Friday, March 30, 2012

Windup Toys

This post is about what I would call my secret weapon when trying to keep kids on task.  Unfortunately, I as I tell everyone about it, I can't really speak to it's secrecy.  As you will be able to tell from my pictures, I have far too many wind-up toys and it has really become a full-blown collection.  I find them in the dollar section at Michaels, for 2-4 dollars apiece at places like Barnes and Noble, JoAnn Fabrics, Lakeshore Learning and recently in the new section at my local Goodwill store.  (I also picked up bunch the more expensive kind on clearance at a closing Borders store).  I am endlessly amazed at the variety of wind-up toys available.

Now that I'm looking at the picture again, I should officially admit: I really do have too many wind-up toys.  I'm a little afraid to count them.

First and foremost, no students ever get to see the entire collection. I keep six to eight at a time in a pencil box by my speech table.  Some kids choose from only 2-3.  I’m not waiting all day to choose the right toy to look at.  The toy rotation also keeps interest in the activity.  My students never know what will be in the box and surprises are always popular.

You might be thinking, How do wind-up toys apply to therapy? In many different ways.  I'm always finding new ways to use them.  You have no idea what kids will do to be able to look at a wind-up toy.  I am still pleasantly surprised at the different ways I find to use these.

1. Standardized testing
This is the primary reason for the existence of my wind-up toy collection.  I started using them as short breaks during sub-tests of standardized tests.  Many kids get test fatigue, especially when you are administering something like the PLS-4, the CASL, the CELF-4 and sometimes even the OWLS.  Not to mention all of those times you are giving the same student multiple tests back to back.  I use the wind-up toys as a structured break during extended testing sessions.  The student gets to choose one toy to look at 1-2 times, or two toys to look at 1 time.  I typically do the winding; most students struggle to wind them up.  They either don’t wind it up enough to actually go, or wind it too much.

I’ve really found them to be the perfect break for testing.  There is a definite end point – when the toy stops, the break is over.  It’s also a great time for me to take a few notes on the last subtest while the student is occupied.

As a double-plus bonus, for some reason kids develop a positive association with you and testing.  On initial evaluations, students might not know me outside of administering a test, and many of those students are excited to come back and work with me.  As I am never excited to spend more time with the CASL, I'm making an educated guess it has something to do with the toys.

2. Instead of a game during therapy sessions
As much as I love being able to say "I played Candyland at work today," I’m trying to move away from games with most of my groups.  I think we all can picture the student, who takes a solid minute to shake the dice, who has to carefully take their time to think through every step in the game.  This makes me impatient since I feel we are wasting valuable therapy time.   Enter – Wind-ups.  I have each student in the group take 1-2 turns practicing their sounds, or completing a language task.  Then one student will pick a wind-up toy for the entire group to look at.  Everyone else thinks about what they will choose on their turn.  We look at the toy and then do another round of practice.  The next student selects a toy and so-on.   Typically every student selects a 1-2 toys through the entire session.  I’ve found that this seems to eliminate the extra time spent on the game in therapy.  Also, like for testing, it gives me a second to take some data or notes during the session.  I also think that it’s important to remember that doing something different makes kids excited again.  I’ve done this with students from kindergarten all the way up to sixth grade. 

3. As a reward my non-compliant friends
I’ve also had great success using this as a reward for my more obstinate students.  I have some very clear memories of how difficult it was to get one of the students I worked with last year to do ANYTHING.  She has down’s syndrome and perfectly fits the stereotype of the student who is adorable, sweet and funny when doing what she wants to do and will do absolutely nothing that she doesn’t want to do. I couldn’t beg, plead, or force her to do anything.  Partway through the year she displayed an interest in several windup toys in my office. I started having her select a windup toy to look at at the end of each session.  After we started the system she would select one for the next session to have look forward to it.  While we still had challenging days, it decreased from three out of four days with challenging behaviors to one out of every four of five days.   We had a chart so she was also able to see when she had a prize day coming.  Here it is in a google doc:  Windup Toy Motivational ChartI laminated it and crossed out each day with a dry erase marker and washed it off for the next time through.  I’m doing something similar with another challenging student this year.  It was amazing what the change was.

Who couldn't have fun with these little guys?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Easter Activities

I have two Easter related activities that I’m doing this year.

1. Chicks and Snakes Game
I have a chicks and snakes game that I originally found in the games section on Speaking of Speech and was posted by Marilyn Morgan. Owing to my need to modify everything I found, I recreated the pictures from free online clip art and found some super-cute Snakes and Chicks.

The google doc is here:
 Chicks and Snakes Pictures
*make sure to laminate the chicks and snakes!

I love this game both for the fun and the simplicity. The student selects an egg. If they get a chick they get a point. If they get a snake they lose a point. I vary if the chicks are eaten or scared away based on the sense of humor/maturity level of the speech group. I’m always surprised at how many, and which students DELIGHT in the chicks getting eaten. They actually want to lose points just to say it gets eaten. There are several ways to keep track of points 1) mini white board/paper, 2) chicks back in eggs students hold on to eggs or 3) keep the chicks out of eggs. I suggest options 1 or 2 unless you really like putting things in little plastic eggs and have 10 minutes between sessions. With the exception of a few lower DCD and ASD kids, all of my students put the chicks back in the eggs immediately after initially opening it. I think I had kids leave the chicks out for the first three sessions I used the game in and fairly quickly realized the error of my ways.

This is a great game beyond a fun Easter Activity. It’s great for some lower language students as we see what is inside the eggs, take chicks out, put chicks back in, and take eggs out of the basket. It’s great high frequency practice. I love it for my /k/ and /g/ kids: chick, snake, egg, basket. It can also be used as turn taking activity, gives some fine motor skill practice, basic counting practice when totaling points . I knitted the bag that my eggs live in, since I was worried about the survival of an Easter Basket in the speech room, and for general portability since I was traveling more when I created the game. I recommend any thing with a drawstring for storage.  

2. Experimentally Microwaving PEEPs
This activity is very new for me this year. This is the first year I’ve had a microwave in the speech room so the whole concept of cooking with students is very new for me. The concept of cooking in speech however, is not new to my students. Their previous therapist did multiple cooking activities. I unfortunately do not have the time, money or any particular desire to do a cooking activity. However, after having spent the entire year fielding requests, demands and a substantial amount of whining, I can no longer put off the inevitable. I must cook or face general revolt. This is a non-cooking but cooking/food activity that I can relate to multiple language goals and focus on listening to articulation sounds in conversation.

While not the biggest fan of eating Easter PEEPs (I will, but typically don’t seek them out), I am endlessly fascinated by the little marshmallow chickens. Through internet research I have confirmed my suspicions – I am not alone.  There is one site in particular that has done many horrible, yet fun things to the little, squishy dears. While both fascinating, and occasionally confusing, none of my internet research was fruitful in providing a ready made PEEPs-related speech therapy activity. So I had to make one.

Lesson Plans (in Google Docs), For older kids: PEEPs Worksheet or in Poster Format for younger kids\
EDIT: Grab the updated experiment pages for the Peeps activity for free in my TPT store! 
2 PEEPs/student Mini-paper plates
A few spoons for”poking” (optional)
Microwave and access to a sink!

The Plan: Each student is going to be given two PEEPs for comparison purposes. One “normal,” or control PEEP and one to microwave
My activity is divided into 5 stages:
1. Describing the Control PEEP
2. Making Predictions
3. Microwave the PEEPs 10-15 seconds seems to do it, depending on your microwave Make sure the kids can see as the PEEPs deflate pretty quickly when you take them out
4. Comparing the PEEPs
5. Eating the PEEPs - Self Explanatory

EDIT:  The more I'm doing the PEEPs activity, the happier I am to have a camera, and easy access to a sink!  I also have been doing this with grades 1-6.  For my older students I'm using more classroom, science related vocabulary such as experiment, hypothesis, control ect.  I used this for a push-lesson for an entire (small) ELL classroom and it was fun in a bigger group than a traditional speech group size.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Entry the First: Some Things You Need to Know about Me!

Alright.  I’ve been talking about, I’ve been thinking about it and now I’m finally doing it.  World of Blogging here I come!

Since this is my first official entry I guess it’s only fair that I tell you a little about me.  I go by all sorts of names and titles including, but seemingly not limited to: Liz, Ms. Liz, Ms. H, the other Ms. Liz, speech language pathologist, speech therapist, speech clinician, speech teacher and as one of my first graders excitedly shouts every time she sees me – “that’s my speech!”.

Currently, I’m working with kids in grades Kindergarten through 10th grade.  As my school expands its preschool and is considering starting a birth to three program; I have the possibility of working with birth to age 21.   I work with two other SLPs, the other Liz and Laura who both are wonderful.

I’m in my third year working in the public schools.  I got both my graduate and undergraduate degrees in Minnesota.  My first year was spent in Pennsylvania and from there I moved back to MN and I’m in my second district here.   

My Clinical Fellowship year was a trial by fire at best begging for death at worst.  I was in three schools and had over 90 kids.  I completed 43 evaluation reports and only had the OWLS, GFTA, and the CASL in my position.  I’m pretty sure I can still give parts of the first edition of the OWLS in my sleep.   

I had very few materials available at my schools.  The school I shared with another therapist (a full half day a week) had a lot of great items, however I was not as lucky at my primary schools.  Between the two buildings, I inherited a file cabinet full of “ditto machine” copies, an original Temple-Grandin and other equally useful odds and ends.  I won a hundred dollar gift certificate from SuperDuper courtesy of my employer (EBS Healthcare) so I was fortunate enough to start the year with Webber’s artic drill book, a sequencing deck, an opposites deck and an imagination question deck.  I also purchased some pictures and manipualbles from Lakeshore Learning and a handful of games from Target.  As you may imagine, I often relied heavily on my wits, hopes, and the glorious bounty of resources the internet had to offer.  This blog is my attempt to add to the resources available for other therapists.   

I’ve spent a lot of time creatively thinking through activities and researching what’s out there.  From my professors, CF supervisors through current coworkers one of my great strengths is in selecting materials and using them creatively.  I rarely encounter a game, activity or speech resource I haven’t modified in some way.  That being said, while many of my ideas are original, others are adapted from someone/somewhere else.  I am a big fan of giving credit where credit is due.  If I do miss something (and I probably will), or can’t find it again and it’s yours or you know where I got it, PLEASE tell me so I can add it.