These documents offer naturalistic play activities that provide multiple opportunities for practicing the ten most complex English clusters: /θr-/, /fl-/, /fr-/, /sl-/, /ʃr-/, /str-/, /skr-/, /spr-/, /skw-/ and /spl-/. Research has demonstrated that teaching complex clusters leads to global changes for children with phonological disorders (Gierut & Champion, 2001; Gierut, 2007). SLPs can find supporting resources on SLPath for cluster treatment. In particular, please note that studies have suggested that three-element clusters (i.e., /skr-/, /spr-/, /str-/, /spl-/, /skw-/) should only be taught if the child has the second and third consonants in his/her phonemic inventory. For example, if treatment targets /skr-/, the child should already have /k/ and /r/ in his/her phonemic inventory. (No previous knowledge of /s/ is required.) For more information about these principles and references, please visit the Sonority Sequencing Principle for Clusters page.

If the child's phonemic inventory does not permit targeting three-element clusters, the next most powerful targets include complex two-element clusters (i.e., /θr-/, /fl-/, /fr-/, /sl-/, /ʃr-/). Studies have demonstrated that these two-element clusters also lead to significant changes for treated and untreated sounds. Furthermore, if treatment targets /θr-/, /fl-/, /fr-/, /sl-/, /ʃr-/, the child does not need to know either sound prior to treatment. For example, if /fl-/ is treated, previous knowledge of /f/ or /l/ is not required. For more information on choosing ideal treatment targets and references, please visit the Phonological Assessment & Treatment Targets page.

Cluster-Specific Activities

The following pages feature activities for specific clusters and suggested treatment words (shown in italics). Many activities may also work for other cluster targets. For example, "fling" and "flung" could be targets instead of "throw" and "threw." Additionally, it should be noted that targets with word-final affricates (e.g., scratch) and liquids (e.g., square) were avoided because these sounds are frequently missing from the sound inventories of children with phonological disorders.

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Embedded Practice

Many SLPs and SLPAs pick up students and then walk to the speech/language office. This is a prime opportunity for embedded meaningful practice of complex clusters or singletons. Treatment intensity studies suggest that children require many trials per session to master the motor sequence, to produce the targets for the purpose of communication, and to increase their knowledge about the entire sound system (treated and untreated sounds). A definitive study regarding the number of trials has not been published yet. In the meantime, we should elicit trials across contexts whenever possible. This document offers ​six fun suggestions for eliciting meaningful practice during transitions.

Songs Featuring Complex Clusters

During treatment, kids may enjoy songs loaded with target clusters. For example, Raffi’s two songs, The More We Get Together and Five Little Frogs, include multiple repetitions of /fr-/ targets. This document includes songs (some well known and others more obscure like "Shrimp Glockenspiel") that feature complex clusters. Additional songs provide meaningful practice of other complex clusters. Thank you to Prudence Prince, SLPA extraordinaire, for collaborating with me to create this list.