Sunday, September 23, 2018

What's in a Theme? An Awful Lot, Actually.

Thematic teaching is used extensively in education in general and speech-language therapy in particular.  Using books and activities that revolve around a single specific topic allows for focused intervention on a specific group of vocabulary and concepts and provision of multiple opportunities for learning.  

Given that our AAC users need many more opportunities for learning and receive far fewer life experiences, thematic activities can provide activities that relate to real life experiences and and build on what they know.  Themes can help make connections between what students read and hear with what they do.  Keeping the vocabulary consistent is much more strategic than providing students with random word lists. And making activities interactive keeps students more engaged.

One of my most recent ventures in resource creation is thematic resources, which fcus on core words and relevant fringe vocabulary for common themes and topics.  I began with a Summer-Beach theme, and moved on to Fall and Winter, and am currently working on Fire Safety.

Each resource has vocabulary cards featuring both core and fringe for the theme, practice with finding said vocabulary in the AAC system, extending the vocabulary practice with a variety of games and printables, and using the words in writing activities, flip books, and a lap book that ties it all together.  Also in the resource are Wh questions, BINGO cards, and sentence building activities.

But obviously, even multiple activities using the same vocabulary repeatedly can’t offer all that is needed for students to “own” the words.  

So, what can parents and other partners do to help?  Here are some simple Fall activities for extending the learning:

  1. Look at or gather a variety of leaves. “Look!”  “I like that.”  “Do you see?”  “Pick up.”  “Make pile.”  “Jump in!” These are all core word phrases that can be modeled.
  2. At this time of year, you might see all sorts of great colors, depending on where you live. “What color?” “Red.” (etc.) “Look at that.”  “Pretty.”  “Different.”
  3. Headed to the pumpkin patch?  “Which one?”  “That one.” “Big one.” “Little one.” “Different.”  Also: round, bumpy, rough, smooth, orange.
  4. Thinking about going apple picking? You can even do that at the grocery store. Or try painting some. Again, you can talk about colors, about being the same or different. About being hard or soft, big or little, mine or yours, and having more or less.
  5. Drive or walk around the neighborhood looking at Halloween decorations. Are they funny or scary? Spooky or pretty? Do you like them or not?
  6. Practice sentences where ever you go for Fall fun. “I see big pumpkins.”  “I see apples.” “She is jumping.” “Do more!”

Enjoy this wonderful season and………keep on talking!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

What Are You Reading? Back to School Read Aloud and Shared Reading Ideas

It’s official. Everyone is back to school.  Many have mixed feelings about school starting.  Staff have a crazy starting routine, with getting to know new students, organizing schedules, and making lesson plans.  

When I was working for a school district, I had 78 students in 4 different schools, and scheduling was a nightmare.  Fortunately, so much of what I did was working with stories, that I could pull out the relevant books and get going.

Books are amazing therapy resources, and perfect for any classroom.  Use the required reading list, the books teachers are using, or select your own.  My collection was divided by grade and “theme.”  Some were typical themes; like food, family, and seasons.  Others, however, focused on point of view, voice, and prediction.

For back to school, there are 2 books in particular I’ve been using the past couple of years; “I’m Your Bus,” and “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”  

“I’m Your Bus,” by Marilyn Singer, is perfect for back to school time.  The book focuses on what the school bus does, but it’s simple to extrapolate once the bus arrives at school.  Create sequences for your school’s routine.  Discuss the people and places the bus passes  on its way to school.

The book is also great for phonological awareness skills, as it contains rhyme. And use the long list of vocabulary words found in the story to segment syllables.  You can download that worksheet here, just drag and drop the image onto your desktop.

The other book I love is “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” by Mark Teague. He’s a great author for kids.  And this story allows you to dig deep into some aspects of real/not real and hyperbole, or exaggeration.  It’s a modern “Tall Tale.”  And, it also uses lots of rhyme, so keep on working on those phonological awareness skills.

The boy’s story is this: His parents wanted him to have a quiet vacation but he was captured by cowboys (wherein all sorts of things happened).  So, he got to his aunt’s house finally but the cattle stampeded, so he used a tablecloth like a matador and saved everyone.
That’s the really, really condensed version.

Both of these books, which are wildly different from each other in terms of structure and complexity, both offer many opportunities to work on building language skills.  Enjoy these 2 free phonological awareness worksheets and, if you’re interested in language-based materials for these two books, ride on over to my TpT store for the full resources.

And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram, where I’ll be giving away books and other goodies as I clean out my office after 40 years as a SLP.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Are You Planning a Great Year for Your AAC Users? Here's Some Help

It’s back to school time for many of you, either for yourselves as staff or your children as students. Either way, it’s a whole lot of new this time of year.

A year or two ago, I posted a back to school planning guide for AAC.  If you haven’t grabbed it before, you can get it here. 

Many more SLPs are facing caseloads with AAC users/nonspeaking students or clients than ever before.  As AAC becomes more and more mainstream we are getting better at getting systems into the hands of the individuals who need them.

However, not all SLPs are comfortable with implementing AAC.  So many graduate programs do not offer coursework in AAC and, as it is not a required course for certification, SLPs often have little or no idea of where to start.

Emerging AAC users need lots and lots of modeling to learn to use AAC.  I have written - and spoken - a lot about using Aided Language Stimulation.  While the practice was discussed as far back as the 1980’s, many of us did not recognize that in order to implement AAC instruction we needed to be doing this all of the time.

Even more experienced AAC users need continued Aided Input (AI) to support expanding utterances, support for a variety of functions, and activities that expand syntax, morphology, and lexicon.

In my planning guide, you will find suggested planning for using Aided Language Stimulation (ALgS) in several activities students tend to like.  There is also a blank planning page that you can use over and over as you become comfortable with using ALgS.

Have a great school year!  And…. keep on talking.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

How Do You Know What They Know? Assessments in AAC

Next Friday, August 31, 2018, I will be doing a webinar over at XceptionalEd on conducting AAC evaluations and making system recommendations.  The best part? It’s free if you catch the live presentation.  On-demand after the webinar airs live, the cost will be $45. for the 90 minute training.  And, XceptionalEd is a CEU provider, so you can get those hours.

What do I talk about in this training?  I try to give SLPs a cost-effective way to get the information they need about the individual they are assessing.  How are their language skills? Which symbols do they respond to the best, if any? How does their vision  determine symbol size and array size?  How do you get all of this information during the assessment session?  And lots more.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Let Your Students Talk in Class!

Summer is winding down, summer vacations are all but over, and students are headed back to school.  I’m working on slowing down and cleaning out.  I’ve closed my practice and am only available to a few long-time clients.  My book is written and with an editor, and the only thing on my plate - besides reading and making art - is making resources for SLPs; especially AAC materials.  And, of course, continuing to bring you information, techniques, tips, and free stuff.

With that said, while I don’t like to use my blog to sell my resources, I thought I’d catch you up on what I have been continuing to work on and make it more palatable by including a freebie.

In an attempt to offer resources for building language skills - including syntax and morphology - I am continuing my AAC Users Maximize Morphology series with More Possessives.  It’s in the works now and should be available shortly.

I am also continuing my newly developed themes for AAC (and for any students with limited expressive language skills).  Fall, Winter, and Summer are completed and in my TpT store.  I’m taking a quick break from seasonal words and working now on fire safety.

Let me also take this chance to remind you that last year I uploaded a free planning guide for AAC intervention. If you don’t already have it, you can download it here.

Another project for me is updating many of my AAC resources with clip art more suitable for older students.  I have just updated the 10 Weeks to 40 Core Words resource, which has been a big hit, with teen clip art.

So, I think I have enough to keep my busy for a while.
But, as always, if you have any specific requests, leave me a comment and I’ll do my best.

So, where to begin this new school year with new - or not so new - AAC users?  I always say, “Start at the beginning. Use Aided Input.”  This holds true for brand new AAC users, as well as those who have been using AAC for a while.  As long as your AAC user does not have age appropriate language skills, you should continue to model more complex language.

Looking for a role play activity for your older AAC users?  How about a game of Jail Break?  This is the older version of my Barn Break activity from 10 Weeks to 40 Core Words.  You can download it here
Have fun, and have a great year of communicating!

As always, Keep on Talking.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Are You Listening?

Yes, I am still taking July off from blogging, but I wanted to give you something to think about while you're waiting for more awesome posts.  So, here is the latest interview with me on the Talking with Tech Podcast.

Enjoy!  And.... keep on talking.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Surf's Up! Can I Hear You Over the Waves?

Summer is officially (almost) here.  Most school districts are done for the year, the days are getting longer and lighter, and I heard the sound of the ice cream man's truck las weekend. And just a few days to go until the Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted links to my free activities for talking over the school break.  I've decided to take a break, too, from blogging for the next month and a half. I'll be back in August, as everyone gets back to school.  

But before I go, I thought I'd post one more idea for keeping kids communicating over the summer.  As you head to the beach, grab this idea along with the sunblock, and have fun in the surf and sand. This is a sample page, but there is also a core-word based communication board for fun at the beach, and more suggestions.

Have a great summer and, remember,.............Keep on talking!