Saturday, August 31, 2013

I'm plagued by spiders

I will admit that I am a total wimp when it comes to spiders. I cannot stand them--even the itty bitty baby ones. Yuck! Unfortunately, the warmer fall weather seems to be bringing the spider population out in all of its eight-legged nasty glory. There is a huge spider that loves cars and another one that constantly sneaks around the house. I've had zero luck in getting rid of either one. So I decided to make up a quick freebie to honor the "Spider Wars" and these two clever spiders that continue to outwit me at every turn.

This packet is similar to my first RtI freebie, Mermaids Away. It includes alphabet cards, nonsense words, syllable counting, Wh- questions, and following directions. I hope to make several of these RtI packets to give to teachers in my school district. You can grab a copy here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sometimes the best things in life come on a key chain...

I posted on here a long time ago a little blurb about this game. However, I think it needs some overdue credit for saving several therapy sessions in a pinch. I love its sheer simplicity. Namits are all key chain categorization games made with super durable cards. They are perfect for traveling between schools and take up very little space. 

I only own this one version of the series, which I picked up two years ago at Goodwill. I had no idea what it was, but I can now say that it was worth every penny of the .99 cent price tag. It's one of my most used therapy items for 2-5th grade. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Getting the year started off right with more data keeping

As the school year gets off to a running start with a week and a half of hearing screenings, I am trying to take steps to insure I do a better job of documenting of the non-SLP specific variety. Graduate school sort of spoils you in a bubble of ignorance when it comes to the importance of documenting all forms of contact with clients/caregivers. It's just not something that we tend to think about being as a crucial aspect of our job. We have IEPs to write, Medicaid to bill, and therapy sessions to plan. If I see X's mom in the hallway and say "Hi! How are you?", it doesn't always register to my brain that I might want to take note of that conversation since it doesn't relate to the student.

Documentation of all parent/guardian contact; however, is an important aspect of our job in the school system. So I will be trying out a new handy dandy log form this year to keep track of everything in one place. If you'd like a copy to try out, you can grab it here.
I plan on making a little binder with several of these sheets for each school year. I can stick the binder in my file cabinet with my speech records.

P.S. If you like using logs to keep track of data, you should check out this freebie screening/evaluation log on TeachersPayTeachers. I absolutely love it. She also has her own contact form which goes into more detail than mine.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

You learn something new every day.

I learned a few new things this weekend. The most important being that I will probably never go to another Scholastic Warehouse sale. My coworkers had me under the impression that it was a great place to get some good deals on books so I was expecting a clearance sale similar to the Carson-Dellosa warehouse sale. That was definitely NOT the case with Scholastic. Everything was 50% off but would still cost me about $10 a book. Call me a cheapskate, but I'll just wait until those books show up at Goodwill for .75 cents.

2)  Triple A is a lifesaver. I went to the Scholastic Warehouse sale with my parents as I refuse to drive in the city where it's located (I have driving anxiety in large cities). Unfortunately, our car battery decided to die while we were out. I finally got to put my Triple A card to good use after having it for several years. I never knew they had a "Mobile Battery Service," but I am so glad that they do. They were there within 15 minutes and had the car fixed with a brand new battery in about 30 minutes. All I can say is that Triple A is worth its weight in gold and the guys who came out were phenomenal.

3) Here's my thrift store find of the weekend: Bikewell Bear. 

I had absolutely no clue who this bear was when I bought him for .99 cents at Goodwill. I just thought he'd go along well with my bear materials. Google; however, quickly cleared up the mystery. 

"Bikewell Bear is a soft, cuddly bear with big eyes and a bright smile. Bikewell is a preschooler at Honeycomb School, where he is in Mrs. Huggins’s class. When he is not at school, Bikewell loves to ride his tricycle using the very important riding-toy safety lessons he learned during the St. Jude Trike-A-Thon. He’s a very smart bear who always wears his helmet when he rides, and he helps watch out for his good friend Pedals the Bunny."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A sneak peak....

Teacher workdays started up on Monday. I've spent a grueling 3.5 days getting my room back together after coming back to find the wonderful surprise of EC math tubs on my table. Apparently, my coworker was wrong about the custodial staff not needing those tubs they have stored in my closet off of the floor. It wasn't a good Monday. All I can say is that I'm very thankful for my mother. She rescued me after a quick phone call to tell her that I was over my head in re-organizing the closet that I thought would already be fine. She spent two days with me so that I could get to the point of actually decorating my room. (I cannot imagine trying to deal with that kind of issue in a regular classroom. Thank you, speech dungeon, you give me some semblance of sanity even on my worst perfectionist days.)

So for your sneak peak of my room, I would like to talk about my trick to organizing the space as part of Speech Room New's second link up. I keep the majority of my materials organized by little "zones." I have a bookcase that houses language stuff, one for testing materials, and one that holds craft supplies/district owned games. It really helps for me to have this system in place at the beginning of the year so I don't have to search for things when I need to write an IEP or bill Medicaid.  
This plastic shelf is my sticker/SLP crafting shelf. I have *most* of my die-cuts stored in here for days when I need to make up a new game. The first drawer is for games in progress and the middle one is for all of my stickers. It stays near my desk so those things are handy when I want them.
My other plastic shelf is designated for articulation materials. It holds all of my Webber decks, puppets, and artic books. The brown basket holds the supplies I use to accompany the artic cards. It can travel with me if needed with or without my therapy cart.

P.S. I allow myself to have one spot in the room that looks like a hurricane hit it during IEP session: my desk. I know where everything is on it, but I imagine it drives some of my coworkers batty.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Thoughts on my last summer training for 2013

It's hard to believe that summer is over and I will soon be seeing the smiling faces of my students. In my typical fashion, I cannot leave summer behind without sharing some thoughts on the last of my training sessions. However, I must preface this post with a warning that I had the misfortune of sitting beside a teacher (Negative Nancy) who did nothing but complain the whole time. I also don't have a ton of experience with working on writing goals. 

Kathy Oehler was the presenter at the session I attended. She has an energy about her that can really catch your attention. I enjoyed listening to her stories and watching her demonstrate some of the strategies that are part of the book. It gave me a way to connect to the information in a better manner than just reading alone even though many of the strategies may seem like common sense. The majority of the session focused on how the struggle with writing for many students suffering from Autism Spectrum disorders needs to be addressed from several angles: organization, sensory, motor, and language. You need to look at these four areas for ALL of the writing stages as students may struggle through the whole writing process or just certain pieces.

The book is a really great resource even if you don't want to attend a training. It contains all of the strategies (and more) that are mentioned in the presentation using a format centered around teacher concerns. The strategies are pretty simple and you may have a "why didn't I think of that" moment. I know it really opened my eyes up to things I can try this school year. The second thing that is really good about this book is the fact that the authors address Common Core concerns. Writing is an enormous component of the new standards and we need to be sensitive to that.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wading in the Ocean that is Response to Intervention

This summer has been the "Summer of RtI" in my books. I have researched the role of SLPs in RtI to death. Seriously, it feels like I spent all summer trying to find stuff for the new RtI handbook the SLPs in my district will eventually receive this fall. You can check them out on my new RtI Resource tab here.

It's not just about assisting the RtI task force in the creation of the new Handbook though. The second step in the process is to increase teacher awareness of our role as SLPs in the RtI process. I created a small presentation that will hopefully be presented at each school. It highlights who we are, the process we go through to serve students, and our areas of expertise. The lead SLP and I will be presenting to the other SLPs at our first speech meeting. Please keep your fingers crossed for me as public speaking isn't my favorite thing to do. It's one of the many curses of being introverted. (P.S. You can find the powerpoint that I used as a guide to create my own at this site just look for Role of SLP.) 

The third step is to follow through aiding the teachers by giving them helpful documents. My district will hopefully be using 5 Minute Kids at all of our elementary schools (two of us already have the book sets to use) for articulation. I am more concerned in creating documents that relate to reading and language tasks. It's important for teachers to know that they can come to their SLP for advice and ideas to help students. Busy Bee Speech's recent post "Dear Teacher....Love, Your SLP" resonates deeply with me. Thus, I decided to make something that I can send to teachers as they need them for phonemic awareness and language. Hopefully, there will be more to come as the new school year progresses.   

You can get your copy of Mermaids Away for RtI here.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Back to School Blog Hop 2013: DIY Positional Photo Book

It's that time again!
Welcome to the Back to School SLP Blog Hop!
You will get the chance to collect great back to school ideas for SLPs, win prizes and get freebies by touring 17 fantastic blogs!
Use the Linkytools at the bottom of this post to hop around 17 blogs, collect ideas and the clues!
There will be a sentence containing the 17 words you find for the rafflecopter.

I've had the idea for a DIY project using photos for several months. I wanted to make something that would be useful for many years to come by focusing on a common goal for younger students. It came down to either making a photo album for positional words or pronouns. I picked positional words for two main reasons: 1) the relative ease of finding picture worthy opportunities that didn't involve begging people to pose for me and 2) the ability to connect the pictures with other materials I use with my younger students. 
Big Bear and Jessie Bear at your service. 
The subjects in all of my pictures are these two bears from my stuffed animal collection. I decided to use these two as they connect with Teddy Talker and pop up from time to time in our lessons. Jessie Bear is Teddy's best friend and the true constant in all of the pictures. She has been known to appear in pictures with a few other friends for additional practice. (P.S. If you want to know who Teddy is and how I use him in therapy, check out this previous post to see the details about one of my absolute favorite speech room essentials.) I like to provide the Jessie Bear consistency for my students as it reduces some of their cognitive workload.

The project is pretty simple. The stuffed animals and my camera travel with me wherever I go. I take pictures of them in places that will either hold connections for my students or add new vocabulary. I buy photo albums at my local thrift stores for .49 cents and get the pictures developed whenever Walgreen's or CVS has a special running. You can make photo albums for a variety of targets that specifically tailor to your students for a much cheaper price than purchasing photo decks from the various learning companies. If you don't like using stuffed animals, you could use pictures of your pets, you, other toys, or even your students (with permission). 
Comparisons anyone? 
Now, I can't let the blog hop end without giving all of you a freebie to enjoy. The winners of the blog hop will get a special copy of several back to school activities called Speech Binders from me. The freebie is from that group of activities. You can grab your copy of my Conversation Starters here

WINNERS will receive a goodie basket of: TPT products
1 GRAND PRIZE WINNER will receive the following in addition to the activities:
* TpT Gift Card for: 50.00
* App Codes

The rules of the contest are simple:
* You must decode a secret message
* In order to complete this task, you will need to visit each of the 17 blogs and find the OWL CLUE
* The OWL CLUE will include one word that is part of the code. * When you enter the contest through Rafflecopter on Figuratively Speeching SLP's blog, you will be asked to type in the secret code. It will contain all seventeen words that you collect. Have fun and enjoy blog hopping with us! The contest will run from:
Enjoy reading through the blogs, downloading the freebies, and participating in our Blog Hop! Good luck everyone!
Here's my secret word:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, August 9, 2013

Venturing outside of my comfort zone....

I'm running a little bit late on the August Link Up party. It's a better late than never kind of week. 
Buying: I'm still up to my thrifty ways. I scored 22 books for 5.50 at a friends of the library sale while visiting with my grandmother. The majority of the books are from the 70s-80s. I like the images though and the amount of Halloween material. My favorite is a Halloween joke book. I'm going to have fun with that one even if my students end up not liking it. Salvation Army and Goodwill haven't had as much good stuff lately. I think their donations go down during the summer due to yard sales. My most recent finds are things for my "hope chest" rather than my speech room. (I'm a bit old fashioned but I love finding treasures for my future house.)

Trying: I am trying to organize my various stockpiles. My treasure box prizes are in half a dozen different places and it's driving me crazy. I guess it really bothers me because I can't get into my speech room to re-organize the closet. My library is screaming for an overhaul.
I'm also trying to prepare for IEP season 2013-2014. This is forcing me to venture outside of the comfort zone. The idea of writing goals based on the Math standards of the Common Core is something I have wanted to avoid like the plague. I hate, loathe, and ultimately despise math as most English majors do. It's also something that I don't really incorporate much into therapy beyond basic concepts. However, I am biting the bullet and creating a goal bank to better familiarize myself with the Core. It's definitely a work in progress.

Speeching: I'm part of a two-SLP task force. Our mission is to figure out how to make our part of RtI more streamlined & efficient. The inservice power-point is pretty much done with the exception of the actual speech. It's going to take some practice to figure out exactly what I want to say. We've also figured out most of the resources to include in our new RtI handbook. I'm looking forward to getting those binders created and online file composite set up.

So there you have it....Miss Thrifty is on crazy pre-school overdrive. I just hope to get a few things crossed off my ever growing list before school starts back.

New favorite song on the radio. :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Thoughts on Reading Foundations

If you heard someone shouting in relief on Monday, that was probably me after getting my post-test score back from Reading Foundations. It was a great class. I'm just glad that it's over so I can enjoy what little I have left of my summer vacation. (I swear it just flew by this year.)

So, what did I learn from Reading Foundations?
1. Teachers and trainers assume that this training is just a bunch of old news to SLPs.
I don't particularly agree with this outlook. There was a decent amount of information that I was familiar with (ie. structure of language), but the course is designed for teachers. I knew very little about the assessments and reading programs they discussed. Letterland felt like a saving grace moment. The teaching strategies for general education was also uncharted territory for me and the ones I did know had different names.
2. The 6 syllable types will plague me for life. 
3. Reviewing my notes from graduate school is a good idea. However, those notes only go so far and future professional development opportunities must be taken in reading. 
4. Dyslexia is really fascinating. 
5. Instruction needs to be Explicit, Multi-sensory, and Systematic. (Yay for Orton-Gillingham!) 
6. The proper names for several graphic organizers. 
7. Children's books contain more vocabulary words than college-educated adults' conversations. 

The biggest thing I came away with is the fact that I learn best by re-packing information. Hence, I have made a little file with the "vital" information that I plan on turning into a handy book once I have access to the binding machine. I will be keeping it on my desk with my other little quick referencing book.  

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Things you can learn from commercials and movie trailers....

This summer I have found inspiration just by watching soap operas with my mom. I know it sounds weird and you may have to read that sentence again. How can shows like General Hospital inspire anything speech related? 

Well, it's not about the show itself. It's really about the commercial breaks. We all know that commercials are a great way to pitch a product. Heck, I watched hour long info-mercials during graduate school on my most stressed out nights just for some comedic relief. It's just too bad you can't lose weight by osmosis from those things. 

Food commercials, like the one above, provide a great opportunity to teach the importance of adjectives to our students. I counted roughly 9 adjectives in that 31 second clip. You can turn it into a game. How many adjectives do they use? How many can you write down? What was your favorite? What was the biggest/smallest adjective? Did it make you want to eat there?

You don't have to limit yourself to food commercials either. You can also try game and video game commercials. Look at these two:

All of these videos came from one user on youtube called ProjectAdHand's children's commercial stream. However, you can search for more recent advertisements based on your students' interest. It's amazing what you can do with just a 30 second clip.

You could even try finding movie trailers too. I love this one:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Have you heard about tax free weekend?

There's something magical about the first weekend in August. The hot temperatures (or never ending rainstorms) of summer can not dampen my enthusiasm for these three little days. Why? It's tax-free weekend!

North Carolina started tax-free weekend while I was in high school. The state waves sales tax on school supplies, clothing, computers, and instructional materials. It's a deal that most people take advantage of at least for the clothes if nothing else. I usually buy all of my school supplies during this weekend too. Page protectors and mechanical pencil packs can easily add up to some serious damage to my wallet....yet, I cannot seem to break my preference for these two items. This year is a little bittersweet. I don't know how many of you are from North Carolina or follow the nightmare of a state budget, but it's the last year that we'll have tax-free weekend. (There are other horrible things included in this budget that you may see on teacher blogs. I'm not going to go into that zone because it just breaks my heart.)

If you are curious to know if your state celebrates tax-free weekend, I found this nifty little list of all the states that currently have this "holiday." Happy shopping!