Monday, October 16, 2017

I'm a materials geek!

This school has probably had the most unusual start of any that I've had so far in my career. We had a tremendous amount of problems scheduling as an Exceptional Children's team. It only took four weeks to figure out. (Yikes!) I am not sure what is so different about this year from the previous ones, but I hope this won't happen again for quite some time.

Through all of that excitement, I got to use several new materials that I want to share my thoughts on. I have posted about Teddy Talker many times. I always love to incorporate Teddy into my younger groups. Teddy Talker's Phoneme Friends is no exception. I have been using this great addition since the spring. I really like to use Teddy's newest edition with Mia McDaniel's wonderful Articulation Cans. This way my students have the Teddy visuals for shaping their mouths, the letter cues at the bottom for spelling, and the target picture. It's really helped get those final consonants!


I am also using Teddy with Speech Corner's Articulation Rolling Cubes. My school district recently purchased this set for me over the summer. It's quickly becoming a second favorite when I can't use my articulation cans. My students get to help Teddy sort out the cubes that have his sound and we talk about how to spell the word. I have pulled out my Teddy puppet to use with the action dice. My students like this because it's funny to make Teddy practice his sounds while clapping his paws or stomping our feet.


My older students have not been left out of the fun this year. My district also purchased two great educational games for context clues and inferencing.

The first one, Context Clues: Riddle of the Ruins, is from Lakeshore Learning. I really like this game because their are two levels of cards. The first one is a multiple choice for the word meaning. The second type are fill in the blanks with the best word. I used this with my middle school students and asked them for their thoughts on the game at the end of their sessions. They were all in agreement that it was a fun game even though a few of them got caught by the traps. They really liked the secret decoder. That was probably the highlight of this one. Sadly, Lakeshore has discontinued the game.

The second game, Treasure Trove, is from Speech Corner. It has an optional add-on set that my district also purchased that really makes this game a versatile tool. I can target synonyms, antonyms, homophones, inferencing, context clues, multiple meaning words. I decided to test this out with my middle school groups so I could get honest opinions. The level of difficulty is a bit harder than the previous game, but they never once complained about the cards being too hard. If anything, I think they enjoyed a good challenge. It is a great way to indirectly work on social skills too. I lost track of how many times they had to "steal" coins and gems from each other. It was pretty funny to watch their reactions. Some of them only wanted the coins or only wanted gems.  

Wishing all of you a happy October!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Welcome 2017-2018

It is here! The 2017-2018 school year has officially started for students this Monday.


I want to kick off my first blog post for this year by talking about how I typically kick things off into gear for the school year.

1. Rules- Every staff member is asked to somehow tie their classroom rules back to the school rules: Be Respectful, Act Responsibly, Remember Kindness, and Keep Safe. They are literally posted everywhere in this building. I typically take the first couple of sessions to lay this groundwork by focusing on Whole Body Listening (Respectful), Bucket Filling (Kindness), and transitioning in the hallways to and from (Safe/Responsible). We are going to make little mini-posters this year with what each of these words means to us. I am going to put them on my closet door around the school rules poster that I have. This way we can look back at what we said throughout the year and hold ourselves accountable.

2. Progress Monitoring- I like to start out each school year by taking a good baseline of skills. I use a mixture of tools depending on my review of the IEP and previous year's notes. The main tools I use come from the 5 Minute Articulation books screener page and the Language/Grammar Progress Monitoring Bundle from Natalie Synders. I also use wordless picture books to get a better sense of articulation, fluency, and language. I honestly feel like having this baseline really helps me write better IEPs.

3. Introducing/Reviewing our Goals!- I like to start out every year with a little about me craft that incorporates what we'll work on this year. I am trying the Dabbling Speechie's free backpack craft this year. I think that these will be great to put up on my bulletin board or the back of my hallway door. The only complaint I have right now is how time consuming it is to cut out all of the little pieces (I find it's easier to pre-cut stuff to reduce how much time certain crafts eat up).

4. Introducing/Reviewing our strategies. This is the fun part! I get to pull out my favorite materials and really get into the thick of therapy again.
  • Visual Phonics
  • Teddy Talker
  • Colorful Semantics
  • Expanding Expression Tool
  • Braidy and Story Grammar Marker
I will also be on the hunt for new ideas and strategies too! I have learned so much this summer from reading blog posts, ASHA leader articles, and CEU courses that I can't wait to try.

Now, time for some shameless room pictures! I am so happy with how things turned out. It was so much easier than years before since I tried to organize everything before summer break.

 I used a table cloth from the Dollar Store this year instead of using the butcher paper that the school provides. I love the color of it. It's almost turquoise although it looks lighter in the picture. My husband and I cut the hot air balloons off of gift bags that he spotted there as well. I love how well they turned out!

My articulation station. I have found that it's much easier to keep these materials close to my table. I can easily grab different card decks or a leveled reader when I'm in a rush for time. I am happy to say that Teddy Talker will be making his appearance in my room too. I am going to put those materials out on the brown bookcase once I finish up the lower shelf. It's my arts and crafts area and is usually a terrible mess. I'm trying out different bins to reduce the craziness, but haven't found the perfect set up just yet. I'll get there.


Our new principle wanted all of us to post "I can" posters in our rooms. I decided to make a simple set that would cover the goals I see most often. I love how the little Disney touches turned out. I wanted them to be subtle since I usually change themes each year.


My paperwork area. I keep most of the things I find on Teachers Pay Teachers in those two purple shelves according to season. I find that it's the easiest way to sort my language materials.


A view of Braidy and Story Grammar Marker. I love these two tools so much!

I hope you have enjoyed a sneak peak of my room and ideas for starting the new year. Good luck to all of you for this school year!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Rest and Relaxation....something we all need

It's been a little over a month since my last post and I've been trying to use that time to take a break from all things related to the field before I dive back into working on a presentation I'll be giving with our lead SLP at a conference in the fall. It's made me realize just how little time I've given myself to do things outside of the field since I started graduate school. We all need to give ourselves a break every once in a while or face the consequences of a major burn out.

So.....I decided to learn how to ride a bike. Yes, something that almost every child learns to do and I don't know how to do it. I blame my neighbor's big dog that was determined to knock me off every time I tried as a kid. Pavement hurts. However, I am trying to push myself to go outside of my comfort zone after talking to my social skills group about my struggle this year. I can't ask my students to go outside of their comfort zones if I'm not willing to try. It's been an interesting ride to say the least. My poor husband had to spend two weekends putting the bike together and we're still working on some kinks with the brakes and tires. I've read blogs and articles from other adult learners on tips to get started. They all pretty much say that it's much harder due to the fear that's been allowed to build up for so long. They're right in some ways. I managed to get both of my feet on the pedals today with assistance from my husband before falling over. I've gotten really good at gliding on it though. Baby steps. It's all about taking it one step at a time and I give myself the same pep talks as I give my students. I've got this. I've got this. My goal is to be able to ride a bike in time for our Christmas vacation to the beach.

I've also had the chance to explore some of my state's history. We stayed in NC for our second wedding anniversary instead of going down to Florida for another Disney trip. It was nice to stay closer to home. We explored the lower coastal region and got to see so many neat things. We can now say that we've seen three lighthouses and the foundation of a fourth that was torn down long ago. We rode our first car ferry, touched stingrays and a nurse shark, and visited a battleship and two forts. It's so easy to forget historic sites when you see the shiny steel of roller coasters in commercials all the time. They all had a beauty about them. I think everyone should make it a point to see at least one nearby historic site in their lifetime. You miss out on so much by skipping over them for the flashy stuff.

The summer has had some bumps too. We were in a three car wreck right at the end of June. Thankfully, the damage was minor to the cars and everyone seemed fine. I've been struggling with being able to feel comfortable on the road though. Everyone keeps telling me that it's natural to feel this way. I hope so because I really can't help but be jittery. I'm trying to drive a little bit every day to force myself to regain my confidence. Little by little....that's my theme for the summer.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wanted: AAC CEUs

As this is the final week for students in my district, I am trying to start planning for the next year with an eye towards summer CEU opportunities. One of the best and worst things about this field is the huge range of areas we can treat. Everyone has certain areas that they enjoy more than others. However, it is not easy to be picky when you are a school-based SLP. There's no telling what you will run across during the school year. We have to be jack-of-all trades and it's a daunting task. I have found that it is easier to focus on one area each year and look for additional topics as they pop up on my caseload. Initially, I focused on learning the paperwork and how to serve bilingual students. The past two years have been driven more towards literacy and social skills. These are all pretty big topics in the field as a whole and are things that my district has also tried to address with teachers.

This summer, I have decided to take a break from those things as it gets to be an information overload. It's time to do something different that can eventually be tied back. Something that will get me out of my comfort zone. So....I am going to focus on AAC. It is something that I have wanted to learn more about, but have always put on the back burner to focus on areas that were an immediate need.

Image result for resources


Free:
  • Angelman Syndrome Foundation Communication Training Webinar Series- This is an incredibly informative year-long series. The webinars build upon each other. You can pick just a few or take the entire series. I've just recently started this series and am planning to watch the entire program.
  • AAC Institute- Free Webinars- The first four webinars are free and are introductory level. They also offer additional paid webinars.
  • Tobii Dynavox- Free Webinars- This is a great resource, particularly if you use Boardmaker or want to learn more about Dynavox devices.
  • AbleNet University- I cannot wait to start taking their webinars.
  • Lingraphica- Free Online Webinars- These are more geared towards adults.
Paid:
In Person Workshops:
Other Resources:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Fun with Mr. Potato Head

I posted a picture some time back on my facebook page about giving a new Mr. Potato Head a bath. I was asked to write a post about how I use Mr. Potato Head for therapy. Now that my husband is on the mend and the school year is winding down, I thought it was time to actually sit down and write out my thoughts. Mr. Potato Head goes to elementary school.....


The first thing I would like to say is that Mr. Potato Head is a pretty popular guy among my kindergarten to 2nd grade groups. He sometimes even pops up with my older groups although in a slightly less traditional manner.

1. Pronouns- This is one of his most obvious uses.


2. Attributes- You can talk about the size of the Potato Head, clothing options, hair options, etc.


3. Following Directions- This tags along with pronouns. I often ask my students to give the Potato Heads certain accessories or pair them up with some of my animal figurines. If you can find a doll house, why not turn it into Mr. Potato's house for spatial concepts?


4. Sensory bin- I use this to help students calm down when they are over stimulated. It's also a great way to teach about body parts and senses.


5. Requesting/turn taking- I have used Mr. Potato Head to get some of kindergarten students to request rather than to grab items that they want.


6. Articulation- As other bloggers have said in the past, you can use Mr. Potato head to practice at phrase/sentence level using target sound pictures. You can also use phonics figurines if you have the Lakeshore tubs (or can borrow from teachers) or your own set of gathered items.

7. Parts of Speech- As I said earlier, Mr. Potato Head sometimes visits my older groups. I often use pieces from my collection for Colourful Semantics lessons that involve sorting items into who, what, and where.


8.  Create your own Spud Story- I like to think that every variation of Potato Head has his/her own story. We can make up a story for our Potato Head and talk about his/her adventures. It could be Star Wars, a day on the farm, a day at the pet shop....you can't go wrong.


While I have seen some bloggers suggest to buy Mr. Potato Head on Amazon, I would suggest looking for him at thrift stores. I have found my entire collection by shopping at Goodwill, Salvation Army, and garage sales. The most expensive set I bought was the Star Wars set, which was $5. Just make sure you give them a good bath before bringing them to work.

Monday, May 8, 2017

5 Step Power Plan

As the end of the year approaches, I thought I should share how I am wrapping up my inclusion lessons for Social Thinking:

The 5 Step Power Plan
Even superheroes like Superflex have to have a plan! Why? It helps us understand when we can do things on our own and when we need help. There are simply too many Unthinkables out there for Superflex to defeat on his own. He gets help from the Thinkables. I compare it to the relationship between Batman and Robin. Batman can do many things on his own, but he's a much better superhero when he has his friend's help.

What are the steps?

The Decider:

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
With this book, we made a list of all of the potential deciders who could help Beatrice and why they might or might not be the best choice. The one that I consider the decider in this book didn't make even one of the lists we made, which is also an important lesson itself. Don't overlook the impact that animals can have on their owners. Also, this is a great opportunity to talk about the importance of asking for help.

Social Detective:
Brain games video clip
This is actually something I saw in one of the Social Thinking webinars. I knew that there had to be a way to use this clip with my students. Social Detective, of course, is just a review from the beginning of the year. We talked about how the lady has to use her smart guess tools to figure out what to do.

The Brakester:
If Winning Isn't Everything Why Do I Hate to Lose
I can't think of a better way to talk about hidden rules. Who teaches you to say "bless you" when someone sneezes? How do you know when to say "happy birthday?" These are things that we have to learn by seeing and doing. While sports have many rules that are stated, they also have many more hidden rules about the way players behave.

Flex DoBody:
My Day is Ruined!
When everything seems to be bad, we have to use our flexible thinking to find the silver lining.
Bubble Gum Brain
This is a clever book that reminds students not to get stuck in one way of thinking.

Cranium Coach:
Giraffes Can't Dance.
I'm Going to Like Me. 
Kid President Heroes 
Last, but definitely not least, is Cranium Coach. This is your brain's way of empowering yourself through life.

Please note that all of the books suggested in this post were personal purchases (thank you Amazon for having the best selection of books anywhere). There are plenty of great resources out there that I don't know about but will share as I discover them. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Fears

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
Frank Herbert


Why am I writing about fear on a blog that is dedicated to speech and my experiences as a Speech-Language Pathologist? Well, because I am honestly terrified of what tomorrow brings. 

I had the pleasure of learning a whole huge list of different genetic disorders in graduate school for one of my child language classes. It was one of those things that I hadn't really thought about before as my family didn't have much history of anything. 

It's much more personal now that I'm married. My wonderful husband has to go into surgery tomorrow because he does suffer from one of these lovely genetic conditions (a mutation in his case). Hand surgery.....I know it's not heart or brain surgery, but to me it's still something that's really scary. It still involves a structure that's very important to his ability to work and drive. It still involves getting around small nerves. It still involves him being put under. 

The most difficult part is not being there. I've been sick so much this year with everything that has come through the building that I can't miss any days. I can't help him through the recovery process because we are still two hours apart and I have to help my grandmother. 

I need life to calm down just a little.