Thursday, November 28, 2013

Edublog Nominations

I wasn't really intending to participate in the Edublog Nominations since I have quite a bit weighing on my mind.....but I wanted to show my appreciation for several of my favorite bloggers out there. (Plus, Serena is hanging out with my mom so I actually have some use of the computer tonight.)


-Best individual blog- This was really hard for me to decide. In the end, it has to be Chapel Hill Snippets with Figuratively Speeching coming in second place. I love the adaptable books that Ruth shares on her blog and am very thankful that she also shares forms her district develops. I use the Teacher Rating lists constantly. 

-Best group blog- Speechie Freebies (Was there ever any doubt?)

-Best student blog- Speechie Musings 

-Best ed tech / resource sharing blog- Speech Techie

-Best teacher blog- The Adventures of Room 83

-Most influential blog post of the year- I have to hand it to Kelly at Speech2U for her Saturday Soap box posts. They are the highlight of my weekly blog reading. The points on her recent posts about goal writing are phenomenal. I agree with them 100% after two years of shaking my head at some of the goals that I see from transfer students.  My favorite post is her most recent one on making sensible goals: I don't know where to start when you write a goal like that. Every graduate student should have to read this series. 

-Lifetime achievement- This one is difficult for me because I started out reading two very terrific blogs from their beginning stages. I think they are both crazy talented and have made a huge impact on the SLP community. Crazy Speech World gets my vote this year as I really love her DIY posts. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Venturing outside of the speech world....

 I've posted before about our miniature dachshund passing away right after school ended in June. In July, we added a new little addition to our family at my dad's insistence. (Mom wasn't really ready.) It only took one look into her warm brown eyes for our hearts to melt.

She's been a fairly healthy pup (or so we thought) asides from constantly chewing on everything. Our furniture didn't look half as good without teeth marks, my shoes needed some rehab, and the dog bones didn't need any work done at all. The vets did notice that she had a tiny whole in her skull that hadn't completely closed at her first puppy appointment. It did close by her second trip.

She hates riding in cars and baths.

She has secretly been living with a liver problem for the first six months of her life. Our vets suspect that it is a liver shunt as so far all signs are pointing in that direction.

What is a liver shunt?

Well, it is normal for dogs to have a liver shunt at birth according to my research. It is a little blood vessel that redirects blood away from the liver. However, it is supposed to close shortly after birth. The liver needs that blood to get rid of the toxins in the rest of the body. Sometimes, the shunt doesn't close and it becomes a serious condition. The toxins aren't being probably removed by the liver (it's not getting the power it needs) and can cause dogs to have a variety of problems. It seems like the classic symptoms are neurological (seizures, walking into walls, apparent deafness, behavioral changes), not eating well, and bathroom issues. Dogs with liver shunts may also appear small in stature. Our pup really hasn't shown many of these signs asides from being small. She eats well, uses the bathroom well, and has lots of energy.

We took her to get spayed on Monday. The vets realized that something was off about her blood panel yesterday. (Blood panels may be expensive but they are a good thing.) They sent off a test that shows strong signs of a liver shunt.

So now what?

We have to take her to get an x-ray (or ultra-sound) to determine the amount and type of shunt. We are praying that it is only one and that it is in a location that is operable. (The ones inside the liver are very hard to treat.) Dogs who aren't operated on do not have the greatest life expectancy. I read that about 50% of them are put down within 10 months of the diagnosis. Needless to say, I am pretty petrified at the moment. I know that her breeder would probably have had no choice but to put her down. Thankfully, we are able to afford going through all of the treatments & tests that she'll have to deal with in the coming months.  We take her to the specialist on Dec. 10th.

I am telling all of you about this, because it probably will affect my blogging. I don't want to waste the time I have with her in case of the worst. I am praying for the best and appreciate all of the support I've received since mentioning this on my facebook page.

 So until Dec 10th.....

Monday, November 25, 2013

Busy as a bee....

I just realized that my 2 year blogging anniversary has come and gone without any celebration. Oops....In all honesty, I really don't feel like the whole blogging anniversary is that big of a deal. I'm proud of my personal accomplishments that are reflected in each post. The sense of personal accomplishment is all that I really need. It is truly amazing to think back to the days when no one read my blog and now see over 100 page views a day. I'm honored that so many SLPs are reading my blog and (hopefully) finding something useful on it.

Speaking of personal accomplishment, I am relieved (and happy) to say that I have accomplished three more goal banks. The reading, speaking & listening, and language goal banks now go up to the 8th grade. I hope these goal banks will help all of my middle-school based SLP friends out there. Even though I don't work with this age group currently, I did enjoy picking through the standards to see what my upper elementary students will be held to in a few years. 

As always, please keep in mind that the goals I provide are very generalized and need to be tailored to the needs of individual students. The standards build upon the skills gained from the previous year. You may have to go back several grades to identify the standards that relate to your students' needs and goals.  

Middle School (6-8) (language)

Middle School (6-8)  (speaking)

Middle School (6-8) (reading)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thoughts from NC DPI's Speech-Language Pathology Institute: Part One

It's time for another first experience: NC DPI's annual EC conference. Over my short time in the schools, I have heard a mixed bag of reviews about the annual conference. It's something that is starting to become a common theme whenever I bring up the topic of conferences. The main conference may repeat this notion for attendees, but the pre-conference institute that I attended was terrific.

The low-down: The institute was split into two long sessions. The first session was an SLP specific presentation on Executive Functioning. The second presentation combined SLPs and School Psychologists to focus on the theme of collaborative assessments.  It went from 9-4, which started to seem really long during the last 20 minutes. 

The Executive Skills: Strategies for Success by S. Hutaff & B. Henry was a shortened version of a class they've apparently done before at one of NC DPI's Summer Institutes. These wonderful ladies gave a brief overview of what Executive Functioning using Dawson and Guare's model. They took it a slight step forward from the poster below by breaking down the areas between thinking (cognition) and doing (behavioral) skills. The areas of thinking are: working memory; planning/prioritizing; organization; time management; and meta-cognition. The areas of doing are: response inhibition; emotional control; sustained attention; task initiation; goal-directed persistence; and flexibility.

So how does this chart come into play for Speech-Language Pathologists?
Well, just look at your goals:
  • Working Memory= following directions; predicting; recall; relating past experiences to current situations (or stories). 
  • Planning/Prioritizing= sequencing steps to complete a task
  • Organization= I would relate this to following schedules/routines
  • Time Management= sequencing steps to complete a task; following schedules
  • Meta-cognition= self-monitoring skills; initiating topics & maintaining them; identifying key information
  • Response Inhibition= resisting the urge to interrupt conversations 
  • Emotional Control= learning coping strategies to control behavior (friendship skills)
  • Sustained Attention= following directions to complete a task
  • Task Initiation= following multiple step directions
  • Goal Directed Persistence= completing tasks
  • Flexibility= identifying problems and potential solutions; emotional control in difficult situations (friendship skills)
Dawson & Guare also provide professionals with principles for improving Executive Function. I won't go into all of them because it will make this post way too long. The main thing is to include the student in his/her plans so they are motivated and keep supports in place until they achieve mastery level. As with anything, you want to take developmental levels into account and teach deficit skills. The presenters focused on  using the "Success Map Technique" to help students choose a strategy (name it) and use the strategy (social stories, role play, modeling, practice, etc) until the supports can be faded.

The information I gained in this session makes me really want to learn more about the topic. 

Thank you, Pandora, for introducing me to this band.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The elves are coming to town

Goodwill recently brought me another older model elf on the shelf for only .79 cents. I'm not going to post of picture of him on here since he's a tad bit faded and the images didn't take too well. It is exciting though to find him after looking for two years.

I realize that many SLP bloggers have posts about using Elf on the Shelf in their rooms. I will refrain from talking about positional concepts, elf gamescreating an Elf back story, and Elf on the Shelf spots the Unthinkables. I am going to focus on how my unnamed elf will be helping out with syntax lessons.

1. The Elves are Coming to Town. I made up this file to coordinate with Colorful Semantics. Students have to figure out what color the missing word should be and make the elf that color. They can also go through and color all of the parts of speech in the completed sentence. I threw in a few naming cards as well. The wreath is open ended: articulation students can write a sound target in the bow and words around it; language students can write a vocabulary word in the bow and descriptive words around's really up to your imagination.

You can grab your copy of The Elves are Coming here.

2. I have several students who need to ask as well as answer questions. We are working hard towards understanding subject-verb agreement in these groups. The elf will provide us with ample material to talk about. The students can ask where the elf is, what he is doing, why he is doing certain things, or who is with him (requires additional stuffed animals or figurines). They can also answer these types of questions.

3. Using this template, we will come up with adjectives to describe our elves. I plan on doing this either before or after making Tacky Holiday Sweater ornaments for describing.

I'm making my own set in 3 different sizes for describing as well as following directions.

I cannot wait for December! It's almost time to play my favorite holiday song around the clock.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pronouns going mobile

There are many moments throughout the week when I think that pronouns are one of the least fun things to teach. I've pulled out quite a few crazy ideas in search of the elusive "a-ha" moment when things will just magically click. Teddy Talker, stuffed animals, books, magnetic dolls, pictures, chants, etc.....It has worked for some of them, but there are a few that still need more explicit instruction. 

When I run across a topic that is troubling, my solution always seems to be looking for some kind of creative outlet. My pronoun supplies are somewhat limited as much as I love using the Webber fun deck and my combination of stuffed animals with picture cards. I decided to make two things to address my need for the basics.   

Crafting supplies at the ready. My first idea to address my lack of pronoun materials was to make a mobile. I really don't know why I went in that direction. It's something that I haven't done in my therapy room before as they do take up some room. They also have the bad tendency of getting tangled. However, it was a new challenge so I bought the ribbon and the pipe cleaners for .49 cents at Salvation Army. The hanger is one that I already had at home. 

The images are all from MyCuteGraphics. It's one of my favorite sites for free black & white clip art. I colored the children to my liking and created word cards to go with each image. I had the pictures and words laminated at work. I simply punched holes into each card and strung them all together with the pipe cleaners. I twisted the pipe cleaners around the hanger and secured them with the red pipe cleaners for extra durability.

 The pronoun mobile is a bit too bulky to take to inclusion groups so my second project consists of a pronoun book. The images are the same ones from the mobile with removable words. This way, the students can have a binary choice for each target. All it required was a little adhesive Velcro and a jump ring to hold the pages together.

The students that have tried this activity out are fascinated by the Velcro. Even just having it on the table to point to as a gentle reminder has turned out pretty well.
They can trace their fingers over the letters in each word or "write" the pronoun in sand as they say this little chant: "he is for boys" or "she is for girls".

You can grab a copy of the images here if you'd like to make your own book or mobile.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

You don't have to use the whole game if you don't want to.....

This week has been a bit of a trial and error with some of my summer game purchases. I'm happy to say that most of my purchases are a hit with my students. It makes up for the Don't Rock the Boat fiasco when they ask me to pull out another one of the recent games.

Squiggly Worms was a bit of a surprise hit. I thought it looked boring in comparison to the Highlights Hidden Picture Game (another one they hated), Funny Bunny (loved it), and Tip It (loved it). The premise of the game is very simple: collect the worms that match your cards. The worms move up and down when you pull back a lever (love the no batteries needed part). They can be a bit tricky for smaller fingers. The biggest surprise was the fact that my 5th graders enjoyed and begged to play this game. Who knew?

The second "game" is very girly by all appearances. Honestly, I don't use the board or the little doll characters. I take the cards out of their Ziploc bag and ask my students the questions. The majority of the questions with this game are great for social skills practice and articulation carryover. It gives you four possible answer choices if you want to narrow down the answers. I usually ask the questions and let my students give their own answer.

The nice thing about having all of my goodwill game finds is the ability to just grab the pieces that work for therapy targets without bothering with the rest of the game. It shocked my students at first, but there is no reason to not make the most of what you have. It also saves on time.

I also picked up this card set at Target last weekend. It was $5, which is a bit more than what I usually spend on a single material. The Exceptional Children's teachers at my school use short Leap Frog video clips with our younger students as a way to give the students a "brain break" between hard activities. It's also a great way to teach them the letter-sound correspondence. (I can sing that song in my sleep now.) I thought these cards would be a great way to make opposites and sequencing connect more to these groups.

I haven't tried the sequencing cards out yet, but the opposites cards are wonderful. They cover your basic opposites. I have used them for drill as well as playing the memory match game. Either way, my students are more motivated by these cards than my regular cards. I would suggest laminating the cards before using them. I haven't had the time to yet and my students have already gotten a few stray crayon dots on them. I'll be getting them laminated as soon as possible. At any rate, they are worth every penny of the $5.

In other news, I have finally made some headway on all of that laminating I had to do for my chipper chats. I ended up cutting the cards for the Wh- question one so I could put it on a jump ring. I love how easy it is to flip to the questions for each sheet now. I'm planning to do this with the social skills cards too once they're all laminated and re-sorted. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Conversation Breakdown

Ahhhh....pragmatic language skills....I'm teaching my older students about conversational breakdowns. So far, I've covered the basics of what a conversation is, the jobs of the speaker & listener, and body language. It amazes me that we are already two months into this venture and it's just now time for the real "fun" to begin.

Lesson #1 of my first lesson on conversational breakdowns- Don't compare it to a car breaking down on the side of the road. 5th graders will take this as a great opportunity to side-track the conversation to debate on the make & model of the car. Is it a car? What about a truck? What about a monster truck? Well, I'll be driving a motorcycle. you mean the engine blew up or the tire went flat? (It is also likely that they will think your drawing looks more like a hover-car than a car.) Four prompts later and we were mostly back on track.....

Lesson #2- Fast forward to giving them a different example through a potential conversational topic--- A little brother wanting to play a video game with his sister. It is a good idea to know the type of video game system and game ahead of time. Otherwise, 5th grade students will take this as another great opportunity to side-track the conversation. Two prompts later and we got back on track.....

Lesson #3- It's not a good idea to introduce a new concept to students after half-a-day of benchmark testing. 

So, yes, my friends....the first day of this topic was not as successful as I wanted it to be. I should have known better given the general wildness of my students post-benchmarks the past two years. I was really being overly optimistic about this year's bunch as they've accomplished a good amount already this year. However, there are days when sessions will be less than perfect. It's life and part of dealing with changes to our routines.We'll be reviewing the whole lesson again this week with new drawings. The computer example really struck a cord with my students so that's what I'm going to stick with for now. 

 The computer images are to describe how they feel at any point in conversations. They can simply point to them or hold them up. The keyboard pieces/Word processor features represent different options they can choose to repair the breakdown. (I found the strategies from this site to be helpful in breaking down what I want to cover.)

1. Backspace- Rephrase what they just said.
2. Dot dot dot- Pause for the listener to either question or insert (fill-in) a comment.
3. Spell check-self-correction
4. Thesaurus- circumlocution with synonyms with listener figuring out the right word

I like Jill Kuzma's advice for conversational skills. I think that her advice on how to keep track of conversational progress makes life so much easier. Grab your copy of my Conversation Breakdown posters here.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What's on your SLP Wishlist?

The recent Linguisystems sale sparked a small bustle of debate on therapy materials. I love how many people responded with helpful suggestions and feedback on how products have worked for them. It got me to thinking about my favorite materials and current wishlist items. I thought I would share just of few of them with you today. 

Speech Room Favorites
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. There is an additional alphabet poster that combines all of the images from the mouth position cards. I consider this kit to be a "speech essentials" and use it nearly every day with my younger students. They LOVE imitating Teddy's mouth in my mirror while making the target sound. Teddy also introduces them to new vocabulary words and concepts too using picture cards or other manipulative objects.

 My next favorite tool is my marker collection. I use my Sharpies to create many of my DIY projects that I post on here. You can use them to write on just about anything: shower curtains, die-cuts, plastic, etc....I also like to use them to create templates for my students to color. I can scan these images via our copier and have them saved to my files for years to come. 
My dry erase markers also play a huge role in my therapy sessions. I let my students keep track of their data with me and they get to practice writing their answers to my questions. It is amazing to see how much they love using the markers even when I know that they hate writing.

Main Product Image
Main Product ImageI recently purchased a used set of Super Duper's Ring Talkers from a second-hand bookstore. This item has been on my wishlist for the past two years after having such positive experiences with their Wh- Bingo game. The cards are easy to carry around and can be used in several different ways. My favorite way to use them is to have my students formulate complete sentences to either answer or ask a question.    

The Giant Book of Phonology has been a great lifesaver over the past two years. It kept me sane when I was trying to learn how to use the Cycles Approach versus the Articulation Approach that I grew accustomed to in graduate school. I use this book at least twice a week. I also like that you can print out copies of the pictures to create cards. (It's another one of my laminating projects.) 

Speech Room Wishlist:

  1. The Expanding Expression Tool
  2. Story Grammar Marker  
  3. Pick Your Points- Language 
  4. Flamingo Bingo & Lotto 
  5. SPARC for Concepts (really I would love to have the whole series of these lol)
Recently, I gave up and bought some of them items on my longer wishlist (ie...Super Duper's 75% clearance sale). It makes me really happy to see that Super Duper has returned to offering more savings on their products. There are times when I'd much rather use one of their products than try to figure out how to make something remotely decent to use. However, I still find it odd that teachers have to invest so much of their own money into classroom materials. It seems like providing students with sufficient learning materials should be considered something important by state governments. Ah, life......

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Prepping for future activities to come

When I get bored, I usually end up listening to my favorite prime time shows from ABC & the CW online while checking out Teachers Pay Teachers for new freebies. It's one of my favorite way of procrastinating when I have a new material in the works. (Yes, I am working on another activity for my groups. I got halfway through before writer's block hit.) I found some really good stuff that I look forward to testing out with my groups over the next few weeks.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Many SLP bloggers and TPT sellers are spending the month of November posting on Facebook about things they are thankful for in their lives. I love the idea of sharing what one is thankful for, but have no intention of filling everyone's facebook timeline with daily posts. It just gets old. So I will post it all in this post and let you read if you want.

1) My parents. They have supported me through thick and thin as I grew up and went to school. They even accepted me back home once I finally graduated so I can save up for a house. (Yes, I know there are tons of articles & news reports about how my generation is freeloading off of parents by moving back home after college. I think somewhere along the line, people have forgotten how different the economy is now in comparison to the way it used to be.)
2) The family pets. Over the summer, I mentioned that we lost two of our pets. It was a very hard time for me as I consider my pets to be people too. You can just look into their eyes and see their innocent souls shining through. I am very thankful for all of the good memories I have with my pets from childhood to the present. I am also glad that we have a new puppy in our lives that brings us much joy (despite the woes of potty training).
3) My excellent co-workers. I think that having good coworkers makes a huge difference in how happy a person is with their job. I am blessed to work with wonderful EC teachers everyday as well as a terrific team of SLPs. It is such a great learning environment. 
4) My friends. I don't get to see my friends from college & graduate school very often (if at all). However, I appreciate having those relationships even if the connection stays to facebook messages. Each one is incredible in her or his own right. 
5) My pedometer. I'm trying to track how many steps I take a day (working hard towards 10,000 steps) and this little guy makes life so much easier. It's taking a while for me to figure out what I need to do, but I am determined to start losing weight again.
6) Books. Life would not be the same without books and the incredible authors who write them. (Honestly, I would love to write a book.)
7) Education. Life-long learning is the best thing ever. 
8) Sweet potatoes. 
9) Music. There are few things better than zoning out to a good song.
10) Work. It's nice to make money.
11) Thrift stores. It's nice to save money and still get things that you love. 
12) Antique stores. There's just something about seeing items that people used to use all the time that makes me feel so impressed with humanity. Our imaginations can do and make some awesome things. It can also make some scary things too....
13) Movies. It's nice to take a break from reality.
14) Cell phones. 
15) Food. Cooking is such a great relaxing thing to do.
16) Internet. It's a great way to connect with SLPs across the globe, learn really cool things, and procrastinate on cleaning.
17) Pinterest. I get so many recipes from this site.
18) Blogging. It's not any easy thing to do, but I've really enjoyed having the ability to see how much I've grown as an SLP. 
19) Sharpies. They are a staple in my speech room.
20) ABC & the CW. These two networks got me through graduate school in one piece. 
21) Sandals. I could wear them every day for the rest of my life.
22) Jewelry. 
23) Chapstick. Appalachian really made me value the importance of avoiding wind-burn. 
24) Sweet tea.
25) Nature. There are so many beautiful things around us every day. 
26) Animals of all kinds. 
27) Our veterans and soldiers. They sacrifice so much to keep us safe.
28) Health. 
29) Medicine. 
30) Life. It's something so precious, but often taken for granted. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Because I've been on a DIY kick lately....

Craft sticks are really a gift from heaven (or whatever wonderful place you believe in). They hold endless possibilities as a tool for speech therapy. You can make Popsicle puppet people to work on following directions, turn them into a pick-up-sticks game, write vocabulary/parts of speech/articulation words on them, etc.....I love them even though some of my articulation students confuse them for the flavored tongue depressors we use to produce sounds in isolation correctly. (Many of my articulation students swear they taste exactly like suckers.)  

The jumbo colored ones are probably my favorite craft sticks of all. It's hard to find them so I recommend buying several packs. (Something I learned the hard way.) The bright colors are quite eye-catching and a great way to distinguish different targets. I decided to create an activity for my higher level articulation groups (loaded phrases/sentences). Students get to select a card to complete the sentences.

I broke the colors into minimal pair sets with 4 initial, 2 medial, and 4 final sound sticks for each sound. I wrote on both sides to get an extra bang for my buck.

This project can also be used to target carryover practice. The student(s) can develop their own story or conversation using the phrase as a topic starter. It's a fun way to let them use their creativity and inadvertently work on some language skills too.

 You could also use paint sticks if you have large handwriting.
I plan to store my stick collection in empty soup cans. I figure I'll have plenty of those sitting around once cold weather hits.

You can also make some general phrase sticks for open-ended practice. I took some smaller craft sticks from the Dollar Tree and wrote many of the phrases I use for 1 target phrase practice, such as "Do you see the...." and "Buy a new....". Again, the basic sticks can be used for activities that go beyond just articulation practice.

Recently, I purchased the Funny Flips books that were part of Super Duper's clearance sale to add in more amp up my advanced articulation groups' sessions.

I'm still a bit on the fence about these guys. My students love all of the goofy picture combinations and new word targets (2 years of the same artic decks can be a little boring). The boy's head with a girl's dress gets them every time. However, the names picked for some of the faces in the /k/ book are horrible! We've ended up inventing new names that are a bit more age appropriate for my younger students. The /sh/ book has a few names that are tough for my older students, but for the most part I just need to model those once. The Turn and Talk book is nice in terms of its format. I can just set it up to the right position and let my students tell me the words that they see. Some of the target words are a little odd, but it's a nice way to add variety to drills. It's also much easier than the constant card shuffle.