Monday, December 30, 2013

~Carry your world, I'll carry your world~

There are some places on Earth that are magical. They hold a piece of your heart throughout the passage of time. You are drawn in and return there in your mind's eye constantly. This place is mine... 
 My heart sings at the sight of this bridge.
 Crossing the bridge to another place in time....
 For whom the bell tolls....
 This is the place that helped me foster my love of learning and helped me find my dreams of being an SLP.
 The paths I walked for 4 years.
 The friendships forged.
My home away from home.
And the unforgiving bricks who are the arch nemesis to all who visit.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fun Facts for New Year's Day

Christmas is over! I've survived shopping on Christmas Eve and the day after without a scratch. Serena is the proud owner of a new sheep squeak toy and I have a few more keepsakes from Old Salem, NC. The countdown is now on for my first ever professional presentation to teachers at the district's second professional development conference. (I have to say that I really didn't enjoy last year's meager offerings, but this year the list looks huge!) Luckily, I will be presenting with two other district SLPs in front of a group of only 25 teachers. We will be talking about our role in the schools and how we address Common Core. 

Speaking of countdowns, I decided that I really wasn't too happy with my lack of materials for New Year's day. The majority of the afternoon was spent scouring the internet for interesting facts and activities related to the topic. The final result is a packet aimed at getting my older students back into the routine. It includes cards about the New Year, an open-ended dot sheet for reinforcement, and resolution bookmarks. You can grab your copy of it here.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Thoughts on December 22nd.'s been a crazy weekend of last minute shopping. I'm glad my father decided to go a little bit earlier than Christmas Eve as I really don't think I could handle those crowds. It was wall-to-wall people in almost every store. The weather was also against us with its spurts of downpours and fog. North Carolina weather is nothing if not unpredictable.

Christmas at my house will be a little less than normal with Serena's impending surgery. We still aren't sure of the total cost of that, but the estimate is pretty pricey. Helping her feel better will be worth it no matter how much it ends up costing at this point. I hate this feeling of helplessness so much. So this year, dad and I are cutting back on our usual Khol's Christmas. We got my mother a DaVinci charm bracelet at Hallmark instead of the very pricey sterling silver ones. She loves charm bracelets and has made a few comments about these bracelets in the past. I have my fingers crossed that she will like my bead choices. My favorite is the little cat face.

I thought I would join up with this month's Love it and List It Linky. I'm excited that it's back to a non-app topic since I currently live in a low-tech world. (Not sure when, if ever, the SLPs in my district will get I-Pads or the like....)

1. Reading Grumpy Badger's Christmas with my language and social skills groups. This book is an incredible find. It is one of those versatile and timeless books that everyone needs in their speech room. (We also read Mooseltoe, The Night before Christmas, Who'll Pull Santa's Sleigh, and the Christmas Crocodile this year. The EC teachers read How Santa got his Job and recommended it to me.) I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful books are to school-based therapy. You can target a variety of goals with them and find/make fun crafts to coordinate.
2. Making mosaic Christmas trees with all of my groups. I think I need to give them the challenge to beat me more often.
3. Sending home practice packets with my students at the beginning of this month. It's time consuming to make sure my students are going home with materials that are appropriate for them; however, I like knowing that I am sending them home with a little something to do to prevent too much loss over the break. I wish I was good enough to make a whole year's worth of practice calendars. It's just one area that I do struggle with in terms of writer's block. I can envision the calendars but I lose all of my ideas when I sit down to make them.

Is it sad to say that I am already thinking of something to do when we get back? If so, I am guilty of being a workaholic. I love this New Year's freebie from Speech Snacks and this New Year Traditions from Around the World. They will do nicely for the three day week in January before I start up my snow theme.

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's here! It's here! Christmas break is finally here!

It was a wonderful Friday.....well, if you look past being stuck billing while the rest of the staff & students were at the Christmas assembly. The teachers put on a musical every year for the students. I've never been able to go thanks to all of my paperwork (but it keeps me from having to be in the show). It's nice to have the day to get all of that stuff finished so it doesn't end up coming home. I'm paperwork free until January! 

Even though I was stuck in my room jamming to a little Pandora, I still managed to get a few holiday surprises. The blue card is from our student council, the yellow card & cinnamon ornament from a 1st grade class with several of my students, the two note cards are from a 5th grader, and a necklace set from a 2nd grader. I didn't get anything from my students last year so I was shocked to get all of this. 

I also thought I would show you a new therapy tool that Santa Thrifty bought herself. Hehehe....I got it back in October when it was on sale but held off on using it until December. I don't know what it is about me and hidden picture scenes. I'm going to blame my mom and her love of doing the Highlights puzzles with me growing up. My students looked at me like I was crazy when I pulled it out (I haven't forgotten how badly the Highlights Hidden Puzzle game already went over with them this year). Looking for hidden pictures must really be a foreign concept to this generation. They really don't know what they are missing out on.

The Super Duper version has the advantage of less objects and a picture key. It is much easier to find the objects when you know what they look like. Each picture targets a specific sound and you can adapt them to the student's articulation level. I used them for sentence level tasks, such as "I want to find the X first." or "I found the X beside the frog." I use Chipper Chat chips with mine rather than the dry erase markers to avoid all the extra cleaning. Plus, my students love anything that involves that magic wand.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What do you do when it's the week before Christmas break?

It's the last few days before Christmas break and everything is a little bit crazy. The kindergarten classes went on a field trip to watch the Polar Express last week and this week it was Polar Express day. The students and teachers wore their pajamas down a "night-time train track" filled hallway. Santa made his appearance in the afternoon and most hearts were filled with glee. (I say most because one of my students informed him that he had no magic and his workshop was not real.) The first graders focused on Christmas around the world, which left this SLP running around the school hunting for students. The 2-5th graders probably had some sort of activity. It just didn't pop up on my radar.

So with an off-kilter schedule, what is an SLP to do? Well this year, I decided to pull out a book that brings the holiday spirit while addressing some social skills issues at the same time. Grumpy Badger's Christmas is a relatively new find for me that I picked up at a garage sale for .25 cents. It was money well spent. Grumpy Badger doesn't like Christmas. He just wants to go to bed for the winter without any interruptions. However, he cannot escape the Christmas celebration of his neighbors. This book is great for addressing issues such as: emotions, dealing with a grouchy person on Christmas, how to refuse a present politely, apologizing, and forgiving. I combined it with both my story rope for wh- questions and emotion sticks. 

We played emotions memory match. The difference of the shapes seemed to make this game go much smoother than store bought versions that I have tried for vocabulary. 

I also found this wonderful video from the McKay foundation which talks about bullying. It had nothing to do with Christmas, but I loved the facial expressions of the characters in the story. 

I also can't wait to hand out one last homework packet for several of my students. It's for /k, g, and y/.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

There's S-no-w Time Like Winter

It's so hard to believe that Christmas break is just around the corner! I cannot wait to have a break. It's nice to be able to re-charge the batteries and spend more time with family. The past few weeks have been full of late evenings to catch up on billing, IEPs, and re-evaluations. We did get one two hour delay, which was awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed getting a little extra sleep. It also inspired me to start planning for a January snow theme. I created a short pack of snow themed conversation cards and song inspired mad-libs. 

Grab a copy of S-no-w Time Like Winter here.

Want to see some other activities I've found? I don't know that I will use all of these but I do like to keep my options open.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas Tree....

I decided that my students were in dire need of a challenge. All that I've heard since December has started is "Santa, Santa, Santa," "I asked Santa for....," and "Oh no! Santa's stuck!" (We read that book last year....I didn't even pull it out for my display this year.)

Enter the Mosaic Christmas Tree Challenge.......  
I like to use scraps of paper from the scrap box in our workroom. There's no reason to ruin a perfectly good sheet of construction paper when we have plenty of little pieces that work well for mosaic art projects. I grabbed two shades of green, one shade of red, and one shade of yellow to hand to the students as they work towards their targets.
Step 2) Cutting down the scraps into even tinier scraps. It took about 30 minutes to get all of the pieces to size. At the end, I started ripping the pieces to save time. I like to keep my crafting materials semi-organized in little baggies. It reduces some of my Friday after school cleaning and I'm sure that the janitors appreciate my attempt at keeping the little tiny pieces off of the floor.
Step 3) Draw the tree. It's not the greatest, but it will be covered up pretty well by the end of the project.
Mine is on the left. I really didn't do a great job of earning tree pieces.
Step 4) Start the challenge. My students earned 1 piece of paper (they picked the color) for every correct production/answer/target. I earned the pieces that they lost. It may take a few sessions to complete, but I really love open-ended activities that allow them to express their artistic abilities. 
This is after my third group of the day. They are super competitive about everything. I think they let me earn like 5 pieces total. My tree probably won't get finished in time for Christmas.

P.S. Here is my inspiration for the project. (There's some really cool versions made out of vintage jewelry too.)  I also discovered that an OT blogged about a similar idea that adds little ornaments to the tree after I started looking up all the different kinds of Christmas tree mosaics. I don't follow any OT blogs, but maybe I should start. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Puppy update

Today was the big day. Serena went to the specialist vet and had her ultrasound.

As our local vets were afraid of, she does indeed have a liver shunt. It appears to be a big one and her liver is tiny. She's going on three different medications to help her liver and those have to be regulated before surgery. There are possible complications & risks with the surgery (seizures after surgery, another shunt forming, or not making it through the surgery). However, the life expectancy for dogs who don't have the surgery is very poor.

Please continue to keep us in your thoughts/prayers and sending positive vibes her way. It's going to a couple of long months this winter......

Sunday, December 8, 2013

NC SLP Institute Part 2

I haven't forgotten about my promise to write my thoughts from the second half of the SLP Institute. It was just put on the back burner so I could spend as much time with Serena as possible before her big vet. trip.

The second half of the Institute was spent in the company of about 30 School Psychologists. Dr. Andrew Shanock from the College of St. Rose presented on the importance of collaboration between SLPs and SPs. Honestly, I really did not know what to expect when we started this session as I haven't spent a great deal of time conversing with the School Psychologist who serves students at my school. He's split between several buildings and spends most of his time at the other schools that he serves. 

The majority of Dr. Shanock's presentation focused on the similarities between our assessment tools. There is no way I will be able to do much justice to the way he presented the material in person, but it is very astonishing information. We are making our students do many of the same tasks to get our respected scores. We never learned about the tests School Psychologists give in graduate school (beyond needing to look at their scores for similarities) so I was really surprised. Collaboration between our professions could reduce some of this redundancy and unnecessary pressure on the students. However, this collaboration will not happen over night. You have to build good working relationships with the members of your IEP team and make time to compare notes during every evaluation/re-evaluation process. Dr. Shanock's suggestion is to start by reviewing previous evaluations and then start collaborative testing on re-evaluations.
 I made this very simple table based off of the information we were given as a little reminder of the similarities between our assessment tools.

It will be a very time consuming process to develop this level of collaboration. (It will be well worth it, but very time consuming.)

Friday, December 6, 2013

I've never had to teach a child what a smile is before.....

The lead EC teacher at my school recently approached me with a problem. She introduced two of our younger students to Reading Mastery. For those of you who are not familiar with this name, it is a highly structured reading program that mixes decoding skills with vocabulary, basic comprehension, following directions, and a little inferencing for fun.  One of the early stories has a picture of children who are smiling and the child is supposed to state how they know the children are happy. Neither student knew what a smile was......I've never had to teach a child about smiling (and frowning, crying, etc) before even though I have done lessons on emotions before to teach respect for each other.

So I thought about it for an evening.......

I knew that I would have to incorporate The Way I Feel into the lesson. Honestly, it's one of my best resources for emotions and the students love it. My typical method is to read the book using my best funny voices for each page. My students get to practice making faces in a mirror for the second reading. 

The angry page is always the fan favorite. It's probably because they get to stomp their feet and growl at each other.  

As great as this book is for teaching emotional vocabulary, I also needed something to reinforce the concepts in an even more basic way. It ended up being my second attempt at writing a social story. The concept of my "Feelings all over my face" is really simple. It focuses on the parts of our face and what our face does when we feel a certain way. The final sheets of the book are meant to help them write it so I could involve multiple senses. It also includes a link to a cute youtube song on feelings. You can grab your copy here

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I'm not good at waiting....

The wait until December 10th is about to drive me up the wall. Patience is not a virtue that I possess in great quantities. I use most of what I do have at work and then am left to worry myself sick at home. I've enjoyed spending lots of quality time with Serena this week and her new liver medicine seems to be going fine. Thank you for all of the prayers and positive thoughts. Please keep sending them her way as my parents prepare to take her to NC State next week. 

In the meantime, I've been feeling a touch of the holiday homework blues. It's really the one type of activity that I loathe fixing. Why? It takes me hours to find things that are both appropriate to my students' successes and parent friendly. It doesn't go much better when I try my hand at making a file. It always ends up in a very bad case writer's block that never seems to stop. There's no way that I can be the only one out there with this struggle. So I'm going to do my best to throw out a holiday lifeline. 

I created a packet after struggling to find what I wanted for free online. I'm sure there are some great paid products out there, but I just cannot justify spending money on something that I will a) have to get translated for half of my caseload and b) not get back. The packet includes three different calendars: one for basic language targets (k-1), one for slightly higher level targets (describing & answering wh questions), and one for articulation practice. Our wonderful EC assistant made sure my Spanish translations were on track (surprisingly the translator I used was mostly correct). 

You can grab your copy of my December homework packet here. If you want some other materials to create a larger pack, I have found a few suggestions for you......

The best of Teachers Pay Teachers:
The best of Google search:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Everyone needs a little bit of DIY time now and then....

I recently shared a new tab for social skill resources. We have a new student at my school that has propelled my research into all things social story related. I've even tried writing one about balls hitting people when they bounce. (It's quite possibly the worst thing I've written since about 5th grade. I will not be subjecting anyone to that eyesore.) 

One of the products that kept appearing in my search was the Social Thinking curriculum. I know there is a team of bloggers writing about these products and they can do a much better job at explaining them. My district doesn't have the program and probably won't be getting it soon due to the budget cuts. However, I can still make some coordinating materials in the hope that things will change next year. All it took was a little inventiveness and the discovery of Jill Kuzma's character description freebie.

I printed out three copies of the character descriptions. Two of them were cut up for DIY projects and the third visited the laminator immediately upon printing. 

 The first DIY project is a file folder matching game.
-Take two vanilla folders and glue them together. You need to make sure that you can still close the folder up before you glue them.
-Character descriptions, which should be glued directly to the folder.
-Laminate the folder and separate character pictures (you may want to print these on cardstock or glue to poster board for added strength)
-Attach Velcro to the folder and the character pictures.
-Stick the character picture above the correct description

The project took me 3 days due to our lamination policy. If you have access to your own machine, it doesn't take long at all.

The second DIY project is another matching activity. It can also be used for role-play.
-Glue the character pictures to poster board and cut into small squares.
-Glue character descriptions to sentence strips or print on heavy cardstock.
-Laminate descriptions & character pictures.
-Attach character pictures to craft sticks with glue or tape. (I used tape.)

Again, this project took about two days due to the lamination rule.  

My plan is to eventually let my students have a specific character trait to look for when we read stories. When they notice that a character is behaving like an "Unthinkable", they will raise up their character stick and explain what they noticed. It will take plenty of work before they are ready to try this activity; however, I think it will be a great way to connect the curriculum to other experiences when the time comes.