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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ready for a Great New Year?

I just want to post a quick thank you to all of you who read my blog. Thank you for being here.  Know that any time you have a question, please comment and ask. I'll always answer.
Have a safe and happy New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bring on the Books!

I read somewhere that a preschooler spends an average of 5 seconds attending to the words during a read-aloud session. 

This is why it is so important to read story books with good illustrations that relate directly to the text.  And to spend time looking at, pointing out, describing, and building language with those pictures.

Over time, we move from labeling the pictures to describing them, predicting based on them, and retelling through them.  

With preschoolers we often begin with just labels.  By kindergarten age we define those items we’ve labeled by category; i.e. a duck is a bird.  And for 1st graders we add defining by attribute; i.e. a duck is a bird that swims or a tiger is a big cat with stripes.

(Affiliate link following)  
One book whose illustrations mirror and amplify the text is Stone Soup.  There are multiple versions of this old favorite, but I always use the old classic by Marcia Brown.

In all of the versions I’ve seen the illustrations directly refer to the text, its by its as the stone soup is made by the soldiers and villagers.  Using the illustrations to retell the story is easy, as students follow along with the pictures.

With younger students I focus on the spatial concept vocabulary as the villagers retrieve each item to make the soup.   

I can also work on categorization of different food groups, as well as talking about what goes in soup, and what does not.

I play BINGO with the vocabulary, as well as dominoes
With slightly older students I focus on sequencing and retelling.

To get you started, here is a sheet of dominoes and 2 BINGO cards to work on the vocabulary in this classic story.

Remember to keep on talking!

felt effect graphics from Keeping Life Creative, Symbol Stix from News2You 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What's My Second Loudest Battle Cry? Literacy for All (Right After Communication for All)

I did a guest post this past week for Education to the Core.  In it, I talk about one of my favorite subjects - literacy skills for all students; including those with moderate to severe disabilities.  You might want to check it out here.

In school districts, I spend time with teachers showing them how to adapt literature that is age or grade appropriate for their students.  I also create a lot of resources that are adaptations of primary storybooks, and have been adding some Middle School books recently, as well.

By coincidence I’ve just finished a bigger guided reading unit - the first of many, I hope - that adapts a simple folktale for students with a range of skills and needs and provides not just language skills activities like vocabulary, sequencing and retelling; but also word and sentence reading and working with words activities beyond what I usually include in my book adaptations.
I thought I’d give you a little sneak peek here. 

I try to cover a lot of ground and give SLPs and teachers as much background information as I can. I talk about the hierarchy of comprehension questions and Bloom’s Taxonomy, making predictions and answering Wh-questions, and provide a range of “I Can..” posters for your room.

I include vocabulary activities for words that are important and maybe unfamiliar in both the story text and informational text we create about the background topic, some simple reading and predictable chart writing activities, and a variety of sequencing and retelling opportunities.

In addition, Word Work activities include counting words and sounds, sound blending and segmenting, manipulating sounds (changing initial sounds in words), rhyming and word families, initial sound sorting and recognition.

I am hopeful that by expanding the materials I usually present with my book adaptations I can provide more ideas for teachers and SLPs for how to work on literacy and language skills with stories, as well as save them a lot of time by having all those things ready-made.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What Can You Do With a Good Book? Let's Talk About It!

I have always been a sucker for a good book.  As a kid I read non-stop.  I actually had one teacher who told me I was going to ruin my eyes.  Another - a Reading Class teacher - kept running out of books to give me.

Fortunately, I managed to pass that on to my own kids.  My adult daughter's favorite part of graduating from Law School this year?  Time to read books again!
And my hyperactive son would sit still for hours for one thing only - being read to.

When I was a school district SLP in Massachusetts, I worked in a town that had a fabulous independent children's bookstore.  I spent many hours and a few small fortunes there; buying both for my own kids and for my caseload.

I worked mainly with the students in the Language-Based classrooms and almost all of my intervention was literature-based.

I know of many other SLPs who also use children's storybooks in intervention.  A brand new post from Speech Sprouts talks about some of her favorite books for therapy; including Press Here.

If you follow this blog, you know I often talk about books I've used and activities I've created for them for repeated shared readings to build language and literacy skills.  I also include picture communication icons for students who need visual cues in activities, as well as a core word-based communication board for the specific story.

Last week's post featured Max and Mo: Let's Build a Snowman and activity pages for sequencing skills.
This week I thought I'd talk a little bit about You Will Be My Friend by Peter Brown. (This post contains an affiliate link).

In this book, Lucille Beatrice Bear wakes up one day and sets out to make a new friend.  There are lots of opportunities for both laughs and lessons as you read about her friend-making strategies.  And of course a lesson as the end.

I take the time to stop after each episode and talk with students about how Lucille tried to make friends with each animal in turn, what happened, what went wrong.  I work with students with significant disabilities these days, so this takes some time, support, visual cues, and scaffolding.
I provide lots of visual cues and cause-effect maps.

If you want to check out the book, click on the Amazon link above.  It's a big hit!
If you'd like to look at my resource to go with the book, click on this link to go to my TPT store to see it.
And if you'd just like to try my comprehension questions for the story, just drag these from this post onto your desktop.

Until next week, Keep on Talking!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Can You Make a Snowman?

In many parts of the country it is a cold and snowy winter.  I have to admit that I do not miss the snow, and am dreading the amount of rain we’ve been told is coming this winter.
But kids rarely dislike the snow.  It is fun to play in, great for sledding, and you get hot chocolate when you come inside. What could be bad?

Making a snowman is a favorite activity for kids in the winter.  Almost everyone knows how to make a snowman.   But can they tell someone else how to make one? Can they articulate the steps?

A fun book for young children is Max and Mo: Let’s Build a Snowman, by Patricia Lakin.
(Note; this post contains an affiliate link)

It is an early reader book about two hamsters making a snowman in the classroom (where they are the class pets) while the students are outside playing in the “real” snow.

There are a number of language elements you can address with this story; including a number of sequencing opportunities.

I have a series of 5 shared/guided reading/speech-language therapy lessons based on the story, including fact/fiction (can hamsters really cut and paste?), comparative adjectives (snowmen are made from big, bigger and biggest balls of snow), sequencing steps, and story retelling.

On the first day or session, I do a picture walk.  I talk about the weather, what the illustrations tell us about the book and the events in the story.  I talk about what activities are appropriate for different seasons, and what the students like to do when it snows (if, in fact, the students here in the warm climate have experienced snow).  Then after reading the story, we sort activities by “winter” and “not winter” (or each of the other seasons).

Each successive day or session has its own purpose for reading; including identifying what is real and what is fantasy/fiction, adjectives of size and use of comparatives and superlatives, story elements identification and retelling the story.  
On day/session 5 I address sequencing.  With this story, you can sequence the events in the story and/or the steps to building a snowman.

Here is a “Make a Snowman” activity page for you to use with your students to complete the sequencing activity.
If you’d like to see more of the activities I have for this book, go to my TPT store here.

Have fun, stay warm, and Keep on Talking!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

8 Great Toys and Games for Enhancing Language Skills

The Speech-Language Pathologists are having a linky party! Come read them all and get lots of great ideas for gift giving this season.

Whether your gifts come with Santa or with the lighting of the Menorah, giving kids toys and games that encourage the development of language and learning skills in a fun way is great.  Often, they don’t even know they’re learning.

My own kids always knew there would be a healthy dose of learning games once they got old enough to recognize me for the educator I can’t help being.
And in therapy sessions, the kids I worked with - who hated anything that looked like work or learning tasks - loved when I snuck in games that - sh sh sh - worked on their language skills.

So, if you’re shopping for your own kids this holiday season here are 8 nights’ - or days’ - worth of language fun:
(note - this post does contain affiliate links, but I received no compensation for mentioning these products)

(P.S. - don't forget to check out the other great ideas in this Speech-Language Pathologists' Linky!)

  1. Mystery Garden, by Ravensberger.  I had a whole closet full of Ravensberger games because they’ve always done such a great job of making learning fun.  Mystery Garden is a great one for language skills.  A special object is chosen by one player and, as students move around the board to get to the castle, they ask questions in order to figure out what the item is. It takes some strategizing and good language processing to determine the best question to ask to get the most information. It also takes some memory skills to remember what clues have been given so far. Players are required to make guesses that give them clues - and remember and analyze what they’ve been told in each successive turn - to the mystery item.  The number of turns is limited, so asking questions that provide broad, categorical or descriptive clues becomes more important that asking for small, detailed information.  It’s a great game for developing concise language skills, as well as memory skills.  If you are playing this game with AAC users, it’s a great way to help them find vocabulary within categorical pages, use descriptive concepts, and ask questions.
  2. P is for Popcorn is another Ravensburger game.  This time, players need to name items in specified categories beginning with specified sounds/letters.  Work on vocabulary and phonological skills at the same time.  Again, AAC users who have robust AAC systems should have all the categories they need to play this one.
  3. Scrabble Junior is an easier game than the original Scrabble.  On one side, the game board requires only matching letters; making it a good choice for preschoolers or Kindergarteners.  On the other side, making words begins in a simple way as the children progress in their emergent spelling.
  4. Apples to Apples is a game my daughter still loves as an adult.  Students select the card in their hand they think best matches what is described by the “Judge.”  Some of the comparisons are hilarious!  This is a great game for slightly older kids (although there is a Junior version, too) developing analogy or comparing/contrasting skills.
  5. Cards Against Humanity is definitely for older kids and parents who don’t have delicate sensibilities.  It is listen on Amazon as an adults only game, however I have known many teens who have played it, enjoyed it, and have been ‘forced’ to defend their choices using good argumentative language. I mention it here because it is often difficult to find games for older kids that are not dismissed as “babyish.”  It works much the same way as Apples to Apples, but the responses to the questions can be rude or just plain awful.  The point is, however, that the “judge” must defend his or her choice, using well-honed language skills.
  6. Let’s get back to younger children - please. Toys for the preschool set has always been a breeze.  Play sets abound and all are great for developing language skills.  First, let’s start with a Fisher-Price Garage set.  Great for working on basic concepts who are just getting to these words.  Move the cars up and down, in and out, make them go fast and slow.  There is also the opportunity to focus on action words - verbs - including drive, crash, go, stop, move.  For AAC users learning core vocabulary this is a great way to make learning core words contextualized in a fun play activity.
  7. Got a girl who’s not crazy about playing with cars?  How about a doll house?  Here, too, is the opportunity to develop spatial and descriptive concepts and home vocabulary.  Put people in specified rooms, in specified relation to each other or furniture, performing specified activities or movements.  Talk about what you’re doing, cue them to try to do similar things.  Have fun!
  8. Last but not least - good old fashioned blocks.  Both of my kids (one girl, one boy) loved playing with blocks.  And I used them a lot when working with little ones.  I’ve built everything from apartments to zoos with blocks.  Add some plastic animals or people and you can create anything.  Again, talking about what you’re doing as you move blocks, or give directions (make suggestions) provides good language input.  Asking about what your child is doing provides the opportunity for them to formulate language, too.
So, have fun this holiday season and shop well.  And most of all, Keep on Talking!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Making a Move from Digital to Print? Try These Guys!

I recently took a small printing company up on their offer to print and bind one of my teaching resources, to see how it would look as a hard copy to give or sell to SLPs and teachers, instead of a digital file they have to download and print. 

I chose a resource that is full of templates that can be used over and over again for many units or weeks throughout the years; my Shared Reading Templates and Strategies.  It struck me that having the file bound between durable glossy covers would help preserve it in one's files - if one's files are as messy as mine can get.

This particular resource is chock-full of templates to use to build language skills during interactive reading times - Read Alouds, Shared Reading, whatever you call them in your room.
SLPs especially know how important it is to talk about what you read, building vocabulary, describing, sequencing, and re-telling skills along the way.

How handy would it be to have them stay fresh and neat, and be able to stick whatever page you needed on the copying machine without getting it out of order or out of place?

Shelly at Appletastic did a GREAT job.  Check out these pictures, below, which just show a couple of pages.
I'm pleased with their work and with the way they made my work look.  

Now my brain is busy contemplating what else would be good to print and bind so nicely.

You can find them here for your own printing work.

Keep on talking!

Monday, November 9, 2015

More Top Tips in AAC

Looking for AAC tips and resources all in one place?  

Check out this informative webpage, which offers helpful information about the myths of AAC, using core vocabulary, Aided Language Stimulation, assessments in AAC, training partners, and more.

You'll find links to free handouts, and links to paid resources, along with the helpful information.

Check it out here.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

What's the 1 Big Change to Question It?

Question it is the iPad app that teaches children how to answer Wh-Questions by teaching them what kind of word teaches which type of question.
It has long been my professional experience that students learn better how to answer Wh- questions once they understand that each type of questions is answered by a different group of words. Teaching them to memorize answers to specific lists of questions is rarely helpful in the long run.

Thus, after many years of working with students with autism, I transferred the paper picture activity I used to teach Wh-questions into an app - with a LOT of help from a couple of great programers at Ditty Labs, here in San Diego. (My expertise with technology is strictly limited to assistive technology and AAC!)

Now, 3 years after its initial release, changes have come to Question It (? it). I am pulling the Lite version of the app off of the market. Question It is now in a limited version free, with the full version unlocked through an in-app purchase.
A download of Question It will now provide the user with a limited number of stimuli but - different from the original Lite version - with access to all 3 levels of the Sorting and Sentence Activities and both levels of the Advanced Sentences and Paragraphs Activities.

The limited stimuli will continue to loop, util the user purchases the full version, with more than 10,000 questions. Moving from one level to another, or one activity to another will prompt the user to make that purchase.

Nothing else about the app has changed. The app continues to use errorless learning and fading of color cues teaching strategies. And the fireworks reinforcement is still provided after every 5 correct responses.

If you haven't already, try Question It today!  The update will be available in the iTunes store as soon as Apple approves it.

Keep on talking, and keep on answering!