The Value of Playing Cards

20 Jul
playing cards

playing cards

Before we had smart phones and iPods many of us remember playing cards when waiting any length of time with a group. Sometimes it is good to look at the old traditional card games because there is a reason why they had staying power.  Children still like playing them. Card games such as Go Fish, Rummy, Old Maid, Crazy 8 and UNO can meet a lot of different therapy needs as well as provide a recreational activity for disabled students to mix with non disabled students. You may remember we used a game of UNO in our “Circle of Friends Group” to work with a student who performed on academic grade level but was severely impacted socially by Autism.

Card games have the advantage of engaging a number of students of different ability levels within a structure. They provide lots of opportunity for modeling by peers in predictable interactions.  The use of card games provides a training ground to reinforce social skills some students need to develop in order to participate in a group and have a conversation. It also allows the peer group to interact with a disable student and see them as a person they can develop a friendship  and play with.

Our high needs students benefit from some preparation such as communication boards, video modeling and visual cue cards. Many of my students I work with  in the Life skills Programs  are working on skills such as maintaining focus with a group, staying on topic, realizing their turn, the turn of others, perspectives of others, and appropriate emotional control with unexpected events.  In addition, they may be working on vocabulary and following directions.

I have collected free downloads of some traditional card games.  I hope this will make it easier for some of your planning for next school year. Some of these have the advantage of using specific themed vocabulary.


There are some creative variations on the internet. However this particular game is under copyright so I didn’t feel I could post them.  The regular game is very useful for working on following directions.

This is a board that is a tech speak overlay but I just use the board without the device for my less verbal students.

Old Maid

I have used cards that come in pairs such as opposite cards, and plurals.    Just add a blank card that does not match with the others for the old maid.

I Have, Who Has

This is a fairly recent card game that seems to have a lot of potential for small groups.  Students need to maintain focus to stay with the group and participate.

Animals created by Ashley Hughes

Food by Ashley Hughes

Winter vocabulary by Kindergarten Squared

Synonyms by Dee Bibb

Halloween Vocabulary by Mandy Neal

Back to School Vocabulary by Simply Speech

Go Fish  communication board (pronouns) (plurals)   (Feelings)  (Pets)    (a variety of flash cards for vocabulary building.)

If you need help remembering the rules this is a good place to look them up.

Most Useful Apps

28 May

The school year is coming to a close and it will be time to return  the iPads to the technology department.  We don’t always get the same iPad back in the Fall.  If  the technology department has completed updates it is possible they come back  wiped clean.    I didn’t keep a list of apps last year and I regretted that.  I decided to post my most used apps on the page now called Videos and Apps. Maybe you will find one you haven’t discovered yet.  They were all free when I originally downloaded them.

I thought I would also write a bit about how I use what I call my Pretend Play apps.  Three of my favorites are Toca Hair Salon, Toca Monsters, and PlayHome Lite.   I use these boards  frequently with my students in the  Life-skills programs.  I have found I need to create a lot of structure and routine or it becomes the student making a lot of random hits on the screen and basically zoning me out.  If there are two students, it is often difficult to get one student to  give up their turn to the other student.  I don’t find a session very fruitful under these conditions. Maybe you have had that experience too.   I have found that adding activity based communication boards to go along with the apps  adds the structure and the control I need.

I use Boardmaker to make the communication boards and usually start with a pretty basic framework.  My pronouns and nouns are on the left side of the board.  The next section contains the verbs needed, then prepositions and adjectives.  I leave the right side for my  My Turn, Your Turn, Finished, exclamations like Oh-no, and Do it again. By keeping the basic framework the same, the student becomes familiar with the icons and knows where to look for them. You do too which makes it easier to model the sentences.    If you keep your framework similar, you can make new boards easily by using the same framework and only replacing the vocabulary you need for the new activity.  I use plastic protectors and just slip the new board in.  This has saved me from laminating.

Quite a few of my students are working on using  two to three  word phrases using carrier phrases such as “I have____”, “I want____”,  “I need____”, and turn taking.  I require them to use words or the communication board before manipulating something on the iPad.  They then indicate Your Turn to the next student.  I model this behavior as I play with them and it isn’t long before they are talking with me in a more natural context.  It also works if you are working on subject pronouns and verb forms.  I model which tense of the verb I want them to use such as future tense on something they “will” do. I am posting pictures  of  two of my boards  I use with the apps “Play Home Lite” and “Toca Hair Salon”.  Has anyone else discovered this works for you?


Toca Hair

Before and After Picture Sentence Cards

26 Mar


button before and after.


It is Spring Break for me.  I have time to get some creative juices flowing.    Just before break, we had our annual book fair.  One of the  hot items was a “Top Secret UV Pen”.  I was lucky enough to get one before they sold out, although teachers were saying it was one of the main items they had to confiscate later after multiple reminders to put it away.  Maybe I should have just waited and one would have come my way.  Anyway they are pretty inexpensive, in the $3 range.  Book fairs are not that different from school to school so maybe you have seen the pens too.  I know you are itching to try it out so I am providing the perfect opportunity.

When  I saw this item an idea came to mind.   I knew my students enjoyed a Super Duper item that had a decoder light.  I thought I could make some of my cards more motivating by using it in the same way.   It would be perfect for my before and after cards.   Many of my students have difficulty with the semantics of when to use before or after.   I made  a deck of before and after cards with pictures for my non readers quite a few years ago.  They were lost in my move last Spring and  I dearly missed those cards.  Unfortunately they weren’t digital. This pen motivated me to make  another set.   This time I left a frame where I used the UV pen to  write before and after depending on the sentence.  The students can light up the answer to see if they are correct. The cards are still very useful even if you don’t have the UV light.

I made a free set of 9 cards on 3 pages for you to try out.  If you have the UV light you can add the light the answer feature.  I am not sure if the UV will work if they are laminated.  I’ll have to see when I get back to work.  Anyway try out these free cards and if you want more I’ll have a set of 30 at the TPT store. Click on the button at the top of the page and it will take you directly there.

WordPress before and after free set of 9 trial  cards


Making Descriptive Sentences for an Easter Activity

16 Mar

I have five days left before Spring Break and I realized Easter is coming faster than I thought.  It will be done when we come back from Spring Break and I haven’t even pulled out the plastic Easter eggs.   The  Easter eggs always add a  little variety to the speech therapy sessions. In preparation for this,  I updated the Descriptive Sentences Activity that is in the Expressive Language section.  It now has 20 basic sentences and I added color and visual cues to the spinner.  It is free at the TPT store here. TPT button  I will print out the basic sentences and insert them in the eggs.  The students will pull them out and spin the spinner to make  more elaborate sentences.  If they succeed they will keep the egg.  If not, it will get thrown back into the basket.  I will give some sort of little prize to the person with the most eggs.

descriptive spinner

Eggs-actly Descriptive Game Cards

3 Feb

I made a set of egg cards a number of years ago that I always brought out in the Spring to go along with Easter Egg themes.   They evolved from the barrier game cards that are available for download  in the social language section.  I decided they could use an update so I increased the number and difficulty and added a BINGO game.  There is now a bigger range from simple to more difficult.  The full set is at  TPT.   I put 12 of the cards for download here ( Eggs-actly PDF wordpress) . so you can try them out.   I had a fellow SLP that works in the middle school use them this last week..  She said they kept the students interested which is not easy for this age group.  They were able to progress into the more difficult ones. I did make some adjustments.  I had made multiple color spots and they tried to tell the location of each spot.  I thought that was a little too much so changed the spots to the same color.

These cards have been used with 3rd grade to 7th grade students to target descriptive vocabulary and to follow multiple directions. The cards range from two step (make a green star in a red triangle) to more complex directions that require 5 or more steps (draw red lines that intersect perpendicular to each other in the center, draw a red triangle in the upper left corner, a yellow circle in the upper right corner, a green heart in the lower left corner and a blue star in the lower right corner). The following vocabulary can be elicited: inside, parallel, diagonal, end, striped, spotted, across, center, corner, intersect, above, below, vertical, horizontal, half, between, left, right, perpendicular, heart, square, diamond, triangle, rectangle, and star.

I’ve also used them to elicit r,l,s and blends in multi-syllable words in spontaneous speech.  They were especially good for practicing the  th sound in that pesky word with.

You can use them in the traditional speech therapy games of  matching, go fish, following multiple directions, and mystery card.

I also used the cards with a free app called Educreations.  It allowed the students to use the  iPad for drawing.  It seems anything with the iPad is very motivating. I liked it because I didn’t have to deal with markers.  I hope you have fun and let me know how they work for you.

3 eggs

Go For Broke or Maybe Gopher Broke.

18 Jan

This was a difficult week to get through, mainly because the cold that has been running rampant through the school population finally got me. Even after taking a day off,  I haven’t had as much energy. Our neck of the country was also settling in for a cold spell when the boiler  gave out in the main building.  It made the classrooms quite cold.  You just never know what teaching environment you will have in these older buildings. I am looking forward to the three day weekend.

The title of my post this week refers to a video I put in the video section. Look for Gopher Broke.   I used it this week to talk about prediction, developing conflict  and story plot.  It is a 4 minute animated video that does not have words and is great for interpreting what will happen next.  I stopped it along the way and asked students what clues they noticed and what predictions they could make from them. We also talked about what details in the story made it interesting.

I used the video to lead up to my instruction on story telling.  I have used  a free app called “Toontastic” in the past that the students have really liked.  Unfortunately some of my students are obsessed with  fighting scenarios and can’t get past these to develop other forms of  conflict or plot.  They need help in getting their creative juices flowing.  I came across Story Sticks on Sarcasm 101.  I decided to try something similar and made my own story  craft sticks.  I color coded for characters, conflict, setting and miscellaneous like she did.  However, I printed them out on paper and used a  glued stick to glue them on the sticks.  I then just color coded the tips and edges with a color  crayon.  I find writing on craft sticks is a bit difficult and hard to read so I opted for the paper.    Click here to see what I wrote on the sticks.  Story Sticks.    You may want to make some changes to the list so I kept it in Word format.

Story sticks

Thank you and A Little of This and a Little of That

22 Nov

I really didn’t know how to title this post but in the end this title seemed best.  When I started this blog I thought of it as my contribution to all the people that mentored me and helped me through the years. Those first few years out of grad. school are a steep learning curve.   I also wanted to help all the people starting jobs without materials.  My stockpile was the only thing I started with some times.  So this blog  is a Thank you of sorts and a Pay Forward type of activity.  Little did I know I would get so much back from my thank you.  I’ve enjoyed the comments and suggestions people have made.  I have followed links people have left and found a wealth of information and materials to add to my own.    I have felt a kindred spirit from people across the United States.  I have been honored by the nominations.  Sometimes this blog is the validation that I  chose the right profession. So Thank you to my readers.

This is the “This and That”  portion of the post.  I noticed I am coming up on 94,000 hits.  Of course some of those hits are probably spam but even that is something. Someone thinks  I am spam worthy.   I often wondered when I started if anyone was actually reading and using anything.  Then Pinterest came along and  a flourish of new speech blogs and sites.  I found that people actually wanted to link to me.  This was good because that meant more readers.  Well there is a point where you can become to successful and things start to falter.   I started this blog using two free services:  WordPress and Keep and Share.  As with anything that is free there are some sacrifices such as advertisements you don’t have control over  and a limit to bandwidth for things like downloads.  There have been a few times where my bandwidth has been exceeded and people have not been able to do downloads on Keep and Share.  I think this may become a problem in the near future.  To handle larger loads I would need to pay for a subscription.  I have struggled with how I may make this site self sufficient so it doesn’t come from the family budget.

I don’t like the idea of making  a pay site because that goes against my  initial intent.   I really want people to feel like this is a sharing place and not  a place they are pressured to buy materials. I decided  teachers pay teachers may be my solution.  Some of my activities could really use some updating and some people may like a colored version rather than the black and white.  I will keep the black and white versions here and people can go to teacher pay teachers for an updated colored version if they like.

I am starting to update the Concept Development Activities in the Vocabulary section.   I use them in my  Kindergarten, RTI  or push -in model.   I  added  penguins to what use to be the Musical Chair Activity to make the cards  more child friendly.   Hopefully the pictures will help children who do not read.

The Musical Penguins for Concept Development is Free right now  for a starter.   I also posted the Train Sequence for Concept Development for a small fee.  So go check them out and get a free download in the process.

For those of you who read all the way to the end, here is a reward.

The best thing I came across this week was from Chapel Hill Snippets  On her November 18th post were directions on how to lock the screen of my iPad so students do not suddenly switch from their communication board to Angry Birds.  This is a must  have  for many of us.

I can be flexible, really I can.

6 Oct

I am sorry that I haven’t been able to do my usual posting.  The year has been a bit unpredictable.   I am thinking I need to add a few more statements to Murphy’s Laws for SLPs.  You just don’t know what will be coming your way next.

I had just finished my scheduling for my students and stuck their schedule clocks into the teacher’s mailboxes. Speech Therapy would start the following week, so I thought.  I always feel better when that task is done.  I shouldn’t have felt so smug.  I just sat down when  I received a phone call from the special education director.  He said they were reorganizing SLP placements to balance out the caseloads. This was a bit scary to hear as I wondered where I would end up next.  It turned out they were reassigning me back to the school I was at previously.  At least I was familiar with the students, parents and staff.  So I said goodbye to the new staff and hello to the old staff.  At least they seemed happy to see me.  A few students and parents seemed confused but it was nice to be back in familiar territory sorta.  I say sorta because the room was transformed a bit.  Furniture was switched and items in cabinets and shelves had been reshuffled.  The things we do to make it our own when we move into new territory.   By this time I had actually moved my boxes 5 times;  the strike, back to finish the year, home, to new school and back to original school.  I managed to lose a box.  I am not sure exactly what was in it, only that I seem to be missing things to include my vocabulary building cards and my Superflex capes.  This has left me feeling like I am loosing my mind trying to figure out where it might be.   I am glad I made this site so I can rebuild  most of it.

There are some good things coming on the horizon.  I am team teaching a social pragmatic group for life skills students this year.   I will post activities as we do them this year.  I will also be attending the “Social Thinking” conference in a few weeks.  Michelle Winner has come out with new materials and I am eager to see them.

I always enjoy hearing from followers out there.  I hope your year has started out a bit more stable.   Has anyone had as unpredictable of a  time as I have?

Welcome to a New School Year.

9 Sep

I am sorry you haven’t heard from me for a while.  I thought I should make a post  so that I don’t make the inactive list  after  making the list for top  SLP sites.   I was not expectingIt  to be recognized for  my efforts and it was a pleasant surprise.   I am amazed at how many new SLP sites/blogs are out there since I began 2 yrs ago.  We are certainly a creative bunch of individuals.  You should definitely check the sites out on the list.   All of this sharing is making it much easier to plan therapy and learn new things.  It is also makes it much harder to come up with original ideas.

At this time I don’t have much new to offer.  I have been preoccupied with adjusting to a new building and staff.  So far the staff has been welcoming and helpful.  The secretaries and janitor are not running from me when they see me  so I haven’t worn out my welcome yet.  I have moved to a room that is 1/3 or less the size of my previous room.  This has forced me to make priorities of what I keep at home and at school.   It is a good way to clean out things you really don’t need.  I have a window to the outside which I haven’t had for the last 7 yrs.

It does seem like a better working situation.  I have an elementary school with K-5th grade population and a few students at a close by charter school.  There is still a poverty and english learner population which means we have pressure to meet testing requirements which seem more out of reach each year.  I will  not supervise  a SLPA this year which should make the paperwork considerably less.  The district has decided that claiming reimbursement for Medicaid is no longer cost-effective and have discontinued the practice.  That will also cut down on paperwork and data taking.  If you read posts from last year you know we spent most of the year without a contract and had a strike looming for most of the year.  It was definitely a stressful year.

I have hopes for a better year.  I know other places are still fighting rough times.  Does anyone care to check in from else where?  Is your year looking better?   I want to assure the teachers in Chicago that you have support even on the West Coast.   We have learned here there is power in numbers and sometimes that is what it takes.

A Possible Data Collection System

5 Aug

Summer is a great time to look at new options for the next year.  I have trouble changing course when the year has already begun.  However, changing to a new caseload gives me opportunities to start afresh and technology presents new options.

Up until now  I have used the typical paper and pencil data collection system, but I would like to change to something that doesn’t require as much paper shuffling.    A site called intrigued me so I  put it on my list for exploration this summer.  I added it to my blog roll on the right if you want to look at it also.   I just got around to playing  with it and I think it has good potential for record keeping.

I can’t claim the idea of using it for  speech therapy as mine.  In my meandering across speech sites (Speaking of Speech possibly) someone mentioned it.  I no longer remember the person with the great idea.  If you are out there please step forward and say who you are so you can be acknowledged properly.

The  premiss of the program is to track behaviors in a classroom and give immediate feedback.   The behaviors can easily be setup for therapy goals also.   You can set up a number of classes so each group of students you work with  can form a class.  At the end of a session, a percentage score can be obtained for each student.   This score can actually be emailed to parents if you like.  There is flexibility in  recording degrees of correctness such as correct, correct with prompt, or incorrect, depending on how you set it up initially.  I have always hated the idea of minus and plus as the only options because it doesn’t indicate when a cue  has occurred.   I think that is valuable information for the child and me.

If you are like me and are lucky to have one iPad to use, you are reluctant to use it for data collection because  this prevents you from  using the other apps for actual therapy.  There is another  good feature.  You can access the program on a smart phone and record responses there as well.   I am eager to see if this will work  for me.