Thursday, March 13, 2014

Teaching Together with Teddy Talker

As if I weren't all ready impressed with the amazing versatility of Teddy Talker, I wanted to tell you about how the new Teach Together Toolkit has really knocked my socks off. 


Well, for starters, the "Toolpages" for each of the 38 sounds bring to mind all the principles for literacy instruction that I learned about in Orton-Gillingham training. Lessons should be systematic, sequential, explicit, and multi-sensory. The Toolkit holds all of these tenants. Students are explicitly taught about the letter-sound correspondent using child (and parent)-friendly terminology. They learn to manipulate the cue pieces of their own copy of Teddy Talker right from the start with a lesson on basic oral anatomy. I store the mouth pieces and tongue puppet in a "Teddy Folder" for each of my students. Once they complete the introductory lesson, I take one of two paths: a) focus on the target articulation sound that the student needs or b) follow the sequence for teaching the sounds that I learned in my Orton-Gillingham training for my inclusion students. (You can use sequences from other reading programs too.)

Each lesson involves explicitly teaching the student how to prepare the oral structures for production with visuals and auditory cues. The student may be asked to trace the letters with his/her fingers while producing the sound (you could have them trace the letter on the page in crayon with plastic canvas underneath as a means of creating even more sensory input as they trace with their fingers) or joint read his rhyming story. They learn new vocabulary words and rhyming words with each of the 38 sounds. Students are even asked to do some inferencing to tell the adult "why" Teddy calls a sound by X name. In the lessons that I have done so far with my articulation groups, I've also added in the extra element of Visual Phonics as a sort of secret "Teddy Code." I start sending home the Teddy folders once I have gone through the lessons at school with my students. This way, they have already experienced success with the activities and are less likely to get frustrated at home.

The Toolkit also includes a sound assessment, listening games, lesson ideas, mini-Alphabet chart, and award pages. It's such a comprehensive tool whether you prefer the notebook (like me) or the PDF version.

Now, of course, that little Teddy face is not just sticking to our homework folders. I have come up with two ideas already to help manage some behavioral issues with my Teddy groups.

1) Role play hat. I haven't come across too many students that turn down the opportunity to play pretend, particularly when you tell them to act like an animal of any sort. My idea is to use the role play hat with groups of two or three students. Each student gets a chance to play "teacher" as well as "Teddy." The "teacher" has to teach "Teddy" how to say the sound.

The hat is really easy to make. I simply printed out an extra Teddy Face and colored him. I backed the face with some brown poster paper before taping to a sentence strip. You can probably skip the poster paper if you have card stock handy, but the sentence strips are a must. Once the Teddy's face was laminated, I added a little Velcro for the mouth pieces. (As a side note, I ran out of Velcro before I got to his bow for the voicing cues...)

2) Token box reinforcer. This project is very similar to the Old Lady tissue box craft that I made a while ago for sequencing. However, I use it to reward good target productions by feeding Teddy. It is a bit more complicated than the Teddy hat simply due to the mechanics of getting the mouth right. I ended up tracing Teddy's happy mouth as it was the best one for my tissue box. Again, I backed Teddy's face using brown construction paper to ensure a longer lifespan. (I didn't do that with my Old Lady and she did eventually rip.) I strongly suggest getting the face laminated before you attach him to the tissue box for extra stability. You can draw honey drops or use erasers for food. 

So there you have it! We just can't get enough of Teddy Talker.

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