It is time for the Olympics

29 Jul

The Olympics makes me think of sports and a great time to use sport related vocabulary.  I have been organizing some of my materials and came across some of the cards I use for a sports theme.  I thought some of you may be able to use them when talking about the Olympics.   There are two sets.   Word Association (Sports) cards in the Vocabulary section and 3 Words Make a Sentence (Sports) in the Expressive Language section.

No more pencils, no more books, no more….

26 Jun

Wait a minute, I don’t like the ending to that.   I tried to hold off on the dirty looks.    I have to say I was really happy to see this last school year come to a close.  Of all the years I’ve worked this one was probably the hardest.   As the  saying goes, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  It was a stressful year of failed contract negotiations, high caseload in two buildings, high parent expectations with dwindling resources.   The last two weeks of school were  stressful as  missed meetings required rescheduling   within the busy end of year schedule.   It really makes a person reach for new ways of dealing with the paperwork and scheduling challenges.  This is a goal I have made for myself.  I know many of you  faced similar challenges or maybe even worse situations.   I would love to hear your survival stories.  Will you be back another school year?

As I was  getting ready for the summer departure and contemplating what my next year would  bring,  I found I would have a new assignment.  I  decided this is a good thing, because I really needed to sort through my materials and make adjustments.  I have brought all my materials home to get ready for a move to another building.   This is good news for you, because I’ve found a few things that were not posted yet.   If you care to look through the materials you may find them as the summer moves a long.

Are We There Yet?

26 May

You may have noticed that this month lacked the usual posting. It turned out to be a month of emotional upheaval so I decided it was better not to post until things turned around. We got the good news this morning at 6 am.  We will no longer be on strike but will return to work on Tuesday morning.  This was after a negotiation session that ran 18 hrs. at the end of a week of walking a picket line through mostly rainy weather.  

Striking was not an experience I thought I would ever take part in as a teacher.  I can’t say I was an avid participant of union events up until this year.  This year I was glad I had paid those union dues.  It made the difference with not having to accept a contract that was grossly unfair to us and the students we work with.  It is no joke that teachers are under attack.  We saw it happen here in our little part of the world as 4 districts had to fight it out.  Not over the money like the press continues to say, but over contract language that took away things like prep time, employment tied to test scores,  allowing verbal complaints to go into record, and contract re-openers which meant nothing really was binding.

 I have to say that our parents were are best allies.  They put the pressure on the school board, and supported us on the line with coffee, and goodies.  Although some animosity developed during the week as classified staff had to continue to work, it also allowed for some bonding as people were able to talk and meet like they hadn’t before. Hopefully we will now be able to finish the next 2 1/2 weeks on more pleasant terms.

StoryKit for Speech Therapy

28 Apr

If you have  followed my blog you know that I have used StoryKit in a few of my activities this year.   I thought I would bring it to the fore front since I found another way to use it.   I keep finding new ways to use it and  it useful for so much more than just editing a story.   For those who are not familiar with it, you can read more about it on the ITunes app store.    It is available as a free download.

When you first open StoryKit  its full potential is not apparent.  When I first saw the books listed  for editing I thought it was  just another app for downloading children’s books.  Then I realized I could create my own books and insert pictures I took with my iPad or  my photo library.  The program also allows for writing and multiple recordings on each page.

This led to use number one.   I found it was great for creating directions for crafts because of the multi-modal presentation.  A child has  pictured, written, and verbal directions that can be repeated at the push of a button.   If you look back on my bulletin board crafts, there are examples of  directions posted using this program.  The App creations are  actually better on the iPad because they are presented as a book  rather than in story board form.

Use number two was actually incorporated into use number one.  I used the recording feature for expressive language and carry over for articulation.  The students created and produced  the directions.  They were motivated to use clear and concise speech when recording them.  If it didn’t come out clear the first time, it was easy to record it again They would make multiple recordings and in the end keep the best one.  It really made them more aware of errors to correct  and what details were important.

My latest use was making a book of  “Unexpected Animal Photos.”  There are all sorts of collections of photos on the internet. It is easy to take a screen snapshot of these photos to make a book.  Students can add verbal commentary once pictures are added.  I’ve found that animals are a good topic for conversation and the unusual pictures encourage  students to use descriptive detail and make inferences.   You can make your own by using  Google to search for collections of  unexpected animal photos.  When you find a photo that you like, you can add it to your photo library by taking a screen shot.  Here are the directions to create a screen shot.  Even if you don’t have an iPad, the  pictures can be printed off and used  for discussion. Students always seem to  like to talk about animals.

A Flexible Brain

17 Apr

Today we continued to work with the social pragmatic group using the Superflex program.  The lesson of the day required the use of a flexible brain to illustrate how the brain needs to be flexible to grow and handle changes in its environment.  There is a comparison of a rigid brain with a flexible  brain. For those who do not know the program, Superflex conquers Rock Brain  who is not flexible and doesn’t adapt to change well.  He keeps getting stuck doing the same old thing.

The lesson manual suggested using a brain mold to make a jello brain.   I was in luck because I knew someone who I could get the mold from.  The manual   did not give actual directions or a recipe.   I  put this lesson off for as long as I could because  I do not have a good history with jello molds.  I have a history of  jello that sticks to the mold and never turns out looking right.  The thought of trying to work with one in the time line of classes had me worried.  I figured the jello would melt and be over the table before the 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.  So  I  settled for the following recipe.

You need 3 boxes of jello with orange to pink colors (watermelon, peach), Evaporate milk (12 0z), 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 o spray.  Add milk and cold water to the gelatin mixture and stir until smooth.  Add 2 drops green food coloring.  The mixture should look more 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 form several hours.

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 way ends of the paper were left sticking out and easy to grab with tweezers.  Surprisingly, the brain is still in good shape after the papers are removed and I can use it again for another group. No one asked if they could eat it.  I took a picture of the brain so you could  have a visual.

The Positive and the Negative

10 Feb

This week I have  been working with a  group of young boys that are working on pragmatic language skills.  They  are having  difficulty determining when a statement is positive or negative and  are equating statements with math concepts.  If it is true then  of course it is positive.  They are not comprehending that some true statements can actually be quite hurtful and not a  positive experience  for the person who hears them.  I’ve decided we really need to explore this much further.

I prepared a lesson and thought that maybe some of you would like to use  it as well.  I  prepared  a  list of statements that can be  differentiated as being positive or negative.   We will talk about how a negative statement can be turned around to be more positive.  I may use the glass is half empty or is it half full analogy. I also have my demonstration spatula I use as a prop to encourage flipping the pancake.  We will talk about times in which  a true statement should be left in the mind and  not verbalized.  We will also explore  what effect a different intonation pattern may make on a statement.  The statements are ready to be cut out and put into a grab bag.  You can find them in the social  language section and here.

Direction Sequence for Paper Ornaments

27 Nov

This is really an update for the paper ornaments mentioned below.  I had so much fun learning about this tool that I wanted you to be aware of it also.   It is a  free app for the  iPad called StoryKit.  I didn’t have the opportunity to explore its capabilities until now.  I was trying to figure out the best way to provide directions for the paper ornaments and it came to mind.  I am impressed.  It was easy to use and I can see a lot of potential for making sequences and having the students make their own stories. The stories can then be saved on a server for future use.  Here is the link for the directions for the ornaments.  On your iPad it will actually look like a book that you can turn the pages on.  It is also possible to  add audio to each page.

Literacy Tools and Speech Therapy

11 Nov

It is not a surprise that many of our speech students are poor readers and do not like to read.  They may  lack many of the skills that it takes to enjoy a good story.  Their reading ability often  keeps them in stories that have immature topics compared to their interests.  It doesn’t take long before they find themselves way behind their peers.  They are stumbling through basal readers when their peers have moved on to chapter books.  Yet books are such a great tool to learn new vocabulary, learn story sequence, and develop the ability to make inferences.

The 5th grade classes  at one of my schools compete in the Spring in a competition called the “Battle of the Books”.  They are assigned books through the year, questions are derived from the stories, and then the questions are used for a type of knowledge bowl competition.
The winning team is acknowledged by the school  library.  A few of the 5th graders I work with are unable to read the books and grasp the material.  They have a hard time including themselves in this competition.

This school year I’ve become aware of new tools to bring literacy to my students with  poor reading ability.  They can enjoy appropriate reading and writing content when their reading skills are low.  Two such internet programs are  “” and StoryBird.  I have added them to the blogroll.  Both programs are  free to classroom teachers or mentors who enroll students and are responsible for over seeing the material and content. The material is password protected but available to a core group.

Bookshare is available to students with print disabilities. As stated on the  Bookshare site, ” Through an award from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), Bookshare offers free memberships to U.S. schools and qualifying U.S. students.”   In this program, the mentor/teacher verifies that a  student  has a disability that prevents them from accessing literature without  accommodations. The books would typically be copywrite protected but are available to be downloaded through this program to assigned students.  The student has access to an assigned book on any computer by using an assigned  password.  Text is highlighted and read to them by the computer. All levels of reading ability are represented and a lot of the books are books being used in classrooms today as assigned reading.

The Storybird site is particularly helpful for students who need visual material to get the creative juices flowing.  Artists have contributed beautiful art work that can be dragged and pulled to pages.  The students then add text to make their own stories.  The students can complete their own classroom libraries.  Students can make individual books/stories or collaborate.  It can maintain an interest level from low readers to the Talented and Gifted (TAG).  What a great classroom project to include everyone on the same playing field.

Grade Level Goals

30 Oct

In our college speech programs we are taught what can be expected for  normal speech and language development.  As Speech Language Pathologist we spend a lot of time trying to write appropriate measurable goals for our students who fall below the standards of development.  We have the responsibility of translating our student’s weaknesses into goals and objectives.  In an educational setting,  we are also asked that  speech  services  address the common  core state standards for academics.  We need to be aware of these standards to know what is expected at each grade level and write goals accordingly.

Most states have  published their common core standards on the internet.  The standards are very common from state to state. I guess that was the purpose after all.  To have the states line up with common expectations.   However some state standards are a lot easier to read and use than others. You may want to look up your information from the state board of education in your state.  Oregon state has laid theirs out rather nicely with each grade level having their own section.  I added links for the state of Oregon’s Language Arts section  to the TX and Forms section.  Even if your state isn’t Oregon, it is probably pretty similar.  We  can use this information when writing our goals to see if we can help a student meet those expectations to grade level.  I tried to follow these when writing my goals in my goal bank.  Here is a short cut link to the TX and Forms page where you can access the goal bank and core standards.

You may notice that K-2nd have similar objectives but expect higher level vocabulary and expertise with grammatical structures as students reach 3rd grade.    3rd and 5th grades are expected to have better language comprehension and interpretations of what they read and hear.  In some cases it is the descriptive words we use rather than much change in the actual objectives such as referring to using antonyms rather giving opposites of a word.  I like to have my  goals reflect the language being used for instruction.  I’ve found the classroom teachers respond favorably to this as they realize I am supporting their instruction and relate it to what is happening in the classroom.

Challenges for a New School Year

15 Oct

Every school year brings new challenges and this year is no different. This year I am striving to answer the questions, “What do you do when children are participating in the general education classrooms and are more than 2 or 3 years behind their classmates?”    I have several children in kindergarten and 1st grade who fit this description.  They have disabilities such as autism or Down Syndrome.  Because they are closer to a developmental age level of 3 yrs., they have difficulty focusing on tasks longer than 5 minutes and may not understand directions and materials presented verbally to the class.  With kindergarten class sizes of 30 or more the teachers have a real challenge keeping everyone focused and attending to a given task.  Play and social skills have taken a backseat to academics. The Kindergarten curriculum has become more demanding teaching reading, writing, and math skills in more formalized instruction. It is difficult for children to relate and stay focused to paper pencil tasks when they relate better to objects and manipulating them.  The result is children wandering on the fringes and not engaging in the instruction. They easily become frustrated and interrupt instruction when they can’t get their needs met.

In my location, the SLP is often the case manager for the students in lower grade levels because they have an eligibility of Communication Disability out of early childhood programs.  They start in the least restrictive environment which is regular kindergarten.  Schools do not automatically assign educational assistants (EA) to an individual child.  Research studies indicate this creates dependency and hinders their development academically and socially.  Even if there is an adult assigned to the room, the goal is to train the child to complete tasks independently and reduce the EA time.  The SLP is responsible for training the EA, and making sure a program is set up to meet IEP goals.  Districts are often feeling the pinch economically when hiring EAs and require data to be taken to prove the EA is needed.  This results in an increased workload as data plans, and functional behavior plans are formulated in the first few weeks of school.  In some cases, there is help given from the autism specialist and occupational therapist.

So what can be done to make a child more independent, on task, and productive in learning skills to their level?  Setting up visual schedules and workstations can be very helpful toward keeping them engaged and productive.  The child begins to learn what is expected of him in class and it decreases the power struggles. When a child learns how to work off a schedule they become less dependent on an adult to tell them what to do.  The workstations allow the child to complete tasks more appropriate to their level, in shorter time segments so there is less frustration.

Children often respond well to visual schedules.  They may relate better to one specific to their needs rather than the one posted on a wall for the class.  An individualized schedule can allow for breaks and activities in 5 to 10 minute intervals rather than the usual 20 minute class routine.   This allows the child to start with classmates and then move to more appropriate task that they can successfully complete. They can earn points by completing tasks and work toward a chosen activity.  This allows for more frequent breaks and immediate reinforcement.  Some children can adapt to a schedule rather quickly, however most will need the help of an adult at least initially.

A work system can be set up in bins, drawers, or folders.  The child is assigned a number of tasks that are labeled in some fashion.  This could be drawers 1, 2, and 3 for example. .  The tasks are placed in the drawers, bins, or folders. The child is given an if/ then card.  He chooses his reinforcement and places it in the then spot.   He then knows what he is working for.  The assigned tasks (1,2,3) are placed in the squares before the then that represent what needs to be completed.  Tasks can be puzzles, matching games, worksheets, and file folder games.   As he completes each task it is placed in a done box.  He is then allowed to have the reinforcement he chooses.  Reinforcement does not always have to be food.  It may be earning minutes to play legos, computer time or using a vacuum.

Making these materials can be very time intensive. Fortunately there are some sites that have downloadable materials available.  I’ve been setting up materials so parent volunteers can help with the cutting and pasting. At the end are the sites I have been using to make file folders and schedules.  Of course Boardmaker is a really handy program to have as a ready source of pictures.        file folder games ready for printing      schedules and examples on how to make them work      A site that has Now and Then boards ready for printing and file folder games

If you have any  suggestions, or ideas, that have worked for you ,please respond by making a comment.  I always enjoy hearing what others are doing in similar circumstances.