Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Associations and more with figurines

Finding good deals has always been a passion of mine. I blame my thrifty habits on my mother who took me on Goodwill trips from infancy. I grew up thinking that thrift stores are magical places. So there's little doubt in my mind that I would find excuses to go there even if I weren't an SLP.

Dollar stores? Well, those are a pretty recent addiction due to work. I started out by wanting cheap craft supplies and have ended up finding some pretty good therapy "keepers." This post is about some recent "keepers" I found at local a dollar shop.

WOW Best Buddies- May I just say that these could possibly be the best thing I have ever run across for associations? The people and corresponding animals have an obvious match. They are far sturdier than many of my phonics toys. (However, Scholastic has these really cool game controller erasers and I couldn't resist buying one for the phonics box.) The possibilities are pretty much endless with these little guys. I know we will be describing each one and working on utterance lengths.
-Looking forward to their new home-
The set includes the wizard/dragon, Eskimo/polar bear, farmer/pg, fireman/cat, policeman/dog, rider/horse, and caveman/dinosaur.  
Ready for a close-up!
It's a challenge to find something that can withstand several of my kindergarten and first grade boys. I'm pretty sure that no one has ever taught them how to play with a toy. It is a good learning experience for all of us.

Another new addition to my therapy toolbox are 6 webkinz figurines. I like them because the animals are good for articulation and language goals. They come in different outfits that are associated with a variety of actions like painting and even playing golf. Plus, figurines don't take up a ton of room.

I'm good for categorization too!

Monday, October 29, 2012

While convinced that I have magically turned into an ice cube....

Too cold to think? Hurricane Sandy getting in your way?? Try our new and improved 100 page program on for size. It will surely make you forget about that tingling feeling in your hands.

True story...I cannot figure out what to go to at the ASHA convention. Is this how it is for most conventions??? Or did I just decide to go to the most confusing/overwhelming one first?

Friday, October 26, 2012

finally a tiny piece of progress

The first of the reading goal banks is finally here. My guess is that I won't have the other ones started until Thanksgiving or Christmas with the way my schedule is for the next month. The best laid plans have the tendency to go to waste. Oh well, I did mean well at the start of my Common Core project. It's been a great learning experience and finishing those reading goal banks will make me a happier person. I must say that I greatly admire Jenna at Speech Room News and Jenn over at Crazy Speech World. I do not know how they find the time to make such wonderful materials with all of their other responsibilities. Honestly, I feel like I'm doing good to at least post once a week.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I will be the first to admit that I do not consider myself a pro at organization. My intentions are always great at the beginning of the year even as a student. Every object starts out with a specified place that is usually by alphabetical order, theme, or generally goes okay for the first month. I have the tendency to slowly decline as the workload increases....most notably affected is my desk. It always ends up looking like WWIII if one could use paper as ammunition. I, generally, know where everything is even at the height of my chaos.    

My finds from pinterest and "home-made" items are housed in a green bin. I originally used it to store construction paper. I had to change strategies this year as my "crafts" started to overflow. Now, this is definitely not the end to my collection of therapy ideas. The majority of them are still stored on my flash drive as I never have time to print everything off. I've learned to save everything and leave a back-up on my computer. It's not a great feeling to find out that the project you were going to use got taken off or blocked via internet restrictions. 
I put many of my game card items in note-card holders that I snag for .50 at Salvation Army. I put the pieces for my file folder games in these as well unless I am running out of room. I pull out zip-lock bags when all else fails. 
Some things are just too big for my usual strategies. My great-aunt gave my grandmother a bunch of things she didn't want anymore. I found this card holder and immediately claimed it. I bought a bunch of cards at the Dollar Tree for parts of speech that are too big to fit into anything else. It's a great solution that doesn't take up much space as you can see.'s a never ending battle. 

P.S. I did my first presentation today! It went pretty well I think. :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Tale of Two Buckets...

Once upon a time, there were two buckets that lived on a teeny-tiny shelf in a cozy room. They sat on the shelf for months waiting for their turn. They dreamed of their moment of glory.

The sound muncher haven.
The buckets are finally released from shelf duty. Now, they must help the speech detectives make their sounds.
Bat rings for Halloween? Yes, please. They make great reinforcers.
Now to be serious, I used these two buckets to help the kids see how well they can make their sounds. They got to judge whether the sounds were good or bad (in sets of 5) with a little help from me. The good sounds earned a bat in the blue bucket and the not-so-great ones went in the red. I had enough colors to keep the count separate for each student. They got to count out their bats and see how many they had of each kind. I drew faces on the table and put the bats next to the number.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Whole Body Listening

I will *finally* be giving a presentation this week at my district's monthly SLP meetings. It will be mostly focused on the social skills class I took over the summer. I also plan on bringing in a few things that I have made to use with my groups. 

I don't have many students on my caseload with goals for social skills. The majority of them are language and a few articulation. However, I have one fourth grader that has been learning social skills for several years now. It's one of those cases where you can talk about the skills and the student will always answer the questions correctly. The problem is actually carrying that knowledge over into actions. Listening is a particularly tough issue at the moment. I found the Whole Body Listening poster on pinterest and made one of my own. I used it to introduce the topic to the group with examples of listening styles. 

I made a second poster that is identical to the first. I cut up the poster into manipulative pieces. The students have to match up the pieces to recreate the poster from memory. They did really well with this activity as you can see. 

Now, the guy on my poster is named Listening Larry. I found this little super hero stuffed animal at goodwill. He's supposed to be for some sort of telecommunications company that happens to start with an "L". I can't remember the name off the top of my head. He's one of those finds that you just immediately snatch up with an obvious purpose in mind. Listening Larry becomes a super hero when he sees other kids making listening mistakes. He swoops in to save the day for the teacher and class. (P.S. My kids have a HUGE thing for super heroes even in the 4th If the kids don't feel comfortable pointing out mistakes, they can use Larry to talk about them. 

I've also created a 5 point scale poster for this group. It's another manipulative poster that uses velcro to attach the feeling statements for each face.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Miss Thrifty's Tips for Graduate School

Everyone will experience something different in college and in graduate school. I thought I would share some tips based from my personal experience for readers who are going through the admissions process.

1. Determination- Stay strong. This can apply to rejection letters but it can also be said for your experience in graduate school as well. I had several naysayers due to my introverted nature. It was certainly frustrating to have people question my abilities and it also made me rise to the challenge. I wanted to prove them wrong and here I am. I pushed through the doubts and found ways to shine. Find the thing that makes your inner light come out. It may be in creating your own materials, making crafts, using games, reading....etc. You are the only person who truly knows what drives you and will make you happy. 

2. Seek out advice from others- There is something to be said for honest and helpful advice. This can go from asking a trusted friend, mentor, or professor to look over personal statements or feedback on a particularly challenging therapy session. You learn by doing and receiving feedback. Try not to be offended if something does come off a little bit harsh. You may end up interacting with someone who isn't so kind in their explanations. It doesn't mean that their opinion should be discounted. Among the bad news, you can usually find a gem of wisdom that will help you improve. 

3. Study- This shouldn't have to go on any list. Unfortunately, some people don't realize that you do have to put some effort into a program to get results. (Others, have very valid reasons for academic woes and this doesn't apply to these people.) We had one person fail in the cohort ahead of mine because all that person did was play around. Neuroanatomy is even if it takes study groups to get you motivated.

4. Patience- The best things in life come to those who wait. It's not always fun to wait but things work out in the end. This is also something that will be invaluable when interacting with clients. (It also applies very well to people who want to work in a hospital as that is a very competitive area.)

5. Passion- If you love what you are doing, it will shine through in every action. It will ring through your applications and therapy sessions. This field is not about making money. Yes, it is a fairly stable career in a crazy world where most jobs aren't secure. It doesn't bring a huge monetary reward and that can be a huge drawback for people who don't really care for the field.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Story Rope

I have meant to post about this project for some time now. This story rope is something I made at the very end of last year. The images (except for the cabbage patch kids picture) are all hand-drawn by yours truly. I based it off of something I saw on pinterest from a teacher's blog. It was a great idea to use for reading comprehension and has grown into so much more in my room. 

The colors of my story rope are somewhat aligned to the colorful semantics system. The kids learn about orange words for people and my "orange"/peach question word is who? Blue for place is also blue for where? The sequence pattern is like a stop light. The kids can refer to the rope that hangs against my blackboard or the flip book that I toss on the table during sessions. I don't really mind which one they use as long as they start making that connection. The kids love having a choice. 

We use the story rope for answering comprehension questions, sequencing events, and developing our own sentences. I usually try to point to the associated item as I ask the question with the younger crowd. The older ones don't always need the reminder. 

Here is a computerized version using Microsoft Word clip art that I made. I'm not good at making stuff on the computer and don't have access to a scanner. There are much better versions such as this Wizard of Oz one and this basic one. Just search for "retelling rope" on google. (P.S. just saw this on Ms. Jocelyn's Speech page minutes after I made this post. I always seem to do

Inside the flip book
Retell gloves are another great method to teach this skill. Here is one example. You can even make them with real gloves like this one or this one (which also explains how they align with Common Core). I am in the process of gathering supplies to make my own using felt and dollar store gloves. It's a cheap way to bring stories to life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I love workroom freebies....

I know many schools (at least in my district) have a little space that I consider to be magical. It's a space where unwanted items can be left out for others to use. 

Today, I found a box full of yellowed worksheets and two sets of flashcards. Flashcards for some reason catch my attention. I guess it's due to their similarity to the articulation decks??? They are quite the versatile tool if you need small items that are easy to carry around. One of the sets is geared towards rhyming words. I haven't gone through it all that well because I was distracted by these.....

The awesome thing about this alphabet deck is the fact that it contains long & short vowel sounds, diagraphs, and blends. I quickly pulled out my handy Sharpie and Visual Phonics notes. I added the symbols as near to the letters as I could. It worked out well for most of the letters.

I think these cards will be great for many of my groups. I use Visual Phonics cues with the majority of my articulation groups as well as the kindergarten students in Letterland. I love how this technique can be applied to some many different things. It goes far beyond my expectations as a way to reach students who suffer from hearing impairments. Going beyond visual phonics, I can also use the cards as cues for categorization of items based on sounds.

If you have flashcards that you would like to adapt/modify, I strongly suggest using a non-distracting color of Sharpie marker and going for it. It really doesn't take long at all to write what you want on them. You can also create your own cards to add to decks (like if you wanted short and long vowels). I have seen several people on pinterest suggest using plastic soap dish containers to store their flashcards/game cards. My rubber-band method is not nearly as fancy but it also does the trick.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Letterland and the SLP

This year, I have been seeing the majority of my kindergarten students in the EC classroom. It is an opportunity that allows me to have exposure to the Letterland program. The program is primarily driven towards teaching children phonological awareness skills. Each letter of the alphabet is taught in a specific sequence that prepares children to read. The letters have vibrant characters, such as Clever Cat, and hand gestures for the actual sound production.

Our Letterland groups (two groups of 5-6 kindergarteners) are introduced to a new letter at the beginning of the week via the ABC learning software. The kids listen to the character's "story" and song. I appreciate the story because it incorporates a ton of child-friendly vocabulary in an interactive manner. The kids can come up to the Smartboard and touch certain objects with or without prompts. The songs are easy to remember and a great cue as we review the letters each week via an alphabet chain. We go through the week with different activities and review all of the letters that they have learned thus far. 

In terms of speech:  

Vocabulary and Utterance lengths- The stories introduce the children to new vocabulary every week. We focus on specific target items through craft activities and the software games. I also bring in toys or picture cards. We work on expanding our utterance lengths through expansion (adding one word to what they say), models (usually for correct word order but also for verbalizing), cues (visual gestures), and sabotage (hiding objects that they need so they ask for it).  I also pull out my wacky hats for these targets. 

Following Directions- something we target via craft projects and the interactive match-up game via the software program.

1. Caterpillars- We read the Very Hungry Caterpillar, watched a clip on Brain Pop about them, and made Caterpillar's out of die-cut Cs.
2. Ants- We read Hey, Little Ant, talked about big/little, and made ants out of die-cut A's
3. Elephants- We made Eddy Elephant out of torn pieces of paper  

You can easily do toilet paper roll or paper-plate crafts. I just haven't had the time to plan an activity like that out just yet. 

I also like to bring in books and do movements with them. This past week we read Shake Dem Bones and the kids had to stand up/shake for the "shake dem bones" line. They have also made faces with the book, The Way I Feel. Letterland is great for book incorporation and you don't have to use their products. Just find a book that talks about a key vocabulary word/sound for that week.

Opposites- I bring in small figurines or use items in the EC classroom. We don't talk about this every week but I try to incorporate it on a frequent basis. 

Descriptions- You can easily describe the Letterland characters or scenes that they are in. 

Now, I do not try to use the Letterland group as time to target articulation goals. I pull those students out during other parts of the day. It's a bit too much to try that as can be rather distracting. However, I use the character names and gestures to cue their speech during the sessions. I also mix the pattern up and use speech specific gestures/nicknames for the sounds that end up transitioning to whole group sessions. Golden Girl gulps her drink, for example. (I also use the visual phonics cues for the different vowel sounds rather than the Letterland ones to really emphasize the difference.) It is an easy way to engage them in therapy and tie our work back into the Letterland curriculum. 

Overall, I have really begun to enjoy this program and finding ways to incorporate speech goals into it. 

Most of this video is about Letterland save the last little bit.

Here is a short PDF suggestion list.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Today, I was reminded of my junior year of college. The year of uncertainty and sheer willpower. It was really at that point in my college career that I decided to go for Speech.

My research into the field was not your typical internet search.

1. Arrange to have an internship at the hospital where my dad got outpatient voice therapy. This internship lasted an entire month. I did a second internship in a school system for a month my senior year.

2. Look up history of field just because....well, I'm me. History is pretty much a part of every cell in my body. This website gives a history of the field:   It was really my one true resource until I managed to find some old textbooks from the 70s. (Again, thank you Goodwill and Worldcat.)

3. Read some random books based on recommendations and research....(but I can only remember two right now)

Temple Grandin's biography (Awesome)
Wings- an old radio play about a woman's experience with aphaisa

 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly -- failed in attempts to find it. Still need to watch the movie
The Curious Incident of the Dog at Midnight--haven't read it yet but I do have a copy

4. Did an email interview with an SLP for college.

5. Joined livejournal

Going into this field is the craziest and scariest thing that I have done in my entire life. If you had told me that I would go down this path in high school, I probably would have told you that it would never happen. Me? An introvert who just wanted to find a quiet place to work? A job that was anything but teaching?  Life is funny that way. I wouldn't change my decision for anything. I love working with my students. Even on my worst days at work, I know that I am able to make some small difference as an SLP.

Now, I just have to figure out if I want to pursue a PhD or not. It's been the subject of much musing for the past year. I wish I could say that I was closer to a decision as I hate the feeling of being stuck in limbo.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

buckaroo? why not?

It's not my week for interesting ideas. So here is a game that I have recently started using in therapy. I got it for $2.99.

The items which players must place on the mule's back without him kicking are 
  • a bedroll
  • a canteen 
  • a crate 
  • a frying pan
  • a cowboy hat
  • a guitar
  • a holster 
  • a lantern 
  • a rope
  • a saddle
  • a shovel
  • a stick of dynamite

Buckaroo is wonderful for cowboy themes if you use them. You can also use it for following simple directions or as a reinforcer for drill work. I mostly use it as a reinforcer so the students feel a small sense of accomplishment directly after working. However, you have to keep an eye on the students as the pieces shoot off pretty far. I warn them to watch out with this game (along with Pop up Pirate) as I don't want them to get bopped in the eye. 

Also, I am slowly developing into a crazy hat lady. The Salvation Army store in my town has a plethora of strange hats. I've managed to pick up the following: blue furry hat (for Hairy Hat Man); hot dog hat; pirate hat; fireman hat (Fireman Fred); chef hat; and detective hat. The Letterland kids went nuts for the fireman hat today. I love how Halloween is giving me great tools for year-round therapy projects. 

Love this picture. I'm guessing this is probably pretty similar to how the kids view me in my hats.
I don't want to know what they will think of 35....25 is apparently the new ancient.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

In a little blog is a dark, dark post.....

I probably have way too many Halloween books, but it's one of my favorite holidays. My kindergarten students get the Spooky Old Tree and my 1st graders get to enjoy this story....
A Dark, Dark Tale is a fairly simple picture book. It takes the reader through various "dark" scenes that get creepy and focused on sequentially smaller spaces. You start out in a moor with an owl flying overhead and move through the woods to the "haunted house." The black cat takes you through various spaces up to the ending point with a surprise that the kids won't expect. (It won't scare them unlike the plastic spiders they might find in your cauldron.) This story is great for making predictions and talking about what makes a place "spooky."

Here are a few other Halloween favorites from my speech room to yours:
1) Room on the Broom
2) The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything
3) Skeleton Hiccups
4) Shake Dem Halloween Bones
5) Goodnight Goon
6) The Hallo-wiener

Sunday, October 7, 2012

It was a graveyard smash!

My older students are not going to be left out of the Halloween madness. I took the game pieces out of my Ned's Head and combined them with a few items from my phonics box set to create this....

Take one black cauldron from the dollar store (or a thrift store find) and fill it with shredded paper.
Hide freaky things like a "pea brain" and tongue.
Just don't take tips on hiding things from my kiddos. A little too obvious there guys....
Let the kids dig around for objects.
My rule is that they have to describe what they touch before pulling it out of the cauldron.

I purchased two packets of rubber bouncy balls (12 total) with spiders in the center. I give the kids an extra turn when they come across one of them. Otherwise, I already had everything I needed to create this simple game.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

This is Halloween, this is Halloween.....

In the spirit of the season, I wanted to share what's been going on in my speech room this week.

Kindergarten approved. Two of my favorites.

As a big fan of animated literacy, I like to use books that have movements. I use my puppets to do the movements as I read and have the kids copy with their own hands. It gets them more involved in the story and helps with the wiggles.

The older kids played Pirate Talk rather than a book activity since it was time for school pictures. I was afraid that my schedule would be completely messed up, but most of the kids were done by the time I got them. The kindergartners, unfortunately, were the only ones subject to the disruption. It always happens to be the ones that cannot handle changes that get the interruptions. Thankfully, they worked on an ultra cute craft project that could finished up later (made Eddy Elephant using torn strips of paper. We've been doing one for each letterland character.)

This is the game that I have waited for nearly a year to introduce. I found this spider web tablecloth after Halloween last year at Salvation Army. It was only two dollars and I knew that I had to have it. The bean-bag pumpkin booties showed up at Goodwill 3 weeks ago for $1.99 and it was a perfect match. 

The strategy behind the game is to place picture cards in random spots of the web. The kids throw the bean-bags and try to hit a card. If they hit a card (or near it), then they have to tell me what it is and we apply it to their goals (articulation, language, blending/segmenting, etc). We happened to use Letterland cards in the EC room.
If they hit one of my two giant spiders, they get visited by.....
My friend Spooky Spider. He's another puppet that is worn more like a glove so he can wiggle his legs at them. I had the kindergartners begging for some spider time with this game. I like to vary his "attack" with by sometimes saying "Watch out!"; "Oh, no! It's a giant spider"; and doing the music from Jaws that warned you of the shark. 

Of course, I happened to make a fool out of myself by doing this when the Principle and Vice Principle got pulled into the room to observe a behavioral issue. Life's never dull in the EC classroom. 

***You can do something similar by finding a table cloth at Walmart or buying a plain one and making the lines yourself. The bean-bags can also be homemade using orange fabric and the spiders came from the dollar store.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pirate Talk

I recently purchased Pirate Talk when Super Duper put it on a 50% Facebook only special. (No, I still haven't recovered from the reduction of their special sales prices yet. -...- )

Waiting patiently for me to open the box in between finishing up SOAP notes.
Game board and movable characters. The kids were confused about the start and end points. 
Arr, mateys! There be much treasure for the taken'!"
The cards are divided into subjects. The kids can repeat sentences, answer questions, follow directions, work on categorization, and come up with their own sentences about the scene. I like my options. :)

I definitely like the high-interest appeal of the pirates. It targets a pretty good variety of goals. The majority of my students struggle with following directions, answering questions, and repeating sentences so I'm not required to do much thinking with this tool. This is a blessing on particularly hard days. 

However, one of my students has already complained that there is no captain. It's  never a good thing when you have to repeatedly tell a student to pick a color. I'm thinking about making my own "captain" figure and sitting it in random places around the board. The "crew" will have to rescue him from the dangerous sharks. This should take care of the complaints.

In other news......

Here is a pragmatics goal list that I composed to align with Common Core standards. It's not an exhaustive list, but it contains short term goals that I have used.

Social skills aren't just about the students and sometimes we as professionals forget that it also extends to us too.

As a single, *young* (though not in the eyes of my students for sure) woman, I am acutely aware of the fact that I must rely on my critical thinking skills to get through IEP meetings. I don't know what it is like to have a child, particularly not a child who is suffering from some type of delay or disability. A parent decided to remind me of this recently and I couldn't agree more. I don't know what it feels like to not understand my child or to listen to them scream in frustration as they can't find the words they want. I'm a completely blank slate and the only thing I can do is try to imagine the kind of parent I would like to be someday.

My solution is to read blogs by parents. It doesn't compare to the real-life experience, but it does give me an idea of things parenting might involve. I have a list of few favorites here:

1. Speak Jane Speak
2. My life and kids
3. The Salad Days
4. The Pioneer Woman 

This is the only "child" I plan on having for a llllooooonnnnggg time.

Monday, October 1, 2012

What's in that box???

Do you like a good mystery? Well, my students sure do and the "Mystery Box" provides another entertaining way to learn. 

I'm not going to first, my kids thought that this was a new prize box.
If they aren't stuck on games, they are going to focus on the prizes...
Look at all those goodies!
I've done a couple things with this box so far:
    1) Described the item inside and had the kids guess what it is. (They could also do the describing before they pull the item out.)
    2) Let them pull one item out and name it
    3) If they get an articulation card, we work on that sound.

I made this "game" using your standard school butcher paper (not just for doors & bulletin boards) and a cardboard box found in the recycling bin. I'll gladly take the walk of shame for admitting that I took something out of the recycling bin considering how good this project turned out. It's a very high interest activity for my younger students. 

I also have to share with you that I am currently very disappointed in Super Duper. They've reduced their 50% overstock sales to only 30%. (I also haven't forgotten the time where they ended these sales completely  earlier in the year.) I realize that they are in the business to make money. However, I am not in a business where I can afford to pay $20+ for every material that I need. Those 50% off sales enabled me to purchase some great materials that I use on a weekly basis. Schools don't offer a luxury salary. Looks like I won't be buying much from Super Duper in the near future.....  :(

And, here, is the document for the aliens I use for Colorful Semantics.