January 11, 2017

Game Review: Bunny Peek-A-Boo

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Sometimes I run across a therapy material that is so awesome that I just have to share! Last month, a kind parent gave me an Amazon gift card to use towards therapy materials and one of the things I bought was "Bunny Peek-a-Boo" by SmartGames. It had been on my Therapy wishlist forever, but I hesitated to buy it because of the steep price (close to $30). Now that I own the game I am so glad I do!

Bunny Peek-a-Boo consists of three wooden blocks, a wooden bunny figure, and picture cards. The premise is simple: students have to arrange the blocks and bunny figure in such a way that it matches the picture on the card. There are 60 different challenges at four different difficulty levels (15 challenges for each level).

I used this during my therapy sessions with students ranging from Kindergarten through 5th grade (the 5th graders were students from our self-contained Special Day Class) - everyone thoroughly enjoyed it! Even though this toy is recommended for ages 2+, some of my older SDC students already began to struggle at Level 2, which was great in terms of learning opportunities. 

This game is excellent for speech & language therapy, as it promotes problem-solving, flexible thinking, and can be used to work on positional concepts (e.g., "Where is the bunny?" - "The bunny is on top of the blue block").

I absolutely LOVE this product and given it's sturdy quality I know we'll be using it for years to come! I can't recommend it enough!

January 6, 2017

Have You Filled a Bucket Today - An Extension Activity

One concept that I love using with the students in my social skills group is that of Bucketfilling. This idea is based on the book "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids" by Carol McCloud. 

Basically, the gist of the book is that everyone carries around an invisible bucket that represents the level of an individual's happiness. When someone's bucket is full, the person is feeling happy, and when the bucket is empty, the person is feeling sad. The author emphasizes that you should fill others' buckets by being kind and doing nice things for them. This in turn, will fill your own bucket.

I revisit this concept annually with the students in my social skills group and we talk about different ways to fill someone's bucket. This year we took it a little bit further. My students observed that in the book, a person's bucket tends to bear resemblance to the person it belongs to - for example, if the person is wearing glasses, the bucket is wearing glasses. We decided to create our very own personalized buckets to practice bucketfilling.

You will need:
First, we designed the buckets. Students colored their buckets in a way to resemble them. We also glued on wiggly eyes to add some life to them. We then used the pipe cleaners to poke through the styrofoam rim and create a handle.

Some of my students really got into it and spend a lot of time creating bucket-masterpieces. One student insisted on having Pikachu sit on his bucket's shoulder. I loved to see the level of creativity! 

Once the buckets were completed, we started practicing the act of bucketfilling. In the book, the happiness and good feelings filling one's bucket are represented by rainbow stars and hearts. In the past, I have used plastic coins and pompoms during these lessons, but this year I found something even better: Foam Beads! These beads come in different shapes and colors and kind of look like the bucket contents in the book.

For this part of the lesson, we practiced filling each other's buckets by complimenting or doing nice things for the people in our group. Students loved seeing their buckets getting fuller. We also practiced bucket-dipping: if a student interrupted or misbehaved in some other way, shapes were removed from the teacher's bucket and their own bucket.

There are so many things you can do with the concept of bucketfilling and this is just one of them!

December 15, 2016

Scheduling Efficient Make-Up Therapy Sessions

Winter is here, and with it come seasonal illnesses. I'm fighting a bad cold as I am typing this. If you are anything like me, you hate missing work because it is impossible to find the time in our busy schedules to squeeze in make-up sessions. However, life happens and sometimes you just have to take a day off. I figured I should write a post on how I try to do make-up sessions efficiently, getting as many kids seen as possible in the least amount of time while providing an adequate learning experience. Be aware that when you run large group lessons, you will need access to an adequate amount of space - make sure to reserve a spare classroom / conference room beforehand!

Before you get started, you will need to make a list of students working on like goals or at similar skill levels. Your group may have 5 students, or it may have 10, whatever works for you! Some examples of students I might group together are as follows:
  • all 12 of my SDC students
  • all of my 1st/2nd grade students with language goals
  • all of my students working on a particular sound
  • students with social skill needs
Once you have your list of students that will get seen together, you will decide on an activity to do with them. Some of my favorite large group activities include:
Guess Who is a favorite!
  • Jeopardy (see this related blog post) - I love this because it is versatile and can be adapted for artic, language, social skills, etc.
  • Guess Who - this game can easily be adapted into a large group activity for the classroom. It targets multiple skills and is always a hit with my SDC students!
  • Read a book to the group and work on comprehension
  • Felt board stories are great to work on comprehension and vocabulary with younger students, and they are hands-on
  • Target a specific social skill - you could do a Volume lesson using the 5-point scale, read "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?", etc. 
  • Speech stations - with large articulation groups, you can rotate the students through stations, at each of which they work independently. I am planning a blog post on activities to include at Stations, so stay tuned!
  • Play 20 Questions - Have a student take turns thinking of a mystery item, while the other students in the group ask Yes/No questions and attempt to guess the item
  • Charades - this is another great group activity, because you can have students split up into separate teams  
These are just a few ideas to get started... by seeing students in larger groups for make-up sessions, you can save time for other important tasks and make sure everyone is getting seen. Can you think of any other great activities that lend themselves to large groups? Please leave a comment!

December 8, 2016

My 8 Best Tips for Teaching Question Formulation

Being able to formulate questions is an important language skill that is also emphasized in the Speaking and Listening section of the Common Core Standards. Yet, many of our language delayed students lack the grammatical skills to ask basic questions using correct word order. I can’t even begin to tell you how often I hear things like, “We can play a game today?”, “What we doing today?”, “I doing a good job?” Questions that begin with auxiliaries (e.g., is/are, can, do/does/did, will, would/could) seem to be particularly challenging.

This post showcases my favorite ways to work on question formulation with students.
  1. Games: Games are always a great way to get student buy-in. Some good choices are “Guess Who? ”, “HedBanz”, and “Mystery Garden”, all of which involve having students ask questions to guess a mystery item.
  2.  Wh-Cards: Most of us own Wh-question cards that we use to work on answering Wh-questions. You can also use these to work on question formulation by showing your students the card with the answer and prompting them, “Ask me a Who/What/Where/When/Why question about ___.” For example, you could give them a card with “Milk” on it and prompting them, “Ask me a Who question about milk.” Correct responses would include “Who gives milk?” “Who likes to drink milk?” etc.
  3.   Sentence Questions: Have students formulate questions about specific sentence elements. Read a sentence including Who/What/Where/When/Why elements (e.g., On Saturday, Suzy went to the store to buy some milk) and have students ask specific questions about the elements. You could prompt them in multiple ways: "Ask me a Who question about this sentence" or "How can I ask find out who went to the store?"
  4. Magic 8 Ball: This is my favorite way to work on these pesky Yes/No questions that involve auxiliary reversal. You are probably familiar with the classic Magic 8 Ball toy. You ask a Yes/No question, shake the ball, and the answer will magically pop up. Kids absolutely LOVE this thing! It is also a great tool for working on articulation carryover.
  5.  20 Questions: Think up a random item (these Picture Cards by Language Builder work great for this). Students then have to guess the item by asking yes/no questions (e.g., Is it an animal? Is it red?) until they guess the item. You can also purchase this activity in a board game format: 20 Questions for Kids.
  6. Interview: Have students interview each other (or you!) to find out more about each other. You can pretend to be news reporters.
  7. Conversation Starters: Similar to the above suggestion, you can use pre-made conversation starters to have students ask each other a variety of questions. My Conversation Starters UNO works great for this purpose!
  8. Have Students be the Teacher: Kids love it when the roles are reversed. For this activity you could read a story and then have students come up with comprehension questions that you have to answer for students to see if the teacher was paying attention.
    I hope these tips are somewhat helpful. Working on question formulation isn't exactly exiting, but now you should some ideas of how to bring variety into teaching this skill.

      December 1, 2016

      Making Your Own SGM Braid

      I always have a number of students working on listening comprehension. I have tried different programs to teach this, including Visualizing and Verbalizing by Lindamood-Bell. However, the one tool I always seem to come back to is the Story-Grammar-Marker (SGM) braid by Mindwing Concepts.

      The original Braidy
      For those unfamiliar with the SGM program - it is essentially a visual organizer that can be used to talk about and recall story elements. It consists of a braid that can be manipulated via removable icons and beads. Each part of the bead corresponds to a different story element. 

      I have been using this braid with some of my 5th grade students to work on short story / paragraph comprehension this fall. They really loved "Braidy", so I promised them that I would figure out a way to make our very own version of the story braid to keep. 

      To create our homemade SGM braid, I searched for beads similar to the ones on the original Braidy, which we strung onto a pipe cleaner and secured with a Binder Ring. Some of the beads we used include Smiley Beads, Star Beads, Heart Beads, Faceted Beads, and a hand bead (I found this one at Walmart!).

      The result was a cute little visual that students can use whenever we work on story retell.They really enjoyed making these and are now even more into the retell activities than before! This is a great extension activity for those little hands-on learners if you are using SGM with them.

      October 27, 2016

      Mummy Candle Holder Craftivity

      My Speech kids and I spent this week making one last craft before Halloween - Mummy candle jars. This craft is not only super cute, but really easy and cheap to make (a little more expensive if you choose to send a candle home with it - but that part is up to you). This is also an easy activity to add a therapeutic spin to it... just keep on reading.

      To make these candle holders, you will need:

      To make the candle holders, follow these steps:
      1. Use the brush to apply Mod Podge all around the baby food jar
      2. Stick on strips of gauze one at a time, until no spots of glue are left
      3. Use the hot glue gun to glue on the eyes
      4. Place a candle inside and enjoy :)

      To make this into a therapy activity, you can have students "earn" the strips of gauze by completing language tasks or practicing target words. I also used mummy-themed books to work on comprehension with some of my language groups before making the craft. Some great mummy-books that I have used include:

      Skeleton Meets the Mummy
      Where's My Mummy?
      Runaway Mummy
      There Was an Old Mummy Who Swallowed a Spider

      Our mummies turned out adorable, and we made a whole "graveyard" with them. This is only a portion of our mummies:

      This craftivity was the perfect ending to a fun-filled October. I can't wait until next year!!