The Virtues of a Grab Bag and Grab Bag Hack

1 Nov

Have you ever wished for extra arms while conducting speech therapy?  Who can forget those early days of  SLP training and starting of clinical hours.   At the time, it seemed impossible to manage everything. I wished for more hands to manage materials, data taking tools, and especially the young clients.   If you turned  your back, your clients had control of the materials and you became an octopus trying to get them back.  This was not a good start to the session.

I got  to thinking about the hacks I discovered along the way that made a difference.  A grab bag was one of my real life savers. If you haven’t discovered the virtues of a grab bag  you have really missed out.

There are lots of advantages to using a grab bag.  A bag allows for control of the materials and prevents students from helping themselves to  items before you are ready to use them.  It allows for controlled  turn taking.  Only the person with the bag has access to the items. They  take items one by one before handing it on to the next person.

It creates  intrigue for some  students who would not otherwise be interested. Who doesn’t like discovering what is hidden in the mystery bag?   And finally, when you find yourself switching locations and working from room to room, you can keep better tabs of those small pieces if they are contained in a  bag that is portable.

I used grab bags frequently with my  early language learners, especially in small groups.  It creates a natural context for communication boards when training core vocabulary such as “I have, I see, I want,” and that mportant question for vocabulary development,  “What is it?”.   I have used grab bags with a activities such as potato head, the car races, and windup toys.  You can use a clear freezer for students who need  to see the parts and request them.

Here is an example of a communication board I used with  mechanical toys and a grab bag. The board is made from Picto-Selector graph which is a free download.  It can be found at https://www.pictoselector.eu/  

A bag can also be used with older students seated around a large table.  The bag can be passed so items can always be reached.  You have one less thing in your hands which really helps when taking data.  You can even have different  bags and different cards in each so students can work on different objectives by pulling from their bag. I have a lot less trouble with a stack of cards being scattered across the table and floor.

I imagine you are saying, “I want one of those. Give me the directions for that grab bag already.”   Well here they are:

Find an old sweater or sweatshirt that has long sleeves and cuffs.  Simply cut the sleeve off, turn it inside out and sew across the flat bottom.  You can glue the bottom opening closed with a glue gun if you can’t sew or don’t have a sewing machine.  Turn it back to the right side and you should have a bag with a cuff opening for the top. Now tell me that isn’t simple.

 

 

Speech Therapy in the Classroom for Older Students

3 Jul

 

Are you assigned to work with upper grades next school year and wondering how you could work in the classrooms?  Many of us are a bit intimidated to actually do this.  For older students with language processing difficulties, working in the classroom may seem to be the best option. There can be many benefits. It is often a struggle to make therapy relevant for older students and they may  resist being removed from class. It may be a hassle to schedule everyone around academic instruction and you have a lot of students in one particular class. Working in  the classroom allows you to see how the students are functioning in class and you can see how instruction is being presented to the students.  You can consult better with classroom teachers to meet the needs of your students.

However, there are some downsides to the push-in model.   You may not have control over your teaching environment and it may be less than ideal in large classes with limited space. There are the  distractions of other students and you may feel like you are intruding on the classroom teachers space and time. If you don’t get the lesson plans ahead, you may not come adequately prepared for the lesson being presented by the classroom teacher.  It is also difficult to work with more than one student in a class without being your own little group in the back of the classroom.  If you have a high caseload, scheduling can become a  nightmare with inflexible time blocks taken up by single students.

I have experienced mainly  two scenarios with the push-in model.  In one, the Speech Language Pathologist, (SLP) works with a few students in the back of the room and scaffolds what is being presented by the classroom teacher using visuals or breaking it down in segments.  This can be useful for a few students if done discretely. It can also be quite distracting to other students who want to see what is going on and not follow what the classroom teacher is presenting.

In scenario two, the SLP takes over part of  the classroom instruction and co-teaches.  This can be quite effective, especially when the teachers can play off their strengths.  It does require some advance planning and meeting time between teachers.  For the SLP, it may be harder to meet the individual needs of the students you are targeting because you are working with an entire class. I find that taking data is really difficult because your attention is drawn in so many directions.  Often It is hard to sustain this as our caseloads increase through the  school year.  Sometimes you may start with a handful of speech students in a class and then find the students you were targeting moved and you are left with one student in the time slot.

The following are a few methods and activities you may want to try.  These  work best when information is being given in a lecture format such as with social sciences or history.


You can work in the classroom with a small chosen group of students to write notes as information is presented and formulate questions on note or index cards.  This activity can be expanded as a total class activity with some students receiving help and others being independent. It is important to include a question and answer on the card.  The questions and answers can then be gathered and used later in a review activity with the whole class participating.  This process helps students who need a rehearsal of information or information segmented.  It gives students a reason to be engaged and helps those who have difficulty taking notes on relevant information.

I have found game show type activities work well for reviewing at the end of a unit. Once you have it set up it can be used multiple times with little preparation. Now you can bring out the  note cards the students have already prepared and swap them out at the end of each unit you review.

I showcased a Jeopardy activity on a previous post. You can reuse this game by placing letters under the dollar amount cards. You may or may not have categories depending on the topic.  Pile the question cards into draw piles corresponding to the letters and categories if you have them.  You may want to have teams write answers on white boards to avoid blurt outs.  If the question is answered correctly the person or team receives the dollar amount. Don’t forget to put bonus cards in to increase the suspense. For some reason handing out fake money is a real incentive. I hope you have kept it from the previous post.

Idioms of Fortune is another game I have made up.  It can be used as a review game also.  As a bonus it reviews  idiom vocabulary at the same time.  You may want to form teams again as in the previous game and use white boards.

I print out a large illustrated version of an idiom. You may want to have a few of these on hand because sometimes it is figured out sooner than you think.   I set the printer so it prints out the illustration on multiple pages and then tape the pages together to form one large picture.  You can Google idioms and find quite a few.  I used raining cats and dogs from openclipart.org because it did not have restrictions.

This styro-foam poster board I found at the dollar store is turning out to be quite useful. I stuck my idiom picture on it and then tacked index cards on top so that the picture wasn’t visible.  The smaller the cards the more questions that will be needed.  It should look something like this.  Then mark the cards in some fashion.  I put the alphabet on mine. .  

Someone draws a question card and reads it.  This could be an assigned student or the teacher.  A student or team agrees on an answer to present. You may want to use white boards and have the teams write answers.  Again this really helps with the  blurt outs.  If they are right they can choose a card, look at the picture and then take a guess on what  idiom is being illustrated.   The first team to guess is the winner.

This is what it may look like after a few cards are drawn.

You may or may not plan a reward for the winning team. Some students find the competition is enough and don’t care about rewards. You may want to do the opposite type of reward and have the losing team do something silly like sing a nursery rhyme for the other team.  Middle school students seem to  like permission to be silly.  Agree on the terms before starting.

I hope you find these activities useful.  If you have information to add to this topic, please comment.

Ending Another School Year and Summer Activity

6 Jun

I didn’t expect to be doing this again but here I am wrapping up another school year.  After announcing retirement last year,  I ended up substituting for SLPs on personal and medical leave in 2 middle schools, and 2 elementary schools. It kept me quite busy and  in semi-retirement.  I did enjoy the reduced schedule.

Our year ends later than most areas of the United States.  We also had another half week added because of our more than usual snow days.  I think the students and I are ready to see summer vacation arrive.

I know this is too late for most of you, but I like to do a special activity for the last days of therapy.  I found Summer Bingo Boards among my downloads from last summer.  I decided Loop Cereal  Bingo would be a good vocabulary and conversation building activity to wrap up the year. The bingo boards were not marked with any identifying information and I have no idea where they came from.  They appear to be a free download from some place but I can’t find the address.   If you are the creator I would love to give credit so please let me know.  I am making them a free download so people can get them here but if there is a better url address I will switch it out.  They are black and white so they won’t use up the color ink.  Just click on the button.

There are 9 boards using summer pictures to illustrate summer vocabulary items.  I am printing mine out on regular computer paper so each child can have his/her own sheet.  That way  loop cereal can be placed on them for markers and each child will have a fresh sheet of paper.  Students can eat the cereal when they get a BINGO.

 

 

 

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What animal is it? Question Activity

12 Mar

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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.

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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.

 

 

A Simple Tissue Paper Tree Project

26 Nov

tissuetree

Do you need a simple project for the winter season?  This tree was made  by  my students and completed during  one 20 minute therapy session.  Students at  all   grade levels seemed to enjoy making them.  They also made a good  bulletin board that was culturally sensitive for this time of year.  I added the silhouettes to discuss winter sports and the word silhouette.

I targeted quite a few goals with this project.  As usual, I used the app StoryKit to make the directions.  My articulation and older students began by sequencing and taking pictures. They recorded the directions using their best articulation skills.  My language students targeted vocabulary such as stencil, limbs, triangle, around, and tree trunk.  My language processing students listened to the directions and followed them in the correct sequence.

Tissue paper trees.

You can get the pattern for the stencil  here.

The storykit directions are here.  I removed the verbal directions because of student confidentiality.

Target Antonyms

25 Jan

January sure has gone fast.  Here we are a week away from February.  We are coming to the end of a grading period so I am busy writing progress reports.  I am a bit behind because of other meetings.   I am sure you can all relate to that.  We have a new software program which makes it a little harder.   The paper work has been a bit of a challenge this year.

It is getting  harder  to be creative with the bulletin board lately.  I stayed with my theme of antonyms for February.  I looked in my cupboard and  noticed that I have a large supply of straws on hand.  Valentines Day brings out the cupid in all of us so I decided to make arrows.  It helped that we have die cuts for hearts available. The die cut makes a heart as an outline and a smaller heart to be pushed out of the center.  We used the smaller hearts to make the point of the arrow and used a folded rectangle for the feathered end.  The students wrote a word on the arrow head and the opposite word on the white paper to match.  It doesn’t look like the words are visible in the picture. This is the beginning of our project.  I will post updates as we go.  The students are making directions as usual.  However, we are regulated for voices as well as visual images so I can not post my story kit  directions until we are done and I can remove the child audio.  This is what it is looking like.  Here is the Storykit link to the directions: arrow directions

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Don’t Fall Through the Ice

8 Jan

This is our first week back from the holiday break. Some of us are in the grips of winter.  Baby its cold out there!  It seemed appropriate to go with a winter theme  and cold things.  I dug into my archives and brought out my version of “Don’t Fall Through the Ice”.  This activity has been in the vocabulary section and there are written instructions that can be printed out  under the link.  I didn’t include pictures so some of you may have missed it.  As they say a picture is worth a thousand words. The activity is really very simple and made from recycled materials.  I get a lot of use from my coffee cans.  All you need is a wide mouthed container like a coffee container, a large rubber band, paper towels, marbles, and a spinner made from a plastic lid.  The spinner has the words, one, couple, few, and several.  The marbles are placed in a container of water.  The paper towel is stretched across the mouth of the container and held by the rubber band.  Students take turns spinning the spinner, taking the corresponding amount of marbles from the water, and placing them on top of the paper towel.  Eventually the water will weaken the paper towel and the marbles will fall through.   I used this activity as a reinforcement for  students during therapy or as a group activity to work on the concepts of amount.  I have table groups play and then compare the number of marbles they put on top before they fall through.  In addition to the spinner words you can talk about the concepts of wet/dry, weak/strong, and most/ least.

Ice game

More Fun With Angry Turkeys

19 Nov

Last year at about this time I made turkey bean bags and used them in a toss game.   I brought them out again for another round of Angry Turkeys.  This  game is made from toilet paper rolls and coffee can lids.  I simply covered the toilet paper rolls to give them color.   I improved it a bit by making the  green pigs from paper rolls cut in half.  I just printed  clip art of a pig and taped it to the paper roll.  This is what it looked like.photo

For the activity at school, I used Sounding board.  It is a free app by Ablenet  that allows you to make a communication board with pictures.  I wasn’t able to  share it  so  used the same pictures and converted it to Storykit.  Here is the Storykit version.  http://iphone.childrenslibrary.org/cgi-bin/view.py?b=nma32raqfbftw6v5g23r

The directions for the Turkey Bean bags are here.

The students placed the pigs in the proper spots while reading the story.  They then all tossed a turkey on the count of 3. They always want to do it again. I love  activities that are self reinforcing. photo (1)

Build a Paper Tower; A Cooperative Challenge

3 Mar

It seems  a lot of people were enthused about the rubber band and paper cup activity.  If you liked that one, you may also like the paper tower  activity.  It has been in the social pragmatics section. Sometimes when directions are just on paper you  don’t see how great an activity is.  I think the paper tower might be one of those activities.   You usually don’t have to go far for materials.  Just empty out your recycle box.

This activity works  well with  Rockbrain if you are doing the Superflex program.   A little instruction about being flexible with your thinking and allowing other people to have different ideas helps on this one.  I have used this activity with different sizes of  social pragmatic groups who were sometimes divided into competing teams.  They were given flat pieces of paper out of the recycle bin and told to build as high of a tower as they could.  No other materials were allowed.  There really isn’t a wrong way to do this.  It seems they typically divide into the cylinder group, or the fold into squares or triangle group.

Cylinder paper tower

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It really is a good activity for group participation and sharing of ideas. They have made it as high as 6 levels.  By that time a student is standing on a chair and no one is breathing.  One false move and the whole thing comes tumbling.  Hopefully no one will have a Brain Eater moment.

Just a note to let you know I updated the (Comprehension of Complex Sentences)   I am putting 3 pages for a free download here.

I have 36 cards available at the TPT store

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Cynthia-Montalbano