Thursday, August 14, 2014

Just visualize

This school year holds many new changes. We have a new superintendent, a new principle, new teachers on staff, a new Speech-Language Pathologist joining our team, new students, and all the many paperwork changes that happen every year. I'll even be seeing some students at a local private school this year. It seems like all we did last year was say "good-bye" to many incredible people. Now, we will begin with a series of "hellos."  I would be lying if I didn't say that I'm a little nervous even as I head into my 4th year with the district.

So, I'm closing my eyes and visualizing what I want to see for this year.....My students being successful inside and outside of the classroom. The great and terrible /r/ finally being conquered. Open-ended questions leading to more enthusiasm towards reading. Laughter. Smiles. Parents advocating for their children and bragging about their accomplishments (no matter the size). Reading to Teddy Talker and practicing their sounds with him. Describing manipulatives with the Expanding Expression Tool. Category hopscotch. A bilingual word-wall. Learning prepositions with stuffed animals and pronouns with people puppets. Less stress, more crafts, and more smiles.

In my personal world, I am praying for some much needed strength. One of my relatives found out that they had a second form of cancer over the summer and is in pretty bad pain. The medication the doctors prescribe for the pain seems to make it worse instead of better. I'm really hoping for the best, but it is not easy. We are also still waiting to hear from the vet's about Serena's most recent bile study. (Please no more liver shunts!!!!)

Visualization.....It's a strategy that I often use with my older students. I like the way it puts things into a different perspective. Sometimes we are so close to a subject that we lose our ability to be objective judges.

[Keating stands on his desk]
Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?
Dalton: To feel taller!
Keating: No! [Dings a bell with his foot] Thank you for playing Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.
                              ---Dead Poet's Society

Monday, August 11, 2014

'Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars

Categories, categories, and more categories! It seems like I am forever talking about categories with my language students either directly through their goals or indirectly for another language concern via the Expanding Expression Tool. I am constantly on the hunt for something to make categorization more fun and interesting for my students. We use store-bought games, sorting manipulative objects, and homemade activities. Each year, I try to challenge myself to find a new way to make something fun for the topic. I think that my students will be pretty pleased with the end result this year.

Category cubes! I decided to make these to use on rainy days when I can't take them outside to use my homemade thumball.  

There are twelve different category cubes in this packet that range from specific (ex. things at school) to random topics (ex. naming things with wheels). There is also a number cube, which students use to determine the number of items they have to name. You can also use regular dice with this activity if you prefer. There is also a blank cube for other categories that you might want to use. 

Grab your copy of Category Cubes here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Time for a little bit of royalty....

Thoughts on beginning the 2014-2015 school year
May the road rise up to meet you and
May you not get behind too many school buses going to work.
May your after school meetings be quick and to the point.
Let the piles of paperwork be shorter...
and Medicaid billing painless.
May you attend many relevant workshops and conferences.
May the sunshine and happiness of your students
wash away all negativity that you might face.
May your school year be blessed!

I hope you will enjoy this little freebie for the new school year. It's several pages of open-ended questions to use with stories. You can easily keep these on a binder ring for a language quick activity.

Grab your copy of Crowning Questions here.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Thoughts on Bubble Talk

I recently stumbled across a game that has been on my SLP wishlist for what feels like forever at the Goodwill Outlet. It was just sitting there in a bin that had been pretty well picked over by the point I walked in the door. Why was I about ready to bust out in my happy dance?

Well,  Bubble Talk is a very versatile game that can strike up a conversation almost instantly. The pictures range from completely wacky to the more realistic. The bare bones premise of the game is that you match the funniest caption card to each picture.

I see this game being so much more:
  1. Using the pictures and/or caption card as a story starter.
  2. Open-ended questioning.
  3. Describing what they see.
  4. Identifying the action or the noun.  
  5. Identifying emotions and giving a reason why the person/animal might feel that way.
  6. Identifying what doesn't make sense with the pictures.
  7. Articulation carryover
My one suggestion would be to go through all of the cards before you pull this game out for therapy. (Actually, it's a good thing to do this with any new game.) I found a few that were a bit questionable for the age group that I serve. 
The picture of the sister tying her little brother to the chair will probably be one that really gets them talking.
I've learned over the past three years that my favorite games to use in therapy are either the ones that can hit multiple targets, like this one, or the ones that will get me multiple productions from turn-taking without being too time consuming.

One of my favorite pictures for emotions.
Why do you think the baby is making that face?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Goodwill Retail vs. Goodwill Outlet

No two thrift stores are alike. They all have their own unique vibe and clientele as weird as that may sound. If you go into enough of them, I can promise that you will start to pick up on little differences even in the commercial thrift stores. The biggest one that comes to my mind is Goodwill and it is certainly trending right now in the School-Based SLP facebook group. Did you know that there are two different versions of Goodwill?

I have grown up shopping at my local Goodwill retail store. It's probably the nicest of our three thrift stores. Everything is fairly well-organized (asides from what customers move around) and clean. So I will go ahead and admit that I have a bit of a bias even though I have been to several different outlet stores as well.

Goodwill Retail Pros:
  1. Shelving. At most Goodwill retail stores, books and games are generally stored on shelves. (I've been to a few that store the games with toys on top of clothes racks to better protect them from little hands.) The shelves make it really easy to see the merchandise and pick out what you want. 
  2. Atmosphere. At the retail stores, you rarely ever see people with gloves on their hands and masks on their faces. You can easily see the clean items from the dirty ones without ever having to touch them (yay shelving!). 
  3. No swarms of people. You just walk down the aisle and look for treasures. The clothing section is known for some buggy bumper cars from time to time, but most of the time you don't have to fight to look. 
  4. Clear prices. Having a rough estimate of how much you've spent before you get to the register is truly a wonderful thing. 
  5. Watchful staff. This is always a plus when parents decide to use the store as a daycare center.  

Goodwill Retail Cons:
  1. Antique dealers. Some of them are really bad about buying up all the toys and games to resale in about 20 years.
  2. Favoritism. Goodwill has signs up everywhere about "it's only fair" but I have seen them hold stuff back for certain customers. They will bring the item directly to that customer without ever letting it go on the floor. 
  3. Mark ups on items they think are popular, antique, or new. Melissa and Doug items are usually the worst.  
  4. Missing pieces. This isn't really a fault of Goodwill per say, but you really have to check to make sure games have all of their pieces in the store. 

Goodwill Outlet Pros:
  1. Buy by the pound. This can be cheaper for children's books and some games. I'm not sure that it is always a plus.
  2. You get the thrill of going on a scavenger hunt by digging through the bins. 
  3. It's essentially fair- The workers make everyone stand back until the bin is in place. However, the regulars have a swarming system that generally makes it difficult to look until they are finished. 

Goodwill Outlet Cons:
  1. It's not as clean as the retail stores. Things get broken in those bins and the staff doesn't remove them until the bin is taken to the back. 
  2. The swarms. It's a mad rush to get the best finds out of the bins. I've seen kids throw stuff in the way and push people out to help their parents get the best stuff. 
  3. Unsupervised children. Enough said. 
  4. Lack of shelves. It's really hard to see little stuff (namely figurines & small game pieces) in the bins. It takes much more effort to find items.

(You can check out this blog post for a very detailed description of one outlet store.) 

Tips for Goodwill Outlet Shopping:
  1. Bring hand sanitizer- I always feel exceptionally nasty after digging through the bins at the Goodwill outlet. It's fun, but you really don't know who's been digging through the bins before you. 
  2. Give yourself plenty of time- It takes a while to dig through the bins- even the ones that have been picked over- for those hidden treasures. 
  3. Look through the bins that have less traffic. Yes, they have been picked over already but you can find things that were lost in the shuffle.
  4. Be prepared to be frustrated by the regulars. You will see them with mounds of things that you wish you could buy for your therapy room. It's like they have a secret talent at finding wonderful toys in a haystack. 

I think that every Goodwill shopper should try going to the outlet store once. It's something that you really just have to experience to understand. However, I strongly believe that the retail stores are the better way to go for therapy materials.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Look right through me, look right through me...

Well folks, my yearly dollar tree planner has been purchased and I feel ready to admit that summer is almost over. The middle of August will be here before you can say "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." (As a side note: I cannot believe the little ones who started out with me in kindergarten are now in 3rd grade! Where has the time gone???!!)

Lately, my mind has been on bullying prevention. I found a new book at Goodwill called "Bullies Never Win." It's a cute introductory book that sort of skims the surface of this very complex topic. I know that there seems to be a divide among school-based SLPs as to whether or not bullying falls within our scope of practice. I am on the side of the fence that says, "Yes. This is a crucial aspect of social skills that our students need help with!" We work with students that are at an increased risk of being singled out by bullies due to the overt symptoms of their delays. It's also a topic that my students specifically asked me about last year. They are getting older and I can still remember when several of my peers truly started up with their bullying campaigns. Eight and nine are not very pleasant ages. 

I know how he feels all too well....
The issue that I have found is that most of my social skills materials focus on basic friendship skills and emotions. It's important that students understand these basic skills first. You have to have a solid foundation before you can tackle such a complex (and abstract) topic. Even as the adult, we also have to educate ourselves before tackling the topic. I really wish we received more training on it in our profession since the small nature of our speech rooms offer much more safety to children. My advice is to read, read, watch videos, ask questions of the school counselor, and read some more for good measure.  

Then, I would find a comfortable starting point. I chose the bucket filler book as my starting point. I like the explanations and examples that the author used. Plus, the teachers in my school use it as a way to introduce their classroom expectations. The students all have "buckets" by the door or on their name tags that they try to fill up each day. The repetition from me helps reinforce the classroom expectation in a positive way. Add in a little mini discussion about "bucket fillers" and "bucket dippers" to each character description following book activities....You get stealthy social skills!

If you want something a little bit more to the point for the older students, I found two really great resources on Teachers Pay Teachers. My favorite is the BULLY Prevention worksheet packet by ARTrageous Fun. I also like the Bully or Buddy? Interactive bulletin board activity. It inspired me to make my own packet to use with my 4th and 5th graders.

Grab your copy of Bully vs. Friend here.

My packet is designed to help define bullying by answering the five wh- questions. I even included a special section on girls who bully. It then goes back into a friendship lesson so they can see that there is a difference between an argument and actual bullying. I hope this will help someone else out there. 

A pebble in the water makes a ripple effect
every action in this world will bear a consequence
If you wade around forever, you will surely drown
I see what's going down....
-- Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

Monday, July 14, 2014

Don't stop believing

Apparently, I just cannot get over my love of all things syntax related this summer. I recently decided to re-energize the notebook system I use to teach the parts of speech to my students. 

The original, as you see above, was just a selection of worksheets that I found online for free mixed in with our practice sheets. It really lacked a true introduction into the world of grammar. Now, each part of speech is introduced with its color from the British-based Colorful Semantic program as a base. (If you aren't familiar with the color-coded system, it is basically a way to teach students how to expand their utterances with a visual component. You can get free resources from their site to get started or just skip the parts about colors.) I also added in a connection to the wh- question words for each part of speech as I often teach the two topics together. 

Then we get to the fun part! I made several worksheets to help reinforce each color. I plan on adding additional pages from brainstorming that we do in group on our lined paper and other syntax activities that I've made in the past. It can also be expanded to incorporate things from TeachersPayTeachers and workbooks that blend into the lessons. All of their work will go into these nifty notebooks until it's time to send them home for practice.

I cannot wait to see how much learning will take place with this new packet.
Grab your copy of My Parts of Speech Book here.