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.

A reminder that TPT is having its seasonal sale.

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.

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

      

      

Morgan the Magician is now Digital

10 Aug

Morgan the Magicia teaches irregular plurals in an interactive slides and digital story book form. It can be used via Google Slides. This gives a few extra benefits for teachers. They can use and assign it through Google Classroom for distance learning, and easy lesson preparation. Students won’t need to manipulate pieces. They just need access to a computer or tablet.

The original book template is also provided. Students, with teacher or parent help, may want to construct their own hands on book to review at home.

You can find it at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. click on the cover below and it will take you there.

Cover for Morgan the Magician.

In the digital version, you do not need to cut and paste pieces to make a book. The book is ready to go in Google Slides after downloading from Teachers Pay Teachers and clicking on the link provided in the product. If you purchased this product previously, you can download it without purchasing again to get the link.

Students and teacher can click though pages like a slide show. Animation is included on some of the pages which is motivating for some students. It covers 10 irregular plurals in a rhyming format. There is a total of 34 slides. There is a logical story progression that keeps students engaged and motivated until the end.

Keep scrolling for a bit of a preview of what you would be getting.

Here is an irregular plural checklist for your use. Just click on the checklist and there will be a free download of the list.

Irregular plural check list

This book has been a pet project of mine for a number of years. It keeps evolving over time. I hope you have students who will enjoy the story and learn irregular plurals in a fun way.

Are You Teaching Digitally? It’s a Game Changer

2 Aug
Humpty Dumpty on the Wall
Humpty Dumpty Balancing Act

The school year is beginning and many of us are waiting to see how it will look with Covid 19 safety requirements added. SLPs and Teachers just can’t continue to use teaching methods of the past. Requirements of maintaining distance, students not meeting in groups, switching teachers or rooms, and not sharing materials make it impossible. Many of us feel like Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall. If we can’t keep ourselves balanced meeting all the requirements, we will end up in a thousand pieces and directions.

However, there is some good news. Teaching methods are starting to catch up with the circumstances. Digital learning can help differentiate instruction and fill the gaps in the classroom setting, as well as with distant learning. A real juggling act if you have to do both. Last Spring, many of us scrambled to learn new technology and create our own lessons that would work for long distance learning. This was a huge learning curve. This year there are alternatives to creating your own lessons from scratch.

Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) has stepped in and made some significant changes to their platform. There are now new digital options. On TPT, you now have an option to place a digital overlay on a PDF download for use with Google Classroom. With this digital overlay a PDF download can be revised. Options include; adding text, hiding information such as answers, adding answer boxes for students to write or print in, highlighting, and adding teacher directions. The original product remains intact. The lessons can be assigned to multiple students and assigned through Google Classroom. You can keep your own file of the revised lessons you make. Talk about a time saver!

If you have bought products from TPT in the past, you need to find out if the past product can now be used in this way. Products from a previous purchase, will continue to be free downloads and now you will be able to use them with the overlay. Teacher authors have been working hard to update their products to make them user friendly. You owe it to yourself to check it out.

I went through my products to see which ones could be revised. A lot of mine are task cards with answers. I think a lot of them are used by SLPs and some teachers to do specific remediation and teach concepts in short segments. I decided making fill- able answer blocks on top of the current answers would be the most useful. I made this available on a number of the products so you won’t need to do that revision yourself. A few of the products that I did this with are listed below. If you find different ways to revise them , I would like to know. I can adjust the template of my products in some cases. you can contact me by writing in the comment cloud above each post. I monitor these for spam so they don’t always get published on the site. If you don’t want it visible, just let me know.

Direct Link to TPT

Here is wishing everyone the best possible start to their school year.

ASHA’s Covid 19 Guidelines for Services in the Schools

17 Jul

Parents, of student’s who receive special education services and have an Individual Education Program or IEP, should ask about their schools policy on providing services. Parents can have an impact on how policy is followed. Administrators of an education system often lack awareness of the duties and medical aspects of SLPs and think they can just follow the same school policy as classroom teachers. In this case, it may place the SLPs and students in greater jeopardy.

hand sanitizer

The American Speech and Language Association (ASHA) has released their guidelines for Speech and Language Pathologist, (SLP) and Audiologist working in the schools. They follow the CDC recommendations on how to create a safe environment as we deal with COVID-19. Local recommendations may be somewhat different depending on what is happening in your local area. I think it is important for SLPs as well as parents who have student’s receiving speech therapy services to be aware of this document as students return to school.

Of course there will be obstacles to overcome. Here are some of the highlights. I hope it encourages you to read the more indepth document; Click on this link here to read the entire ASHA document. Some of the highlights are below.

It is recommended that administrators provide school-based professionals with appropriate PPE such as desktop plexiglass screens, gloves, clear face masks, and eye protection.  We are one profession where eye contact and the ability to work with the mouth is important. A cloth face mask will not always be adequate. Children with a hearing disability are one example of where the child needs to see your face. Also the SLP needs to see and hear a child’s voice unmuffled by a face mask for articulation therapy. This means the SLP is not protected well.

cute character wearing protective facial covering mask

The CDC recommends that SLPs work with the same group of children day to day. This would be a major shift from what has been the duties of the SLP. Prior to COVID 19, SLPs often saw multiple students from multiple classrooms, and worked in multiple buildings in a district. They often observe, test students or monitor paraprofessionals in more than one building or classroom. Their schedule is back to back sessions in order to accommodate all the students . Lets just say what was normal scheduling before will not work.

There are new considerations for scheduling that are more time consuming. Students on the SLP, caseload often include the more vulnerable health risks that may need to be seen individually for their safety. There will need to be time in the schedule to sanitize materials. There will need to be increased materials so they are not shared between students when there is more than one student at a time.

Social Distancing
Maintain Social Distancing

The rooms need to be adequate for space and meet sanitary needs. SLPs are often assigned small windowless rooms with inadequate ventilation. In some rooms, there is not enough room for two people to be 4 ft. apart. This means group therapy sessions will not be possible. In some cases two people is too many. I have experienced using the building materials closet, and stage behind the curtain so this is our reality. It is also recommended that there be an area for use of hand sanitizer as students enter and a source for frequent hand washing. Now, we may actually have a valid reason for getting that bigger better equipped room with air circulation.

ASHA did suggest that some places may want to use use tele-therapy to overcome obstacles of time and space. I could see where a combination of services could be employed. The use of digital services has already grown considerably for classrooms and speech therapy. Looking at the brighter side of things. We may be able to implement some practices that will improve services in the future and improve our profession in the schools.

The Sour Pig Clip Art