Articulation, Materials, Therapy Ideas

Moving from Sounds in Isolation to Syllables!

Recently, I felt like I had an influx of students who were finally stimulable on some new sounds! Yay! Except… I suddenly had an incredibly difficult time getting them to produce these sounds when combined with a vowel in syllables. Here’s my tips and tricks for moving from making sounds in isolation to working on the syllable level! My Visual Syllable Web product is shown throughout this blog post. Click here to check the product out in my TpT store!


Try the tips below for students stuck at the isolation level! I tend to have the most difficulty moving to syllables with students who demonstrate the phonological process of stopping! Getting these students to produce sounds like /f/ can be incredibly tricky and frustrating!

Step One: Produce the sound in isolation 20-30 times with no errors.

First things first. I do not begin to target syllables until the child can say the sound in isolation 20-30 times in a row with minimal cues and no errors. Can they do this? Good. Time for some syllable work!

Step Two: Produce the sound with the vowel “ah”, segmented apart significantly.

“Ah” is always the first vowel I teach because it’s a short vowel and a simple, early developing vowel! This leads to increased early success and less frustration! To begin CV words, I touch the inner circle (e.g., /d/), lift up my hand, and touch the vowel circle (e.g., “ah”), making sure to put a significant gap between the two sounds.


Step Three: Produce the sound with other vowels, segmented apart significantly.

To target this level, I like to have my students sort cards containing the various vowel sounds while practicing (see the picture above). We touch each circle (e.g., “p”—“ay”) and practice the CV words segmented apart, sometimes with up to a second gap between the two sounds. The cards shown in this picture are from my Cycles for Phonology Toolkit product.

Step Four: Produce the sound with the vowel “ah”,  segmented apart slightly.

For this step, we start dragging out fingers between the circles, pausing slightly in the middle. This pause time should be decreasing significant at this level! Note: Some students may need to add an /h/ in between the consonant and vowel. Read the extra tips and tricks section below if you think your student would benefit from this extra support!

Step Five: Produce the sound with other vowels, segmented apart slightly.

Step Six: Produce the sound blended with the vowel “ah”.

Now it’s time to drag your finger from one circle to the other with NO pause time. Smoothly produce the CV word as one unit! With students who have difficulty doing this, I’ve had some success actually having them practice saying the CV word faster so they don’t overthink it.


Step Seven: Produce the sound blended with other vowels.

At this point, you should have your students go around the entire circle and practice the sounds in a variety of CV syllables!

As a note, for some sounds, like /k/, I have more success starting with VC words! Try this if you’re stuck in a rut! Just start on an outer vowel circle (e.g., “ah”) and work your way into the middle circle (e.g., /k/) producing a VC word instead (e.g., ah-k!).

Having the same struggle with students on your caseload? Click here to check out my Visual Syllable Webs product in my TpT store! It has helped my students visualize HOW to make the sounds, taking part of the load off and letting them focus where it’s needed! It’s also SUPER fun to put these visuals in dry erase sleeves, to laminate them, or to put them in clear binder sheet covers and use them with dry erase markers and Playdoh! My students love squishing Playdoh on the vowels as they go around the circle!

Need extra tips for those tricky phonological students who demonstrate “stopping”? Try these tips below:

1) Add an /h/ in between the consonant and vowel! Instead of “sun”, try getting them to produce “s-hun” as a middle step.

2) Make sure they can discriminate between the two! I once made this mistake. I worked and worked on syllables with a student who wasn’t discriminating. Lesson learned, I’ll never do that again!! I like to draw a stick figure girl (I’m NOT an artist) who I call “Sue”, and then a pot of “stew”. I have the child point to the word I’m saying. Once they can do this, I have them say it and I point to the word they are saying. They catch on quickly that they need to get rid of that /t/!

3) Emphasizing an open mouth posture for the vowel. Sometimes I like to have them “trap” their tongue as they open their mouth to produce the vowel! They think this is funny and it keeps their tongue low and unable to produce that dreaded /t/!

How do you target CV and VC words? What sounds do you find the most difficult to get students to add on that vowel? I’d love to hear!

{thanks for reading}

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18 Comment

  1. Reply
    March 13, 2016 at 8:35 PM

    Usually I find with my population the final stops because they add the Schwa or initial affricates

  2. Reply
    March 13, 2016 at 10:06 PM

    One thing that’s really worked for me with kids that stop F is adding an “h” sound while they’re practicing transitioning to the vowel – so they practice something like “fha”, “fho”, “fhee” etc. Eventually we fade the “h” out. I don’t need to do this with all of the kids practicing F but I find it really benefits the ones that might insert a “p” after “f” (ex. say “fpa” instead of “fa”). Inserting the “h” tends to counteract their tendency to stop the airflow for “p” after saying “f.” I find stopping the easiest process to get rid off; the hardest is probably FCD.

  3. Reply
    March 13, 2016 at 10:36 PM

    I do what Andrea mentioned for f and add an h before the vowel since some students add a p between the f and vowel. Its also easy to hold the f sound then add a slight break and ease from h to a vowel (fff-ha) I found its way easiest to fade the added h than when they add a p!

  4. Reply
    March 14, 2016 at 6:55 AM

    Wow, I love this step by step process and love the tips above about the h! Will definitely use these in the future.

  5. Reply
    March 14, 2016 at 8:44 AM

    Great tips! I am having a difficult time getting a preschooler to lose the “gap” time. He is working on f and he can only do it if he separates the f from rest of word. I have tried visuals and tactile cues to get him to put the word together with no luck. Any ideas?

    1. Reply
      March 14, 2016 at 8:47 PM

      My first go to would be visuals too. Maybe sliding my hand or finger on the table as I say F and the vowel together. And then having the child do the same action and say the sounds with me. If they make a gap stop your hand so they see they’re not keeping the airflow going. Or having a picture for F and one for the vowel – say the 2 separately and then move the pictures closer together and say the sounds with less of a gap between them until there’s no gap (between the sounds and the pictures). You could also try saying the sounds slower and stretching them out or saying them faster in a chant (ex. fee fi fo fum…). Different strategies work for different kids so just keep trying until you find something that works!

  6. Reply
    March 14, 2016 at 9:44 AM

    My students struggle with final stops and velars the most. The add the schwa to the stops or front the velar sounds and have great difficulty working on changing their placement.

  7. Reply
    Kim Hovey
    March 14, 2016 at 11:40 AM

    I do something very similar, but have the students push foam letters for the target consonant in and out of the circles for CV or VC. I have also found that Caroline Bowden’s s/h and f/h minimal pairs work well for stopping. Hand gets blended to sand, for example. And very strangely, I have found that prolonging the vowel sound (instead of the initial consonant) helps tremendously with getting that long sound in the initial position (f-aaaaan instead of ffffff-an).

  8. Reply
    March 14, 2016 at 2:51 PM

    Hi Shannon, great post and dialogue on the key points needed to move from ISO to syllable. Good information for new and seasoned students.

  9. Reply
    March 14, 2016 at 2:53 PM

    It is difficult for some of my students to get a vowel after the /k/ sound. Sometimes we have to practice pausing between /k/ and the vowel for a while before they can produce the 2 sounds together. I think your visuals would be really helpful.

    1. Reply
      March 20, 2016 at 2:13 PM

      I agree! Thanks for commenting! Email me at and I’ll send the product over! 🙂

  10. Reply
    March 15, 2016 at 8:46 PM

    Love your step by step method. I typically jump from producing the sound in isolation to the word level, but I will have to try using your method. I’m sure it will work well for some of my more severe students! Thank you!

  11. Reply
    March 15, 2016 at 10:32 PM

    I recently started using Nancy Kaufman’s KLSP deck 1 for some of my more severe phonological kiddos. The visuals and successive approximation techniques are helpful!! I’d love to win your product!

  12. Reply
    jen rodriguez
    March 15, 2016 at 10:44 PM

    would love to use this with some of my kiddos!!

  13. Reply
    March 15, 2016 at 11:28 PM

    Great information. I wish I could make something like this!

  14. Reply
    March 16, 2016 at 12:22 PM

    Oh I love these sheets! I have so many kids that need visuals and i’ve found it hard to use visuals at the syllable level. This is great!

  15. Reply
    March 24, 2016 at 10:45 AM

    I use a similar visual with my kiddos but I tend to write it out each time. Great idea to have the mouth visuals 🙂

  16. Reply
    March 19, 2017 at 9:21 AM

    One of my kiddos consistently voices /p/ (so it becomes /b/) at even the syllable level. Really hoping this will be helpful for him. Right now we are segmenting significantly but he gets quite frustrated :\

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