I have realized recently how important props can be when conducting speech therapy in groups. Groups provide a natural setting to practice such things as turn taking, using positive speech, and solving disagreements in a positive fashion. The participants of the pragmatic groups generally have difficulty seeing another individuals perspective and do not even realize when they have given an insult. The challenge is to provide feedback to individuals in a timely fashion without singling individuals out. When pointing out mistakes in a group, an instructor runs the risk of provoking an argument and disrupting the session for the rest of the group. A few props and starting rules can make a lot of difference. It often helps to have the group formulate rules that can then be posted on the wall and numbered. Typical rules are allowing everyone a chance to talk without interruption, speaking positively, taking turns etc. They can be referred to by number as needed. When expectations are set ahead by the group the instructor becomes less of an enforcer and more of a coach. Other props I use are a plastic microphone from the dollar store and a spatula with a cardboard pancake taped to it. The microphone is used to stress turn taking. The child holding the microphone has the designated turn to talk. The spatula is handed to the student who made a cutting or discouraging remark to another student. They are instructed to make a positive remark in replacement thereby flipping the pancake.
With the first signs of spring, the children start asking me when I will put up the pear tree. It seems to have become a yearly tradition. The tree takes many forms. This year I twisted crepe paper to make limbs and tacked them up on the bulletin board. I then had students trace their hands on green paper and cut them out. I rolled them and tacked them next to the limbs for leaves. This made a 3 dimensional tree. I cut out pear shapes from yellow construction paper and have them ready for tacking up.
I use the tree to make students more aware of homonyms in our language. Students are encouraged to find homonyms, tell me the word meanings and then write them on a pear shape to place on the tree. I get them started by placing the first pair/pear on the tree. I explain that names do not count. I allow only one pear per individual per day so that more individuals have a chance. I keep an alphabetized list so I can cross out those that have already been used. I learned that this saves you from searching the tree continually. Amazingly each year they come up with new ones that weren’t used previously. I give students a token candy for each set they find. A child needs to be able to tell the meanings of the words they are using and the correct spellings before I allow them to record them on a pear. I have placed a list of homonyms in the vocabulary section. It is an excel list because if new ones are added I can easily put them in the correct alphabetical order. I hope most of you will be able to open it and can just add to it.
This week we used ball relays to go over the concepts behind, in front, through, over, and end of the line. They also practiced following 2 to 3 step directions and working in a team. We formed 3 lines of about 10 students each.
The first direction was to pass a ball through their legs to the person behind them. The ball continued to be passed until the last person received it and then the line could sit down. They were encouraged to work as a team and use encouraging words to keep team mates going. The first group required instruction on sportman ship and appropriate words to say to another team when they lost. The 2nd direction was to pass the ball over their head to the team mate behind them. Again they could sit down when their team completed the task. These two tasks were then combined together. The ball was passed through legs to the last person in line and then the last person returned the ball passing it over the head of the person in front of them. When it came to the beginning point everyone sat down.
The final task was dividing each line in half so there was a group A lined in single file and facing a group B also in single file. Separate the two lines enough that a ball can be tossed from one side and still caught on the other side. The first person in group A tosses the ball to the first person in Group B. After tossing the ball the group A person runs behind the Group B line and becomes one of them. The front person in line B now tosses to the person in the front of line A and then goes to the back of line A. This continues until the lines have now switched to the opposite sides. This requires some thinking for the students to follow the directions. Don’t be surprised if one line becomes longer than the other as people get in the wrong line after throwing the ball. This created an opportunity for a little problem solving.
Today we used the gym once again. We have access to a large parachute in our gym equipment. It is a great tool to work on concept development. We started by spreading it out on the gym floor. It’s good to establish a few rules such as all activity stops when a whistle is blown and everyone needs to hold onto the edge of the parachute unless told otherwise. There are always a few students who can’t resist trying to run under the parachute. To start, we had the students grab the edge with their right hand, pick up the parachute, and circle to the left. We still have a few students that do not recognize their left from their right so we reviewed that once again. Next they practiced holding the parachute high and low as they walked We then reversed the process and had them grab it with their left hand and hold it high and low. We then have them grab the edge with both hands and wiggle it up and down fast and then slow. A ball is placed into the center and they are told to try to keep it in the center. In the last activity we have them hold it above their heads while 4 students’ names are called. These students are then instructed to run across the middle and under the parachute to the opposite side. By the time the parachute activity is completed we have reviewed the concepts center, edge, right, left, across, center, low, high and above.
We used Tiddly Winks as the group activity this week. This is a reasonably cheep game that usually comes with at least four sets of different colored winks (plastic circles), a felt take off point, and a target area. I divide the sets up so there is one big wink and 3 small ones for each table group. I make extra target areas from small saucers or cups. We talk about the concepts, center, over, close, edge, and far. The students then take turns using the larger circles to pop the smaller circles into the targets by pressing on the edges. Each child gets 3 attempts before moving on to the next child. The tables can be in competition for who gets the most winks into the targets. I let the students decide if they want the target moved far or close to them. It takes a bit of skill to make them pop up, but most get it on the 3rd attempt. It’s not usual for the winks to fly over their target. It leads to the use of prepositions quite naturally.
This group time we played dominos and reviewed the concepts, different, same, match, end, and between. There are a lot of domino games out there for purchase that use pictures rather than the traditional dots. You can use them for vocabulary and category development if you get sets that are made around a theme. In the vocabulary section there are directions and a place to download them if you want to make your own.
I’ve posted a new social pragmatic activity. I’ve called it Crocodile Pass. Please look in the social pragmatic section to download the directions. This activity encourages students to learn from mistakes and to move on. A lot of my students are afraid of making a mistake so won’t even make a guess. They need to learn it is ok to make guesses and mistakes can be OK. We can learn from them. It also requires them to use their short-term memory and make inferences to predict a pattern. It encourages using observation as a learning method. So have fun with it. I’m sure you will find your own variations. We had a group that had some low functioning and high functioning students with autism. One guy that would stay on the side lines finally joined the group and participated for the first time. It made my day.
This week we played the game Simon Says. Basically the game has a leader give directions. If the direction is prefaced by “Simon Says” the students follow the direction. If it doesn’t preface the direction the students do not follow the direction and have a penalty. We had the students in the gym so were able to use some lines that were already present for a basketball court. The directions included moving forward and backward to the next line doing various walks such as walking like a crab, or hopping on one foot. If students were caught following a direction without the preface of “Simon Says” they had to go back to the original line they started at. This is a good game to increase listening skills and curb that impulse to do immediate action without thinking about the direction. We also reviewed the concepts right, left, backward, forward, next, and sideways.
This last week the group reviewed the concepts of backwards, center, and items that belong to a category. We played a variation of the game “Fruit Basket Upset”. In this game the children form a circle, step backwards one step and sit down . One child was placed in the center of the circle. An adult would then gave a direction such as “All children with white on their shirts stand up.” These children were then given the direction to change places. The child in the center then tried to get one of the spots that were vacated. This left one child at the end to come back to the center. You can instruct children to hop when they exchange places to discourage a mad rush to the vacated places. Once the children understood these basic games rules, we handed out cards from the “Never Ever Dinner Plate” activity. The directions were given to include a category that was handed out. For instance only those with fruit could exchange places or only vegetables that grew underground.
Today we again found ourselves in the gym. We set up an obstacle course that consisted of a very long jump rope, cones set up in a circle, hula hoops laid out on the floor in various patterns and cones that were rounded off rather than having the pointed tops. We then lined the students up behind the jump rope that two adults held up between them. The students were instructed to jump over the rope, go around the cones, skip to the hula hoops, jump in and out of them, jump over the half cones or tap them and form back to the line. The 2nd round they were instructed to bend backwards under the rope (think limbo stick) gallop around the circle of cones to the hula hoops, walk through the hula hoops (think football players and tires) and weave through the half cones. The concepts reviewed were between, through, bend backward, over, around, and skip. They had additional practice skipping, and galloping which allows practice crossing the mid-line which is said to be important for writing skills. An obstacle course lends itself to all types of directions using prepositions. Just use your imagination when looking for equipment.