Concept Group 6

24 Oct

The kindergarten math program introduced the concepts  less, least, more, and most this last week.  The classroom teacher asked if I would support that.  I was fortunate to have found another game of  “Don’t Spill the Beans” on my trip to “Goodwill” last weekend.  We had three games of “Don’t Spill the Beans” and two games of  “Kerplunk” available to us.  In both games the winner is the one with the least marbles or beans.  Instead of using the provided chambers for holding  marbles or beans I used empty paint cups.  I do this because  there aren’t enough chambers for the number of kids and in the case of “Kerplunk”,  if the marble chamber doesn’t have  to be moved there is less chance of marbles accidently coming down. 

The AM class had an extra adult helper available to us, so we divided the kids into five table groups.   The PM class did not have an extra helper, but we still divided the class into five groups.  We placed a chosen group of five students who we knew could monitor themselves with an adult standing by.  This of course stacked our other groups with students who had more difficulty monitoring themselves, but did have an adult at the table.  We  reviewed the rules of the games and stressed the concept vocabulary.

The activity went well for both classes.   Two students in my table group in the PM class had difficulty waiting for their turns and  didn’t understand they were trying to get less beans.  When I reinforced the appropriate turn taking with one student, I was told “My mom is bigger then you”.   I told him  that she probably was but he still had to take turns.  I did get a little chuckle on that one.   He was also a little disappointed when he found the student with the less beans was the winner at the end of our first round.  Sometimes experience is the best teacher.

Game Shopping

17 Oct

I made a trip to Goodwill today.  It’s my favorite place to shop for games and game pieces.  I’m probably one of the few people who doesn’t care if  some games are missing  pieces.  I supplement a lot of the games I already own so more children can play at the same time or I can replace lost parts.   I found I can often find directions to a game on the internet, if they are missing.  Part of a game can also be a source of inspiration for another game.

 What’s interesting to see is how games have changed over the years.  A few  of my games started out wood and are now made of plastic.  The kids marvel that some of my games are over 20 years old and I still have the parts to play.  It makes for a good discussion of taking care of what you own and having respect for another person’s property.  

   Parents will often ask me what they can do at home to help their children who have language delays.  The main complaint is they get one word responses like  “fine” when they try to talk to them.  We are in the golden age of technology and communication but it doesn’t seem to be at a family level.  There seems to be less opportunities for family members to actual talk to one another.  The trick is to create an opportunity for communication other than just asking questions.  Provide opportunities to talk about  impersonal topics and the personal ones will come along also.    I think a family game night can go far in creating a language rich experience and communication opportunity.   It’s one thing that has fallen off the grid with technology taking its place.  Children enjoy the interaction and it isn’t just another homework assignment.

There are quite a few commercial games that lend to vocabulary development and creative thinking.   For older students working on word associations and more global thinking, I have found  Apples to Apples, In a Pickle, and Scattergories to be good.  For younger students games such as  Kerplunk,  Don’t Spill the Beans, and Hi Ho Cherry O Game review concepts such as least, most, and more.  There are some good ones that aren’t  published anymore but keep you eyes open for them at garage sales etc.  Often the games don’t even look like they have been used.

Concept Group 5

14 Oct

This week we decided to tackle “left” and “right”.  This is a very difficult concept for 5 year olds, so we usually have several activities that go over it in the course of the year.  We start the activity by having children raise their right hand and then their left.  Funny how watching the person across the table from you just doesn’t work.   We also talk about some other cues people use like they write with their right hand and your left hand makes a natural L with your thumb and pointer finger.   As an adult you have to refrain from saying “Your right!” when they lift their left, which just adds to the confusion.

This activity uses the game of  “Blockhead”.   It’s listed on the vocabulary page as “Stacking Blocks“.  It involves spinning a spinner which tells you which hand you can pick up a block and then place on top of a growing tower of blocks in the center of the table.  If the blocks fall they are placed back into the box. 

 There is a friendly competition between table groups to see who can build the tallest tower and use all their blocks.  A couple of tables had natural born leaders who talked to their peers on the best block placements.  Other table groups were not so fortunate and had difficulty keeping their hands from the tower or taking appropriate turns.  A good introduction to team work.  In any case it was a learning experience beyond the concept words.

Concept Group 4

6 Oct

We were fortunate to have an adult volunteer in both the PM and AM classes.  This brought the table groups to 6 children with one adult.  What a difference this makes.  I would like to make a cheer and thankyou for all those parent volunteers out there. 

 The math program was reviewing shapes and catergorization this week.  My “Sequence Vocabulary” activity happens to have shapes in it, so I decided that would be a good activity.  Again I had to add 6 more sets of cards to accomodate our class size.  This was a matter of printing train and shape  pictures, pasting them on poster board, and laminating.  

In this activity the cards are drawn from a pile in the center of the table one by one.  The students have a possibility of getting a shape card or one of four cars to make a train.  It allows for the discussion of first, last, ending, middle, and  beginning of the train.  There is also a same and different decision to be made because a student doesn’t keep a card he already has.  These and the shapes go into a discard pile.  The first student to get the four train cards is declared the winner and the game can be played again.  Six students to a table made the turn taking much easier and the game appeared to go well. We went through the stack 3 times in a 20 minute period of time.  I had them each build a train sequence, review the sequence vocabulary and then rubber band each set so it would be ready for the next class.    The volunteers seemed to catch on quickly.  It’s good to have activities that don’t need much explanation.

Tools of the Trade

30 Sep

          I find it interesting to see what tools speech therapist find to be most helpful or  essential for the job.  I’ve moved and changed jobs frequently while following a military spouse.  There are some items that I try to get fairly quickly when I start a new job.  I thought you might like to hear what I find most useful beyond the usual articulation decks of cards and therapy materials.  

    tally counter  I’ve found a tally counter very useful for students working on articulation in conversational speech.  With this counter I can include them in groups that may be focusing on language activities.  They get the task of counting the sound they are working on as they speak.  It has the benefit of slowing the fast speakers down and making them think before they talk.  The students find operating the tally very motivating. I take my own count and we compare the count.  If we are doing an activity that requires a turn, I will give them a quota such as 20 words with a specific sound before stopping.

 timer A timer is used in some of the word games such as password.  It is used to measure conversational speech for a speech sample.  Some of my objectives use 3 minutes of conversational speech as part of the measurement.   It can be used to break up how much time I spend with each child in a group.  I will work with one child in a group for 1 to 2 minutes while 2 others in the group monitor themselves with a game of “Monkeys”.  The task becomes how many monkeys can be linked in 2 minutes. I find I can focus on the one student and not get distracted by the other two debating if a monkey was actually dropped. It allows students of a group to do an activity as a motivator while you work with another student.  This is necessary sometimes when one child needs to work on something different from the other members of the group.

                      white board    A small hand held white board can be used for many purposes.  Several of these can allow everyone in a group to be active.  Students can work on comprehension questions or main idea.  I can read a short paragraph and ask a question and give multiple choice questions.   Students can respond by putting a. b. or c. for multiple choice answers or write short answers. They can display their answers and defend them with members of the group.  I find I get more responses per student and less distraction from students waiting for a turn.  The students find writing and erasing a white board motivating.  I don’t have to copy papers for them to fill out and it’s much more interactive.  I like to stay away from the paper pencil type activities because so many of my students have difficulties attending to such task.

             Objects from a junk box have been a cheap source for therapy activities. They  are used in a number of ways.  It started out as a bunch of items to elicit specific sounds.  Over the years it’s also become objects that children find interesting and are good for vocabulary development.  A thimble, sea shells, and an old compass are favorites.  I use the objects in the grab bag for descriptive language practice and articulation practice.  The objects can also be used in a game of “Secret Box” where an item is hidden and the students ask questions to determine the identity of the object.  I use a present box that has a removable cover.

             A sock bag is a handy item because it forces use of the tactile senses. It  can be made from an old pair of jeans with a little bit of sewing.  I cut a leg off of an old pair of jeans to a length of 20 inches or so.  I sew across the bottom of one end.  I gather the other end.  I take the top of a sweat sock and cut the top off so I have a 10 inch length or so. I want the cuff portion and not the heel and foot section.  I then sew the cuff to the top of the jean section.  It can now be used as a grab bag.  I put objects from the junk box in it to to elicit descriptive vocabulary.  

.              A buzzer or bell is a good tool for group game type activities such as “College Bowl”.  Older students are motivated when using this.   They enjoy the competition to answer quickly and it provides a TV Game show  type atmosphere. It’s important to monitor its use however because quick responses do not work in every child’s favor.  It is also a natural motivator because kids just love to ring bells.

 So those are my top choices.  Does anyone else have anything they just can’t do without?  Just hit the comment button and add to the discussion.

Concept Group 3

29 Sep

Today was lesson 3 of our Kindergarten Concept Groups.  The Kindergarten teacher requested an activity that reinforced the concepts long and short since these were part of her math lesson for this week.  We did the Question Chain Activity which is posted on the vocabulary page.  It turned out to be a good choice because the counselor was taken out for an emergency and the college student had to pinch hit.   That would’ve been a big problem with some of the other activities.   Fortunately it’s an easy activity to pick up on.  I find it amazing that some of the most simple props can be quite motivating.  The kindergarten students really enjoy putting the links together and get into the competition of having the longer chain.  We also pointed out the chains that were equal or the same amount.  For the final concept they  ‘separated” them.   That is a concept that is frequently missed when we do our first BOEHM testing in the Fall.

Concept Group 2

27 Sep

I’m a little late updating the blog  this week.  The activity we did in kindergarten was not one of the activities I had posted on the vocabulary page, so it held me up.   It is posted as Cars and Maps now.   A parent kindly donated a few boxes of match box cars.  These with the ones I had were enough for 32 kids.  We divided the children up into groups of 8 with one adult.  We had a volunteer college student, the teacher, the assistant, a counselor  and I.  I unfortunately didn’t have 5 maps because I didn’t know we would have the 5th adult.   Our classes weren’t as large last year so I have materials for groups of 4. So mental note;  I should have enough for 5 groups because volunteers tend to show up unexpectedly.  The office tends to send the college students to kindergarten.  It’s a great place to start for classroom observation don’t you think?   After all, all you need to know in life you learn in kindergarten.

I find playing a board game tells me who is familiar with game etiquette and how to work the spinner.  It’s important that each child remembers what their car looks like so you may want to do some comparison of details before you start.  We of course had two cars that looked very similar.

With a board game, you can start working on turn taking and not getting upset when the turn doesn’t meet your expectation.  These are important skills in kindergarten.  People tend to forget control and handling disappointment are skills.   The spinner I use  has ” missed a turn” on it.  Some people would probably avoid having that on a spinner, but I think that adds the ability to practice another skill.  I forwarn the children what that means so they aren’t surprised when they get it.  I also have a “spin again”.  The actual winning is deemphasized.  It’s more important to complete the track.  If time allows,  I will allow each child to make it to the finish line.

This is only our 2nd full week of school for kindergarten, so I was impressed with their ability to take turns.  They were convinced to leave the cars on the board until their turn and handled the disappointment of the  missed turn.   I found everyone was not familiar with all the concepts.  We have a few english learners and a few children on IEPs so that wasn’t a surprise.  My other adults thought it was a good experience so session 2 was declared a success.

car map

Concept Groups

15 Sep

        Sometimes setting up language groups in a classroom setting  can be a bit intimidating.  Many speech therapists aren’t given funds to buy commercial programs and therefore need to develop a program on their own.  This is a rather daunting task when there are so many tasks to complete at the beginning of a school year.   I began collecting and developing activities  using materials you typically find in a school environment, games I found at thrift stores, and games I made.   I’ve posted most of  the activities  in the vocabulary section.  I thought you might enjoy hearing how they are actually carried out during the school year.

             Today we started our first session  of  “Concept Groups”.  This is only day 6 for most of our Kindergarten students.  There were 3 adults available; the counselor, speech therapist, and classroom teacher.  That made a ratio of 1 adult to 10 children.  In the future we will need to get that down to a smaller rate, but for today it worked. 

        As most of you know it’s better to start simple with new Kindergarten students.   We decided to put the emphasis on  introduction.  This was as much for the adults as it was for the kids, because we were all still learning names.  We started with a story about the first day of school and making friends.  We talked about how everyone is nervous when they don’t know people and it’s nice to know their names.  We modeled how you can ask someone their name and they can become your friend. 

             The activity was a ball circle activity that I’ve used before as an icebreaker for groups of kids.  Each adult took 10 kids to form a circle.  The adult started  it out by looking at a  child in the circle and asking “What is your name?” .  When that child responded the ball was tossed to them.  They then continued  by asking another child “What is your name?”.  When all the children have had a chance the activity was changed to calling out another child’s name and then tossing the ball to them.  This is where you find out who remembers the names.  We then rotated half the kids from each circle so that the mix would change and we would get a chance to meet everyone.

           This activity can tell you a lot about the children in the groups.  It can tell you who may have trouble following the instructions or Continue reading

Three and One Scheduling

9 Sep

        It’s that time of year  to set up the speech therapy schedule.  Unfortunately my schedule takes a back seat to almost every other schedule in the building so I don’t even attempt to schedule the first week of school.  When scheduling, I try to avoid core subjects like reading and math and classes like music and art.  The higher the grade the more difficult it is to find time to get Johnny.  I’m usually left with the social sciences, free reading, and handwriting.  If  many children come from a particular grade, I may have a group that is available only at a certain time.  I feel fortunate if they have similar needs as well.  Getting a variety of needs met with one activity is it’s own art form.  Over the years I’ve found I can adapt to working with language kids and articulation in the same group.  I worry less about if their goals are similar and more about the time they are available.  If a group of kids all come from the same classroom they tend to remind each other to come, feel less like they are the only odd child out, and I spend less time rounding them up.  I also find that Mondays and Fridays get hit hard with holidays so I try avoid scheduling a child so he would miss two sessions in one week.   With traditional scheduling the speech therapist would make a weekly schedule.  It would typically look  like speech therapy two times a week for 30 minutes each.  In my attempt to get everyone scheduled, I would have  every moment accounted for  leaving very little flexibility to see what was actually happening in the classrooms.

         The last few years a new model of scheduling has come out called the three-one schedule.  With this schedule,  the therapist conducts 3 weeks of regular therapy sessions and the fourth week becomes more flexible.  The therapist may use the 4th week to work in the classrooms, consult with teachers and parents, do observations in the classroom or see some kids individually.  On the Individual Education Program (IEP), the therapist doesn’t write up a weekly scheduled time but rather writes a lump some for the month.  It may look like 180 minutes per month instead of 30 minutes 2 times a week. 

         I’ve been using the Three and One Model for the last three years and have really liked it.  The initial year involves changing the IEPs to monthly minutes, but after that you are set.  This model has worked well with the RTI model because it has allowed me to go into the classroom to work with groups of kids that may not have IEPs but could benefit from some of the same support other children were getting.  It has also helped me to address some needs that weren’t apparent in my small group settings.

A Series of Fortunate and Unfortunate Events

5 Sep

     I remember when I started my first year working in the schools and I was very nervous about starting.  I had completed my student teaching in the spring so I knew how to end a year but was unsure about how to start it.  Little did I know how every year turns out to be quite different with different challenges.   

       Our school district (like many) has started this year with less revenue.  This has meant cut backs and transferring of staff.  So teacher workday this year consisted of assessing the damage and seeing what changes I may need to make.

   The result of the cuts started with some good news.  I was able to move into a larger more sound proof room.  We have larger classes with fewer teachers so there are actually more rooms available.  I can fit a group of 10 kids in my room now.  Then there was the bad news.  Unfortunately the counselor who was previously my partner for my pragmatics group and an extra person for the Concept Groups was caught in the transfers.  I will miss her help dearly.  However, a new counselor has been assigned that sounded interested in working with me.   It seems we may be able to continue the pragmatic groups together.  Maybe she will bring new ideas with her.  I have a group of 4th graders that really can benefit from it.

     After the cuts, we have one Kindergarten teacher doing an am and pm class with both classes containing about 30 students (previously class size was about 25).  Previous years we had 1 full day classroom and two half day classes.  This means I will need more materials and possibly another adult in the room to make another table group.

       The good news is I worked with this teacher last year and she is enthused about continuing the Concept Language Groups.  Again, the new counselor said she would try to help.  We posted a letter at our “Back to School Night” for parent volunteers.  A few seemed interested.  It is a good opportunity for parents to help and participate in their child’s class so I have hopes.  We also posted a letter for more game materials, so hopefully that will come through.