January 13, 2018

Using STEM in Speech: Rocks and Minerals

Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

For the months of November and December, our STEM unit focused on Geology! A lot of my students surprised me with how into rocks they were and many of them already had some basic knowledge about different rocks and minerals.

Since I have groups functioning at different skill levels, I had to make sure to come up with activities that would fit my students' level of functioning. Here are some of the activities we did to learn about rocks and minerals:

1. Geology Lap Book
My older language students got to make an interactive rock and mineral lapbook. I bought the template for this product on TPT. It is a  great tool for teaching about the layers of the earth, the rock cycle, different types of rocks, the difference between rocks and minerals, features of minerals, and key vocabulary words. It was a great activity, but I should note that this activity would work best with students you see twice a week - even though I pre-cut many of the items, it still took us 3-4 sessions to create the whole thing. My students liked being able to take something home after it was finished. You will need a file folder for each student.

2. Explore Rock Types
This activity allows you to teach students about the three different types of rock and works for a variety of groups. I purchased three different sets of Rock Specimen by Educational Insights: (1) Igneous Rock Collection, (2) Sedimentary Rock Collection, and (3) Metamorphic Rock Collection. We talked about how the different types of rocks are formed and described each rock by its appearance. We then used the included reference sheet to find out the name of the rock. This activity worked well for older language and articulation students. It was challenging to match some of the rocks to the correct picture due to lighting differences in the photography, but we still had fun!

3. Mineral Sort
This activity was probably my students' favorite and was one that I could use with all of my groups, even my younger SDC caseload! Using Dancing Bear's Rock & Mineral Collection Activity Kit, we described the appearance and texture of the different minerals and then used the reference sheet to find the name of the mineral. You can target different skills with this activity, as well, including expressive language, articulation, fluency, and even social skills (sharing the minerals and not fighting over who gets to describe and match a specific mineral). This was definitely a favorite!

4. Making Pet Rocks
This activity was perfect for my younger students and SDC students! Prior to this lesson, I collected some rocks in the park behind our school and washed them. It would have been fun to let my students do this, but we just didn't have enough time. Then I let my students decorate their rocks with googly eyes, pompoms, beads, buttons, sequins, ... whatever! You can use this opportunity to work on appropriate requesting ("I want a blue pompom, please") with lower functioning kiddos. We used a Pet Rock worksheet that is included in this TPT packet by Reagan Tunstall to give our rocks some personality. This was a fun activity and all of our rocks turned out super cute!

Hopefully this gives you some inspiration for your own rock and mineral STEM lesson in Speech! What is another activity you can think of? Feel free to leave a comment!

November 30, 2017

A ROCKing Speech Activity

Our monthly STEM theme is Rocks and Minerals. While a more detailed post on all of our various STEM activities will follow, I wanted to showcase one product that we've been getting a ton of mileage out of during our sessions as it can be adapted to different disorders and ability levels: Dancing Bear's Rock and Mineral Kit.

This kit contains over 150 random pieces of rocks and minerals, including two geodes, arrowheads, and shark teeth. There is also a reference sheet that you can use to identify the minerals. Prior to using the kit in therapy I sorted the pieces into their respective categories and placed them in a jewelry organizer (although this might have been a fun activity for students in and of itself!). Here are some different therapy activities that I have done with my kiddos so far:

1. Describing: This is a great activity no matter whether a student is working on language, articulation, or fluency. We talked about the shape, size, color, and texture. A lot of my younger students didn't know what "rough" versus "smooth" meant, so we were able to hit those concepts pretty hard. You can also sneak in words like "opaque" and "translucent".

2. Matching: This was a favorite activity! After describing each mineral I had students find them on the reference sheet. This is a great activity to promote team work / social skills.
3. Guessing game: Another fun activity we did was "Mystery Mineral". I had students pick a mineral and provide clues based on the mineral's attributes. Once again, this activity could be adapted for different goal areas.

4. Compare and Contrast: We also used this minerals for a basic compare and contrast activity. You can use a Venn diagram to talk about the differences.

I love the hands on nature of these activities! My students enjoyed looking at the different minerals and learning their names. This kit had such a nice variety of stones and really allowed me to blend Speech targets with science concepts. I'll be using this kit for years to come!
What other activities do you think could be done with this kit? Feel free to comment!

October 27, 2017

Dollar Store Halloween Ideas

Are you in need of last minute Halloween-themed therapy ideas without breaking the budget? The dollar store is a great source of inexpensive materials. Below are some ideas for therapy activities that were super cheap, fast, and easy.

1. Magic Potion
I found foam cauldrons and Halloween sticker shapes at Dollar tree. I basically had students "earn" the potion ingredients by practicing their target words a number of times or completing a language tasks. This is a quick and easy activity to do with younger students. You can also pair it with a Halloween book about witches. Some good choices are:
* A Very Brave Witch
* Humbug Witch
* The Little Green Witch
* Excuse Me Are You a Witch?
* The Sweetest Witch Around
* Room on the Broom
* Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch
* A Job For Wittilda (this one seems to be out of print, but you can buy it through 3rd party sellers)

2. Spider Web Toss
For this you will need the following:
* A plastic basket with holes in the side
* White ribbon
* Fake spiders or bugs
 Thread the white ribbon criss-cross through the holes in the basket to create a spider web like appearance. Place the basket in the middle of the group and have students toss spiders or bugs. If the spider lands on the web, they get a point.

3. Halloween Jumpers
I'm sure you've seen these little jumping toys in the party favor aisle. I found this particular set at Walmart. These lend themselves really well for articulation therapy! Press one of the characters down and challenge students say a target word correctly X times. If they manage to do so before the character jumps, they get a point and it's the next players turn. Note that the production only counts if the word is being said correctly! This is a great way to work on carryover.

4. Jumping Spiders
For this activity you will need:
* Muffin tin
* Jumping Spiders (Walmart or Dollar store should have them in a smaller pack) - you can also use other critters and just throw them
* Construction paper

Cut out construction paper circles and write different point values on each (I used 1-6). Tape them to the muffin tin bottoms. Next, have students take turns making the spiders jump and see if they can get them into the muffin tin. Who can get the most points? This would also be a great activity for OT, as it works on finger strength!

What other cool materials have you found at the Dollar store? Please share in the comments!

October 22, 2017

Using STEM in Speech: Skeletal System

Note: This post contains affliate links.

Given all of the spooky skeletons everywhere in the month of October, our monthly STEM unit revolved all around bones and the skeletal system. Just as with the unit on Density, you can incorporate tons of language concepts and adapt the activities for articulation/fluency/social skills. Below are some ideas to get started.

I introduced my groups to the concept of bones by reading the book Bones (Science Readers: A Closer Look). With my younger/SDC kiddos we read Skeleton Hiccups. Of course, you could read any Halloween themed book about skeletons to get into the mood.

I also purchased some Halloween decor at Walmart: An (anatomically correct - this is important!) Skeleton, as well as a "Bag of Bones". We used these props to talk about the different bones in the body and learned some of the scientific names. There are some great bones containing /r/ and /s/ - femur, humerus, skull, pelvis, ribs, spine, etc. that you can have your artic students practice. The bag of bones was great for guessing which bone was which by comparing them to the bones in the skeleton model. Bonus: I can reuse these guys as Halloween decorations!

Students loved exploring the animal x-rays!
Next, we got to the fun part!! I discovered two different sets of X-Rays on amazon - Animal X-Rays and Human X-Rays. We used the animal x-rays to compare the skeletal structure of different animals to that in a human body. I also had students try to guess what animal might be depicted by the x-ray. You can also have students compare and contrast the skeletal structure of two different animals.

Putting together human x-rays
I used the set of human x-rays to solidify students' knowledge of the names of bones and our general skeletal structure by having them assemble the skeleton on white butcher paper. This was actually harder for many of my kiddos than they anticipated! They were allowed to use a diagram of a human skeleton, as a reference. When they were stumped, I gave them hints such as, "This is an x-ray of a tibia." They then had to reference the diagram to figure out where the bone would go.

As an extension activity, we made the Q-tip skeleton that is plastered all over Pinterest. Students had to "earn" each bone by either saying their speech sound 5x or completing a language task. Tip: Make sure to cut all of the Q-tips prior to the activity, as it will save time in the long run.

What I loved about this unit was that I was able to incorporate STEM in a Halloween-themed unit, while teaching students about important concepts AND working on their speech goals at the same time. Win-win!!

October 5, 2017

Using Blank Playing Cards in Speech

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

As I was browsing Amazon for therapy materials over the summer, I came across the most amazing thing: blank playing cards! As soon as I saw them, the wheels in my head started turning to come up with ways on how to use them in Speech.

I tried out three different variations of blank playing cards made by Apostrophe Games: Rectangular, Square, and Dry Erase.

Blank playing cards are available in these three options: rectangular, square, and dry erase.
If you’re like me, you are probably tired of using the same old artic decks over and over in your sessions. To combat the monotony, my students and I decided to use these cards to make our very own articulation decks! At first I thought that we could use index cards. However, the quality of these blank playing cards is SO MUCH BETTER and definitely worth the extra money.They are about 2-3 times as thick as index cards and marker / Sharpie does not bleed or seep through to the other side. Since you will likely end up using the finished cards with your students in therapy sessions, it makes sense to want them to be durable. They are so thick that you could even skip laminating - seriously, who has time for that?

I started by having my groups come up with words containing their target sounds. This was great for stimulating their awareness of their sound. As they were rattling off words, I wrote them onto the playing cards with a Sharpie, making sure to highlight target sounds in red. Of course you could have students write the words themselves, but I wanted to make sure the writing was nice and big and didn't have spelling errors. To make this more engaging, I allowed students to include Pokemon and Minecraft things (Hey kid, if you want to practice the word "creeper", which has two /r/ sounds, be my guest!). Next, students drew pictures of their words onto the card (we used washable markers for this), although pencils or crayons would work as well. While we worked, we also practiced saying the words we were drawing. Students were super motivated throughout their session. And look how awesome their cards turned out!

I used both Square and Rectangular cards for this activity and didn't really have a preference. The square ones seemed to be big enough for a picture, and also might be better for little hands.

This would also make an excellent homework activity: send home ten blank cards with the words on it and have students draw and practice at home. You could also let students keep their cards at home for practice.

And of course you could adapt this activity for language groups - you can make homonym/homophone cards, opposite cards, WH-question cards, and so much more!

I also found a use for the Dry Erase Cards - I used them for a listening activity with my language groups. Because these cards are double sided, they lend themselves well to alternate response mode activities. I drew a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other. Each student in the group received one of these dual-sided cards. Then they had to listen to conditional statements (e.g. "If you have brown hair, hold up your happy face") and follow the directions. This was great for working on following directions and general listening skills. A note: To prevent smearing on these cards, you may want to consider Vis-A-Vis Markers.What is really nice about the dry erase deck is that it can be reused over and over.

This is a therapy activity I will definitely keep doing again and again as I cycle through new students. I'm so glad I found these cards!!