Monday, April 30, 2012

Roll a Word Articulation Game

I've got ever expanding numbers of kids in my articulation groups going into the end of the year as all the last minute referrals qualify, so I've been thinking through different kinds of articulation stations.  So when I saw the roll a letter letter labeling game on pinterest I knew I had to modify it for articulation!

The premise is that each student rolls one, or two dice depending on how many words you want them to practice on each turn.  After they practice their words the first student two finish a column wins!  If one student finishes a column with a could lucky rolls, you can always see who can finish the most columns.

I created a blank sheet that I filled out with 9 rows of words (54 words total, 27 in each word position).  I used the HELP to fill out this world list as I recently created a different activity using the No Glamour Articulation word lists. 

I then laminated all of my sheets so students could cross off with a dry-erase marker.

After I finished doing my articulation word lists for some of my current students I started thinking about other uses for these sheets!  Just think of all the language things we could practice: vocabulary, adjectives, regular past tense, regular past tense, plurals, verbs ect!

Get your copy on Google Docs!

Also has a giveaway for a free iPad 2.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dice Dice and more Dice!

Yesterday was a dice-filled day.  I was playing a newly created dice game (getting things together for you - stay tuned for my next post!) and my children were spending an unfortunate amount of time chasing dice around my office.   I found a great dice idea on pinterest and was hopefully to be able to implement something.  After fruitless searching at several stores I was still unable to find small snack containers to put the dice, and had no idea where any of the little toy machines were for the plastic bubbles.  The last stop of the night was the Dollar Tree.   I take a quick browse through the toy department and low and behold - there are the giant dice I've always wanted.  They even had six colors.  Feeling slightly pragmatic I limited myself to four - on the idea that I'd use one color at a time.  Since chipper chat and other Super Duper activities have long since taught me that childern + foam dice = limited life span.

2.5 inch cubes

I can't guarantee that a Dollar Tree near you will have such dice, but they typically carry similar items so it would be worth a shot to check!

I finally have giant dice and am so happy!  One of the other SLPs brought a big wooden dice back from a weekend trip and I have been jealous.  Her giant dice may be fun, but I'm also excited that mine will be quiet!

An as excited as I was about my big dice, I was feeling depressed about my lack of ability to contain the little ones.  And there - right behind the Cash Register it was.  A machine with Zombies in little plastic bubbles.  Not only are dice contained, I've got lots of little Zombies to attach to a friends present.  I ultimately want a fourth dice bubble, but I ran out of quarters for that trip. 

The dice slip and slide on the round inside of the container and it's actually kind of fun to shake them!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Toontastic - Iapd App Review

Toontastic is my new favorite speech therapy toy!  The ASD teacher in my building found it, so I can't take all the credit, but I'm loving it!  It's an iPad app that allows children to create and narrate their own cartoons.  The basic app is free and comes with several boards and characters to use in the animation.   There is a 9.99 (currently) in app purchase to get a wider variety of toys and boards to use.  Otherwise individual boards can be purchased if you just want a few.  It's been a big hit with my students in the third grade all the way up through middle school.  I'm using with students working on telling stories and with my articulation and fluency students who are working on generalizing their skills into conversation.  They can listen to their story on the record function and judge how they are doing on their speech skills.  One of my students who has autism has been using it in his classroom and he has been creating and narrating stories in his classroom using Toontastic.  The best part is that none of us would have guessed that he could tell a story based on the skills he typically shows, and we have recordings and animations!

This app is great when working on telling narrative stories.  The app is structured by the different parts of a story, and explains what part of the story they are working on.  You can add or delete scenes at each part of the story to customize the app for the level you are working on.   Kids can tell a three part story or much longer.

You start by selecting the part of the story you are going to narrate and picking a scene.  After that you scroll through the list of characters on the bottom and select which ones you want to add to your story.

You can adjust the sizes, colors and add and delete characters from the "start animation" screen.  When students are animating their scene they move the characters and the legs, arms, wheels ect of the characters move.

After you finish animating your students can pick the kind of music to set the mood for their scene.   By sliding the scene up and down to adjust the level of the mood.  It's a good way to help kids visualize levels of feelings as well.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

WH Questions: Part Two

This is a follow up to my previous post about getting students to answer WH questions.  Knowing how to answer questions isn't enough.  After students have basic question answering skills they need to apply those skills to comprehension and fact recall questions.  After all, that's what we need to be able to do in conversation. 

There are lots of ways to do this.  I like to start at the level of sentences and work my way up.  It's actually amazing how many of my kids can't do the following task:

Read the story "Cindy has a small yellow car."
Who has a car?
What color is the car?
Is the car big or small?

Although, no longer surprised, when my student's can't do this, I'm always amazed at how they make it through the school day.  So much of our learning is through auditory input and we test it by requiring them to answer questions.

Link to document is below.
There is a lot of practice material at the sentence level out there.  Super Duper has a Auditory Memory for Details in Sentences deck that isn't in my possession, but is on my wish list.  Their Auditory Adventures Pack does have a few pages of practice material at this level.  As I am working on this skill with groups of 3-4 students, I quickly ran out of practice material.  As a solution, so I made a list of my own.  The Google Doc is here.

After kids pass the sentences level there are lots of things you can do.  Super duper has a bunch of other card decks that I use frequently.  The Auditory Memory for Short Stories is great for elementary ages, where the Auditory Memory For Science Stories and the Auditory Memory for Science Stories are great for my 6th through 8th grade students.  The No-Glamour Listening Comphrension Book by Linguisystems has a lot of stories at varying levels.

As fun as the fancy card decks and materials are, my absolute favorite thing to use in therapy is picture books.  There are so many questions you can ask about the stories and they are a GREAT way to engage kids in the therapy sessions. My favorite series are the Clifford and Bernstein Bears book.  I love Clifford for the variety of topics, the clear sentences have the right amount of content and the pictures are great for lower levels of questions in mixed groups.  Bernstein Bears are a little more wordy, and you will spend more time reading, but they are FANTASTIC for discussing social skills for your middle and higher functioning autism students.  (I pair them with the Berenstein Bears Learn to Share Game and have been getting excellent connections).

For older kids I really enjoy the Dorreen Cronin Books.  They have just the right amount of higher level vocabulary for good dicsussion with some of my lower level and ELL students.  I have been doing push in sessions in a 5th grade special education / ELL groups and these books have been a huge hit.  We did Duck for President during their Government unit and they all had a lot of fun.  I've done a couple of her other books with them and they really enjoyed them. 

Another big hit was a Christmas Present from a friend of mine.  It was a great book for discussing what was happening, the effects of large amounts of penguins and making predictions about what would happen if more penguins kept arriving.  I did it about a month ago and my students are still talking about it!  I recommend it for grades 4-6.

I'm entering to win free apps and you should too! 
And another app giveaway

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dropbox is my New Best Friend!

I absolutely love Dropbox.  It is a great way to share documents between different computers.  I use it to store word documents of evaluation reports I haven't yet entered into the online system, sample IEP goals and objectives, test descriptions and so much more.   I can't even express how wonderful it has been not to have to worry about emailing the most recent copy of a document to myself to work on at home, all I have to do is save the the file in the dropbox instead of in a regular folder on the computer.  I can then open it up on my home computer without any extra effort.  It has taken one extra step out of working at home and it has made many things much easier. 

It has been a great way to share materials, resources and collaborative documents with the other SLPs I work with.  When I find a new material, write a new generic test description or have a great picture of a student I put them in a shared folder in the dropbox and the share is automatic.  It's also a great place to keep a running list of new referrals and evaluations so we can all have, see and update the same document and not keep replacing shared copies.  

I have a separate account set up on the iPad using the hotmail account I also set up for ipad exclusive use (no chances of student access to my email, please and thank you!).  I then shared all the PDF therapy materials books and other resources to the iPad dropbox account.  By opening the dropbox app on the iPad a wealth of resources are literally at my finger tips.  

1. Open the book you want.
2. Turn the iPad vertically for a full screen view.

It's a great way to have all the sounds in an articulation book or other materials with you while traveling.  No planning ahead/printing pages from the book for each student necessary.  Putting books in the iPad instead of your travel bag is a great way to save paper and your back. 

It's also a great way to view PDFs or word documents you created or download from online in therapy.  I love it for word lists I've created.
Sometimes I just Stutter - PDF of a book about stuttering for ages 7-10 that's free for download on

I can't express how much I love my dropbox and I really do use it all the time.  For the security conscious among us, I was cleared by our school "tech guy" that it was secure enough to store student information.  You get so much space on dropbox for free and by inviting others you get additional free space. 
Signing up for Dropbox by following this link will net me more free space and I will be VERY appreciative.


Since posting this I found another use for dropbox on the Ipad.  Pinterest is always showing me some great conversation pictures to use in therapy.  I didn't really want to format all the pictures to similar sizes and do the print, cut out, laminate cut out sequence.  I instead found a way to use all of those great conversation/description pictures on the iPad.  I created a folder on my main dropbox account and shared it with the Ipad.  Then I'm able to open all the pictures on the iPad and have easy access during therapy sessions!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Following Directions with Oragami

Hopping Frog and Star Box
We all write goals for basic concepts and following directions, but there are only so many lines we can draw, pigs we can move and coloring direction sheets.  I saw this idea online somewhere and was so excited to have something fun and different to do.  This was such a hit with my students, I thought I'd share it with all of you!

Before actually giving directions for the oragami, I explain the different folds to my students.  Origami is a really different skill than most of my students have, and while the activity is challenging, I didn't want it to be impossible.  I give the directions one step at a time to the group.   I've found that patterns that are more than 8 or 10 steps long are typically too long for a group of 3-4 students to complete in a 20-30 minute speech session. 

I always make sure that I can fold any pattern relatively easily before trying to give directions to my students.  If I can't explain it clearly, I can't expect my kids to be able to follow the direction. 

Origami is a great way to practice many math and geometry concepts (half, diagonally, triangle).  The activity can be paired with the introduction of these concepts in the classroom or used to review some of these terms before the state standardized testing.

Where did I get the patterns?

There are tons of free origami patterns online.  My favorite site is Origami Fun.  It has a lot of great PDF patterns that are one to two pages long.  There are also lots of books available either for purchase or at the local library.  If you are new to Origami, there are tons of videos on You-Tube to walk you through specific patterns (Jumping Frog) or basic folds.

 Where did I get the paper?

For the paper I cut some legal sized paper down to size.  On the free table by the office at the beginning of the school year I found a ream of blue legal sized paper.  I've been using it for lots of things, and it has been perfect for origami paper.  I cut a square off the end for the majority of the possible projects and then have a rectangle left over for the hopping frogs.  My handy-dandy paper cutter was made for scrapbooking, but I find it absolutely indispensable when making my materials.  (I use it for quickly cutting down all printables down to size).

I've been looking for small scrapbooking squares to use for some Origami sessions for added fun and color. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

WH Questions - Part One

WH questions seem to be the single hardest skill for many of the students on my caseload.  Not only is it hard to start with – there are so many levels that you need to help your students build.  Answering questions is difficult for both children with language disability and children who are English langauge learners.  It really impacts student's ability to communicate with their friends, family and teachers.  An inability to answer WH questions also impacts development of reading comprehension and performance in the classroom. 

Now that we've had a quick reminder that questions are *important* - what next?

Starting with yes and no questions and simple what questions, most students need to be taught to answer each question type individually.  What demands a thing, who a person, where a place, when a time and why a reason.  For this simple level I like to use the WH Inference Cards by Super Duper Publications. Super Duper has other WH cards that I don't like for a variety of reasons. 

The basic WH question cards require a simple answer from a student, but to get the answer right they need to know that bees make honey, spiders make webs and cows give us milk.  I work with students from multiple linguistic backgrounds and from a low socioeconomic status.  Sometimes these little bits of knowledge are really too much to ask.  My other main complaint about traditional WH question cards is that during therapy some students memorize the answers to the cards presented, and need to be retaught how to answer the questions in different contexts.

WH Inference Cards
I like the inference questions much better.  To answer the question, the student needs to look at the picture and make a guess as to what the answer is.  When I use these cards I can collect a baseline, with out worrying about if I am testing a student's knowledge or their question skills.  Because inferencing is a little more difficult, for the baseline, I carefully select which questions to present to have the most visible answers present.  If you are regularly using the same cards to baseline and check progress you can always pull out the cards and put them on the back of the ring to separate them from your general use deck.  During therapy, my kids are not only practicing answering questions, they are practicing making inferences from pictures and using some higher level cognitive skills.  My students are making connections and are generalizing WH questions into a variety of activities sooner because they are really learning HOW to answer the questions, and not answers to specific questions.  

When working on questions - it is always useful to have a Questions Chart (linked to google docs) to help us figure out how to answer questions.  Many of my kids are visual learners or learn best when a skill is addressed through multiple modalities.  I have also delivered this into the hands of teachers working on classroom interventions.

I use the inference question cards to start working on questions, and from there, a variety of materials exist to help practice.  I am a big advocate of using as many things as possible in therapy to promote generalization of their skills.  I can't count how many things I've found even in a quick search online, but below are some of my favorite ones to use.

WH Chipper Chat by Super Duper

10 boards, each with a list provided list of questions.  Some of the questions directly relate to the picture on the board, others are more personal to each student, such as "Do you like..."  When working in groups this is a great activity to start to build question asking skills rather than just working on answering questions.  After you ask a student a question, tell them to "Find out if ____ likes puzzles too."  or to "Ask ___, do you like puzzles?"  This helps to remind students to pay attention on everyone's turn and to help build connetions between asking questions and answering questions.

 Ivan's Iceberg by Linguisystems

This game comes with yes/no, what, who, where, why, how and when question cards.  Each card has a picture and 3 questions.  The students take turns at the game and practice answering questions.  The variety of practice materials that come with this game have made it easy to seamlessly switch back and forth between students working at different skill levels and on different question types.

What's Happening Photo Cards by Lakeshore Learning

I love using any pictures in therapy, not just limited to answering questions, but these are particularly targeted toward answering questions.  The back of every card has questions at multiple levels, the kids can grab and read the back of the cards to their heart's content, but still have to use their brains to come up with the answers.

One question type that is always particularly sticky to get kids to answer is Why questions.  There are several ways to answer the different questions that kids seem to get a little stuck.  For one student in particular, I ended up writing out the answers to most of the "Why Inference" cards pictured above in all three ways, showing because, so and to.  We practiced sorting the different answers into the correct format, and then practiced generating the answers.  We used a Color Coded Chart (why questions) (linked to google docs) and color coded markers to represent the different parts of the question.  With targeted strategies used by me, a home intervener and some homework, this student went from responding to ALL questions with "yes" to being able to respond to Why questions in her school work appropriately.

Working on question skills is a never ending activity... More ideas later!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Homework is on my mind right now, as many of my 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders will soon be missing 2 weeks of speech as it is standardized testing season.  Language homework can be difficult to figure out for your higher level students, but articulation homework is so easy, there's really no excuse.

I think homework is extremely important for my students.  I know that all of us have had at least one student who is at 0% accuracy on their speech sound in the hallway when talking and then the “light switch” flips and then they are 100% in conversation in the speech room.  Homework is one way to get those good productions out of my room and into the classroom and home.   The short homework time allows parents to hear the progress their child is making.  It also gives the child an experience using the right sounds with their parents.  The parent becomes more in tune to correct and incorrect productions and can positively reinforce when the child starts to generalize into conversation. The child starts to think that the parent is listening to the correct productions and starts monitoring the speech at home.  And for me?  It’s a win-win as I dismiss another one and reduce my caseload. 

I have several rules for all homework I assign.  

1. Signed by a Parent
All of my homework needs to be signed by a parent and when the student returns it they get an extra sticker.  3, 6, or 8 stickers are redeemed for prizes, depending on how many times a week I see the student.   I think we all are familiar with the system.   My kids also earn stickers for following the rules of the room during their therapy sessions.  The nature of the district I work in means I’m pretty flexible about the definition of a parent and typically say “mom, dad or whoever takes care of you.”  I’ve gotten back papers signed by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, big sisters and mom’s boyfriend.  As long as my students are practicing with someone they regularly communicate with

2. Clear Time Limit on the Assignment
One thing I try to be clear about when sending things home is to make sure that kids and parents are aware of is that I expect my homework to take about 5 minutes.  Families’ lives are so busy and many of my kids need extra help for both speech sounds and other homework things.  Once you add in sports and parent’s lives beyond kids, there is precious little time for extra.  By keeping such a short time limit on it, the less involved parents are able to spend a short amount of time and the student still has extra practice.  On the other end of the spectrum, the highly involved parents don’t make their child spend an hour practicing the same ten words.

3. Kids Pick Their Own Words to Practice.
There is more than one reason for this.  The first being, I simply don’t have enough time to select 10 new words for each student every time I send homework.  The second, and primary reason, I want kids to pick words that they practice.  They need to practice words that they need to say.  I’ve had more than one student add a sibling or friend’s name to their list of things to practice.  I’ve even had a few pick my name, Liz, for either L or Z sounds.  Once I have kids practicing reading in therapy I may also add words that they are struggling with to their list of things to practice, such as multiple s/z words or complex blends so their homework targets specific things they need to work on.  And for a bonus point – writing down homework words keeps hands and brains busy while other students are practicing.

4. When to Send Homework?
I send homework on one the last session for a given week, or when there is a break during speech therapy.  I will typically send homework right before my indirect service week (I do the 3:1 service delivery model) and all other breaks in school such as Winter and Spring breaks.  My second through sixth grade articulation students, who are at or beyond the word level, get some kind of homework at least every other week.  The ones who ask for homework will get it a little more often.

Now that we’ve got the rule system worked out – what to send home?
Articulation kids are relatively easy.  I just have them pick 10 words off their word list and write them down to take home to practice.  When they get further along in the therapy progression, I have them start doing thinks like working doing their reading homework while paying attention to their speech sounds, and having 5 minute conversations with their parents using good speech sounds.  For each sticker I typically make kids do things 2-3 times rather than just once.  

I have a separate half-sheet for both words and sentences.

The google docs are here:

What do I do when the homework doesn’t come back!?!
Before I start this topic, I should start with a disclaimer – I’m not big on having consequences leave my room (outside of extreme situations).  99% of the time my students will not earn a sticker and life goes on.  I might be working on speech and language skills, but the reality is that I’m a kind of therapist.  I want my students to feel like we’re in a safe space.

This is the thing that I struggle with most.  I require a parent/guardian signature to comeback with homework.  For some of my kids, heartbreakingly, it’s really too much to ask.  I’ve had them practice with afterschool instructors, big-brother/big-sisters and working things out with the classroom teacher is another option.  I work things out for these students on an individual basis and I usually know which parent's aren't going to be involved.  For some of these students, I will stop sending homework because of the stress it causes the student.

The second reason that my homework comes back is because homework in general is not coming back.  Many of my kids who have this problem are on the EBD teacher’s caseload.  I continue sending homework and hope it comes back.  The few assignments I get back are better than nothing.  School in general is typically very hard for these kids.  I don’t like putting added pressure on them for homework as some days getting them to my room is challenging enough.

The third type of non-returner of homework I’m currently dealing with is the student who just can’t be made to care about speech.  They try their best every time they are in the speech room and do fairly well.  Out of sight and out of mind.  No homework, no practice, not even awareness of the next speech session….  The most effective thing I have is taking good data right before and right after any service break or long weekend.  If they don’t practice, you can show the student how they did before the break and how they did after and the difference.  Some of these students are counting the days until they get out of speech and this can be an effective ‘carrot’ to encourage practice.

Please share any ideas you have for homework with students!  In the past, I’ve printed or copied picture pages from No Glamour Articulation (Lingusystems) or the Webber Jumbo Articulation Book (Super Duper) and even gotten wordlists from the HELP for Articulation (Linguisystems).  For younger students, I will often tear a “mastered” page off the front of the picture-packet for them to take home to “show mommy and daddy how good you’re doing!”

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Aftermath of the PEEPing

A short post for Easter!

My students really loved the Peeps activity.  My two stickiest students were in 5th and 6th grade.  (neither of them is pictured...). One of my students with high functioning Autism found eating the chick shaped Peeps to be too mean, and said that she would have been willing to eat bunnies instead.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well some of my lower students did during the describing and predicting stages of the activity. 

Many of my second and fifth students made connections to the science units that their classrooms were doing and made good use of science vocabulary: hypothesis, experiment, control, variables.  It was a great time.  I have a feeling next year we will be remembering this year and making predictions about if the bunnies react differently than the chicks did!

I have never been so pleased to have a sink in my room this year!