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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.  

fall themed vocabulary

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.  

back to school shared reading

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.

AAC modeling template

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.

AAC planning template

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.