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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Barrier Games, Following Directions, Giving Descriptions - Is There an App for That?

Apps are appearing more and more in classrooms and intervention settings.  Kids’ engagement is often higher with technology and animated apps than with other activities or the pages of a book.  Use of apps, however, should be carefully controlled, so that they don’t take over the therapeutic intervention or academic session, and to make sure that you are still targeting what you intended.
Over the past couple of years I have often been asked to recommend apps for specific target skills.  There are so many apps to choose from and the quality of them varies greatly.
One app I’ve come across that I like for language intervention is Clicky Sticky. (Note that I have no relationship with this app developer, nor have I been given a code for this app to review it.) 

        Over the course of my speech-language therapy career I have used barrier games a lot.  I came across my first intervention guide to using barrier games a few decades ago, which contained geometric shapes of different sizes and colors.  That quickly became boring.  
Part of the problem was that the intent of barrier games is two-fold:  on one side of the barrier a student needs to learn to listen carefully to the descriptions and directions, process what he’s heard, and follow the directions to create a scene identical to the one the speaker is describing.  On the other side of the screen, the student needs to provide concise descriptions and directions using robust vocabulary so that the listener understands what he is to do to create the scene.
The vocabulary of colors, shapes, and sizes was finite.  There needed to be more variety and richness to the activity.  I added rubber stamps and stickers to my intervention bag.  Rubber stamps were fun and could be used over and over again; unlike the stickers, which had a single use only.  I started using Clingforms and Unisets - those plastic pictures that could be moved and repositioned.  I had sets that represented grocery stores, zoos and aquariums, a family home, and more.

So, back to Clicky Sticky.  If you are working one on one with a child this is a great app for having him tell you where to put the moveable animated stickers (if you can keep control of the iPad).  Or let him use the iPad, following your directions for what to make of the scenes.

If you have two students and one iPad, just put one student in your place, and have them take tuns giving and following directions to create the scenes.  Playing with the scenes once formed is the perfect contextual reward.

Even better, if you have 2 iPads, make it into a true barrier game.  Like many apps used in speech-language therapy, it was not necessarily intended as a language development app, but has been used extensively by SLPs to develop language in a variety of ways.  Good SLPs can turn almost any activity into a language learning experience.

I still promote the use of barrier games in therapy.  If you’d like to try some of the good old fashioned paper variety, check out the sets I have in my TPT store; there are 9 in all.  Try this money-saving bundle of the first 5 here.

Keep on talking!

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