ones beg to bring them home, too.   

4) Articulation Cans 

Since my kids LOVE to play the pick a stick rainbow game so much, I decided to make more activities with sticks.   I am getting bored to death of using articulation cards and having students repeat sounds targets.  I decided to create articulation cans- cans full of sticks with target sounds pictures on them to use for therapy. I found about ten thousand tongue depressors in my cabinets when I moved rooms over the summer so this activity made good use of those! 

Did you catch the blond cutie pie above?  She happens to be my friend's daughter (which is why I have permission to post her picture) and her grandfather owns a paint store.  Her "Pops" gave me a couple dozen pint paint cans.  I used to use them as part of my behavior incentive system but now they are my articulation cans.  

Here's how I made the articulation cans and how I use them: 

1) I wrapped the cans with pretty paper.  If you don't have "connections" at the paint store, you can buy these for mere cents at any paint store.  If you give a sob story about them being for your classroom,  the store may even donate them! 

2) I made myself some cute labels. You can have them, too.  (more on that in a minute). I decided to combine sounds in one can (like k/ and /g/, /d/ and /t/, etc) so that I didn't need so many cans. 

3) Then I made little tongue depressor sized pictures for each phoneme (and blends). 

I laminated them (not really necessary) and ran them through my zyron machine to add adhesive to the back of them. 
It's just easier than adding adhesive to each one.  
Then I cut out the little tongue depressor sized pictures. 

I cannot tell a lie.  It took a long time. 
I did it while watching reality TV (guilty pleasure) . 
Also,  somehow I find cutting lamination therapuetic. 
{ Is it just me ? } 

I learned that there are 2 different sizes of tongue depressors.  These fit the slightly larger ones.  Mine were the smaller variety so I just cut these a little toward the inside of the line.  

Then I stuck them on my tongue depressors ! Voila! 
There are sticks for /r/, vocalic r, /r/ blends, /s/, /z/, /s/ blends, sh, ch, j, /l/, /l /blends, /k/, /g/, /f/, /v/, /t/, /d/, /b/, and /p/. Whew. 


Back at the ranch (my speech room).....
I slapped my labels on my cans and plopped the phoneme sticks in the corresponding cans! 
(oh you can have the cute sign, too.) 

Here is how I have used them so far: 

1) Students come in and grab their can.  The sticks inside will be their target words for therapy that day rather than me calling out words or flipping sound cards.  I will tell you it got a little "clangy" so I put a little swatch of fabric in each can and that took care of that.  Students either said the word represented on the stick or they made a sentences, etc, according to which level they are working on. 

2) While I drill with other students in the group, I have the students who are waiting their turn pick sticks and sort them by initial, medial and final sounds. Good for building phonemic awareness and for getting them thinking about which part of the word they need to focus on when it's their turn to try that word! They just plop each stick in the corresponding square of their paper.  Keeps hands and brains busy!

OR for students who can write, they can pick sticks while they wait and write a sentence about each stick. Then they can take it home for speech homework! 

3) Finally, I can use these as a ticket out the door.  After therapy is over, as the kids leave my room, they pick one stick from their sound can- one last chance to show of their skills! 

I've also had so so so many wonderful messages from SLPs all over the country telling me they use these for storytelling, vocabulary, sentence building and more! Wow! Wish I had thought of that first!  You can read the feedback at my TPT store to learn more 

If you want to try the articulation cans, and grab everything you need to make them (except the tongue depressors, cans, and the paper to wrap around them) just click HERE  

AND due to popular demand, I now have an expansion pack for the articulation cans- more sounds and more than double the sticks! 220 MORE ARTIC sticks!! I don't know what I'd do without mine now that I've been using them since August! 

Thanks Kelly for inspiring my original post and thanks to Miss Speechie for the fun linky party. Read more about how other awesome SLPs use popsicle sticks in their therapy rooms here. 

Happy therapizing!


  1. I love your creativity! I think every one of these ideas is great. If I can get everything together my students will be playing the Make-a-Rainbow Stick Game next week. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Did you use regular paper or cardstock for the articulation cans?


Jasper Roberts Consulting - Widget