Thursday, November 29, 2012

Another post from the wonderful world of manipulatives

I feel like many of my posts are a reflection of how I am building up my "tool box" so why not just show the world the literal one. 
I absolutely love these 3 drawer containers. It was only $3 at Salvation Army and I have another one for paperwork from Goodwill. I taped construction paper to the  inside to hide the contents from little distracted  eyes. The kids NEVER notice it until I pull out a drawer.

These are the figurines that I use for associations. I try to keep the drawers based on their purpose so I don't have to search for specific things. The middle drawer contains items that are too large to fit into my phonics drawers. The top drawer currently houses Christmas stuff. I'll eventually have to use it for extra phonics pieces too.  

Phonics box from an old shop organizer. It's made of out some kind of really heavy metal so it doesn't tip over easily. 
I do actually have a reason for showing you all of these pictures. The figurines are useful in a TON of ways and I got the idea from a category box that the district purchased for one of the previous therapists. I noticed last year that they loved just holding the little objects and it made those items more concrete. The articulation decks and giant Webber book are great, but most of those items are things that my students cannot connect to on a personal basis. I want them to have something solid to connect words to. I started this project last year and it has really grown over the past 3 months. I buy most of my figurines from the Salvation Army, Goodwill, Party City, Paper Factory, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General. I recently picked up three things from Target too. 

Recently, I discovered a new use for my figurines (outside of articulation, categorization, wh- questions, describing activities, and utterance expansions). I am teaching regular and irregular plurals to a bunch of very unimpressed kids. *insert McKayla Maroney faces here*  I could probably try teaching plurals while hanging upside down from a trapeze without success. The only they enjoyed was writing with expo markers which I learned from my plurals activity. I accidentally left the figurines out on my table this week and they wanted to look at them. Well, they aren't going to get to look at them without doing something so I grabbed an Expo and quickly started a sorting activity. They had to tell me whether the item's plural form was a "quiet" s, "noisy" es, or other. I also had them write out the new word. They were laughing and commenting on how many of the items ended up in the -s column by the end of the session. 

A sample of my most recent purchases from Dollar Tree and Target. 

I love random moments of quick inspiration. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What's in your prize box??

The prize box....

The one item in my room that can bring screams of joy or tears of unhappiness (when they watch a group member get to go and it's not their day).

But, but, but....I want to get a prize too!!!
Apparently, the kids aren't the only ones who stress out over the prize box. The subject of the actual prizes has come up in several discussions among the SLPs in my district. What is appropriate? Is candy better than toys? How often should they get prizes? Where should I get the prizes from?

Here is what I do:
  1. Look for discounted items at local party supply stores (namely, the Paper Factory and Party City)
  2. Shop the party section of Dollar Tree so I can get larger packs of items
  3. Shop the party section of Walmart for discounted items
  4. Buy a few hot wheels cars when they are on special at Walmart or Walgreens
  5. Buy still packaged McDonald's toys from Goodwill/Salvation Army for .50 cents
My most recent purchases for my prize box. Playdoh, hot wheels, rings, watch, party packs, and mini purses.
Some stuff that I've held back for a month. I don't like to put everything in there at one so there is always a mix of things.
Here you can see crowns, lockets, a craft kit, frame, and jump rope. 
I am terrified of buying candy for my prize box due to the unknown. There is just too much of a risk of giving a child with allergies the very thing that they aren't supposed to have or they get mad when their friend picks out something they can't eat. I don't want or need that kind of drama in my life. The only candy I will give my students are Smarties as reinforcers for kindergartners. The older kids just get sticker charts.  

My students have to earn twenty stickers to visit the prize box. They have the opportunity to earn two per session (basically 15 minutes of good behavior towards each). This roughly equates to one trip per six weeks with the exception of Christmas when they all get a free trip. They also have the opportunity to earn an extra day via my "Kiss your brain" jar. They have to work together to fill the jar with 400 pom pom balls. Most of the other SLPs in my district have a 5 sticker policy. I guess I'm just stingy but I don't want my students to become so dependent on the prize box. It shouldn't be their sole motivation (neither should the games and that is a battle that I fight constantly as is). 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Winter books that I love

Here is a short list of winter books that I like to use..

  1. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
  2. Dream Snow
  3. The Polar Express
  4. Santa's stuck
  5. If you take a mouse to the movies
  6. The Mitten (and anything else by Jan Brett)
  7. Snowmen at Night (or any of this series)
  8. Snowflake Bentley 
  9. The Snowy Day
  10. The Biggest Best Snowman

I also wanted to share two of my favorite Christmas memories growing up....

It wasn't Christmas until my mom read me this story and I watched my old VHS Rudolph tape.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I love teacher workdays even if I don't get everything done.

I love teacher workdays or any day when there is an assembly (usually I'm the last person to know about them) or field trips (again, last person to know). Why?

I actually manage to get quite a bit of paperwork done and organize my room a bit. I spend roughly an hour and a half getting therapy materials straightened, re-organized, and cleaned on workdays. I use the rest of the day to listen to children's music as I try to get through as much Medicaid billing as possible. When I was doing my school placement, I really didn't get the opportunity to do much of the paperwork beyond writing the daily session notes. The amount of time it takes to bill Medicaid, write the various IEP/evaluation paperwork, update SOAP note forms, update Plans of Care, and review the upcoming due dates is still astounding to me. You could probably have a full time job just doing the paperwork alone as sad as it is to say. If you are still a student, enjoy this time wisely as it will pass all too soon and you will learn the realities of being a "grown-up" CCC-SLP quickly. 

Today, I managed to get the majority of my Medicaid billing done (yay! Only 4 more students to go over Thanksgiving). I also updated all of my SOAP note forms, changed Plans of Care to reflect 3 new IEPs, wrote an evaluation report, doubled checked a DEC 3 (evaluation form for a meeting), and wrote up a new IEP. My manipulatives are happily sorted out again and my closet looks in much better shape. I consider all of this to be easily worth a victory dance considering how badly my room was looking pre-workday and post-ASHA. It really doesn't sound like much in a list, but that is how life goes sometimes in the schools. I'm quite thankful for the rare opportunities I have to catch up on some of this stuff. 

I decided to try another recent EC teacher inspiration and write down all of my upcoming IEP dates on a laminated file folder. I labeled sticky notes with the months and simply wrote down names under the month they are due. It's a great and easy way to get organized if you don't have the tendency to stress out. 
Coming this April/May 2013 courtesy of  16 IEPs.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! My thoughts go out to everyone traveling or unable to spend the holiday with their loved ones. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My convention purchase (and new wishlist items lol)

As someone who enjoys articulation therapy, I have wanted a decent visual of the mouth that no mirror can truly provide for some time now. Brilliant ideas of making one out of felt have crossed my mind multiple times over the past year and a half. I'm afraid the results would probably be a disaster so I decided to wait until I could find something on ebay or on sale. 

Super Duper offered a 20% off discount at ASHA. I'm still a little irked about the 50% sales decreasing to 30% off sales. However, I found a mini version of the Mighty Mouth that was within my $10 and under budget.  (It actually ended up being cheaper than the knock-off versions on eBay.) 

I practiced with it after school hours today just to get used to the different hand positions I'll need to use during sessions. The great thing about this product is that it is small. I can easily transport it in my cart and it fits my hand well. You also receive instructions on how to position your hand in the puppet for different sounds. The positions are a little awkward so I did end up using it more like a model than a puppet towards the end. It really didn't matter much to the students. They found it immensely fascinating and couldn't wait to touch it. In a perfect world, I would probably have the Mega Mighty Mouth version and use this for my inclusion groups. However, this puppet can easily stand alone. Thank you, Super Duper!

Another cool thing I saw at the Convention is a product by Creative Speech Products. It's called Teddy Talker. It basically is a felt board of a bear with different mouth pieces that you can use to show how our mouths look when we make sounds. You can also get mouth position cards and reinforcement rhymes. I loved the concept and think it's perfect for the preschool population. It also aligns with kindergarten Common Core standards according to the website. Again, it was way out of my budget but I enjoyed the demonstration.

P.S. I pretty much drooled over Super Duper's new Ring Bling game. It looks great, but I was terrified that I would run out of money for food in Atlanta. (Did I mention that they charge for everything?) It may just be the jewelry geek in me but I think my students would really love that game. The colors are very vibrant and the tasks that I read are fun things that my frazzled brain can't figure out. Here's to hoping that Super Duper will offer it on special in the near future. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The ASHA experience

Hello everyone!

I'm happily back from my "once in a lifetime experience" (depending on the district's future budgets) in Atlanta. I thought I would take a break from playing with my sulky cats to share some of my thoughts on the event.

We stayed at the Marriott Marquis

Outside though I never really got to see it from this perspective. 
Inside looking down at the lobbies. (Yes, multiple lobbies which was confusing)
General Observations about Atlanta:
1) Almost every street in downtown seemed to have Peachtree in the name.
2) It's very easy to get lost in downtown even with a GPS and directions from the hotel.
3) There are lots of homeless people. Didn't appreciate two of them calling after us with the following "Hey, you think you're Sex in the City...." Ugh. Always walk with a group of people.
4) It's really pretty at night but rather ugly in the day.
5) It's REALLY expensive.

The Convention

I hate to say it, but I was really disappointed on the first day of the convention. The courses that I went to were more like sales pitches than useful information. Products are not the reason why I wanted to go to the convention. I want information that can help me as a practitioner, particularly as a young clinician. I wasn't the only one in the group to feel that way either. I guess next time I know to avoid the classes that aren't packed full of people. The best part of that day was going to the exhibit hall with our contract CF and grabbing lots of freebies. The majority of the things we collected were bags (I will probably never need another bag in my life) and pens. We got a thumball from one booth that I can't wait to use in therapy for adjectives and these stretchy yo-yo things that will be good for the calm down kit.

The strangest thing I saw at the exhibit hall. You can tear along the perforation to give your nose room. It's clearly geared towards the medical crowd but I thought I would share. You can see all sorts of things at the Convention. 
The second day was much better and I did feel like I learned useful information. I particularly enjoyed the course on pediatric voice disorders as that is something that I don't have much knowledge about. It is rare to run across those students in the schools but having more knowledge about strategies makes me a happier person. I also loved the Building Better Readers course with Shari Robertson. It was chalked full of awesome ideas and makes me feel better about loving books so much for all of my groups. I found a link to handouts here that are similar to what she shared at the convention.

We had the opportunity to talk to another North Carolinian at dinner on Friday. It was her 4th convention and she shared some helpful advice. Go to sessions on things you know nothing about to avoid being disappointed. I wish I had known this sooner, but it's definitely advice I plan to use in the future. My biggest piece of advice is to bring plenty of Germ-X and some cold medicine as germs are rampant (and I definitely have a sore throat now). Go to the classes that are full and avoid the ones that aren't like the plague. 

P.S. The boxed lunches at ASHA were kind of weird. I definitely would not have picked that food given a choice. In fact, I would suggest buying something else for lunch as that gives you freedom even though it might take away some of the convenience.    

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Away to ASHA she goes....

I'll be gone for ASHA the rest of the week. Before I leave, I wanted to share some of the recent goodies I picked up at the Dollar Tree....

1) First up, fake cell phones to work on social skills and articulation. I envision my groups using these to "phone a friend" and practice either their sounds or greetings/closures/information gathering. My students enjoy role play and I love the fact that these phones look somewhat realistic versus my Disney princess phone (the boys usually make a fuss when I pull it out lol). They have two types in several different colors (black, purple, and bright pink). My only suggestion is to tape the tie cord in the back rather than pulling it out as the sounds they make are annoying. I learned the hard way with the first one I opened.

2) Pirate figurines. I figured these will be good for pirate social stories for my older students. (You could also do superhero social stories, which I hope to do once I gather up enough of those.) Pirates have to find ways to get along on those long journeys in between raiding ships after all. The fact that they all look angry is a bonus...well, guys Interrupting Issac bothered the Captain while he was busy giving orders for the next raid. Captains are very busy and do not like being interrupted.

3) Bendy puzzle for my calm down box.

4) Disney Princess figurines which will go into the phonics box collection. (I sense that figurines have become my latest "toolbox" obsession. They can be used to describe similarities and differences if the student is familiar with the stories.

5) Magnetic words/letters/numbers. I plan on using these on the school's MagneTalk board.

They also have echo mics in stock if you are on the hunt. I picked up a spare pink one to end the perpetual fighting among the girls.

Walmart has hedbandz on sale for those of you who haven't seen the sales ad yet. I scooped up that along with the fibber game at my local Walmart.

It's a bit more than my preferred price of $2-4 dollars, but I couldn't pass up the chance to buy them new for under $10 a piece. (Plus, my local goodwill has decided to up the price of their games to $5 a piece which means I won't be buying as many.)

Can't seem to get this song out of my head. However, I did have Chicka Chicka Boom Boom stuck on replay last week so I guess my tastes have at least reverted back to adult. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012


The thankful statuses are trending on Facebook once again...I decided I would just post mine to the blog.

1) I'm thankful to have a job when so many other people are struggling to find one and make ends meet in the meantime.
2) I'm thankful to have a job that I enjoy (asides from billing Medicaid).
3) I'm thankful for my college & graduate school education.
4) I'm thankful for my parents who have suffered through the good times & the bad. They have gone above and beyond to make sure I managed to find my footing in this world with a good head on my shoulders.
5) I'm thankful for good friends who bring me out of my work-driven mindset and inspire me with their aspirations.
6) I'm thankful for my cats, particular my best kitty buddy, who take my mind off of work.
7) I'm thankful for my blog. It's nice to be able to record my experiences and track my growth. I also love the fact that I get to interact with other SLPs.
8)  I'm thankful for the veterans and soldiers who have put their lives on the line for this country.
9)  I'm thankful for electricity.
10)  I'm thankful for cookbooks with lots of yummy recipes (though not so thankful for their ability to increase my pant size)
11)  I'm thankful for doctors.
12)  I'm thankful for teachers.
13)  I'm thankful for enabling me to dream about my future house (whenever I actually manage to earn enough money to buy a house)
14)  I'm thankful for books.
15)  I'm thankful for libraries.
16)  I'm thankful for music (with the exception of rap & country music)
17)  I'm thankful for HGTV. You helped me survive graduate school.
18)  I'm thankful for vintage costume jewelry.
19)  I'm thankful for national landmarks & historic sites like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Old Salem
20)  I'm thankful that I live in North Carolina where the beach and mountains are never far away.
21)  I'm thankful for getting the chance to go to the ASHA convention
22)  I'm thankful for thrift stores.
23)  I'm thankful for construction paper and washable markers.
24)  I'm thankful for glasses even though I hate wearing them.
25)  I'm thankful for good and bad experiences alike as both teach important lessons.
26)  I'm thankful for having something to believe in that is greater than me.
27)  I'm thankful for the right to vote no matter the outcome.
28)  I'm thankful for Grey's anatomy.
29)  I'm thankful for fleece p.j.s
30)  I'm thankful for Blistex.

My beautiful alma mater in the heart of Old Salem.

One of my all-time favorite movies that I watch to relieve the stress.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Crazy for cupcakes

For those of you who may not have noticed, I don't really talk much about my facebook page even though one does exist. It's just not high on my priority list unlike most bloggers. I prefer to focus my attention on the blog and my pinterest page. Recently, I reached the 600 follower mark on pinterest and decided that a celebration was in order. What's more perfect than cupcakes that will just so happen to go along with the wonderful "If you give a cat a cupcake" book?

star cupcakes for categories
white cupcakes for multiple meaning words
cherry cupcakes for wh- questions
red cupcakes for /k/ articulation tasks using pictures.

These cards look perfect in my latest Goodwill find....

 It's a cake from Edible Arrangements. I'm not sure what treats were originally stored in the container, but I could not resist the 1.99 price tag. What kid doesn't love cake? (Perfect to hold manipulative objects for all of my friends learning to produce the /k/ sound or categorization.)

I have quite a few students who love animals of all kinds. It is so funny to see their little faces light up when I pull out animal books, puppets, & figurines. Motivation= success.
You can buy a copy of the book at Amazon or look for it at a thrift store like me.

P.S. I just have to share this hilarious site.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sometimes you really just want to....cry.

Again, another not so rosy post from SLP land. This one is largely of my own creation.

Two weeks ago, I decided that I needed to re-evaluate a student long before the 3 year evaluation date. It's a speech-only student so it *should* involve less headache. I did not take into account the fact that the regular education teacher would a) not respond to email (there are a few at my school that NEVER respond) forcing me to hunt her down b) decide that there is only one day a week that she's available c) complain that parents' time is too late (once we actually reached them on Thursday to set up a meeting for today thanks to the ASHA convention & Thanksgiving). To be fair to her, the parents didn't call back and confirm on Friday like they said the would. Needless to say, this caused quite a bit of chaos. The teacher informed them at a.m. drop off that the meeting was canceled since they didn't confirm. The poor interpreter called multiple times to confirm/reschedule with no answer because they're at work. I'm left on pins and needles while the teacher takes off as quick as she can after tutoring. The parents show up for their 4:30 meeting with just one team member present.

Now, this story is not to criticize teachers. I know how busy they are and could never teach a class of 30 by myself. The majority of the staff at my school are terrific. They will go out of their way to help you (and one teacher definitely did for me today so I could hold the meeting.) It's the same in the medical realm too. I remember all too well that there were doctors and nurses who were not very pleasant to deal with during my internship. Life usually hands you less than ideal situations.You are going to get that wherever you go. All I ask, is that a little critical thinking of perspectives be taken into account. You can bet that I apologized to the interpreter for driving her nuts the past three days as well as thanking everyone involved for helping me. (I'm pretty sure I resembled a crazy person from Thursday-5 pm today)

The moral of this story is to be as proactive as you can. Think about IEPs/re-evaluations at least a month in advance. Granted, this is a situation where I was thinking about the situation a month in advance. My biggest problem happens to be the holidays that throw off my January clients. (Don't do IEPs in early January if you can help it. Get them done in December or plan super ahead of schedule.) Also, learn about the teaching staff sooner rather than later. Ask the EC teachers because they know who is going to give you a headache. I didn't have to work with this teacher last year and had no clue that emails just weren't her thing. I really don't mind asking people in person for information if I know that it works better for them. Also, critical thinking is not just for making it out of college alive. It's a life-long skill that should be considered a vital component of any job.

In happier news, I am getting closer to figuring out which courses I want to attend at the convention! I wish I could attend all of them.

Friday, November 2, 2012


It's another short post for tonight. I spent way too much time working on billing today. My poor eyes can't take much more computer exposure. It's an occupational hazard. 

I've recently been racking my brain trying to come up with a good way to teach plurals to one of my students. I decided to try my hand at making something on the computer rather than my usual hand drawings. 

Plurals freebie. I'm in the process of having my copy laminated (we get a certain allowance a day based on size -.-). I plan on letting her write the plural forms using a white board marker. My kids are all going through a marker craze right now. The blame lies on me for letting them write on my kidney table with them. I got the idea from one of our EC teachers and it seems to be a "freeing" activity for the kids. They get to practice their spelling and watch me try to write upside down. I just wipe the table down with a Lysol wipe at the end of the day.

Have a great weekend!