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  • Writer's pictureStacy Crouse

Using Digital Annotation with Speech Therapy Activities

If your speech therapy students sink a little lower in their chairs when you hand them a worksheet, maybe it’s time to bring something new to the table... literally! A digital annotation activity might be just what you need to reignite your students' enthusiasm.


What is Digital Annotation?

Annotation brings a new and exciting type of interaction to speech therapy activities. On a device, annotating means digitally writing or drawing on a document, just as you would on a printed worksheet. It overlays the new layer right on top of what's already there. In other words, it's speech therapy magic 😉


Annotating digital files (such as PDFs) opens up tons of possibilities for SLPs to utilize an iPad or computer for speech therapy activities. Digital annotation includes abilities such as...

  • Inserting text boxes

  • Drawing lines or shapes

  • Highlighting text that's already present

  • Adding digital "sticky notes"


While programs differ in which annotation tools are available, most have basic tools such as a marker or pencil, shapes, and text. Many give you the option to change the line color, thickness, and transparency. In some programs, you can insert your own photos or icons as "stamps" on the PDF.


Examples of Annotating Speech Therapy Activities

Many SLPs are so over wasting tons of ink, paper, and time with paper-based activities and are turning to digital speech therapy activities. But all is not lost with those PDF activities– they can be opened on a device and used digitally! In this example, students use annotation to draw circles around the articulation targets on the page.


An articulation activity being annotated on a computer in a speech therapy session

A downloaded passage (from a website like ReadWorks) can be annotated by students as well. For example, the student could identify the context clues in the passage by digitally highlighting them.


In the activity below, annotation tools are used on an iPad app to follow multi-element directions by drawing shapes of different colors.


A following directions activity being annotated using an iPad app in speech therapy

How Can PDFs be Digitally Annotated in Speech Therapy?

Basic digital annotation is readily available on iPads, laptops, and desktops... usually at no cost! Most often, you'll be annotating PDF documents. Using a digital device, you can open them and use the available tools to do things like answer questions, underline or highlight words, or draw shapes or pictures.


iPad Apps for Annotation

There are tons of apps for viewing PDFs on an iPad, and most of them include some annotation tools. Apple's Books app (which comes free on iPads) can be used for some basic digital annotation.


An SLP and a student using an iPad to annotate a PDF activity in a speech therapy session

PDF Computer Software

On computers, Adobe Reader is a popular (and free!) software for viewing and annotation PDFs on both PCs and Macs. Preview is the PDF software that generally comes on Mac computers.


SLPs that have a smartboard can also use them to project and annotate a PDF in speech therapy sessions.


Teletherapy Platforms

Most teletherapy platforms have built-in whiteboard tools that allow the participants to draw or type on a document that's loaded within the platform. Additionally, teletherapists can screen share and grant mouse control to a PDF reader software (such as Adobe Reader).


Digitally annotating on iPads, computers, and smartboards is a great way to bring otherwise snooze-worthy speech therapy activities to life. Annotation provides an instant therapy activity that doesn’t require any printing or prepping, allowing you to quickly and effortlessly jump right into any number of activities stored on your device.


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