June 30, 2014

Educational Insights Game Review #3: The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Card Game!

Get it here.
I have another Educational Insights game review for you! If you like "The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game!", you might enjoy the card game version, as well! This stand-alone game is an especially neat tool for SLPs, school psychologists, or behavior therapists to target impulse control, attention, and social skills. The recommended age range is 4 years and up and this game supports 3-6 players (or two students and an adult facilitator).

Slap the matching acorn card.
As with the original "The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game!", the object of this game is to collect as many acorns as possible. This version consists of two separate card decks: rectangular acorn cards that come in four different colors and elongated squirrel cards. The acorn cards are placed in the middle of the table so that all players can easily reach them. Next, one person who is the "dealer" (or the SLP) pulls out one of the elongated squirrel cards. For each card that has a squirrel on a blue background, the dealer says, "Sneaky" -- nothing happens for these cards. However, if the card depicts a squirrel and an acorn, the dealer says, "Snacky!" and players have to slap the matching colored acorn card. Whoever slaps the card first, receives the acorn card. Sometimes, a snacky card features two acorns, in which case two players have a chance to earn a card.

This game emphasizes a student's vigilance and reaction speed. Players have to pay close attention to what cards are being drawn and be the quickest to touch the matching color. I had several students attempt to "hover" their hands over the acorn cards, which offered a great opportunity to talk about why this might be considered cheating. In order to increase students' impulse control during this game, I implemented the rule that if they slapped the wrong card, or slapped when a "Sneaky" card was being dealt, they would have to return an acorn card from their pile.

This game is great for Speech because the turns are very quick -- which is important when playing a game during articulation drills or when in large therapy groups. You could even have students complete different tasks for differently colored acorns. For example, for each yellow acorn, students practice their target word 5 times, for each red acorn they practice 10 times, etc. This would also be a great game for students working on /s/-blends ("sneaky," "snacky," "squirrel").

Stay posted! In the next few days I will be reviewing my very favorite game of all the samples I received!

Educational Insights Game Review #2: The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game!

Get it here.
The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game! is another great game by Educational Insights that I have the pleasure of reviewing! If you are an SLP, the odds are that you own Hi-Ho Cherry-O. And, odds are, you're pretty tired of it (I know I am). This is were this game offers a great replacement since the game play follows the same principle of play as Hi-Ho-Cherry-O, but it adds some additional educational components, which makes it more viable for the therapy room.

Game components.
The object of the game is simple: collect different-colored acorns from the tree to fill up your tree stump. Once you have collected all five colors, you win. A spinner dictates which color acorn you get to collect. But watch out -- if you get the storm cloud all your acorns get blown back onto the tree. And if you get the sad squirrel, you lose a turn. Also beware of the thieving squirrel that allows other players to steal one of your acorns from your tree stump. If you  get lucky, your spinner will land on a color, a "1", or a "2", which are the fields needed to pick acorns. The recommended age range is 3 years and up, but I played this with language-delayed third-graders and they still liked it.

This student needed a prompt to pinch
the squirrel lower in order to
move his paws.
Not only does this game work on counting and color-matching skills, but there are other educational aspects. The thing that really differentiates this game from Hi-Ho Cherry-O is the fine motor component: on their turn, players use the plastic squirrel tongs to pick up the acorns. This really allows them to work on their hand strength and fine motor control while playing! Also, I find that the pieces in this game don't get lost as easily as the cherries in Hi-Ho Cherry-O as they are a little bigger and can be easily counted during clean-up (there should be four of each color) to make sure they're all still there. The game components are also higher quality and the acorns have a rubber-y texture to them.

This would make a great game for preschool SLPs as well as Occupational Therapists. I know I will be showing it to the OT at my site! I also know that now that I have this game, I will donate my old Hi-Ho Cherry-O to Goodwill since I'd rather play this.

If you prefer dogs to squirrels, check out a similar dog version of this game by clicking here.

June 26, 2014

Educational Insights Game Review #1: Kitten Caboodle & Diggity Dogs

I was really fortunate in that I received a very generous game donation from Educational Insights, and wanted to review my new speech room additions for all of you fellow SLPs. I already owned several of the company's products, all of which are a hit with my students, so I knew to expect high quality games with solid educational value. My summer school students are the lucky cohort to sample these games first. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting about how to use these games in speech therapy, so make sure to check back often!

Available here and here.
The first two games we tried out were Kitten Caboodle and Diggity Dogs. Both are essentially based on the same concept, but one version features cats, and the other version features dogs. If you know me, you know that I love kitties, so I was super excited about the cat version of this game >^..^< !

Game items.
Each game comes with a deck of cards and a collection of seven cardboard cats or dogs, each of which have a thinking bubble. The thinking bubbles contain three items that the animal desires: a toy, food, a pet bed, etc. The cards contain pictures of the items. The object of this game is simple: Collect the set of desired items in order to adopt a particular cat or a dog. The game ends when all of the animals have found a home. Whoever ends up with the most animals, is the winner.

The play style is similar to Go Fish: each player starts out with two picture cards from the draw pile, and takes turns asking other players for items they need. If the player does not get a match, s/he picks up a card from the draw pile. Once the three items are collected, a player gets to exchange the items for their animal.

My 4th grade SDC students enjoyed the dog version of this game!
It sounds simple enough, but unlike Go Fish, this game consists of much more planning and adds an aspect of competition to it when two players want to adopt the same animal (for some reason everyone was hell-bent on getting Austin, the cat). I love the logical thinking and memory components, as well: students need to figure out which items they already have and which animal would be the easiest to obtain given the cards they already own. They also need to remember who asked for certain items in previous turns.

Some additional fun aspects described in the instruction booklet are as follows: 1. Have students ask in their best dog/cat voice, 2. customize the game by taping pictures of your own cat or dog onto the cardboard cut-outs. The instructions also feature a profile of each of the animals.

Use both sets at once for an additional challenge!

Another really cool modification I came up with to make the game more challenging for older students: mix both sets together! This will require students to engage in additional planning. And you won't have to choose between which game you want to play -- they both feature really endearing animals and you will want to adopt them all :).

But now let's get to how these games can help us in the Speech therapy setting. Here are some of the ways I was able to use the games with my students this week:
  • Perspective Taking: This game is awesome because it features THOUGHT BUBBLES! Yay! You can use the different animal cut outs to talk about that each animal has different desires and thoughts (much like people) and chat about the difference between thought bubbles and talking bubbles.
  • Inferencing: You can do some basic inferencing practice - what do you think the dog wants the stick for? What do you think might be inside this can?
  • Asking Questions: A lot of my students struggle with the grammatical structure of questions beginning with auxiliaries (do/can/is), so this offered a great way to practice this skill, since they had to ask players, "Do you have a..."
  • Logical Thinking / Problem Solving: Students have to think about the items they already have in their hand and which animals they could adopt with these items. They also need to think about which animals would be the easiest to adopt. For example, if they have a mouse and a ball of yarn, they would look to see if there is a cat who might like both of those items, and then plan what other item they should ask for.
  • Social Skills: As with most games, this game involves turn-taking and good sportsmanship (no cheating, peeking, lying -- I've already had kids trying to do all of these things with this game!).
I definitely recommend these two games! Of course you could also use them to make articulation drills more fun! And what are my own cats Boone and Orson thinking about? I wonder...

My cats have a one-track mind!

June 18, 2014

Book Review: "Interrupting Chicken" by David Ezra Stein & activity

"Interrupting Chicken" cover - available here.
One of my favorite events during the school year is our book fair -- I always find some good books to use in therapy. This year I got really lucky again - I discovered the book "Interrupting Chicken" by David Ezra Stein. I was immediately drawn in by the title and cover image, since it features talk bubbles. I had just introduced thinking and talking bubbles with my social skills group and we had also been working on not blurting out and interrupting. This book is relevant for both of these skill areas, and may be for you!

Sample pages.
The story deals with a young chicken who begs his father for a bed time story. Papa Chicken warns him not to interrupt the story, and the little red chicken promises. Of course it doesn't take long for the little red chicken to break his promise, and he blurts out a possible ending for the story. The author lovingly illustrated this  by adding in talking bubbles that look a little bit chaotic. Papa Chicken attempts to read three stories, but gets interrupted each time, at which point he has had enough and tells the little red chicken to create his own story. Little red chicken does so, only to get interrupted by Papa Chicken's snoring. My students (1st through 4th grade)  thought this story was hilarious and got a few good laughs in every time the little red chicken interrupted the story with his goofy antics. We discussed how little chicken's interrupting affected the story and how it made Papa Chicken feel. We also talked about how to interrupt appropriately (something we had been working on throughout the year). 

Interrupting activity set-up.
Next, I introduced a game to work on not interrupting others' turn to talk. I gave each student three glass gems (these can be found in the home decor aisle at Walmart or Michael's) and placed a container with the rest of the gems in the middle of our circle. Students took turns talking about a topic of their choice (e.g., what they had done on the weekend, their favorite movie or video game, etc.). Other students had to sit and listen. If they interrupted the student whose turn it was to talk, they had to place one of their gems back into the container. They were able to "earn" gems by using appropriate interrupting strategies. At the end we compared who had the most gems. Since our students tend to be really competitive in nature, they really enjoyed this lesson. Once you have introduced this activity, you can continue using it for future social skills sessions to keep practicing this skill.

June 6, 2014

The End of the School Year!

The end of the school year has finally arrived! Although I only have a week of break between now and the beginning of our Extended School Year program, I feel content in how much I have accomplished this year. Between opening up my TPT store and starting this blog (I am hoping to provide more consistent updates again now that the end-of-the-schoolyear-stress is complete), I saw amazing growth in some of my students and have formed new and lasting professional relationships with some of the teachers at my site. This year I really started to feel like part of the team! As much as I complained the last few months, I guess it was a good year in the end.

And, while I have never been excited to return to work after the summer, this year I am! I will be moving from a broom-closet sized speech room into a larger room with storage space, a white board, and a document camera!!! My mind is already churning as to how the space can be used. But first, summer :).