August 31, 2014

Playroom Entertainment Games Review #1: Barnyard Buddies

Barnyard Buddies - get it here!
Note: This post contains affiliate links.

I received some generous game donations over the summer and need to catch up on writing product reviews! One publisher who contributed is Playroom Entertainment, a company that offers several preschool and family games that help develop logical and critical thinking skills.

The first game I will be reviewing is "Barnyard Buddies", a card game that capitalizes on quick cognitive skills. This game can be played with 2-8 players and is deemed appropriate for children ages 5 and up.

The game consists of 50 cards - 25 animal cards and 25 herd cards. Each animal card has a picture of one of five farm animals in a different color. The herd cards contain four of the five different animals in different colors. It is the players' job to determine which color animal is missing on a herd card -- the winner is the person who figures out the most missing animals.

Example of game play.
To play, all of the herd cards are placed upside down in the middle of the table, while the animal cards are spread face up around the herd card stack. One player turns over a herd card and everyone tries to identify the animal that is missing as well as the color. Whoever manages to find the animal first, receives the herd card as a point. In the example to the right, the face-up herd card shows a yellow horse, purple cow, green cat, and red goat. The missing animal is therefore the blue dog, since that color and animal are missing from the herd card.

A nice variation to make the game more challenging is to play it "reversed": place the animal cards in the middle and scatter the herd cards around. Players then need to find a matching herd card for each animal card.

The quality of these cards is very sturdy, which makes it a great game for little hands! I like this game because it is a great way to work on colors as well as promote logical thinking skills. You can use this game for students who are working on exclusion and turn-taking as well. It would also make a great activity for a farm theme!

Stay tuned for more great game reviews for this and other companies!

August 30, 2014

SLP Nightmare: Scheduling

While I generally like the first few weeks of the new school year (meeting new kids, feeling refreshed after summer, opportunities to start anew, etc.), there is one thing that is a struggle without fail every single year: Scheduling.

Trying to fit 50/+ students into your week while having to work around PE schedules, computer lab, library, OT, resource schedules, lunch, recess, AND trying to avoid pulling struggling students out of core academics is the stuff nightmares are made out of. And when you think you have successfully figured it out, you realize that somewhere there is a conflict that will make pulling the student out during that time impossible. Over the years I developed a system that makes it easier (although not simple, by any means). I figured I would write about it to help those of you who are still working on coming up with a scheduling strategy that (sort of) works.

Post-its with student names
and a poster board schedule
I start by making post-its with all of my students' names, one for each weekly session (so if a student has Speech twice a week, there will be two post-its with their name). I also color code their names based on their needs (language vs. articulation vs. social skills). I begin grouping the post-its based on which students I want to see together.

Distributing students
onto the schedule
Next, I draw a weekly schedule onto poster board, sectioning off the different time slots for Speech sessions. I then write different teachers' availability onto the sections of the poster board, so that I know which students can be pulled when. Last, I distribute the post-its onto the times that work for a student. Having the names on post-its works great, since you can easily re-arrange them if needed (and trust me, you need to). I usually try to have some flexibility on Mondays for testing, make-up sessions, consult, writing IEPs, and social groups, since we have so many Monday holidays.

I'm always glad when it's over. If you've discovered an easier way to schedule, please let me know! I still have a headache from this year's efforts!

August 28, 2014

Back-to-School Night Activity

Guess Who - Speech Kids edition
We had our Back-To-School Night this week and I chose to participate for the first time (I was unable to do this in the past because I couldn't accommodate more than three adults in my Speech room). I had a great time meeting parents old and new, and wanted to share a fun activity that I had prepared for this event with my fellow SLPs: Guess Who - Speech Kids edition!

This was a fun guessing game that challenged my Speech students' parents who dropped by to identify their child based on their smiles. To create this activity, I took pictures of all of my speech students, cropped out their mouths, and placed the pictures inside a digital frame. I then printed and laminated the pictures and stuck them onto poster board with Velcro (this will allow me to re-use this activity with different students in the future). On the back of each mouth I placed a picture of the student, so that parents could check their answers. Yes, it was a time-consuming project, but so worth the effort. I'm still missing a few kids who come from off-campus, so I left some room on the bottom and will add them later.

I was surprised at how well these parents did! Most of them used the patterns of missing teeth to guide them. This was a fun activity that really set the tone for this year. I think we will have a lot of fun! I spent a large chunk of my summer on Pinterest and have all kinds of ideas of what to do in Speech this year!

Next week I will have to show this to my students and see if they can identify themselves.

August 23, 2014

Best find so far this school year: Magnetic tape!

We started our new school year last Monday, and even though I am already completely swamped with all of the exciting back-to-school activities, I am super thrilled about this year: I was fortunate enough to move into a bigger room! (No more having to move furniture around just to open the door all the way!)

I have been spending this past week moving my belongings and have started to decorate in order to create a cozy and inviting learning environment for my kiddos. I promise to post more updates on my amazing new Speech room when it is finished. But I had to take a moment to share an awesome discovery that is going to make my life a lot easier: Magnetic tape! Yes, it's like tape, but it's magnetic! Because I finally have access to a magnetic whiteboard, this find is a treasure! I have started to "magnetize" the visuals that I use on a consistent basis. Here is an example of how I have used the tape on my structure word visuals (I made these to go with the Visualizing & Verbalizing program by Lindamood-Bell):

Just stick the tape onto the back of your visual...                           ...and it will stick to any magnetic surface!
By the way, the tape on the whiteboard itself is vinyl electrical tape. I have used it to section off parts of the board. I will have more posts soon!

August 4, 2014

Key Chain Rules

I briefly wanted to spread the word about a great tool for behavior / social skills management that I think may be underused: key chain rules!
I had heard about key chain rules from a number of sources over the last few years, but didn't actually make them myself until last school year. Key chain rules are little slips of paper, each of which contains a social rule or behavior strategy that a target student is working on. These cards are attached to a keychain (or book ring) so that the student can carry them around and quickly reference them.

Last year, a student with High Functioning Autism transferred to our school and he had tons of behaviors that we wrote oodles of social stories for. Those social stories all ended up in a binder, which made it somewhat difficult for him to quickly find and reference. This is what prompted me to try out key chain rules -- I began condensing the social stories into 2-3 sentences (we started with 5 - didn't want to overwhelm the poor guy!). He ended up really liking them. This tool was easy to make and can be quickly implemented. It might work best after the student has been exposed to the rules through a social story, but after repeated exposure, you can briefly remind them to "Remember Rule #4" if they forget. Just a quick idea before we return to school (can you believe this summer is almost over?)!