Opinion, Fact, or Untrue Statements: How can you tell the difference?

3 Mar

Distinguishing when a  statement is an opinion, fact, or untruth is a critical skill. Students get bombarded everyday in social media with information that is not always correct, although it is presented as fact. They need to be able to weed out the facts and not get persuaded by inaccurate statements. This becomes especially pertinent when our students become voters. It became especially apparent during the last election cycle.

I have made a new activity for my TPT store to address this. There is a true statement, untrue statement, and opinion statement task cards for students to identify.  After students read the sentences on one side and identify them, they can be flipped to see the corresponding answers. As usual, I will provide a free sample of 3 pages (9 cards) for you to test out. The full activity  consists of 10 pages of 3 inch by 3 inch cards for a total of 30 cards. A digital option is provide by TPT. Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions to improve them or see an error. Click on the comment cloud in the post heading.

The cards use facts, myths, and unproven statements that are often passed around in society. These are intriguing to students and they will learn some interesting facts. They can be used for small independent group activities  or they can be  projected up on a screen for a class quiz activity.  Student’s  can compete against each other to earn points for correct answers.

A definition chart is provided in the free sample as well as in the TPT product. Students will need to review the following definitions to complete the activity accurately.

Definition Chart for Opinion, Fact or Fiction

You may use this chart for students on your classroom or therapy list. I ask that you refer people to this site for their own copy. Do not distribute or publish it for commercial use.

TPT has made revisions to their digital activity platform. It has been has renamed to TPT  Easel.  The cards will be available on this platform. It makes them available for digital and distant learning and provides teachers ways to manipulate the activity. Teachers can provide students options such as blocking answers with text boxes.  Students can write or type answers into those areas. Unblocked sheets with the answers can be provided for self checking.

Click on the star below for your free sample.

button for free download
click here for free sample.

The full 30 card activity can be bought at Teachers Pay Teachers. Just click on the button and it will take you there.

Opinion, Fact, or Fiction Definition button
Link to TPT Product

Sentences with Semantic Errors can Promote Meta Linguistic Skills

1 Jan
Cover for Semantic Errors Product

Using sentences containing semantic errors is a great strategy for enhancing vocabulary and comprehension skills. A few posts back I reported that  reading comprehension and meta linguistic skills are strongly linked (Achugar, Schleppegrell, & Oteíza, 2007). Tasks that require a student to read and think critically enhances their ability to remember and integrate what they have learned and not just read words. Students enjoy the challenge of finding and correcting errors and learn at the same time. In the process they will use critical thinking and draw from their knowledge of the world to correct the errors in the sentences.

With our current pandemic, many teachers and speech and language pathologists (SLP) have had to embrace digital teaching and learning. I decided to help out by upgrading “Silly Sentences” that can be used in a digital form. There is a text only version currently located under the Vocabulary heading. I took some of the sentences, added a few new ones, and added visual cues to make a Teachers Pay Teachers product called Sentences with Semantic Errors.

The Sentences with Semantic Errors can be presented a number of ways. They can be printed out, cut, and used as flashcards. They can be given out as worksheets. They can also be assigned digitally. They are available as a Digital Download on the Teachers Pay Teachers site. With this program they can be assigned to students using Google Classroom. Students complete pages digitally and return them digitally to a teacher for feedback.

The vocabulary is appropriate for 3rd through 6th grade levels. Picture cues help to convey meaning as well as make the cards more appealing if they are displayed on a screen. Using the TPT overlay, students can fill text boxes using the tools provided. Students can provide written or typed answers.

I am linking a free sample of the first two pages pictured. Click on the button below. I am not working directly with students at this time, so I do not have a trial group. I would appreciate any recommendations or comments you may have. This free download will not include the digital overlay which is offered with purchase through TPT and is on their platform. Comments can be made by clicking on the comment cloud located in the post heading.

Click on the button above for the free 2 page sample. Click on the cover below for a direct link to TPT and the full product.

Cover for Semantic Errors Product
Direct Link to TPT Product

Tips for our Homeschooled Non Verbal Students

25 Nov

COVID 19 has created an educational challenge for providing a home school education program for non verbal students. Many educators, teaching virtually, are trying to provide lessons using materials available in a student’s home environment. I have decided to highlight some of the lessons I have used in the past that would meet that need. If the student is participating by virtual means, you may need the help of a caretaker to prepare materials, model responses, and help the student. Most of the materials are common objects available to students at home.

The original posts for these activities can be found by searching in the archives of past posts under the tag Therapy Activities from Scratch and Communication Boards. The search tools can be found in the right column.

Does your student have goals such as maintaining focus, taking turns, increasing vocabulary and increasing sentence length? Many play activities only need visuals such as communication boards and props to make them into structured learning activities to address these goals. If a student has physical difficulties and is not able to manipulate objects, they can still participate by directing and making requests with a partner using a communication board or system.

There are a number of reasons to use communication boards and systems. They lead to more natural social communication with mutual turn taking. They can add structure and provide cues for repeating key phrases. They also provide visual support for children who have limited oral speech and understanding.

Educators can easily adapt to a students learning level and needs with the use of a communication board. An educator begins by providing full verbal models and pointing to the icons while providing a verbal model. They can then use the icons as prompts by pointing to the icons and waiting for the student to provide the verbal output. Eventually the student will prompt themselves by pointing to the icon and providing the verbal output independently. Finally they will no longer need the communication board during the activity and participate verbally without it. If a student’s intelligibility is poor, you will still know what he is attempting to say because the student can use icons as a visual cues. Hopefully you will avoid interactions such as “Say what I say” or ” I don’t understand, say it again.” Many students become frustrated when they find themselves in this type of communication exchange and then refuse to participate.

I have posted pictures of boards I have made in the past, for examples. You will need to adapt the icons for the materials and objects available to your student. There are a number of sources of pictures for making communication boards. Some of my sources include Open clip art, clip art from Teachers Pay Teachers (some are free samples) and Pictoselector which is a free program for Windows users. It can be found at https://www.picto-selector.eu/about/freeware/. Pictoselector allows you to use grid templates for icon placement and a number of icons. Boardmaker is another program that many schools have subscriptions too.

Toys and Grab Bag
Wind up toys with grab bag

A grab bag with toys is an easy item that can be made in the home environment. This one was made by cutting the sleeve off a sweater and sewing or gluing the bottom seam shut. You can put a number of different toys in the bag. Wind up toys are one of my favorite tools. They are always a high interest item.

The bag allows control of the objects from indiscriminate grabbing and hoarding, and facilitates turn taking. If the child is unable to wind or pull to activate a toy, all the better. That means they will need to request an action.

The Dollar store, Target Bargain bin, and Happy Meals are good places to find wind up toys. Mine have lasted a number of years. The student may also have favorite objects at home such as tops, balls, buttons, old switches, and tools.

Communication Board for Wind up Toys
Board made using Pictoselector
Stuffed Animals

Many students have a collection of stuffed animals matchbox cars or other objects. Add a fancy box and these can be put to good use. Hide an item in the box and have a student answer questions to find out its identity. The communication board is helpful for cuing a student for appropriate descriptive questions. Begin by modeling the questions while pointing to the pictures.

Animal Questions with icons from Open Clipart

Matchbox vehicles are a favorite activity. Students often acquire a stash of different ones because they are a cheap item to get on a shopping trip. I was lucky to be gifted a pack by parents and I collected more over the years. you can use them in the grab bag also.

Question Board for Vehicles

I’ve used this map with students to work with prepositions and descriptive vocabulary. The picture is an example of a simple map that can made by students to review the prepositions across, over, through, and between. It can be used with dice or a spinner as a simple board game, but students also like just driving along and telling where they are. You can have multiple trials by having them request different vehicles for making the trip.

Vehicle Board using Boardmaker

The race game is another opportunity to use the same cars. Students choose cars and then make comparisons and prediction on which vehicles will be first or last. It is another activity that provides opportunities to use adjectives and verbs.

Caregivers may want to venture out on their own with materials. However, I recommend that you consult with your student’s Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) for constructing communication boards, and visuals to meet your student’s specific needs and goals. Although communication boards are presented here as examples, your student’s SLP will know the best vocabulary and language level for your student. An Occupational Therapist (OT) can help with setting up access to a communication board and tools so a student with a physical disability can manipulate objects. These professionals play important roles in an student’s education program and I can not guarantee results when their input is not included with a students education program.

I hope these examples give you some ideas. I would love to hear from fellow educators if you have other examples or ideas to share. If you are willing to share, I can add them to this blog post. You can comment by clicking on the comment cloud located at the top of the post by the heading. I monitor comments for spam so you will not see it posted immediately. You can also tell me if you would prefer to be incognito. Good Luck and stay healthy.

The Importance of Developing Meta Linguistic Awareness

2 Jul
Climb to the top

Vocabulary instruction has gone through some significant changes over the years.  Some of you may recall when students  were assigned a list of words, often the spelling list, and then required to write the definitions.   A lot of students detested the tedious task of looking  up words and copying definitions.  Often the words in the definition were hard to relate too, so it became a copying task with little benefit to learning the definitions.  Education theory has moved on to promoting meta linguistic awareness. Developing meta linguistic awareness can be especially beneficial when developing vocabulary. Research has revealed that promoting  higher level thinking skills increases retention of information and allows students to integrate what they have learned.  

    For those of you who may need a refresher; Meta linguistic language  skills are strategies that are applied, either consciously or automatically, to an oral or written linguistic interaction to allow one to think about language.  It is our ability to think about language and manipulate it beyond it’s written structure.  Remember the knock knock jokes and riddles  young  children attempt to tell around  6 yrs. of age.  They often lack  the punch line because they don’t grasp the idea of double meaning words.  This is the age when children are just starting to figure out that words and phrases  can be manipulated.  When they acquire this thinking ability, they are demonstrating meta linguistic awareness.

  Studies have found that  reading comprehension and meta linguistic skills are strongly linked (Achugar, Schleppegrell, & Oteíza, 2007).  If we want to get the most value from our teaching, we want students to develop thinking skills that  can be adapted to various situations.  You may have known a student or two who was an early  reader with above average reading skills in the early grades.  Although they were great sight readers in the early grades , they often faltered in the later elementary years.   They could  read the words individually but had difficulty comprehending within the text.  As the paragraphs and sentence structure became more complex there were often hidden meanings.  Things like double meaning words, satire, and unusual phrasing tripped them up.  Students exhibited difficulties with meta linguistic development could not adapt to the word meaning changes that occurred within context.

          So what does this mean when we are working with our students?  It means we want to encourage our students to think about language, be flexible, and think about if it makes sense within the context.  It is more than reading  a string of words.   The word meaning they memorized may not always work in every context.   They need to think about a variety of possible  meanings to get the best fit.  It means we want them to question, make associations, compare descriptive features, and contrast meanings.  We encourages students to be active thinkers and  in the process the information stays with them.

      For examples of speech activities using meta linguistics tasks, go to the top navigation heading and click on the section labeled Vocabulary.   Making word association is a great task for encouraging meta linguist skills. There is a good sampling of cards for download in that section.    There are free previews so that you can try some of them out with your students. You can get a pretty good tool box by just downloading all the previews and free cards.  Click on the star for a free preview and download of the Word Association Bundle. Click on the blue print for a direct link to TPT. The cards on TPT are available with the digital down load overlays and self checking with bar codes that work with the task cards or digitally.

Finding what is wrong with Silly Sentences is another activity that forces students to think about facts and how words relate to each other. It provides opportunities for students to recognized when the meaning doesn’t fit and not take it at face value. This is an important skill for today when we are bombarded constantly with false facts in social media. There are several sets of those for free downloads in the vocabulary section. I hope the activities in vocabulary section help you to explore and enhance the way you work on vocabulary development with your students.

Recognizing Positive and Negative Statements: What are you delivering ?

27 Jan
Mailbox with valentines
What are you delivering?

February is a month when many of us send cards or messages to our family and friends  for Valentines Day.  It is a good time to introduce a lesson on the differences between sending out positive and negative statements.  When you get to the bottom, don’t forget to download the free lesson sheets.

Some of our young adults get into a habit of throwing barbs at each other without considering the consequences of hurt feelings or the bad impressions they are making. They may not be aware how these statements affect their friendships and the opinions of adults that hear them. It is good to remind them that it can be next to impossible to completely repair the damage once a hurtful comment is said.

Consider the following: Can your students tell which statements will be considered positive? Can they tell if what they say is offensive to someone?   Can they change their perspective and switch to a more positive statement when necessary. Hopefully the free lesson will help you address these concerns with your students.

At the bottom of this post, you will find a Download Star. Click on this link for a free list of statements. The statements are ready to be printed and cut out for your lessons. The statements can be used in a variety of ways. Students can practice taking a negative statement, changing the wording and flipping it to be more positive.  I have used the analogy of flipping a pancake. When conducting a social group, I present a spatula as a prop to remind someone to flip offensive statements. Later on, I just have the spatula over to the offending person.

You can also talk about statements that should be left in the mind and  not verbalized.  Just because a statement is true does not mean it should be said. There are times it is kinder not to say something we think.

You can also explore  what effects a difference of intonation may make on a statement.  It is possible to convey a message opposite in meaning when using a sarcastic tone. A rising tone at the end can make a statement into a question and it will not seem like you are making an accusation.

I hope you can make use of the free lesson and It lightens your lesson planning load a bit.

On a side note, I have recently changed my site host. The site is now operating with Host Papa. You may notice the little black lock has returned in the URL which indicates it is a secure site.

Comprehending and Answering “How” Questions

30 Aug

The task of answering “How” questions is often difficult for students. Students who have language delays, autism, or are second languages learners often have trouble answering  with the correct information. The answers are often not as predictable as other question forms.

“How” questions are especially important in upper elementary grade levels and beyond. Many programs are science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) oriented. Students are required to integrate their knowledge and figure out how it all works together. It requires a higher level of thinking and language skills to figure out what information is being asked for to answer a question.  Students  often need the ability to problem solve or take on  another perspective to answer a question correctly.

In case you haven’t recently thought about the variety of “How” questions we use in our daily lives, following is a refresher list  of  examples and the types of  expected answers.

  1.  How questions that ask for amount:    How much is it?  It is one dollar
  2. How  questions that ask for a  quality:   How does it taste?    It tastes sour.  
  3. How  questions that ask about a condition:   How cold is it?  Very cold
  4. How questions that require a procedural answer.  How do you get toothpaste from a tube? You take the cover off and squeeze the tube.

I created a set of task cards to work specifically on comprehending and answering “How” questions. They were created to help students become aware of the different  varieties  of “How” questions they may encounter and what information they need to answer them. I am providing a free preview that you may print out and make two sided task cards to try with your students. If they work for you, I have the full set of 22 cards on Teachers Pay Teachers which you can purchase.

click the star for sample

The TPT set is also available for printing out or with the TPT overlay. The over lay creates a digital resource a teacher can download for Google classroom. As a teacher, you can assign it to students on your class list. They can use writing tools and answer blocks to complete an assignment before submitting it back to a teacher.

Click on the cover for a direct link to TPT