Monday, June 25, 2012

More Dice Articulation Practice!

It's my birthday - so I'm uploading a present for you!  Free articulation practice printable for everyone to enjoy!

Another sight word practice idea that I found on Pinterest and adapted to articulation therapy with the idea of starting to do some articulation stations.  I'm liking the sight word adaptations for articulation since it seems to be a fun way for kids to practice their words and do something different.  It also turns the articulation practice itself into the game which has been one of my personal goals this year.

Students roll the dice on their turn and add up the total between two dice.  They then complete the task by the target number.  After doing the activity/task students then get the number as points.  The points can be tracked throughout the session to determine who wins! I've found that these work better in smaller groups, because kids need guidance for some of the directions.

Practice in Words
Practice in Sentences

The Google Docs are Here:
Roll a Word - Words and Phrases Level
Roll a Word - Sentence Level

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Woman Who Changed Her Brain

I've been on a temporary hiatus from anything work related.  I spend far more time than I care to admit during the school year, and have really enjoyed my first week off (as a side note, updates will probably occur over the summer, but may be inconsistent).  As I can't completely put everything down,  I have been working my way through a book about a radical new way to look at special education - The Woman Who Changed Her Brain by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young.  I first heard of this idea and program in the book The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge (which isn't the topic but covers a lot more brain-issues than just learning disabilities, including strokes and other brain damage - also I reference it several times below).  Links are to Amazon.

Never have I read a book that makes me both so hopeful and so sad.  The author describes her experience as an individual with severe learning/cognitive disabilities and how she was able to not only overcome them, but actually retrain her brain to free herself.  She then applied these exercises to others and developed additional ones to focus on other cognitive deficits.  The basic premise is that these cognitive deficits are what is preventing children with a variety of learning disabilities and diagnoses cannot learn.  Once the deficit is addressed, through a series of exercises (think weightlifting with the brain) these children are able to learn and perform tasks that were once beyond them.  The book discusses many case studies of both children and adults who have found success going through the program in the The Arrowsmith Schools.  It describes individuals moving from the 4th to 80th percentile on various sub-tests of standardized intelligence tests.

It kind of boggles my mind that there is so much resistance to neural plasticity (most of which was described in the Norman Doidge book).  It fits patterns that have been long observed - the stair step pattern of improvements following a traumatic brain injury [building a neural pathway represents the flat/no progress part of the stairs, and the sudden jump to the next step once the pathway has been formed is an almost perfect illustration...].  I do recognize the difference between seeing changes in a damaged, and healing brain than from someone who was "born that way."

I don't want to mislead anything.  This book is both an autobiography and (almost) an extended advertisement for the Arrowsmith Program.  It doesn't cover any strategies for any remediation of the different cognitive deficits described in the book (there are 14 that can interact in any number and at various severity in individuals). I think actual candidacy for the program was discussed more in the Doidge book than in this one, but the program does not seem to be appropriate for all who apply and that seems to be sorted out in the assessment process.

Going back to my first sentence about the book.  I am hopeful that this is a start of a change in what we view as special education.  The long term outcomes for the kids and adults who completed the programs in the case studies is dramatically different from anything they would have otherwise achieved.  I hope that the kids I work with eventually do have access to this or something similar.  The word eventually makes me sad.   I work in a poor area for a district with no money. My heart breaks that my kids (not to mention all the other sped kids in the building....) will not have access to this kind of help. I see almost mirror reflections of some of my students in the case studies. I can almost label specific kids with some of the deficits described in the book.  The program is beyond the resources of my school district and of the families.

I wish there was some more information about specific things that those of us working with these kids could do now. As the research improves, I hope that these ideas will spread into the mainstream for special education. Unfortunately, my kids, and millions of others are suffering now. It's a stretch for many schools to be able to adopt an Arrowsmith program (all the ones in the US appear to be private schools) but I would love something to use with kids now.

If you know of any resources - please share!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lakeshore Find

At the beginning of May I won a lovely gift card during Teacher Appreciation.  More recently, I made it to Lakeshore Learning to spend it.  After picking up some laminating sheets, I had 30 left to spend.  In the clearance pile at the front of the store, I found 2 games on sale for 14.95 each!  As it's the end of the year and I've been trying to wrap up things that we've already been doing and I keep missing kids, just last week I was able to play both games to see what they were really like! 

I can't find them online as they are being discontinued - so if you want them - check a Lakeshore store near you - soon!

Adjective Silly Circus

Adjective Silly Circus is a Mad Libs Style game where kids go around a game board they collect adjectives to fill one of 8 story cards.  There are adjectives around the game boards to choose from or kids can pick their own adjectives.  I played it with one group and noticed a few things.

1) Kids need to be readers to be successful.  I played it with a fourth grade group of several different reading levels, and my lowest one really had a hard time getting into the game while others were having fun.  I helped with all reading tasks, but he was too frustrated by the reading to get into the silly adjectives.

2) This should be a way to practice adjectives but this isn't an introduction.  I have a group of four kids who were combined later in the year to accommodate a move in who can't be seen in a group.  Two of them have done a lot of work on adjectives and really thought about their choices and seemed to be using their skills.  The other two have been introduced to adjectives but we haven't delved deeper.  These two really struggled with the concepts and didn't get into it as much.

Overall this game is a great way to practice adjective skills and show how a story can change when you add adjectives - especially if you read the card first skipping over all the blank spots.

Verb Volcano

Very volcano is game that works on verb tense and verb agreement within a sentences. 

I tried this game with a group of third grade girls (who I didn't know were coming, so I just grabbed the game to try it).  We have done no work on verbs in my room, so these were new language concepts in this environment.  I read the cards saying "blank" omitting the verb, and read the sentence 3 more times inserting each choice.  The students then selected their guess.  I had the student who's turn it was pick first, and then I had the other two agree or disagree with the answer.  The girls had fun and really were thinking about their responses.  As we haven't worked on verb skills, I was surprised by what they knew and didn't know.

One thing I really appreciated, was that all the cards were focused on a Volcano Explorer theme, so it would be easy to use along with a explorer's or nature unit from the classroom.

I could really see using this games in two different ways:
1) As a check to see what verb tenses my kids know and don't know and what they need to work on.
2) As a way to practice verb tenses that we are working on.  It would be relatively easy to sort on the four main verb tenses shown in the game: present, third person singular, present progressive and past tense and focus those kind of cards with a group.

I would recommend both games, but can see my self using Verb Volcano more often.  If you developed a list of adjectives containing target sounds - the Adjective Silly Circus Game could be a fun way to work on reading in Articulation Therapy.

**these are games I own and Lakeshore Learning has not asked me to review them and I am not being compensated in anyway.