Choose Your Words

Raise your hand if you’ve ever grabbed an articulation deck just because it had the phoneme you were targeting on the front of the box. Me- I’m guilty, and I know better. I think many of us are, but why? Is it because articulation decks are easily accessible and it’s what our districts have purchased for us? Is it because they look kind of cute and fun?

In the decks we grab off the shelf, why is shell selected over short? Both target /sh/ in the initial position of one syllable words, so what’s the difference? Evidence based practice is the difference. Target selection matters and the literature continues to support the use of high-frequency, low-density words when we choose words to target in therapy. 

This is what we know from the literature…

  • Treatment of high frequency, low density words resulted in generalization effects that were greater than by chance (Morrisette & Gierut, 2002). 
    • Word frequency refers to the number of times a particular word occurs in a language. 
    • Neighborhood density is defined as the number of words that minimally differ in phonetic structure from a given word as based on a one-phoneme substitution, addition, or deletion (e.g., rock, ache, cake, and break are neighbors of rake). 
  • High frequency words as targets in treatment resulted in system wide improvements in children’s phonologies, spanning treated and untreated sounds within and across classes (Morrisette & Gierut, 2002). 
  • The results from Morrisette & Gierut, 2002 may be used explicitly to plan for generalization in treatment. 

You guys, shell is not on the high frequency, low density list! It didn’t even make the high frequency list. The thing is, we don’t say shell very much in our day-to-day exchanges.

Below are resources I have created that contain high frequency, low density words. Check them out and let me know what you think!

Download High Frequency Word Lists and Picture Cards Here

Get your /sh/ Freebie Here


Morrisette, M.L., Gierut, J.A. (2002). Lexical organization and phonological change in treatment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 45 (1), 143-159. 

Storkel, H.L., & Morrisette, M.L. (2002). The lexicon and phonology. Interactions in language acquisition. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 33, 24-37. 

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  1. Pingback: Distance Learning & No Print /r/ – Speech Rambles

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