Have You Thought About Writing a Blog?

12 Jul

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“http://worldartsme.com/

Are you thinking about  designing your own blog?  Do You feel you have ideas to share and writing appeals to you? Do you read other blogs and say,  “I can do this.” Maybe you have a TPT store and wonder if a blog would help it to become more successful.  The goals and motivations for writing a blog are as varied as the people out there.

The number of Speech Language Pathologist (SLPS) who are writing blogs has mushroomed over the last few years. This has definitely made it easier for beginning SLPs to get materials,  A bit harder for blog writers to come up with new material.  Gone are the days of blowing your budget on high-priced commercial products as  you try to meet all your student or client needs. Now there are high quality products made by our fellow  SLPs. Some are even presented as free on Blogs and Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT).  As a group we are creative bunch and  love to share and communicate.

Individuals often wonder if they have enough to write  about.  I started this blog in 2009 and here I am still writing 7 years later.  I found this to be less of a problem than you might think. Once you are tuned in to finding topics, they will present themselves.  Some times the oddest topics make it big.  I wrote once about pulling out pool noodles and balloons for a therapy session.  It was written on a  whim. I was running out of ideas for my early language learners and thought that other SLPs may have the same problem.  A colleague pointed out  that the  post was mentioned in the blog jam section of ASHA.   That was not the post I would think was worth mentioning. I was urprised to see it there.  Up until then I had kept my blog writing endeavors low-key.   I didn’t think many of my colleagues were aware  I was writing it.  All of a sudden I had some notoriety.

Some topics work better than others of course.  I had visions of bad  comments flooding in and no one reading what I wrote. That never occurred.  I found that my audience was appreciative and my readers have  been more than kind.  I would not let that fear prevent me from writing.

As  I look back, some of my posts  were duds and some were surprisingly  well received.  Some took a while before people noticed them.  I have had a few occasions where free apps were offered if I reviewed the product.

The important thing is to be passionate about your topics and let your experiences come out in your writing and  have patience  if it seems no one is listening. Don’t be too hard on yourself at first. You will be surprised how much  your writing improves over time.

You don’t need to write everything at once. I typically write on a topic over multiple days.   I read it several times and make revisions. You don’t always know until after you hit that publish button if it is a good post. The draft button is my friend. I still feel  apprehensive every time I hit publish.  After you publish, it is strangely motivating to see how many people come to read and visit.  Comments are like gold stars.

I have read suggestions by others on how to get started writing a blog.  I get a chuckle because I didn’t have that list to follow when I started.  It shows you that you really don’t need the list.  I made mistakes along the way but I think I turned out all right anyway.  If I had followed a list mine would look something like this.

1. What is your goal?

I started out with a different goal than most people. At the time I was just looking for a place to store digital materials so they would be available when I needed them.  I had plenty of experience with not having materials when I started  new job settings.  It saved the day a number of times when I was able to bring it up on my iPad or print it out.  I decided I should put it up for sharing as long as I went through so much work. I wasn’t thinking of a commercial enterprise at the time.  Generally I was put off with too much advertising for products on other sites. Eventually I relented  to some advertising of  TPT products so I could have a self hosted site that was self-sustaining. It opened up new options.

2. Write frequently

It is important to write frequently so you establish an audience.  This is probably true at first. However, I didn’t put myself on a schedule.  I wrote on topics as they came up. Sometimes it was weekly because I wrote about groups that met weekly like my Social Pragmatic groups or Circle of Friends group.  An SLP work schedule can get pretty hectic as you know and I preferred the less pressure cooker approach. You need to have patience and just tell yourself it will grow slowly.  I saw most of my growth in the second year and each year increased.  I also listed resources separate from the Blog Posts so people would be inclined to visit later to find materials.

3. Where will I start? Will I use af free site or will I self host.?

I  started with wordpress.com. mainly because I had a daughter going through college at the time and she had taken a class using it.  I figured I should take advantage of that college education.  I did not have one iota of  experience building a blog. I didn’t even know if it would work for me so free was good. Free sites give you an opportunity to learn the ropes before committing.  Free WordPress.com sites have their own communities of followers and a forum  that was also very helpful. It was like starting in a playpen. You could get an idea of what it is like and have a safety net. They had a good spam catcher and hacker prevention. I missed that later on when my self hosted site got hacked. I fortunately got bailed out by my host who told me about a good security widget. That saved the day.

The free site did have some inconveniences.  You had to agree  to  advertisements that would pop up not of your choosing.  It was usually relevant to your blog content like mine usually had to do with education. You were not allowed to use  your site for advertising or affiliates.  I think TPT advertising may be frowned on although I never got an official notice.   There was less creativity  because you used Word press templates rather than your own design. You didn’t have access to plugins  And wdgets which allow you to do more personal touches. Free sites are good way to see if you want to do this long term. It is possible to transfer your site to a self hosted site once you get established. It is also possible to carry your followers along with you. WordPress provided transfer instructions that worked.  If I can do it anyone can.

I learned it was important  to take careful consideration to the name you choose for your blog.  If you choose a free blog the url may have the host name in it. The name you choose becomes part of  the url.  In my case I used a nickname and not my blog name.  It became (cjmonty.wordpress.com).  I regretted I started with this because it became confusing later on.  I decided to become self hosted later on and bought a domain name to correspond to the blog name.  It is important to research names that you can use in a domain so it will be less confusing when you make the switch.  Some domain names are already taken so be sure to check this out before you select a name.

I decided to become self hosting after 5 years.   How did I come to this decision?  It was a hobby I actually enjoyed.  I decided I wanted more control. There were a few times that my site over used the band width and was shut down.  I know, such a bad problem to have.  I decided I had outgrown my site and needed to get more serious about it. I also wanted more to say on how my site looked.

With self hosting, I bought a theme that I could manipulate the background and display.  I got access to plugins and widgets.  I got rid of pop up advertising and  could do my own advertising.  As TPT grew I was able to cover the cost of the blog.  Hopefully everyone benefited from the improvements.  I must end with a  warm thankyou to all of you who have supported the blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Pair Pear Tree

2 Jun

pear tree2016I have written before about how I have an end of the year tradition of putting up a pear tree. The students add pears on which  they have written  homophones or homonyms.  I give them a sucker in exchange for putting the pear up.  It becomes a bit of a competition and a learning experience.  It amazes me that students still come up with new ones after about 8 years of collecting them.

The tree is special because It is in  remembrance of my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Pilatski who had great ways to engage her students. I have fond memories of her.  She would like that it became a tradition.  Also one of my colleagues bought the pear die a few years back  in remembrance of her mother, a former teacher,  who also collected homonyms. It made my paper cutting so much easier.

I say this is the last pair/pear tree because I am retiring at the end of this school year and I don’t know if the tradition will be continued.  It still is a very nice  finale for my bulletin board.  I hope you have enjoyed all the art work my students have completed in their quest to give and follow directions in speech class.

I am retiring, but Speech Therapy still runs in my veins.  I will need to see how I reinvent myself.

 

End of Year Speech Therapy Celebrations

7 May

snow cone machineHow many of you do some sort of end of the year celebration?  I usually do something for  the  last day of speech class. I think it is important to acknowledge the effort students have made in speech class and the progress towards their goals.  Celebrations are not as prevalent in the school environment as in past years.  It seems they have suffered from not being politically correct or there just not enough time with all the accountability.  I think they are valuable teaching moments though.  Our students are missing out on the social communication that goes along with a social gathering.

There are social pragmatic skills that are learned from participating in a party.  A carefully planned platter of cheese and crackers and a pitcher of water or juice works well for teaching basic table manners. Prepare just enough to make it around the table.  Of course you need to check about allergies before doing this. I would still have some in reserve for the unexpected to happen.

Some students may not have much experienced with a sit down meal in a group.  I remember one particular social group  that needed a script to follow on serving. They didn’t think about looking ahead to see the amount of portions on the plate and helped themselves to multiple servings.  They needed to be schooled about looking ahead to make sure there was enough for everyone.  They may also need to be schooled  about asking politely  for the drink, using please and thankyou, and asking the next person if they would like some.

If you have worked on conversation skills in the past, it is a good place to see the culmination of skills;  introducing a topic, staying on topic, exiting a topic, and including everyone.

I find icy parties are also a good therapy tool for the end of the year.  My early language learners enjoy following directions for the treat.  The syrup is economical and available in a sugar-free form for my student with medical restrictions on sugar.  I have an icy machine but you may be able to uses a blender.  I  found I needed to keep in control of the bottles for proper portion control.

I like this party even better than a popcorn party   because it is the easiest to clean up.  Usually it is just wiping the table. We have an ice cube maker in the staff refrigerator so I only need to get a few syrup bottles and bring my icy maker, plastic spoons and cups.  The smaller clear cups actually work the best because you can make layers of color and watch them blend.  You can work on a lot of descriptive vocabulary with an icy party.

I made a pdf of the communication board for those who would like to use it. free download button

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What animal is it? Question Activity

12 Mar

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Do you have a collection of stuffed animals that seems to reproduce before your very eyes?  I do.   I inherited a collection of Beanie Babies from my children when they left home.  They were so adorable that I had difficulty parting with them.  Naturally they ended up in my  room of misfit toys, my therapy room.  I have them stored in a shoe storage unit that fits over a door.  As people noticed them they added more to the collection.  After I started using them for therapy, I found how valuable they truly are.

The animals are very enticing even to some of my older students who have moved on to Minecraft. I  have used them for calming distraught Kindergarten students.  Teachers  have borrowed one for the day to get a student through trauma.  Students have used them when they forgot theirs on a “Read to your stuffed animal day.”

I have used them when reading animal stories.  Students take a animal from a grab bag and  listen for the part of the story where  their animal shows up.  It keeps them focused on the story and gives something for their hands to hold.

I have some unusual ones that become a help for expanding vocabulary.   For example, some students have not had exposure to a jelly fish.  I know my stuffed animal is not an exact replica  but does give the idea.   This leads  to a discussion to what is different about a real jellyfish and the stuffed version.  My jellyfish has the typical stuffed animal round eyes which led to the question, “Do jellyfish have eyes?”.    We explored this on the iPad and it provided a very interesting topic.

They are great for categorization according to traits.  A favorite activity I made up is ” Mystery Animal”.  I especially like this activity for its use of questions and cognitive skills. It is a memory and cognitive task to remember the details and use that information in a meaningful way. I have a velvet box that is the mystery box.  One student hides an animal in the box and the other students ask questions to determine its identity.  The rule is they need to ask a descriptive question before they can identify the animal. Some of  my students have difficulty coming up with relevant questions or ask the same questions several times.  I made this communication board to help them with formulating questions.

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This is a pdf version you may be able to download and print  for use.   What animal

They have been used as rewards for behavior plans.  Students earn animal babysitting priveledges and  swap one out occasionally.  This keeps the incentive going.  It is nice to have an incentive that doesn’t need funding or involve food.

Amazingly, I have only lost a few over the years.  They seem to find their way back to my room at the end of the school year.

 

Irregular Plurals Interactive Book

30 Oct

Morgan button                                                Click on this box  for direct link

Sometimes we need to allow ideas time to grow.  We don’t always have the right  materials and knowledge when we first start out with an idea. It takes trial and error.  This is a  good lesson to impress upon our students. My wish to write a children’s book was a personal example of this.  I thought you might be intrigued about the process I went through.

Publishing a children’s book was one of those things on my bucket list. So 20 years ago I began to work on it.  It had several different titles and variations but in the end I called it  Morgan the Magician and his Amazing Box.   I didn’t always have a lot of time to devote to it. I would get a part of it going, end up with a road block, and it would get stuck back in the filing cabinet until I was ready to attempt it again.

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So how did I end up with the idea of Morgan the Magician you ask? Irregular plurals are not something that seem that important at first glance. Classroom instruction spends only a short  time on them.  They seem to play a small part of what students need for academic performance.   However I find my language students usually have  difficulty  with them and don’t acquire them through the  general education curriculum. I usually try to find some opportunity to review them.

For my therapy students, I started out my career using the usual task cards and tried to

morgan beginningget them to memorize them.  What else can you do when irregular plurals don’t follow the usual rules and are so  irregular.   This seemed to take more time out of therapy sessions than it was worth. Some would get memorized from the cards but were not used in any  other context.  So I tried to think of a better way.  I decided putting them in a story would give them some context.  My own children always liked the stories that had  pull flaps and they could  interact with.  Rhyming also helps us to remember things.  So this began my journey on making an interactive book with flaps that used rhyming.  I often had rhymes swimming in my head so I had empathy for Dr. Seuss.

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I started by making it for personal use first.  In  the first version, I hand drew the characters and objects. This was before graphics were available on computers for  the average person.   My own children said my wizard looked freaky and would scare children.  I  decided I better make him  a more friendly magician.   My first version had a pull strip that was pulled  through a door so that the single item went in the door and the plural came out the other side.  It was a workable book  but  the strips were a bit cumbersome and students had a tendency to pull the strips all the way out.  I also wanted the pages to be double-sided.  The last challenge was making it printable and user friendly for construction.  That turned out to be the biggest challenge.

Getting a publisher interested would be another challenge, but then came Teachers Pay Teachers.  I found I could just publish it myself.  page3 I discovered Power Point and that this program could be used for formating and placing  clip art easily on pages.  I got a notebook with a sketchbook app which openedup new possibilities for drawing characters.  I could draw the magician once and then make some changes to him as I  went without him changing appearance too much.  No more hand drawing each page.  It made it possible for me to make the clip art,  make multiple pages, and make it in such a way that others could make copies for themselves.

Then I had one of those light bulb moments.  I could just use doors and have the pages back to back.   The single task card could be placed in the door by the student.  The next page could  contain the plural form of the word.  The task cards are separate so they can be attached with velcro and used for  other activities.  Such a simple method that took years for me to come up with.

 

iregular plural button

Click on the button at the top of this post for a direct link to TPT and the book.

 

 

Tumblin Monkeys Game for Speech Therapy

23 Oct

Tumblin monkeysI  noticed that this game is being sold once again.  I have used Tumblin Monkeys as  one of my therapy  games for quite a few years.  It is a great game for general reinforcement, and can be played by early language leaners as well as my older elementary students. The game is similar to Kerplunk but looks like a palm tree.   The sticks are a little easier to stick in than kerplunk. The monkeys are placed on top of  the sticks and the sticks are  pulled out one by one.  There is a little more strategy involved  because the monkey tails get hung up on the sticks as they fall.  The other thing I like is the use of dice.  With the addition of a communication board  my early language leaners are provided the opportunities to make comments such as “Your turn”, “my turn”,  “I have pink” or make requests “May I have the die?”  It also emphasizes the word “least” because the winner is the one with the least monkeys.

I use the following comunication board with my early language leaners.

Tumblin monkeys com board

 

 

Booby Trap Adaption for Speech Therapy

11 Sep

 

Booby trapMany years ago when I was elementary school age, too long ago to mention,  I received a game call Booby Trap as a gift.  It survived my childhood and my mother handed it back to me when she cleaned out a closet.  I added it to my therapy game collection and it became a good standby.  The game was out of circulation for quite a few years so my students were often not familiar with it.   Lately I  noticed the game is back as a remake from the past and you can find some old ones on Ebay.  It comes in a  plastic versions and a wooden one.   One of my students told me the  plastic version is not as good because the pieces fly out easily.  I will let you figure that part out for yourself.  If you are looking for therapy games this is a good one and the wooden one has lasted my teaching career.

The game is easy to learn.  Basically students remove circular pieces that are held tight by a spring bar.  If the wrong piece is chosen the bar will spring forward.  Players pay a penalty for setting it off by returning pieces.  Players choose from 3 sizes of pieces. The larger the piece the more points a students earns.

This game is enjoyed across age levels to include high school level. It is sometimes hard to find games that are age appropriate for the older students who receive special education services.  It works well for general reinforcement  and for language learners with a communication board added.  I use it to develop basic statements such as “I have…”, “I take/took……” “your turn” and “my turn”.  It is also good for developing statements with attributes such as colors, size, and amount.

This is  a copy of the board I use for my language learners.

Boobytrap

 

It’s Good to Be Back Bulletin Board

31 Aug

Back to school sunflowers

School is finally starting in the Pacific Northwest.  We have a late start here compared to other regions of the United States..  I am returning to my main school from last year and adding a  new charter school as well.  The charter school has middle school students so I may get a little more variety this year with the age range. I have had middle school students in the past and enjoy working with this age group.  It is always fun to hear about the latest fads.

I needed a new bulletin board for back to school night and the start of school.  I decided to make something  that would be able to switch to the Fall season.  That happens pretty quickly so  back to school doesn’t stay up very long.  The bee is our school mascot so I have handy bee note papers.  I decided the slogan “It’s good to be back”  would be a nice  play on words. Bees go with flowers and sunflowers are a common Fall flower. That all led me to this video on how to make sunflowers.  It turned out  to be  a fairly simple flower to make. You can click on the title to get the directions.

Sunflower How to Vdeo

Sometimes dog walks give you a good appreciation of nature  and nature gives free material for crafts.  On a dog walk I noticed that the back end of pine cones look similar to the center of the sunflower. I clipped off the end of some pine cones and glued them to the center of my flowers.  Mine turned out to look like this.

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I added some green construction paper leaves.  There you have a sunflower bulletin board that didn’t take long to make at all.   I am sure students would enjoy making the sunflowers.  It may be worthy of a nature walk if you have trees with pine cones nearby.

 

 

Another Calming Tool for the Toolbox

18 Aug

calming bottles

 

I was recently browsing  through Pinterest looking for calming down tools.  Many of my students with special needs get stressed at the beginning of the year with new teachers, new students and new schedules.  Teachers come to me pretty quickly looking for tools to add to a calming center.   The students really benefit from an activity that is calming and gets them to refocus when they are upset.   I thought I would be proactive this year and have some things ready to go.

On Pinterest several  Preschool teachers were posting about calming bottles or glitter jars.  Basically glitter and glue or glitter glue are added to water in a bottle and shook up.  The glitter swirls in the water very slowly until it settles to the bottom. If a child is upset they usually settled down by the time the glitter has reached the bottom. The swirling glitter distracts them.

This  looked like an  ideal activity for a calming center for my elementary students.  In fact it is so relaxing I might use it on occasion myself. The picture really doesn’t do the swirling glitter justice.  It is quite mesmerizing watching glitter swirl.

Preschool Inspiration has directions for 6 Ways to Make a Calm Down Bottle using materials from craft stores or a dollar store. I can’t really improve on her directions so made a link from her blog name, just click on it.  For my bottles, I used glitter glue from the dollar store, sequins, and glitter stars. It took a  bit of experimenting to get it right.  I found round clear bottles work the best.  I tried  a shower soap bottle that was flat, but the water didn’t swirl as well so the glitter didn’t remain suspended.  You may also want to put a little food coloring in.  I found out that a little drop goes a long way.  My green bottle actually started out too dark. After you get it working the way you want it, make sure to hot glue the cover on tight.  You wouldn’t want the bottle to be opened.

 

 

 

 

 

Blogs, Therapy Materials, and TPT Store Oh My!

2 Aug
It's a Sale

It’s a Sale- click on banner for direct link

It’s a Sale at Teachers Pay Teachers.   Sorry, but  I have to get my spiel in here first.  Teacher’s Pay Teacher’s is having the annual  back to school sale and there are some really good deals there.  You can’t really beat the prices when you compare products to the commercial products.    A lot of the stores have 20% off with an additional 8% if the code BTS15 is used at checkout.  This makes for some significant savings when buying bundles. So if you haven’t discovered it yet, you should make a visit.

I would love it if you came and took a look at my store and “followed” me even if you choose not to buy anything.  By following me you get updates on any changes or new products.  If you click on the image at the top of the page, it will take you directly to my store. You can also click on any of the slides on the slide show  on the sidebar if you want more information on a particular item.

There are so many new stores with clever clipart  I am beginning to feel outclassed.   I decided mine really needed to get an uplift.   I spent a lot of time this summer putting new covers on and updating some of my older products.  The content has remained mostly the same however some have larger print, more clipart, and numbers added.  If you have purchased products in the last couple of years you may want to get the updated versions.  You can download them  again for  free because the system will have record of your previous purchase in your account.  I also created two bundles that will be included in the sale  so will be 28% off the listed price.

socialcombundlecoverComplex Sentencebundelcover

 

These bundles include the task card sets pictured on the covers. You can  click on the images for more specific information.

 

 

As I was going through my materials, trying to see what needed updating, I was marveling how many changes have occurred with therapy materials over the years. When I first started working in the schools  we used something called a ditto machine. You would write or type on carbons which then went on a roller that you would crank and make multiple copies.  Don’t laugh, but I actually have a few articulation worksheets made from carbons stuck in my files.   The print is usually blue and a yellow plastic page protector can make it possible to copy it in a copier.   I bet you don’t need to know that trick though.  Back to the ditto machine.  You could tell the teachers who spent too much  time with the ditto machine because they would have a glazed look from the fumes and purple fingers.  There were no concerns for toxic environment then.

I never liked the ditto machine or the copy machine. It always seemed to wait  for me to  jam up. Some things don’t change I guess because it still seems to jam up or there is a long line.  I started using task cards pretty early on.  I found task cards were the easiest to work with  groups of students with varied needs and I didn’t need to visit any version of a copier machine.  Most of my task cards started out as handwritten notes on index cards. I have revised them through the years as some of our objects become obsolete.  It was in about 1995 that I actually used a computer that made it practical to save them in files.  This led to placing them on the blog for easy download no matter what school I was at.  The last 5 years I have added clipart to the cards.  I like the clipart to be part of the visual cue for the written material so I avoid the repetitive cutesy stuff.  I also like to save on using colored ink which can be a problem at many schools.

The blog downloads have saved me many times when I have lost materials or forgotten them.  I have downloaded and brought them up on my iPad on occasion.  So there you have the progression from ditto machine to iPad in one career.  That is quite a jump.  I wonder what the new SLPs will  have 30 yrs.  from now.