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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
It is a year ago that I made the switch to a self hosted web site. I do not know why I waited so long. I have enjoyed having the freedom of decorating as I wish. There was definitely a learning curve, especially when I found it was hijacked at one point. Over all It has been worth it. I decided a free download was needed to celebrate. Continue on to find it.
For some reason containers hold a certain fascination for me. It seems like I am always collecting them and thinking about how I can use them for speech therapy. While drinking my morning orange juice, I got to thinking about the cover to the juice container. It would make a good tile for a hiding game. It is at least 2 inches in diameter, can hold a reasonable size card on top, and a small object underneath. I also drink enough juice to get a number of them in a reasonable amount of time. This led me to thinking about the game of Secret Square and Cariboo. It seemed like it could be made into a game adaptation for either game. The covers just need velcro dots to fasten pictures on top.
Do you remember the old therapy game called Secret Square? It was a game that had tiles with pictures on top. A chip is placed under one of the tiles. Students find it by asking questions about the pictured items and eliminating the pictures that do not correspond to the answers. Eventually the chip is found. Cariboo is similar in that it has pictures on doors that can be chosen to find a hidden balls that is used to open a treasure box. Both games are very versatile when addressing goals for describing, questioning, and synthesis of information to get the main idea. It can also address articulation and specific speech vocabulary such as prepositions with a switch of the cards. Students love the idea of finding the secret object and it keeps them motivated. Unfortunately Secret Square and Cariboo are no longer in production. They can be hard to find and a bit pricey if bought second hand on e-bay.
Which brings me back to my orange juice container lids. I could see potential for making a game of “Secret Circle” and possibly even a Cariboo type game with items hidden under the lids. This could include pieces of a puzzles hidden under some of the lids. All I needed to do was drink 10 containers of juice to get 10 covers and place velcro dots on top. Pictures for the tops can range from articulation cards such as found on Mommy Speech Therapy to preposition cards such as found as a free product at my TPT store. I updated and revised my Preposition Penguins especially for this post. There are a number of Cariboo cards on Teachers Pay Teachers that would also work.
Many parts of the country have had their last days of school but we are still finishing up the last couple of weeks of our year. It is easy to feel defeated and wonder if the whole thing is just one big paper using, report making, operation. It is times like these that it is important to remember the things that made you smile through out the year. Some the following gave me a smile.
The task cards I make for TPT are usually made for specific student goals. Some of my students have attention deficit disorders and I am always trying to find creative ways to keep their attention. I remembered when I was a child that my name never seemed to be in any stories. I thought that some of my students may feel the same way so I decided to use the names from one of my classes on the task cards. One of the boys saw his name and was thrilled. He had to take the card and show his teacher. They were also thrilled to find their teacher’s name. Such a simple thing to keep them enthused about task cards. It is one advantage to making your own materials.
My students with Downs and Autism make me smile a lot. They continue to show me the value of play and that a toy’s worth is determined best by it’s ability to spin. Tops can spin almost anywhere for preposition development. A box of happy meal toys is priceless for cause and effect. Do not decide the value of a toy by its cost. Free is sometimes the best.
Good Will was a gold mine this year. After a year of searching I almost fell over when I discovered a Cariboo game for $5.00. It was only missing the key which I replaced with a golf tee. My husband couldn’t quite figure out why I acted like it was Christmas. It is truly a great game for speech therapy so don’t give up on the search. When you least expect it the game shows up.
I have had an iPad with some game apps available for reinforcement. When given a choice my students were choosing a game off my shelf rather than the iPad. I have to smile when technology doesn’t always win over the old fashion games. I find this encouraging because I feel board games are still better when it comes to developing social communication. I know that many therapist are implementing 5 minute individual speech drill sessions and are foregoing the games. However, I have only a few students who see me only for articulation. They usually have a mix of language, articulation and social skill deficits. The games play an important part in therapy and give me a better idea of their skills then drill.
You may notice I have been playing around with the design of my Blog. I am not sure if I will ever be truly satisfied. It is something else that keeps me entertained. I fixed a few links lately that were not working. Sometimes updates throw things off. Please make a comment if you can’t get to something.
I use Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking® curriculum with many of my students. One of the concepts that is explored in this curriculum is “I have thoughts about you and you have thoughts about me.” In other words, people are always thinking about each other and they may have comfortable or uncomfortable thoughts depending on their actions. This may affect how they treat individuals in the future. People want to be with people they are comfortable with and have good thoughts about. They may avoid those that don’t make them feel comfortable. Therefore being able to tell the difference between what is expected behavior in given situations and what is unexpected can help us when making and keeping our friends. You can find more information on her concepts at http://www.socialthinking.com/
I needed a good set of task cards to review actions that students may do or observe others do. You may find them useful if you are teaching from this curriculum. They are double sided with an unexpected behavior on one side and a matching expected behavior on the other side.
I put the cards in a draw bag. The students reached in and drew a card out, and placed it on the table. They then decided if the side facing up was an expected behavior or unexpected. They talked about how the actions make them feel. If the unexpected is presented first, students can talk about what they think the expected behavior would be on the other side.
Students checked their answers by using the Top Secret UV light which I got at our book fair. I put a U or and E in the box for them to check. There is also a QR code for those who would prefer to use a scanner. My students find this motivating and they can self check if they are working in small table groups.
The draw bag is an easy thing to make. I took a sleeve off an old sweater and sewed across the bottom. The cuff makes a nice finished opening and the bag is stretchy. It has got to be the easiest bag I have ever made.
In my TPT packet, there are 28 expected cards and 28 matching unexpected cards side by side. They are meant to be printed on card stock, cut on the horizontal lines and folded back to make a double sided card. I put a box on each card so I could write with my UV light pen a U or E in the box. Students can light the answer up. I also put a QR code for those who like that option. The QR code is from http://www.qrstuff.com/. When scanned it will read expected or unexpected to correspond to the side it is on.
I am putting 2 pages of the cards below for you to review as a freebie. If you like them consider getting the full set at TPT. Just click on the cover page button at the top for a direct link to the product. Your patronage covers the cost of this website and keeps it advertisement free, except for me I suppose. I am trying to keep the commercial aspect down and provide resources. I know most of us are on really tight budgets.
It is always hard this time of the year to find activities for group therapy with my Life Skills groups. There are usually 5 students in each group and the abilities are really varied. I try to include some motor activity because this keeps their attention. Using objects for actions is more meaningful for them then paper tasks. However there are a few students who have motor difficulties which makes it difficult for them to do some tasks and work with the group.
My inspiration often comes from my closet. This is a picture of what I found. I decided to make a badminton type activity. They used the pool noodles to hit balloons through the hulu hoop and then over the jump rope stretched across two chairs. We encouraged two students to hit it back and forth to complete turn taking. I reinforced the prepositions of over, through, below, under, and above. My early language learners practiced phrases such as “Give it to me”, “Hit it”, “I want it”.
One of my students kept saying “there it is”. He was a student who we usually had trouble engaging and he blossomed with this activity. For a student with Downs he had amazing eye hand coordination. I hope he does badminton for Special Olympics.
I liked the pool noodles because they didn’t hurt if students hit each other and the balloons slowed down the process enough that all the students were able to hit them. I recommend having spare balloons. We had one student who couldn’t resist squeezing and popping them.
I am not sure what they are called, but as a child I called it a Whirly. They were a great find this last weekend in the Easter basket toys at Walmart. It would be a good time to look for them. I was trying to find new mechanical toys for my early language learners who get engaged by anything that spins and pops. For $2 you couldn’t go too wrong. I did wonder how long it would last but it was sturdy enough to make it through a morning of therapy with the younger K through -2nd grade Life skills class. There is a precaution for aiming it at people and there is the string to watch out for.
I used it this week and it was a big hit. It was great for learning communication intents and making requests. It gave opportunities to review the concepts of around and over. If the string was pulled strong enough the spinner would stay on the ceiling a few minutes spinning over our heads. The students would give me the Whirly and make requests for fast pulls. We also practiced a few more prepositions when finding the location of that spinner after it came down. A few of my students needed a person to hold the device while they pulled the string. This encouraged joint attention to a task. I like it when a toy can offer so much opportunity for natural communication with very little effort.
Here is the communication board I used for the activity.
I have several students who are answering a how question with a why response. Our students with language delays, autism, and 2nd language learners often have trouble with these skills. “How” and “Why” questions are question forms that require a higher level of thinking and language skills to formulate responses. The students often need the ability to problem solve or take on another perspective when answering them. When looking through the Language Arts section of the “Common Core Standards” I discovered this would be a skill they would need. Like many of you, I am rethinking what is most valuable to my students as we try to align curriculum with the “Common Core Standards”. I made task cards to specifically address how and why question forms from a given text.
Students may require some direct teaching on the differences between how and why questions. How question have a few variations. It may require a student to tell how something is done in steps, how something is done descriptively, the amount of something, or state of being such as with “How are you feeling?”. The answer may contain an adjective or adverb.
Answering why questions often involves finding the antecedent or cause of an event. The answer recalls facts that happened before an event. For example the question “Why did the dog dig a hole?” He dug a hole because he smelled a bone under the ground. Compare this to the how question. “How did he get the bone?” He dug a hole with his paws and grabbed it with his mouth.
Answers to how question often relate an action and possible steps. These response can seem to be quite similar to a student. For instance, look at these questions and answers. “Why did the lights go out in the storm?” or “ How did the electrical wires get knocked down in the storm?” The answers, “The electrical wire was knocked down in the storm because a branch hit it.” and “A strong wind blew a branch off the tree and it hit the electrical wire which was torn down.” They seem interchangeable except the because is used in response to the why question and how elicits a series of events. Our language learners will shorten their response to, “A branch fell off the tree”, for both questions.
The packet I am posting on Teachers Pay Teachers has 30, 3 inch by 3 inch cards with 3 questions on most cards. In the packer there are 4 cards that deal with how many questions and amounts. 26 cards deal with the variations of how and why listed above. There are 17 cards that also contain a question on vocabulary within the story context. This provides opportunity for students to derive word meanings from the text and verbalize it. You can find them here or by clicking on the picture button at the top of the page which takes you to TPT and also gives a preview.
I made a free trial packet for my readers. You can get it by clicking on the button.
There are 3 pages of cards for a total of 9. You can see if they are something of value for your students. I have been using them with my 3rd through 6th graders. I try to keep the picture cues meaningful and appropriate for middle school range. I have a lot of boys and they don’t tolerate things that look cute. I make them double sided so they have possible answers available. This helps when I have groups and it is motivating for them to flip them over and see if they got it right.
Don’t Spill the Beans is another game that I have used with my language learners. It has always been good for general reinforcement. Many of you probably have the game already.
I often became annoyed by the spilled beans. They were difficult for my students with poor fine motor concerns to pick up and took precious therapy time collecting them. I thought there had to be a better way. Then I remembered my Chipper Chat therapy materials. It is a product from Super Duper which many of you may also have. You can breathe new life into your “Don’t spill the Beans” game by switching out the beans with the magnetic chips. The students are always enthused about using the magnets and it makes it easy to pick up the spilled chips. I usually have the students pick up the chips with the magnets and place them in individual saucers to compare the amounts. You can also vary the game by having students collect specific colors that spill. The magnets have really helped with quick clean up. I added a communication board to practice sentence frames and turn taking..