Monday, October 27, 2014

The Inclusion Files: Letters from 4th Grade

Writing. Writer's block. Overcoming the block and writing some more. It's a vicious cycle that plagues all of us at one time or another. Even as an SLP blogger, I can still get hit by the same wave of writer's block that drove me to tears of frustration on several occasions during college.  

One of the interesting things I have learned recently from inclusion is the 4th grade writing cycle. They focus on one type of writing each six weeks. The first six weeks focused on personal narratives. Each student wrote about an experience that was important to them (be it something that scared them or something that was one of the best moments in their life.) My favorite moment happened when the classroom teacher asked them to practice describing objects/places without coming right out with the actual name at first.
This would make a great little reminder for writing notebooks.
This six weeks, the students are learning how to write opinion papers. It is very interesting to see the look on students' faces when they are told that they get to write about their opinion on a topic of their choosing (out of 3 options). It is almost like Christmas for some of them and some of them need a little encouragement to realize that its okay to have your own opinion (particularly not having to like what your friend likes). My latest little freebie is for those students who are not quite as sure of the difference between a fact and an opinion. Students must read the cards and sort them into piles. They also get to make up their own cards for their peers to sort to really give them some hands on practice. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I'm all ears!

Ears, ears, we're all ears in speech! Thank you, pinterest, for literally throwing one of the easiest crafts ever my way!

I'm using these Listening Ears for my beginning articulation groups. It is a great little visual cue for my younger students to remember to listen closely as we work on their sounds. You can find a copy of them on pinterest by searching for Listening Ears.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pumpkins full of character

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays as a Speech-Language Pathologist. There are tons of amazing books, talking in creature voices, cute games, prize box treats, fun hats, etc.......I love it all! 

Now that I've had my little bit of fun with the video, it's time to get on to the real spooky attraction of the week: Character trait pumpkins. Social skills and demonstrating good character traits has become a huge focus at my school. On every morning announcement we review our character trait of the month and social skill of the week. They also discuss character traits in their reading and social studies lessons. Halloween seemed like the perfect time to review some of these same topics with my pull-out groups.

I gave each of my students a blank pumpkin. They picked out their favorite character from a book, cartoon, or movie to draw. It helps to have a computer or I-pad handy in case they want to have an image to reference.

Beast boy, an angry bird, and Leonardo. We have quite an eclectic collection to hang in the hallway. 
Once they had their pumpkin complete, it was time to start describing the character's traits on the clouds. It was a great way to show them that characters can have similar traits even though they appear to be very different on the surface.

We attached the clouds using string. Then, they had the opportunity to choose some Halloween decorations or add designs to their backgrounds.

My models.

Monday, October 6, 2014

New learning adventures

I am taking a small step into a very big area of the "unknown" for me: Augmentative & Alternative Communication devices. 

It has involved research, research, and more research. My method of choice is to start by looking at a few journal articles (unfortunately I have a knack for find the ones that are never really all that practical to a school setting) and then heading over to blogs. I want to give a shout-out to PrAACtical AAC as that blog is really a god-send to anyone just getting started with AAC. She gives you so many incredible tips and resources. 

My second shout-out goes to the Considerate Classroom, which gave me a very simple solution to my fear of lost communication cards. I downloaded her free language book on BoardmakerShare and made additional pages using PowerPoint. 

I am ridiculously proud of myself for making these two communication books. The bright pink one will stay with me while the green one will soon be spending its time all over the school.

Power Point is an SLP's best friend.
Guess it won't be a surprise for me to start researching professional development workshops in AAC now....

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review: B.E.A.R.R. Tracks

Today, I would like to invite all of you to journey with me again into the wonderful world of Teddy Talker to learn about the new B.E.A.R.R. (Building Early Articulation and Reading Readiness) Track Card Game

The Cards:

Here you can see the Letter Cards. These cards are placed in a pile with the letter side facing down so students initially see Teddy making the correct placement for that sound. Based on the action card they select, sometimes students have to ask another player to make the target letter sound by using this visual. I have to say that it's probably one of the most impressive parts of the game for me.

Here you can see the different types of Action Cards: Teach Together; Do & Tell; Trace & Say; Look & Say; Listen & Say; Listen & Touch; Write & Say; and Build & Say. Students who find a Wild Card get to pick their favorite sound and make it. These cards are the multi-sensory component of the game.

How to play:

Each student picks one of the color cards. Then, you can let the youngest (or oldest, or best behaved, etc) select an Action Card and a Letter Card. Students perform the action on the Action Card to earn a paw. The actions may be something simple like tracing the letter while saying the sound or something harder like working with a partner to teach how to say that sound to the rest of the group. The goal is to earn five of the paws to create a bear track for Teddy to follow. They announce "Teddy's ready" and lead their Teddy Card up the path while saying their sixth target sound/letter to win. I love the simplicity of the game play. It's one of the least complicated card games I've used with my students outside of doing the typical matching games. 

 One "challenge" I have decided to try with my students is to work together to make one large bear track for Teddy. This is a way for them to work on developing their team building skills as well as their sound-letter correspondence.

Initially, I used the card game with my first grade groups as a quick informal assessment to see if my they still remembered how to produce their target sounds. I made a quick note to myself on post-its of any they forgot so we could review with Teddy's rhyme cards and my mirror. I left both of these items out when we played the game again so we could pause for another review if needed. Keeping a mirror nearby is certainly something I would recommend while playing the B.E.A.R.R. Track game in case you need that extra visual. You could also use the large Teddy board or print out several small copies of Teddy from the Teach Together Toolkit for each student to use with the Build & Say cards.

My students really enjoyed the writing and tracing cards. It really gave them the opportunity to show off what they know without being too intimidating. I would have to say that the Build & Say cards were the most challenging. I had to give several models of that one before they were willing to try. My guess is that all the little tiny mouths were just a tad overwhelming even though we did go through each type of action card before playing. Sometimes, you just have to stop and remind everyone that it is okay to mess up on the first try. Learning is messy and fun. (Which is probably why they now hand me the card deck with a big grin.)

I have also used the B.E.A.R.R. Tracks game with a few of my kindergarten students already. We are in our pilot year of implementing Letterland in the classrooms. I like to incorporate it into our speech time because it forms a strong connection to what they are learning. We added in the cues for each sound as we said them, named the character, and then tried to think of one word with that starts with that sound. It sounds like a lot of components, but it honestly made them that much more invested in the activity. 

If you and your students love Teddy Talker, I would definitely recommend looking into purchasing the card game. It is a great way to review goals, practice following directions, and work on important social skills (turn taking and working together in particular).

Happy trails!

Disclosure Statement: Creative Speech Products provided resources in exchange for a feedback. The opinions expressed in this review are mine. No other compensation was provided.