It is that time of year again and my students are asking for the Homonym Tree. If you remember from a previous year post, I put up a tree in the Spring and the students write homonyms on paper pears to earn a Dum Dum sucker. This year it is even easier for me because one of my fellow teacher ordered a pear die cut. I don’t need to cut out folded stacks of paper. How incredibly thoughtful of her. The tree looks different every year. This year we ran out of brown butcher paper so it ended up mainly black. it will have a lot more pears on it by the end of the year.
I imagine some of you are wrapping up your school year and ready for a break. We still have 4 weeks to go here. I am still doing lesson planning in the middle of all those end of the year IEPs and progress reports. I can’t help thinking about last year’s contract negotiation issues which caused an unplanned for week off. This year is going much better. Looking at the bright side, I developed some strong relationships with my fellow teachers with all that walking. It paid off in my interactions this school year. This got me thinking about how bad things often have a silver lining, and how that carries us through to a better future. My inflexible thinkers often have difficulty seeing this possibility and have difficulty making a recovery when things go badly. It may be one of the most important life skills to develop. If you are using a Social Thinking Curriculum by Michelle Garcia Winner, www.socialthinking.com, it fits in well with determining “The size of the problem.”
I decided to address this ability to turn a bad thing into a good thing more directly. We’ve been using cards I made called “Bad Thing Good Thing’. I started using them with my 3rd and 4th graders who are part of a social skills group. That was tough. The inability to think flexibly was very apparent and they needed a lot of prompting to think otherwise. The 5th grader did better. I was worried that I might have created something too difficult for the age range so I brought them out for my articulation students working on sounds in conversational speech. The 3rd graders through 5th graders were able to do them without prompting and pretty automatically. I concluded that these cards were very telling about a deficit area.
I am putting the full set of 32 cards on TPT. You can reach it by clicking on the button at the top of the page.
I am listing the first 11 cards here Good Thing no. eleven cards. I would love to get your feed- back on how they work for your students.
Here are two adaptations for the game Crocodile Dentist. This is a plastic crocodile that has a spring loaded mouth. The mouth closes when a certain tooth is pushed down. Kids enjoy the suspense of seeing who is going to get bit. The trigger tooth changes location each time the mouth is opened. Some of you may already use this game for reinforcement. I thought you might like to know how you can expand its use a little further. I use it to expand a student’s verbal output to 2 to 3 word phrases using a communication board and to review prepositions when following directions.
Using permanent markers, I colored the teeth alternating colors. I used pink, green, and orange because I already had a die that had those colors. If you don’t have a die you could make a spinner or use colors for a die you have.
For my students with limited verbal abilities, I use the communication board along with the die in a plastic jar. I have the students shake the die to get the color of tooth they need to push down. I then model phrases using the communication board while playing the game. The game creates a lot of opportunities for repetition of phrases such as “I have ….” or “push down green tooth”. I also reinforce saying “your turn” and “my turn.” After repetition the students start to say the appropriate phrase when you point to the correct icons as a prompt. Finally, they may prompt themselves by pointing to the icons and verbalizing. This is a good way to break up an imitative pattern that often happens when training non-verbal children and uses a natural context for turn taking.
The colors are used in the direction cards also. Cards were made using the concept vocabulary: next to, beside, between, right, left, colors, not, side, front, either/or. Children take turns drawing the cards and following the directions for the tooth to be pushed down. We play a variation by giving each child three poker chips. They feed the crocodile a chip if he bites. The person who feeds all three chips is the winner. I provided a word program down load because I thought people may need to adjust the color words for their needs. If you have any difficulties with this, leave me a comment. Print out the cards and have the students pull them out of a bag and then follow the directions while playing the game.
This is an activity I use with my social pragmatic groups. The activity requires students to use a trial and error method of problem solving. It is a good one to use for defeating Rock Brain because to be successful students need to be willing to try different moves. For students who fall apart when they are wrong, it provides opportunity to defeat Glass Man. This activity can be used to reinforces the idea that mistakes are not necessarily bad and can be used for learning. It is important to talk about this before you begin so students have the tools to work through their feelings in a constructive manner.
This activity also teaches students to work together toward a common goal. The solution will be found by observing the mistakes of everyone and it would be very difficult to succeed individually. Students also need to use their short term memory and make inferences to predict the pattern.
This activity can be used with small groups of students, two competing teams, or with one or two students. The object of the game is to cross a 6×6 grid of steps using the correct pattern. I lay the grid out on the floor so that students have a good view and can use motor movement.
Pattern cards are made A judge, who could be a student or teacher, is selected. The judge takes one of the pattern cards that will be the solution to the stepping pattern. A student begins the challenge by stepping on one of the stars in the first row and moves one row ahead for each step. As the move is made the judge indicates if it is the correct one by saying right or wrong move. A buzzer for a wrong move adds a game show feature and are available free as an app. If it is the right step the student continues to move forward. If it is the wrong step the person returns to the start or the end of the line and watches the attempts of others until they get to the front of the line again. The students may notice that a pattern is developing as students discover the correct moves. This will speed up the progress until someone finally makes it across. Everyone that was paying attention can then make the crossing. Students should be reinforced for working as a team and not as an individual competition to make it to the finish.
It doesn’t take much to make pattern cards and a grid on your own. However, if you prefer to have some of the work done for you, I am putting a set up on the TPT store for download at a minimum cost.
It is time for a new Spring bulletin board. I became inspired by the paper curl bird on fun family crafts here. I changed it a little bit mainly because I didn’t think my students would be able to handle that many paper curls.
I continue to try to have some speech therapy value with the bulletin board. This one will promote giving and following directions as well as understanding idioms. As in the past I used the app Storykit to have students produce and narrate the instructions on making the birds. I hope you have found this great free app by now. It is in the blog roll if you need to find it. Here is the story kit link to How you make Paper Birds. If you use the app it will look like a book with pages rather than a story board.
My older students will have a homework component. I made flyers with idioms printed on them and they can either write or tell me the meaning after researching it. Here is the flyer. Bird phrases. I’ve been giving animal crackers for a reward lately. They go with the theme of Spring animals and I tell myself they aren’t as bad as giving candy. The students seem to like to work for them.