Have You Thought About Writing a Blog?

12 Jul



Are you thinking about  designing your own blog?  Do You feel you have ideas to share and writing appeals to you? Do you read other blogs and say,  “I can do this.” Maybe you have a TPT store and wonder if a blog would help it to become more successful.  The goals and motivations for writing a blog are as varied as the people out there.

The number of Speech Language Pathologist (SLPS) who are writing blogs has mushroomed over the last few years. This has definitely made it easier for beginning SLPs to get materials,  A bit harder for blog writers to come up with new material.  Gone are the days of blowing your budget on high-priced commercial products as  you try to meet all your student or client needs. Now there are high quality products made by our fellow  SLPs. Some are even presented as free on Blogs and Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT).  As a group we are creative bunch and  love to share and communicate.

Individuals often wonder if they have enough to write  about.  I started this blog in 2009 and here I am still writing 7 years later.  I found this to be less of a problem than you might think. Once you are tuned in to finding topics, they will present themselves.  Some times the oddest topics make it big.  I wrote once about pulling out pool noodles and balloons for a therapy session.  It was written on a  whim. I was running out of ideas for my early language learners and thought that other SLPs may have the same problem.  A colleague pointed out  that the  post was mentioned in the blog jam section of ASHA.   That was not the post I would think was worth mentioning. I was urprised to see it there.  Up until then I had kept my blog writing endeavors low-key.   I didn’t think many of my colleagues were aware  I was writing it.  All of a sudden I had some notoriety.

Some topics work better than others of course.  I had visions of bad  comments flooding in and no one reading what I wrote. That never occurred.  I found that my audience was appreciative and my readers have  been more than kind.  I would not let that fear prevent me from writing.

As  I look back, some of my posts  were duds and some were surprisingly  well received.  Some took a while before people noticed them.  I have had a few occasions where free apps were offered if I reviewed the product.

The important thing is to be passionate about your topics and let your experiences come out in your writing and  have patience  if it seems no one is listening. Don’t be too hard on yourself at first. You will be surprised how much  your writing improves over time.

You don’t need to write everything at once. I typically write on a topic over multiple days.   I read it several times and make revisions. You don’t always know until after you hit that publish button if it is a good post. The draft button is my friend. I still feel  apprehensive every time I hit publish.  After you publish, it is strangely motivating to see how many people come to read and visit.  Comments are like gold stars.

I have read suggestions by others on how to get started writing a blog.  I get a chuckle because I didn’t have that list to follow when I started.  It shows you that you really don’t need the list.  I made mistakes along the way but I think I turned out all right anyway.  If I had followed a list mine would look something like this.

1. What is your goal?

I started out with a different goal than most people. At the time I was just looking for a place to store digital materials so they would be available when I needed them.  I had plenty of experience with not having materials when I started  new job settings.  It saved the day a number of times when I was able to bring it up on my iPad or print it out.  I decided I should put it up for sharing as long as I went through so much work. I wasn’t thinking of a commercial enterprise at the time.  Generally I was put off with too much advertising for products on other sites. Eventually I relented  to some advertising of  TPT products so I could have a self hosted site that was self-sustaining. It opened up new options.

2. Write frequently

It is important to write frequently so you establish an audience.  This is probably true at first. However, I didn’t put myself on a schedule.  I wrote on topics as they came up. Sometimes it was weekly because I wrote about groups that met weekly like my Social Pragmatic groups or Circle of Friends group.  An SLP work schedule can get pretty hectic as you know and I preferred the less pressure cooker approach. You need to have patience and just tell yourself it will grow slowly.  I saw most of my growth in the second year and each year increased.  I also listed resources separate from the Blog Posts so people would be inclined to visit later to find materials.

3. Where will I start? Will I use af free site or will I self host.?

I  started with wordpress.com. mainly because I had a daughter going through college at the time and she had taken a class using it.  I figured I should take advantage of that college education.  I did not have one iota of  experience building a blog. I didn’t even know if it would work for me so free was good. Free sites give you an opportunity to learn the ropes before committing.  Free WordPress.com sites have their own communities of followers and a forum  that was also very helpful. It was like starting in a playpen. You could get an idea of what it is like and have a safety net. They had a good spam catcher and hacker prevention. I missed that later on when my self hosted site got hacked. I fortunately got bailed out by my host who told me about a good security widget. That saved the day.

The free site did have some inconveniences.  You had to agree  to  advertisements that would pop up not of your choosing.  It was usually relevant to your blog content like mine usually had to do with education. You were not allowed to use  your site for advertising or affiliates.  I think TPT advertising may be frowned on although I never got an official notice.   There was less creativity  because you used Word press templates rather than your own design. You didn’t have access to plugins  And wdgets which allow you to do more personal touches. Free sites are good way to see if you want to do this long term. It is possible to transfer your site to a self hosted site once you get established. It is also possible to carry your followers along with you. WordPress provided transfer instructions that worked.  If I can do it anyone can.

I learned it was important  to take careful consideration to the name you choose for your blog.  If you choose a free blog the url may have the host name in it. The name you choose becomes part of  the url.  In my case I used a nickname and not my blog name.  It became (cjmonty.wordpress.com).  I regretted I started with this because it became confusing later on.  I decided to become self hosted later on and bought a domain name to correspond to the blog name.  It is important to research names that you can use in a domain so it will be less confusing when you make the switch.  Some domain names are already taken so be sure to check this out before you select a name.

I decided to become self hosting after 5 years.   How did I come to this decision?  It was a hobby I actually enjoyed.  I decided I wanted more control. There were a few times that my site over used the band width and was shut down.  I know, such a bad problem to have.  I decided I had outgrown my site and needed to get more serious about it. I also wanted more to say on how my site looked.

With self hosting, I bought a theme that I could manipulate the background and display.  I got access to plugins and widgets.  I got rid of pop up advertising and  could do my own advertising.  As TPT grew I was able to cover the cost of the blog.  Hopefully everyone benefited from the improvements.  I must end with a  warm thankyou to all of you who have supported the blog.








The Last Pair Pear Tree

2 Jun

pear tree2016I have written before about how I have an end of the year tradition of putting up a pear tree. The students add pears on which  they have written  homophones or homonyms.  I give them a sucker in exchange for putting the pear up.  It becomes a bit of a competition and a learning experience.  It amazes me that students still come up with new ones after about 8 years of collecting them.

The tree is special because It is in  remembrance of my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Pilatski who had great ways to engage her students. I have fond memories of her.  She would like that it became a tradition.  Also one of my colleagues bought the pear die a few years back  in remembrance of her mother, a former teacher,  who also collected homonyms. It made my paper cutting so much easier.

I say this is the last pair/pear tree because I am retiring at the end of this school year and I don’t know if the tradition will be continued.  It still is a very nice  finale for my bulletin board.  I hope you have enjoyed all the art work my students have completed in their quest to give and follow directions in speech class.

I am retiring, but Speech Therapy still runs in my veins.  I will need to see how I reinvent myself.


The Order of Things Comparative Task Cards

14 May


order of things pin

My caseload includes  6th and 7th graders this year so I have had to dig out  activities for older students. These are a remake of comparative cards I have used in the past.  I have used them with my general education 4th and 5th graders as a speech task for articulation skills and they are able to do them.  My 6th and 7th grade language learners often need review of the vocabulary and the memory component is often a challenge. I like that they are direct instruction for what is needed in academics and the common core.

My orignal set of task cards only had printed words.  I decided it would be useful to provide answers so students can independently check them.  This expands the ability of using them with partners if you are teaching a small class.  Pictures bring some  eye appeal  and a bit of cuing even for the older students. I try to make the pictures appropriate for an older more sophisticated eye.  Bubble heads do not go over very big with my teens.

The premise of these cards is very simple. Four items are listed along  with a  descriptive term.  Students reorder the items according to the descriptive term.  It seems simple but actually requires quite a few skills.  They need to have knowledge of the vocabulary listed and descriptive details for measurement so comparisons can be made.  They also need to use their short term  memory in oder to change the order.  The task lends itself to thinking about comparative vocabulary and using er, and est word endings. If you want to test them out, click on the button below and you will get a set of 12 task cards to try out.

free trial button

The order of things free sample 

If you would like a full set, I have them listed on TPT

TPT button

End of Year Speech Therapy Celebrations

7 May

snow cone machineHow many of you do some sort of end of the year celebration?  I usually do something for  the  last day of speech class. I think it is important to acknowledge the effort students have made in speech class and the progress towards their goals.  Celebrations are not as prevalent in the school environment as in past years.  It seems they have suffered from not being politically correct or there just not enough time with all the accountability.  I think they are valuable teaching moments though.  Our students are missing out on the social communication that goes along with a social gathering.

There are social pragmatic skills that are learned from participating in a party.  A carefully planned platter of cheese and crackers and a pitcher of water or juice works well for teaching basic table manners. Prepare just enough to make it around the table.  Of course you need to check about allergies before doing this. I would still have some in reserve for the unexpected to happen.

Some students may not have much experienced with a sit down meal in a group.  I remember one particular social group  that needed a script to follow on serving. They didn’t think about looking ahead to see the amount of portions on the plate and helped themselves to multiple servings.  They needed to be schooled about looking ahead to make sure there was enough for everyone.  They may also need to be schooled  about asking politely  for the drink, using please and thankyou, and asking the next person if they would like some.

If you have worked on conversation skills in the past, it is a good place to see the culmination of skills;  introducing a topic, staying on topic, exiting a topic, and including everyone.

I find icy parties are also a good therapy tool for the end of the year.  My early language learners enjoy following directions for the treat.  The syrup is economical and available in a sugar-free form for my student with medical restrictions on sugar.  I have an icy machine but you may be able to uses a blender.  I  found I needed to keep in control of the bottles for proper portion control.

I like this party even better than a popcorn party   because it is the easiest to clean up.  Usually it is just wiping the table. We have an ice cube maker in the staff refrigerator so I only need to get a few syrup bottles and bring my icy maker, plastic spoons and cups.  The smaller clear cups actually work the best because you can make layers of color and watch them blend.  You can work on a lot of descriptive vocabulary with an icy party.

I made a pdf of the communication board for those who would like to use it. free download button


Free Tier II Vocabulary Task Card Challenge

22 Mar

Tier II vocab button

Happy Spring everyone!  We have Spring break here so I finally have time to finish a project. I have been working on this one for a while and have tried out a version of these vocabulary cards with my 4th  through 6th graders.  I seem to have quite a few students with low vocabulary this year.  The Common Core State Standards put a strong emphasis on nonfiction, and informational text.  If they have difficulty with vocabulary it affects their comprehension.  The teachers are beginning to really notice with test preparation in full swing.

 I  had a student transfer in with a goal that referred to Tier II Vocabulary.    I decided to  investigated  so I could address his goal.   Tier II Vocabulary  turned out to be those  words that occur frequently in academic  text. Students may find these words when reading Science, Social Studies and English text   I wanted something that would make the most impact for my students and also have a  way to track progress.   I decided to make a list of words  from Tier II vocabulary lists and then use them in the contexts of short paragraphs.  This way I could also address comprehension and making inferences from text. There are two different activities. One involves describing the meaning of words and the other is answering comprehension questions.  One set requires students to find the answers from given answers and the other is answering the questions and referring to the answers.  The level of support can be quite flexible depending on how you cut and fold them.ccbutton

 The words used on my task cards are not a complete compilation and come from a variety of 3rd and 4th grade vocabulary lists.  I used what  made sense in the context  of the paragraphs I wrote.  I used a total of 106 words.  A few are used more than once and cover multiple meaning. I now can write a goal for teaching Ter II Vocabulary to 80% and measure it. I love making data collection simple. 

I made a trial set for you to try.  It gives you an idea of what they look like up close.free trial button

If you find these fit your needs, there is a full set available on TPT,  just click the button below.

TPT button

What animal is it? Question Activity

12 Mar


Do you have a collection of stuffed animals that seems to reproduce before your very eyes?  I do.   I inherited a collection of Beanie Babies from my children when they left home.  They were so adorable that I had difficulty parting with them.  Naturally they ended up in my  room of misfit toys, my therapy room.  I have them stored in a shoe storage unit that fits over a door.  As people noticed them they added more to the collection.  After I started using them for therapy, I found how valuable they truly are.

The animals are very enticing even to some of my older students who have moved on to Minecraft. I  have used them for calming distraught Kindergarten students.  Teachers  have borrowed one for the day to get a student through trauma.  Students have used them when they forgot theirs on a “Read to your stuffed animal day.”

I have used them when reading animal stories.  Students take a animal from a grab bag and  listen for the part of the story where  their animal shows up.  It keeps them focused on the story and gives something for their hands to hold.

I have some unusual ones that become a help for expanding vocabulary.   For example, some students have not had exposure to a jelly fish.  I know my stuffed animal is not an exact replica  but does give the idea.   This leads  to a discussion to what is different about a real jellyfish and the stuffed version.  My jellyfish has the typical stuffed animal round eyes which led to the question, “Do jellyfish have eyes?”.    We explored this on the iPad and it provided a very interesting topic.

They are great for categorization according to traits.  A favorite activity I made up is ” Mystery Animal”.  I especially like this activity for its use of questions and cognitive skills. It is a memory and cognitive task to remember the details and use that information in a meaningful way. I have a velvet box that is the mystery box.  One student hides an animal in the box and the other students ask questions to determine its identity.  The rule is they need to ask a descriptive question before they can identify the animal. Some of  my students have difficulty coming up with relevant questions or ask the same questions several times.  I made this communication board to help them with formulating questions.


This is a pdf version you may be able to download and print  for use.   What animal

They have been used as rewards for behavior plans.  Students earn animal babysitting priveledges and  swap one out occasionally.  This keeps the incentive going.  It is nice to have an incentive that doesn’t need funding or involve food.

Amazingly, I have only lost a few over the years.  They seem to find their way back to my room at the end of the school year.


Body Parts and Emotions Theme

21 Feb

LeprechaunI traditionally use the months of February and March to work on  body parts  and emotions theme.  There are quite a few free materials you can use out there. To help you with your search I have listed a few activities I have used with my early language learners.

I started with following directions and naming body parts by putting band aids on a print out of a boy and girl.   Teachers notebook: Toadally Tots Shop has a free download called Betty and Billy Boo-Boo which you might want to check out here.  This was not only good for naming body parts but was also good for subject, object, and possessive pronouns.

I used musical play to encourage movement and use of body parts.  The Hokey pokey song works well for this.  There is an  United Kingdom version: Hokey Pokey- Kids song on You tube.   I used a hula hoop to designate the middle of the circle which worked out particularly well on this version as it mimicked the video.  I liked the speed on this one because  my students could keep up.  Head Shoulders Knees and Toes is another good one.  I used this version here.

I used bubbles to motivate some of my reluctant participants.  Students drew a body part from a bag.  You can use pictures printed from a symbol system or for those who respond better to objects you can use potato head parts.   I blew bubbles and they tried to pop a bubble using their body parts that corresponded to the one they drew.  They got quite a kick out of getting a bubble with their nose.

To work on facial expressions, I found this Leprechaun that works well for a movable face.  The Leprechaun comes from http://www.how-to-draw-funny-cartoons.com/.   It gives directions on how to draw a Leprechaun which can then be placed on a toilet paper roll.  There are directions for making it on the toilet paper roll here.  you can make a Mad lib leprechaun story here. The students have fun turning the roll to get a different face to match an emotion in the story.

I hope you have fun with these activities and it makes your lesson planning easier.   Let me know if you have any other activities that can be added.



Groundhogs Day Bulletin Board and Activity

29 Jan

groundhog buleting board

We had  a good time  preparing for Groundhogs Day this week.  It seems to be a popular day this year as we are really ready for Spring weather.

There are a lot of free materials out there to help celebrate. We studied facts about groundhogs and checked our comprehension. We did comparisons between rodents.   We explored shadows with a flashlight against the wall.  Home Sweet Home is  a good source for a short video clip.  There is also a young student book you can download for free from http://growingkinders.blogspot.com.  The Groundhog Book was written by Kathleen Pedersen.   I downloaded it and was able to use my iPad again.  I love being paperless.  I can actually find what I need when I need it.

I found the idea for a bulletin board on Pinterest.  There was a  groundhog pattern for  a free  download here at pattern universe. We used the pattern to make our own groundhogs. I put the directions on Storykit so they would be on my iPad.  You may be able to use them  as well. The Storykit directions are here.   Now we are waiting for February 2nd to see if we can bring out the shadows.


Have a Winter Blast

19 Jan

Speech Therapy with a snow theme.

snowman prep

It is time to bring out the cold weather activities .  January started out with a winter blast here.   The first two days back from winter break were cancelled because of freezing rain, snow, and ice.  I see the cold bast is continuing across the United states so many other places are getting snow days as well.

I have a few snow activities posted on this site from previous years. You may or may not have noticed them.  I thought  I would showcase some of the activities I have used recently.

For my early language  learners I have brought out the cornstarch and shaving cream snow.  It is easy to make, only 2 ingredients.  All you have to do is mix one or two cans of shaving cream with two boxes of cornstarch . The shaving cream makes it feel tingly cool, has a soft silky texture and a refreshing smell.  To make this wonderful artificial snow add the shaving cream into the cornstarch  gradually until the mixture will form a ball when squeezed together in your hands .  Although it brushes off hands fairly easily,  I recommend putting plastic down on carpet, so it doesn’t get ground in and hard to vacuum up.

corstarch snowYou can add a few extras for snowman accessories.

cornstarch snowman 1

I found this activity works well after reading a short story about a snowman.  Choose your favorite one.  There are quite a few out there.

I made a  snowman story on  StoryKit a few years back.  The link is here.   It explores prepositions using a snowman theme.

I also used a felt board story about making a snowman.  The directions are here.

Have fun playing in the snow.

Just a reminder that there is a sale on Teachers Pay Teacher starting January 20.  Now is a good time to get those things on your wish list.

  Don’t forget to use the code START16 to get the discount.   You can click on the penguin for a quick link to my store.


penguin clip art (2)

Adapted Who Shook Hook Game

11 Dec


who shook hook

        Who Shook Hook Adapted Game


I know some of us do pirate themes in our therapy rooms at some point during the school year.  It helps to develop that ARRR you know.  This is a game that would work with that theme.   I found this game unopened  for a few dollars last year at a Goodwill store and decided I couldn’t go too wrong with such an inexpensive game. I see  there are some 2nd hand ones you can order quite reasonably on ebay or amazon.  Keep your eyes open for it at thrift stores or Goodwill.

I used it for a variety of speech goals.  It is good for developing some vocalic r words such as sword, barrel, tweezers, treasure, shark.  It also had quite a few sh, ch  type words such as treasure chest, cash sack, shovel, beach, shark, bridge, and fishing pole.  A lot of the items used in the game were not familiar vocabulary words such as tweezers,  hammock, palm trees, and barrel.  It seemed that everyone knew what a sword was.  Finally, there was a good use of prepositions as there was a shark beneath or below the hammock, the hammock between the palm trees, and Hook hopefully staying above the shark.  You of course can add other task cards to get more drill incorporated.

It is not a game  I would normally have bought. Some of my students have difficulty with small motor skills and this one looked like it could be frustrating for them.  In the game, players  move figures around a track.  They land on squares that tell them to use various tools  to remove treasures from the hammock without letting Capt. Hook fall. I was surprised to find that this game actually worked out quite well.  Hook doesn’t fall off the hammock that easily.  You can hook his heels into the hammock which makes him pretty steady.  You can adjust the difficulty somewhat by his placement.   Most of the students could find a tool that worked for them and the tools were quite motivating. Some students just used a tool to shove the treasure off rather than pick it up.   It was a fast paced game that didn’t end until all the treasures were gathered or Hook fell.  Students enjoyed the challenge of the tools and didn’t get hung up on winning.

I was able to use the game for some of my early language learners so  I made a communication board to go with it.  You may notice that I try to keep my boards quite similar. The pronouns are to the left and connect easily to my core verbs that are usually want, have, get, or put. My middle area after the verbs has the vocabulary that changes and the far right is the my turn, your turn.  This seems to work for me for being consistent and allowing students to find the words they need to  develop short sentences and phrases. I print them out on regular paper and slip them into plastic page covers.  The board is flexible so fits easily into the game box.