Friday, April 11, 2014

Easter Fun: A Peek Through the Keyhole Edition

With over two, snow-free weeks, buds on the trees, and some green popping out from the ground, I think it's safe to say that spring is making itself known in the Midwest!  I nearly did some sad looking cartwheels on my front lawn when I saw our green flower stems bursting through the cold ground!  After this winter in Chicago, I can honestly say that I've never been more excited to see temperatures in the forties.  Feels like a heat wave after months of crazy, below zero days.  In celebration, I decided to post what spring looks like in my speech room at Naperville Therapediatrics.

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about three activities incorporating plastic eggs that I use at my elementary school site.  Today, I will show you some of the preschool Easter activities I recently created for my private clients.  Since the majority of my private caseload is in preschool through first grade, these activities seemed most appropriate for little ones working on communication.

First, I put together a matching game with plastic eggs shaped like cars.  I used my son's, former basket to hold matched items and I cut the plastic eggs apart so they could be scattered in my grass-filled sensory table.  My goal was to have my client successfully match the same colors and then request help from an adult to put the two pieces together.  In previous sessions, I had him sorting colored bears into cups, but this task with eggs seemed a bit more functional and appropriate for this time of year.

Next, I took some Easter stickers and cut each one in half.  Then, I placed each half of the sticker along the seam of one egg.  This task is for a few of my older, preschool clients that are working at a higher level for matching.  Once the pairs are assembled, I set three eggs at a time on my therapy table and work on color and picture comprehension by asking clients to "get", "give", or "show" a target.

I am also working on comprehension skills while having some clients identify a target sticker in a field of three while making a cute, Easter craft with foam die cuts. Sometimes, I use this same activity for one client who is practicing making requests and responding to directions with her voice output device.  She is very good at identifying and expressing colors, so this craft task is perfect for her!

Before you know it, we will be fully launching into spring with activities about bugs and flowers!  Be sure to check in next month again to peek through the keyhole at my private speech and language practice!  Happy Spring! We earned it this year!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Three Speech and Language Lessons Using Plastic Eggs

Like many of you that have braved the winter along the East Coast and Midwest regions, I couldn't wait to celebrate spring!  Although, spring is just a tease right now with a day or two of 40 degree temperatures followed by snow!  Nevertheless, I pulled out my Easter decorations and spring materials over the last week and I have some oldies and a new idea to share that will surely put a smile on your face even if you're still drinking hot chocolate at the end of March!  All of these activities involve plastic eggs, a good ol' fashion egg hunt, and a side of speech and language.

Back by popular demand from last year are my idiom eggs.  So many of my students struggle with interpreting figurative language, and this is a fun way to make something challenging a little more tolerable.  I used a sharpie to write idioms related to spring and Easter on each egg, and then I cut small scraps of green papers and wrote a simple interpretation on one side and points on the other.  Since some idioms were easier to interpret than others, I designated those to be worth just one point, while harder, less familiar idioms were worth two to three points.  After students collect these eggs in a hunt, they sit down, pick an egg from the basket, try to guess the meaning, and finally, open eggs to see if their responses are similar. Earning points adds a little more incentive to take some time to process interpretations.  Here is a list of the idioms that I have on my plastic eggs:

  • He is all ears when we talk about Mindcraft.
  • We have candy coming out of our ears!
  • The grass is always greener in someone else's yard.
  • You're no bunny until some bunny loves you.
  • We always have to walk on eggshells around her.
  • You have egg on your face.
  • He cracks me up!
  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket!
  • Please don't spill the beans!
  • Chicks rule!
  • He just loves to egg people on!
  • You're such a good egg!
  • Her ring is 24 carrots.
  • Grinning from ear to ear.

Next up, I have my famous, early intervention eggs.  You can read much more about this activity (here).  I actually use these eggs all year round to stimulate little ones to communicate using a variety of intents such as requesting "more", "help", and "all done". These eggs filled with mini treasures are also great for labeling/naming objects, greeting, imitating simple actions with sounds, pointing, following directions, and commenting.  The skies the limit!  If you want, you can hide the eggs for an egg hunt or just sit on the floor and play with them one at a time.

Finally, I recently came up with an idea for practicing EVERY target speech sound using just a couple bags of eggs, some paper bags or baskets, scrap paper, and an iPad or speech sound card decks.  I found several of these adorable carrot eggs at the Dollar Tree and couldn't resist buying a bunch.

Since they are see through, I folded pieces of paper with numbers one through three written on them and then placed one paper in each egg.  This time, each child should have his or her own paper bag or basket to collect eggs for the hunt.  Using either your iPad with your favorite articulation app or speech sound card decks, have students take turns opening eggs in their baskets to reveal how many productions they need to make for each target word.  If working on a motor memory for speech is important, then have them practice the same word a couple times.

I hope these activities help bring some signs of spring to your speech room!  Enjoy!!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Expanding Expressions Toolkit (EET) Product Review- Peek Through the Keyhole Edition

This month's edition of:  Peek Through the Keyhole features the Expanding Expressions Toolkit (EET) by fellow Speech Pathologist, Sara L. Smith.  Over the last few months, I have been using this program with great success with a fourth grader in my private practice.   I was so delighted to open this EET package when it arrived a few days before Christmas that my husband contemplated returning the gifts he bought me because he didn't think his presents could bring as much joy.  Pretty sure I did an exceptionally long happy dance.

I have been following all the buzz from other SLP bloggers about this multi-sensory approach for improved oral language and writing for students in kindergarten through high school.  Here are some links to a few of my favorites:

Speech Room News
Crazy Speech World
Speech Time Fun
The Speech Bubble
Carrie's Speech Corner

Just in case you have not seen an EET kit, here are the basic components:

First, you get the manual with the kit which includes five sections:  introduction, general descriptions, additional prompts, organizers, and parent program.  You will find baseline data sheets, worksheet activities for each descriptor bead, classroom prompts, student organizers, home activities, and much more in this manual. Basically, this book is a GOLD MINE!

Also included in the kit are two sets of beads, a large one for classroom instruction and one small strand for individual use.  The latter helps students become more independent with expressive language skills in a less conspicuous manner while still getting visual and tactile cues.  One item not pictured below is a collection of small, circular, color-coded stickers that can be used during writing activities in place of the beads.  Basically, each bead represents a descriptor cue for target vocabulary and here is the breakdown:

Eyeball=What does it look like?
Wood=What is it Made of?
White=Where can you find it?
?=What else do I know?

Also included in the kit are picture cards with familiar objects, which you can break out for immediate EET practice.  Some of the cards include the EET coding, which is great for cuing students at their desk.  A few of the other cards in this deck offer lesson plan ideas.  

The foam dice in the kit are perfect for small group games.  Just roll the dice and answer the color coded question about the target object.

Finally, there is a large cardboard stand that you can display on your therapy table or in the classroom that explains what each color represents.

For the last couple months, I have been using EET with a private language client who is in the fourth grade and receives special education programming.  She attends private speech and language sessions at my practice: Naperville Therapediatrics twice weekly for 60 minutes.  In August 2013, language testing revealed limited vocabulary use, reduced sentence structure, and delayed comprehension.  While she does very well during discrete learning trials, she struggles with retaining and recalling information.   Her school special education team asked if I could help increase this student's ability to use and comprehend vocabulary, especially homophones, so I began to research the EET program to address these delays.

My first step was gathering baseline information.  I used the chart included in the EET manual and some target vocabulary that we had covered in previous therapy sessions.  After I collected a baseline, I started teaching the representation for each bead.

Then, I introduced worksheets from the EET manual starting at the top and working my way down the beaded link.  Some of these activities sheets were more challenging than others, so I used my discretion for ones I felt were appropriate for a child my client's age.

One strategy that was particularly useful involved incorporating our notes into a guessing game.  For example, during a therapy session that focused on the "white bead with the eyeball", we generated a list of descriptive words in the client's notebook.  I wrote category titles:  colors, size, shape, and quality, and then we brainstormed words that could be classified under each of these.  Using this list and picture cards, we played a guessing game.  The rules were that you could only describe the picture by referring to the "What does it look like" list.  Instead of getting a point for guessing the target accurately, I gave points to the person giving the best clues.  In the end, this guessing game was a powerful motivator for my client to use descriptive words.

The other target that my client needed some extra support with was homophones.  Although it was pretty challenging to use the EET beads when defining verbs like "dress",  I found I could definitely use the EET system with homophone noun pairs as in the word "ball."  My ultimate goal was to help this client grasp that you can use some words in multiple ways.  Incorporating the EET beads in homophone descriptions appeared to increase her ability to define and describe these vocabulary terms during clinic sessions.

When I compared how this client responded at baseline to her responses while using the EET beads, she recalled a little more detail about each subject.  Here is one before/ after example taken recently after having covered worksheets for the following:  group, function, and "looks like."  At this point, we had discussed the meaning for each bead at every therapy session, but we had only covered half of the EET manual.

Tell me everything you know about Beluga Whales-

Baseline response on 1/7/2014:  
"It has sharp teeth and of course it has to eat fish.  It swallows fish.  It's a carnivore too because it likes to eat meat.  And it can make an echo.  If its danger and it makes sound."

Halfway through program on 3/7/2014:
Animals (ocean/sea)
Swims underwater; moves its head (modeled demonstration); eats fishes; uses echolocation
White and Brown
It has little teeth.  They don't chew, they swallow.
See them at aquarium

At baseline, she told me about its: group (carnivore), parts (teeth) and what it does (eats fish and echos.)  Using the EET beads, she added a few more details about the following:  what it does (moves head, swims underwater), what it looks like (white and brown), made of (bones), and where you may see them (aquarium.)  If we look at this data from a percentage standpoint, then she used 3/6 (50%) description points at baseline and 6/6 (100%) details with EET beads.  She increased the number of details provided in three other samples too.  I would not only call this program a success for this client, but I also predict continued improvement as we progress through the workbook programming.

Since I'm a big fan of seasonal units and visual cuing, I thought it would be appropriate to take clip art and add lines to the image for EET description.  Below are some of my ideas for each season/ holiday:

New Year's party hat, hot chocolate mug, Valentine cupcake, basketball, umbrella, flower, sun, fireworks, pail and shovel, swimming pool, leaf, pumpkin, turkey, snowman and Christmas tree/ dreidel.

Follow the highlighted word to view a sample worksheet that I made to describe a cupcake using free clip art from Blooming in First.  If you want to print this sample, then go to 'file' and select 'download' as a 'PDF.'  

I'm always looking for new ways to incorporate EET into my language lessons.  Please share in the comments any new and unique ways that you have used EET in your therapy programming or attach a link of your materials in the comment section below.

I am so appreciative of Sara's efforts and hard work in designing this EET program and I look forward to implementing it with more clients in my speech and language practice!  If you would like more information about the EET program, you can go to the links below for descriptions and ordering details:

A complimentary EET kit was provided for this review.  No other compensation was received and all opinions expressed in this post are solely mine.

Friday, February 14, 2014

March though May Speech and Language Homework

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!!  I thought I'd spread a little love this morning by sharing my remaining monthly, speech and language homework sheets for March through May.  If you missed my previous post about how I am managing homework this school year, then go to this link and read all about it!

I had such a great response to my homework post that included attachments for December through February homework plans, that I decided to share my spring packets!  My students at my private school contract setting continue to respond well to these monthly assignments as opposed to weekly ones.  On average, 85% (13/15) of my small caseload returns the homework on time.  Most parents have enjoyed the new homework routine and it has saved me a tremendous amount of time with only needing to make copies once a month!  I'm calling this plan a win and hope that it has helped make your SLP lives a little easier too!

March Language Homework
March Articulation Homework

April Language Homework
April Articulation Homework

May Language Homework
May Articulation Homework

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Introducing the First Installment of: A Peek Through the Keyhole! Valentine Edition

Welcome to the first installment of:  A Peek Through the Keyhole, where I will feature an activity from my private therapy practice! Each month, I will post a seasonal activity straight from a preschool, elementary, or middle school speech and language session at Naperville Therapediatrics.  This post highlights a new edition to my therapy space: my sensory table, that now contains all sorts of fun for Valentine's Day.

Working collaboratively with occupational therapists throughout my career, I have seen firsthand the benefits of incorporating sensory activities into speech and language therapy sessions.  We learn through our sensory exploration of dry/ wet and heavy/ light as we touch these items through play.   Some of these textures in particular can be quite calming, which you may have observed yourself while holding onto smooth, warm stones during manicures or digging through the sand to build a castle at the beach.  When we add language to these sensory experiences, the play becomes much more meaningful and we are more likely to retain what we learned from such a rich opportunity.

For some time, I have been using sensory buckets in my speech practice.  Back when I spent my days on the road in early intervention, I filled shoe boxes with rice, pasta, and beans and used them to hide puzzle pieces or Mr. Potato Head parts.  Now that I have my own practice, I have been using larger buckets filled with seasonal things like stands of bright blue beads with water animals or brown party bag shreds with plastic bugs.  Then, I thought I needed to go even BIGGER with the container, so I dragged in my son's former sand and water table from One Step Ahead and presto: instant happiness among many!!  Here's how I am using it for Valentine's Day themed activities.

First and most important, I buy the majority of my sensory box supplies from the Dollar Tree.  I recently found three hundred rose petals for a dollar: score!  I decided to fill half my table with a couple bags of petals and hide various animals in the collection.

Then, I bought a couple bags of kidney beans at the grocery store and dumped those in the other end of the table.  This side is so much fun because we can fill tin containers and use them as shakers, dump and pour beans, and pretend to feed the animals hidden in the petals.

I picked up a heart shape tin and mini mailbox from the Target Dollar spot and added an empty Hershey's chocolate candy tin that my husband recently brought back from a trip to China, which is everyone's favorite!  I had at least ten, mini, foam hearts from previous Valentine Days that I'm hiding under beans to dig out and count as we "deliver" them in the mailbox.

How do I use this table to meet speech and language goals you ask?  First, I hold at least three animals up and ask the client to "Get" a target animal to feed some beans for a receptive/ comprehension drill.  I'm also trying to incorporate using a client's new voice output device to name animals for an expressive vocabulary task.    We are using the shakers while singing favorite songs as I pause to see if clients can either fill in sounds, words, or gestures.  Finally, we count the hearts while filling the mailbox.  "Working" in the sensory table allows me to model actions paired with words like: pour, eat, dig, hide, and mix.

I love starting my sessions at this table because it's fun, functional, and calming!!  I think the kids are enjoying it too!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

There's an App for That...,

It's daunting having so many apps available for our devices these days, which makes it so difficult for me to list my favorites when parents ask for advice on which apps to purchase for home practice.  Sure, I can rattle off my most used articulation ones, but the language, phonics, and vocabulary ones always stump me.  So, I decided to create a list to have ready for parent handouts and thought that I would share this resource with you!  These are the apps that I have on my iPad, many of which I have written reviews for either here or at Teachers with Apps. Please be advised that the prices listed were the charges indicated when this post was written, so some may reflect sales. Also be aware that some language apps have both expressive and receptive capabilities.  I put an (*) next to ones that have the ability to work on both.

Which ones did I leave out that you LOVE?  Leave a comment and let me know!  Thanks!!

Educational Apps to Practice Speech & Language Skills- Handout

Friday, January 3, 2014

Seashores to Sea Floors App by Mobile Education Store

It was such a thrill finally meeting Kyle Tomson of the Mobile Education Store at ASHA's national conference in Chicago this past November.  He exudes energy and passion about his work and it was an honor spending some time at the conference with him as he highlighted some of the many features of his Crack the Books series.  I was immediately drawn to one book in this series: Seashores to Sea Floors, since my second grade son has a love for the ocean. Kyle saw my eyes light up and graciously offered me a code to review this wondrous creation with my little explorer.  Seashores to Sea Floors app is a standards based, core curriculum aligned elementary science textbook about the ocean's biome.  It was created in collaboration with the University of Alaska's Department of Oceanography and a team of educators.  Now, sit back and get ready to be amazed!

When you first enter this app, you are prompted to create a user name.  This helps bookmark pages and store notes, which the user may document while reading.

The greatest feature to this app is it's versatility.  You can adapt the reading material for users in first through eighth grade by choosing from five levels.  The content doesn't change between levels, rather the material was calibrated to correspond to specific Lexile bands.  Finally, you get one app that you can use from elementary to middle school!  Plus the visual images, videos, and fun facts that are included in this seem appropriate for users in high school.  I even learned some interesting things while reading a few chapters with my son!

If you would like to have any part of the chapter read for you, it's only a click away.  You need to make sure that you have the audio switch on in the settings screen and your iPad settings must be toggled to allow for sound in the Seashores to Sea Floors app.

As you read through the chapters, images, video clips, and fun facts are displayed along the right side bar.  If you want, you can go directly to other links to see all images and videos displayed in one place.  One fun link is the interactive globe that allows you to spin the earth around and highlight various oceans.

Another fabulous feature to this app is the ability to easily define new vocabulary words with the click of a button. Red color coded words when tapped display a brief definition.  You can set up the app to show definitions for any highlighted word in a variety of languages by highlighting the term, selecting define, and then manage.  Next, you get a list of languages to load via iCloud.  Once this is synced, you can see definitions for any word that you highlight.  I really love this efficient feature that saves the user the trouble of exiting the text to look up a definition, especially since many of my speech and language clients need extra supports with defining age level vocabulary and would likely use this feature more often than a dictionary or web browser.  There are also blue coded words in the text that call attention to changes in images along the right sidebar.  At any point, you can tap a blue coded word and be brought to the matching image in the text.

Speaking of vocabulary terms, there is a direct link to a glossary of terms for all chapters. Users can hear word pronunciations by tapping the play button.  You can also record yourself saying the word and then play it back, but these recordings cannot be saved in the app.

I would be remiss if I didn't tell you about a neat interactive in Chapter 3 when you tap the blue coded word: periscope.  The right side bar displays both an ocean animal and meter.  As you move the joystick to dive deeper, the animal found in that depth appears with a brief fact written underneath the picture.  When the waters become too dark, you can switch on a flashlight to get a better look!  HOW COOL IS THAT?!

Just when you think that you've seen everything, you stumble upon a link for teacher resources that contains information about each book in the Crack the books series, lesson plans, study guides, worksheets, activities, and standards.  In fact, there is so much information at this link that I couldn't fit it all on one screen shot!

Here are some other features to the Seashores to Sea Floors app that were not applicable for my review, but you may find handy in your settings:

  • Cloud backup setup for student settings, bookmarks, highlights, notes, and tests via Dropbox
  • Create notes within the text
  • Search target words
  • Edit text size
  • Have text and test questions read aloud
  • Dictation for essay questions
  • Customize tests
After reading through one chapter, my son graciously agreed to taking a test (with a little encouragement via m&ms). Here are some sample question types:

Upon completion of the test, I was prompted to email the results to a teacher.  I sent the information to myself and opened a document with the questions and indications as to whether his answers were correct or incorrect.

When I asked my eight year old what he liked about this app, he replied, "I learned some new things, and I really liked the videos, fun facts, and definitions." He added that some of the vocabulary was pretty hard for him though.

This past school year, I have volunteered in my son's second grade classroom to read excerpts from the young, National Geographic series.  Even though the students in his classroom are divided into small groups of five or six kids, the reading material is rather challenging for advanced readers in the class.  Despite the vivid images, listener comprehension has appeared rather low.  After reviewing this book in the Crack the Books series, I cannot wait to show it to my son's dynamic, classroom teacher, especially since both the school and the classroom have access to iPads!  I think that she will appreciate something that can be geared towards second grade reading levels with vibrant images and interactives!

You can purchase this unbelievable Seashores to Sea Floors App at iTunes for $9.99.  Mobile Education Store was kind enough to donate a code for one, lucky follower!  Try your luck in the rafflecopter below:

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mobile Education Store provided a code to review this app and one for a rafflecopter.  No other compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.