Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Got stuffed animals? Let's teach some positional concepts!

Children (most of the ones I know) love to cuddle with soft little stuffed animals. Who can blame them? Stuffed animals come in all kinds of sizes and shapes. You can find familiar faces or make a new friend all of your own. I have found that, much like my puppets, a brightly colored stuffed animal can break up the tension in tricky situations. They pass the test with getting undivided attention and getting those reclusive introverts to smile. (And, if that doesn't work, you might try letting the shy students dump a bucket of plastic bugs on your head a few times.)

Elmo and Cookie Monster are both Goodwill finds for $1.
You can find  many stuffed animals at yard sales & flea markets for .25-.50 cents  too.
Elmo and Cookie Monster are the most visible of my stuffed animal friends. They help me model & practice positional concepts with my K-1st grade students. I start out by teaching in, top, bottom, and out with Oscar's trash can. My students get to put Elmo or Cookie around the trash can or even each other for practice.

Elmo and Cookie Monster quickly ensue in the ever-popular "hide and seek" game complete with funny voices and dance moves. My students have to help the characters locate each other.

The size of these stuffed animals are great for tossing in a little tote or carrying for inclusion groups. I usually tuck them in my arm and take them with me to morning remediation (I suppose this would be considered a "duty" but the administration & teachers have worked with me so I can see several of my students during this block).  It's a simple but fun solution.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Got a bad case of the "should haves"? You aren't alone.

I will admit that I am quite horrible about having to go back to certain stores to buy things. I suffer from a bad case of seeing things and being struck with good ideas after the fact. It typically happens with dollar stores more so than thrift stores. I imagine that everyone has these moments or at least I hope that I'm not alone. 

I actually ran across pinwheels like this one last year at Dollar Tree, but I didn't see them as something that I could realistically use at work. Two weeks later, I saw Jenna Rayburn's pinwheel post and I couldn't find the darn things anywhere. It happens way too often and I hate admitting it. This year I decided to be smart and bought one to use for wh- questions. I tried to align it as best I could with my colorful semantics activities so it can also correlate to sentence construction activities. (P.S. We're doing colorful semantics this week with Presidential Sentence Scramble freebie by just highlighting the different parts of speech in each sentence.) 

One purchase I didn't have to think about was this one.....

I love these little crazy eggs. The faces are great for working on emotions and I can hide little conversation starters inside (or really whatever target I need). We can even create little sentences/stories to explain why the eggs have those faces. They only cost me a dollar a pack at a local discount chain, but you can also order them from Oriental Trading Company for $3. You can even make your own egg faces by simply decorating plain eggs with sharpies. 

They also remind me somewhat of the Discovery Toys flip flop emotions game. I have spent 2 years trying to find something cheaper or alterable. I can't use these with bean bags, but I think they will actually end up working better for me in the long run. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Giving dice a new lease on life....

My local Dollar Tree had a small bin full of jumbo foam dice last weekend. I couldn't resist buying 5 packs of them. One of the sets will be for games. The others....well.......
Sharpies are my new best friends.
Eventually, I learned that it's easier to write on them diagonally.
Dice for pronouns, vocabulary, wh-questions, positions, and parts of speech. My students love to play games that contain dice so why not turn the dice into the therapy tool? 

Now, if only I can think of ideas for the last three dice.

P.S. The vocabulary one has the following: define it, give me another word that means the same, draw a picture, act it out, give me a word that means the opposite, and in your own words...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pronoun champs

I recently went to the Dollar Tree looking for St. Patrick's Day decorations. I managed to find a little inspiration instead in the party isle....4 little tiny gold trophies. I decided to buy the trophies and write pronouns on them with a sharpie. When I am working on pronoun activities, I can assign my students a pronoun to use with my other figurines and have them switch off. I can also have them hold up their trophy to remind me to use the correct pronoun.

My trophies also coordinate wonderfully with my latest freebie creation....Students have to pick out pronouns that can fit into the sentences. They have the potential to have just one appropriate pronoun or several.

You can grab your copy here.

P.S. I'm sorry for the recent decline in posts. My life is over-run with IEPs and meetings at the moment.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Umbrella

I recently picked up copy of  Jan Brett's The Umbrella at Goodwill for .90 cents. Many SLPs and teachers are familiar with Jan Brett's books. They are full of beautiful illustrations and have a great layout for sequencing activities. She also has a fantastic website with lots of freebies to use with all of her books. The umbrella masks & reader's theater script, for example, can be used while reading or reviewing this story as a way of engaging reluctant readers into the story. 
This book is very similar to her popular The Mitten. The difference is mostly in the setting and the object all of the animals climb into. It is a perfect choice if you want to do a rain forest theme with your students or if you are talking about Costa Rica/Guatemala. 

I will not be using my book until April, but I created my book companion in advanced as I knew I had to do some animal research. National Geographic and National Geographic for kids is a great resource for real pictures & facts about all of the animals featured in this book. If you would like to use it with your students, click of the link here. I hope you will enjoy. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Teddy Talker, saving the day with one hug at a time

One of the things that was continually stated and reiterated in my graduate school program was the variety of ways children can learn. No two students, or adults for that matter, learn alike. We all have certain preferences when it comes to studying new information. You may identify yourself as an auditory learner or a "hands-on" kind of person who loves to tinker. Personally, I view myself as a predominately visual learner and I know that is true of many of my students as well. Our learning styles are often reflected in the way that we present information. I always valued the critique of my supervisors when it came to this particular topic as it took me a while to orient my mind to evaluating my methods. It's something that requires constant reflection on of both information and presentation so we reach the needs of our entire audience. 

I recently had the opportunity to incorporate a new material into both my inclusion and articulation groups. It is geared towards learners of all varieties and aligns with common core standards for kindergarten. I wanted to share some of my experiences with you as it has made a great impact with my English-language learning students in particular. 

Teddy Talker is a product by Creative Speech Products that's designed to promote articulation and print skills. The foundation kit includes the Teddy with his articulators, tongue puppet, learning letters, manual, and tote bag. I consider this kit to be one of my newest "speech essentials" and carry it with me every day to my Letterland inclusion groups. While the focus of the two groups is on language/phonics, I have found that the diversity of the students and disabilities in these two groups give me valuable insight into flexible materials. My initial intention in bringing Teddy into our routine was as a visual support for sound production. My students LOVE imitating Teddy's mouth in my mirror while making the target sound. (For those of you who use Letterland, you know that those fun characters don't help students figure our how to actually shape their mouths.) It has rapidly morphed into Teddy also introducing them to new vocabulary words using articulation decks and objects from the EC teacher's alphabet tubs. He has helped with my lessons on positional words and will soon be helping me with pronouns too. The best part is the fact that they beg to give Teddy a hug at the end of every session. 

In terms of my older students (1-2nd grades), I use Teddy to help me out with my articulation groups. They get to find the mouth that he needs to make our sound and "teach" him how to make the sound. It's always nice to hear them talk about where their tongue needs to be in order to make the sound the right way. He has single-handily "tricked" some of my reluctant new students into accidentally saying their sounds in isolation as we imitate his mouth. I think, to some degree, my students feel less self-conscious about imitating Teddy's mouth than having to use my mouth as a model. Sometimes, I will just hold up the mouth pieces to the mirror or in front of my mouth as a reminder for them. 

Teddy is all ready to go to Letterland.
When I presented Teddy to my coworkers at our most recent Speech meeting, they were all very impressed with the optional mouth position cards. The cards show the picture of Teddy's mouth on one side with a little rhyming story for you to read on the back. Each rhyme card creates a unique story and visual for that sound with child-friendly vocabulary. The wide vocabulary differences my students possess makes me extremely grateful for this means of explaining sound production in a way that the majority of my students grasp. I am currently using these cards as an additional support for my inclusion groups. (P.S. This is the 1st time I've felt drawn to show them a product like this. Most of the time I'm usually asking for advice on school-order purchases.)

Disclosure Statement: Creative Speech Products provided resources in exchange for a feedback. The opinions expressed in this review are mine. No other compensation was provided. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Articulation Hedbanz: the F and V edition

It's been a while since I posted one of these, but I'm trying to make new things for a recently added student. 

Hedbanz never ceases to inspire me with creative ideas. I'm particularly thankful for it given that IEP season is officially upon us. Here is a copy in case any of you have a student working on these sounds too.

I cannot get enough of this song!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

North Country Night

If you are looking for a book that talks about winter without all the snowmen, you might want to try finding a copy of North Country Night. My favorite part of this book are the beautiful illustrations. 

North Country Night opens the door to talking about nocturnal animals, animal habitats, and locations. I introduced the book with an inferencing activity using the illustration on the cover. 

My students had to look at the cover as well as my map to suggest a possible location for the setting. We talked about where it couldn't be first and moved up to where it could be. As we went through the book, I had my groups tell me about words that we ran across. They wrote down the meaning of these new words with expo markers. The next session started with a review of these words with the possibility to earn points. The "winner" got to pick our game for the day. 

Here is a copy of the book activity I made. It includes a vocabulary list, wh- questions, sequencing page for the story, and simple categorization activity.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Deal or No Deal- The articulation version

If you haven't seen this game show, I imagine that many of you have at least heard of the name....Deal or No Deal. 
I purchased this game at Salvation Army about six months ago for 1.99 with the goal of figuring out how to use it in therapy. My students, after all, love anything that deals with money. I am constantly getting asked how much such and such cost or if I bought X, Y, & Z. They also love to show off their small collections of change to each other. This game simply screamed "transform me" and I'm proud to say that we have been using it to practice sentence level targets.

Now, I will go ahead and warn you that regular Webber articulation cards will not fit into the briefcases. They are a bit too wide. Luckily, I printed off and laminated some smaller articulation decks from Mommy Speech Therapy to replace a chunk of missing cards. I just simply slid the small cards into the brief cases along with the regular card. Every time my students "opened" a case, I had them use the target word in a sentence. My language students had to make up descriptive sentences or ones that contained plural forms. The best part is that the game can be easily adapted for a variety of targets by simply adding a small picture or word card.

Adding in the music to the background is definitely an added bonus that my kids enjoyed.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Getting ready for President's Day

I am doing my best to plan ahead for next two weeks worth of activities as I will have an IEP meeting almost every single day. This last week of relative freedom before the storm is quickly becoming my catch-all so to speak.

I introduced my students to North Country Night this past week. I'm using this book as a review of wh- questions. I pulled out the story recall rope and dissected the meaning of each question word again. One of my students complained that the activity was "too hard." I've learned that this student will say this about every single thing we do until I point out that it's something they are already doing. The question words were no exception (sadly, it's a review for all of my groups in the first place). I wrote out all of the question words on the table with my expo marker. Every time I asked a question, I would point to the word that I used so they could see what type of question they answered. I had the group beaming with joy by the end of the session as they realized just how well they are doing with these words. We've made it through the first three pages of the book so far and I'm hoping that we'll make it through 6 pages this week. 

Next week, I am going to start introducing my students to President's day using two picture books that I found at Goodwill for $1 a piece. I like these books because the author gives a good introduction to their lives and highlights the most important facts. There are plenty of other books that you can check out from your local library (I just found out that Doreen Rappaport has written one for Lincoln). 
I have found several good activities to incorporate with my books on (Washington and Lincoln) and Apples4theTeacher to go along with our toliet paper presidents craft. I also made a President's Day activity pack for my language groups. Here is a copy for you.