Starting a New School Year with Your Speech Students

29 Jul

A school year often starts by getting acquainted with new students. You may know nothing about them except for a check mark indicating special education services on the registration records. Often the record hasn’t been updated for a year and isn’t very accurate. If you hit the jackpot, you might actually get a record containing a current evaluation and the last progress report.

I love when parents have kept all the paperwork and can give you updated paperwork from the previous school. In some cases, technology has improved the ability to get current records by linking records across schools. Sometimes it takes weeks before everything comes together. Meanwhile, you need to figure out what your students need so you can form your schedule and help teachers meet the needs in their classrooms.

To start out the new year, I usually take out one of my conversation ice breakers. It gets students talking and gives you an idea of where to start with them in the coming year. One of my favorites is a suction cup ball you often find at Target, The Dollar Store, Walmart, or any party favors section of a store. You could also use a dice or spinner with numbers.

I really like the suction ball. Everyone likes to throw a ball at a target and it is quite engaging even for reluctant students.

You then have them help you write questions and number them. Here are some examples: 1. Did you take a road trip during the summer? 2. Did you learn anything fun? 3. Did you get anything new? 4. Did you eat any fun foods? 5. Did you see any movies? 6. Did you read any books?

I draw a target on a white board with an erasable marker making a few rings and target areas. I label the rings with numbers 1-6.

Students take turns throwing the ball at the target and answering the questions according to the area hit. Fellow students are then asked to think up a follow up question according to the answer and topic.

I like this activity because students of any age and ability can do it. I have plenty of opportunities to observe their speech and language skills. I can observe students in a mixed group and see how they interact. I can use this activity to see how a student answers questions, stays on topic, and contributes to a topic that has already been started. It goes fairly quickly because turns do not take long.

I hope you have a good beginning to your new school year.

Social Skill Activity Using Tangram Puzzles

17 Feb

A Tangram Puzzle is an old Chinese tile game that consists of seven geometric shapes called tans.  The tans usually consist of a square, 5 triangles and a parallelogram. The shapes can be used to form various shapes and designs.  I used the original square but also developed a Shamrock puzzle for a lesson that was presented  in  March. 

These puzzles work great as a cooperative activity for social skills groups.  It is a good activity to work on problem solving, seeing another person’s perspective, using directive language and cooperating within a group.  I recommend using the square first because the  shamrock  tends to be more difficult for the studernts to figure out.  Hopefully you have a chance to work on social skills, observe your students in action, encourage their social development and get a break from lesson planning.

To begin the activity you need a square puzzle printed out on cardstock for each student in the group. Look at the bottom of the post for the pattern. Have them cut the square apart into individual shapes.

At its simplest level each student mixes their pieces up into a pile and then puts them back together into a square shape. The difficulty and need for interaction can be increased by having students mix their pieces of the puzzle with other students.   They choose puzzle pieces from the mix  and then try to put their square back together again. This forces students to look at the pieces they have and what other students have.  It will require them to negotiate and trade for the pieces they need to make the original square.

There are two free downloads for this activity.  One is the square pattern and the other is a shamrock pattern .  I hope your students learn from and enjoy this activity.

 Square Tangram pattern

 Shamrock Tangram pattern

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.

Accessorize Your Speech Therapy Sessions

6 May

Are you  searching for an activity that can address a number of speech therapy objectives in a group.  Clothing accessories are a good tool for this?   Most of these items are readily available in your closets, at yard sales or thrift stores and cost very little if anything.  It doesn’t matter if they seem silly or out of the norm. That  just opens up possibilities for descriptive language, social conversation skills  and clear conversational speech.

So should we see what I found in my drawers and closet?  I found hats, scarves, beaded necklaces, sun glasses, knee pads, and gloves.

To address the social skills of  conversational speech;  complimenting, asking questions, and noticing the perspective of another person. Have a few students go out of the room and put some of the items on. Have them come back in and students take a few minutes to see what they are wearing. Have them go back out of the room and switch items. Then see if students are aware of the changes when they come back in.

Another skill to address is starting a conversation. Students ask relevant questions or make a compliment according to what someone is wearing.  For example, “I love that red scarf. Where did you get it?”  “Are you getting dressed for a special occasion?”

In another activity, students conduct  a talk show.  One student can put an item on and be interviewed by another according to the character they become with the items they are wearing. This activity is great for determining if students have conquered those articulation skills conversational speech.

I hope your students have fun with these open ended activities and they help you to  get away from the grind of drills, provide an engaging activity and allow for speech and language samples for the beginning of the year.

A Flexible Brain Revisited

10 Apr



I published a post quite a few years ago about making a flexible brain.  It was a very popular post at the time. I decided to re-publish this post because for me the jello brain lesson tended to come up in the month of April and is relevant for many today when using the popular Superflex  program by Michelle Garcia Winner who is author of Social Thinking Curriculums.  For those who do not know the program, There is a character, Superflex,  who conquers Rock Brain who is not flexible and doesn’t adapt to change well.  He keeps getting stuck doing the same old thing and being rigid in his thinking pattern.

The lesson required the use of a flexible brain to illustrate how the brain needs to be flexible to grow and handle changes in an ever changing environment.  There is a comparison of a rigid brain with a flexible brain. The lesson manual suggested using a brain mold to make a jello brain and the mold itself for the inflexible version.

I was able to order a brain mold from a Halloween prop store.  Now there are quite a few alternatives where you can order a mold on line.  Just do a search for brain molds.  It was fairly inexpensive and I used it multiple times.

The manual did not give actual directions or a recipe for the mold.  I have a bad history with Jello molds from the 1970s. My jello would stick to the mold and never turn out and lose it’s shape. There was also the problem of trying to work in the time line of classes  at  two different  sites. I needed to be able to transport it.  I figured the Jello would melt and be over the table before the first session was up.

I researched Jello brain recipes on the internet.  It turns out that there are a lot of these.   Some of them are a bit on the gross side of things.  I decided to stay away from the worm and bug infested brains although I’m sure they would be attention grabbing.  I wanted something that would be close to flesh tone and stay fairly solid even if it wasn’t in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  So I settled for the following recipe. It worked well.

You need the following ingredients:

3 boxes of jello with orange to pink colors (watermelon, peach), Evaporated milk (12 ounce can), green food coloring, and 2  1/2 cups  boiling water

Dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water, Spray the inside of the mold with vegetable oil spray.  Add milk and cold water to the gelatin mixture and stir until smooth.  Add 2 drops green food coloring.  The mixture should look flesh-colored.  Add a drop at a time until you get the right color.  Pour the mixture into the mold and put in the refrigerator.  This brain turned out to be quite solid and kept its shape for several hours. In between sessions I slipped it back into the mold and put it back in the refrigerator.

For the lesson, slips of paper with brain functions from the categories of  social awareness, motor,and factual/science  are inserted  into the jello brain.  The students take turns pulling  these out and talking  about them.

I debated the best method of getting the papers in the Jello.  I ended up laminating the papers and poking them in after the brain was taken out of the mold. This worked better than pouring the jello mixture over them. This way ends of the paper were left sticking out and easy to grab with tweezers.  Surprisingly, the brain kind of resealed itself and was in good shape after the papers were removed.  I reinserted the laminated papers into the same locations for the next group and used it again.

No one asked if they could eat it.  I wouldn’t recommend it after all that examination with tweezers and handling of papers.

I took a picture of the brain so you could  have a visual.  The photo at the top is my original jello brain.