September 29, 2014

Social Skills Group Behavior Expectations

I am continuing to progress through my social skills curriculum with my groups and last week we began to tackle Lesson #2: Behavior Expectations and Rules. In both my younger and older groups we have been discussing what rules are and why we need them (even if we don't like some of them). We also compared / contrasted the rules that we have at home versus the ones we have at school.

My 4th-5th graders came up with some great ideas!
For our activity, I had my older students (grades 4-5) brainstorm and write down five rules they thought would be the most important ones to follow while participating in our group. They had some awesome ideas, including to "keep hands to self", "think about others' feelings", "listen to the teacher", etc. I think my favorite suggestion was to "Be 100% great!"

Our top 5 rules for
social skills group
For my younger students I modified this activity by collectively coming up with possible group rules as I was writing them down. They also had some great ideas, including "Don't get naked" :). I love my social skills kiddos!

On the right are the top 5 rules that we decided are the most important, even though there may be other rules that we know we must follow (the "unwritten" rules - such as being honest). We posted these for all to see on the bulletin board. I did feel that we needed to talk a little bit more about this topic, so we will be continuing this lesson this week by learning about consequences when breaking a rule.


September 28, 2014

Playroom Entertainment Game Review: Monkey Memory

Monkey Memory - get it here!
Note: This post contains affiliate links.

I have another great game by Playroom Entertainment up for review (three more to follow!): Monkey Memory! This card game relies on students' recall of visual information, which makes it a great activity for individuals who are trying to hone their short term memory skills. Monkey memory is quick and easy to learn, and consists of sturdy and durable cards (always a plus when playing card games with children!). The recommended number of players is 2-8 and the age range is 5 and up.

The object of the game is to correctly identify an item that is missing from a set. The game consists of 10 matching object cards (e.g., cards that depict every day items, such as a shoe, keys, banana...), as well as solution cards (a card that pictures all of the items from the object cards). Each player receives a solution card, while the object cards are separated into two identical stacks. The cards of one of these stacks are displayed in a line on the table, so that all of the players can see. The second stack is placed upside down on the table. (The directions say to only use 7 of the 10 pairs, although you could easily use all of the cards to make the game more challenging)

Example of game play.
Players take turns being the dealer, with the oldest going first. The dealer turns over a card from the second stack one at a time, covering the last revealed card  as the other players watch. The last card - the mystery card - is NOT revealed. Players have to rely on their memory to determine which object has not been revealed and use their thumb to cover the item on the solution card. Players who guess correctly, get a point (point cards are included in this game, as well). After each turn, another player becomes the dealer and chooses seven new pairs of object cards. You can modify the difficulty of this game by deciding how many card pairs you will be using.

This game would be a fun activity to use with students who are learning to utilize memory strategies (e.g., subvocalization, visualization, etc.)!

September 22, 2014

Friendship Tree

I have started pulling kids in for social skills groups last week, and it just so happened that one of the activities for the first lesson of my curriculum coincided with the advent of fall! The first lesson is really just an introduction to social skills group and designed to define the term "social skills" (e.g., what are they, why do we need them?) for my students. The activity I chose to do with my groups was to make a "friendship tree." I had gotten the idea for this from my wedding, where we had a thumbprint tree instead of a guestbook, due to the small number of guests we had.

To make the tree I printed the template onto cardstock and brought in my Tsukineko inkpads (the manufacturer offers a large color variety, but the green palette works best for obvious reasons). I had each student put their thumb onto the inkpad and place a stamp / leaf onto our Friendship tree. Next, they got to write their name onto their leaf.

This activity offered a great opportunity to talk about the fact that even though we are all similar (like leaves on a tree), we all bring a level of individuality and uniqueness to the table, and all possess different skills.

This activity was a lot of fun and yielded a pretty result. And some of my more rigid students practiced their coping skills as they learned to deal with the fact that the ink didn't wash off their fingers right away ;).

September 21, 2014

Social Skills Curriculum / How I Spent My Summer

When I began working in the public schools, I quickly realized that there was a great need for social skills groups. Parents and staff seemed to be under the impression that this was an area of expertise for SLPs -- which most of you would agree is definitely NOT an accurate assumption! The only instruction on social skills that I have received in my graduate program is to be taught the definition of the term "pragmatics." That's pretty much where it ended. However, I was expected to work on this with a large number of students.

Not sure where to begin, I purchased tons of books on the subject. Unfortunately, most programs out there didn’t meet my needs – the lessons and activities were either too challenging / not engaging / too easy / required materials that you had to make yourself / etc. And - don't hate me - but even Michelle Garcia Winner's materials were a bit too dry for my students.

Over the last three years I have taught elementary level social skills groups by piece-mealing my own curriculum and developing my own lessons and activities. This summer, I decided to relinquish my break and finally sat down to type up actual lesson plans, including some of the activities that I have done with my groups and adding many, many more ready-to-use materials and activities. While this project pretty much consumed my summer break, I felt it was something that I really had to do. The finished result is a resource that is (hopefully!) easy to implement and can be used with different elementary populations to work on social skills.
Click on the picture to see the product in my TPT store!
The completed bundle contains 37 lesson plans and 229 supplementary activities for Elementary to Middle school level social skills groups. Each lesson is designed to last between 30 – 60 minutes (although you can stretch each lesson across several sessions by doing multiple of the included activities). Of course it is ready for sale in my TPT store (I have also made the individual sections available).
 Each lesson contains a variety of activities to choose from so that you can pick the one that most suits the group you are teaching and/or your teaching style. While some of these activities focus on relevant children’s books and require that you own the book, most of the activities are original creations by myself.
Each lesson is set up as follows: Students are being taught the skill during a whole group discussion. The second part of each lesson is comprised of activities. Each lesson contains 3-13 suggestions for relevant activities, and this section will hopefully grow over time as I discover more things to do with my groups. The topics covered in my curriculum are as follows (each individual section is also available for sale if you do not want to purchase the entire program):
Some sample activity pages.
Lesson #01: Introduction to Social Skills Group (+3 Activities)
Lesson #02: Behavior Expectations and Rules (+6 Activities)
Lesson #03: Introducing Yourself (+3 Activities)
Lesson #04: Getting to Know Each Other (+6 Activities)
Lesson #05: What Is a Friend? (+4 Activities)
Lesson #06: Filling Buckets (+3 Activities)
Lesson #07: Giving and Receiving Compliments (+3 Activities
Lesson #08: Whole Body Listening (+6 Activities)
Lesson #09: STEPS (an acronym developed by myself) (+3 Activities)
Lesson #10: S = Space (+5 Activities)
Lesson #11: T = Take Turns (+6 Activities)
Lesson #12: E = Eye Contact (+6 Activities)
Lesson #13: P = Polite (+3 Activities)
Lesson #14: S = Stay on Topic (+6 Activities)
Lesson #15: Volume (+5 Activities)
Lesson #16: Basic Emotions  (+8 Activities)
Lesson #17: Complex Emotions (+9 Activities)
Lesson #18: Body Language & Prosody (+5 Activities)
Lesson #19: Dealing With Anger (+10 Activities)
Lesson #20: Relaxation Techniques (+8 Activities)
Lesson #21: Sensory Techniques (+13 Activities)
Lesson #22: Dealing With Change (+7 Activities)
Lesson #23: Self-Control (+5 Activities)
Lesson #24: Joining a Group (+5 Activities)
Lesson #25: Playing a Game  (+7 Activities)
Lesson #26: Dealing With Losing (+6 Activities)
Lesson #27: Sharing (+8 Activities)
Lesson #28: Fairness & Compromising (+9 Activities)
Lesson #29: Identifying Problem Sizes   (+4 Activities)
Lesson #30: Solving Problems (+8 Activities)
Lesson #31: Group Problem-Solving (+5 Activities)
Lesson #32: Bullying (+9 Activities)
Lesson #33: Dealing With Teasing (+7 Activities)
Lesson #34: Tattling (+4 Activities)
Lesson #35: Resolving Conflicts (+9 Activities)
Lesson #36: Perspective-Taking (+10 Activities)
Lesson #37: Thinking & Talking Bubbles (+5 Activities)
I am planning to add more lessons on SOCIAL THINKING within the next months and have drafted outlines for the following topics:
Lesson #38: Social Filter
Lesson #39: Flexible Thinking
Lesson #40: Empathy
These lessons offer a great pre-cursor to higher-level social skills programs and are designed to be a comprehensive first exposure to a social skills group. While I organized these lessons by category, you can of course use them in any order you see fit, and they can be stand-alone lessons. You can do these lessons in a social skills group setting, in a whole classroom setting, or during a speech therapy / counseling session as needed.
I have started using this curriculum with my groups last week and will post a lot of updates this year about how it is working out for us! I think this is the first year where I don't have to go into the social skills group with just a vague idea of what we're doing that day, and that feels great!

September 18, 2014

USAopoly Game Review: Tapple
Tapple - get it here!
Note: This post contains affiliate links.

An SLP can never have too many language games. One relatively new game on the market is "Tapple" by USAopoly. And you know it has to be a great game when it has your students rolling on the floor laughing (literally)!
I was drawn in right away by the intriguing design of the game board - a wheel with little letter tabs sticking off to the side.  To play, players sit around the Tapple board. A card with a general category (e.g., movies) is chosen and players have to think of a matching item for the category. The trick is to think of something within 10 seconds before the timer is runs out! When a player comes up with a match, they hit the beginning letter (e.g., G - Guardians of the Galaxy), press the timer to reset it to 10 seconds, and pass the wheel to the next person. The task gets more difficult as the game progresses because there are fewer letters left to choose from. The game is recommended for ages 8 and up and can be played with 2-8 players.

My 3rd graders thoroughly enjoyed this game and even though they struggled at first, improved with their skill throughout the session. Granted, I did choose some of the easier categories (vegetables, things at a grocery store, cartoons, ...), but I wanted this to be an achievable task for them. This is a great game to use when working on word-finding, categorization, or even articulation. You can adjust the difficulty level by opting out of using the timer or telling students that they can re-use a letter that has already been pressed down. Of course you don't have to play by the rules and could adapt the Tapple board for other speech activities, such as having students think of a word that has their articulation sounds in it, etc.

The game requires minimal set-up, but provides a maximal fun learning experience, which makes it a great choice for any Speech room! Please note - you will need two AA batteries.

September 15, 2014

Therapy Planning Made Easy(er)

The daily
I always strive to become more efficient. One area that I always struggled in were the transitions between groups - putting away materials from the previous group while trying to pull out the needed materials for the next always wasted a minute or so of precious therapy time. This year I'm trying something a little different.

Before therapy started this year, I went to all the classrooms to take pictures of my students (for the Guess Who poster). I took these photos and spent some time putting them into cute little digital frames on my computer, printed, laminated, and stuck some magnetic tape onto them. This made them adhere to the white board.

Our materials for the day.
When I get to work in the morning, I pick out the pictures of the students I see that day and stick them onto the whiteboard in the order that I will work with each group. Next to their pictures, I will write a little note of what the general plan is that day. I then pull out all of the materials we will need that day and stick them in a little crate that I bought at Walmart for less than $2 and put it by the therapy table. That way, I can easily access all of my materials throughout the day, keeping them organized and in one place, which makes clean-up easy and fast.

I know, it seems like such a simple thing... being an SLP sure comes with a steep learning curve, doesn't it?

September 13, 2014

Playroom Entertainment Game Review #2: Herding Cats

Herding Cats - get it here!
Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Being a cat-lover, I was excited when Playroom Entertainment sent me a copy of "Herding Cats" for review. This card game can be played with 2 to 6 players aged 6 and up.

The object of the game is to create a herd by matching three Cat cards to a same-colored Cowdog card. The player who has collected the most herds after the draw pile runs out is the winner.

To play, all of the cards are shuffled and placed on the table. Each player starts out with three cards. On their turn, a player must play a card (if they can't, they place a card onto the discard pile). At the end of their turn, players draw a card to ensure they always have at least three in their hand. If a player has a Cowdog card, it can be placed on the table. Players then try to match same colored cats to the Cowdog card until there are at least three cats, at which point the player gets to keep the pile. The player with the most cards at the end wins. There are also special cards: "Stampede" cards allow a player to search through the discard pile and remove all of the cats that can be immediately played on any Cowdogs that are currently on the table. And "Wild Cat Lady" cards substitute a cat of any color.

Example of game play.

This game is great for articulation / drill & kill therapy because gameplay is easy to learn and turns are fast. It would also be an great activity while working on the /k/ sound ("cat, "cowdog", "catch"). The cards are slightly thicker than regular playing cards, aiding in durability, and the illustrations are pretty cute. This is definitely another great addition to the games shelf at work!

September 10, 2014

FREEBIE! 1st TPT anniversary!

Today marks my first TPT anniversary! TPT has truly changed my life, making me a better therapist, as it is unlikely that I would have put as much thought and effort into creating new therapy materials as I had without it. I love getting feedback from people who have purchased some of my products who share how my materials have helped them and their students. It truly is priceless. As a big celebration and "Thank you", I am posting a FREEBIE: WH-Questions Pizza Party!

I hope you enjoy :).

September 9, 2014

Feeling Jittery

Available here.
Note: This post contains affiliate links.

I always feel a little nervous about the first week of Speech therapy after the summer break - lots of new students to get acclimated to, new behaviors to tackle, trying to get back into the groove, etc. I'm sure some of my students feel the same way about returning to school, so I thought the perfect way to ease back into our routine would be to read the book "First Day Jitters" by Julie Danneberg with some of my students. This is by far my favorite Back-to-School book, mainly because of the unexpected surprise ending.

The story describes the main character feeling apprehensive about her first day at her new school because she is worried the other kids won't like her. At the end, when she finally makes it into the classroom, my students were stunned to learn that the main character is the teacher! This book is great for introducing vocabulary such as "jittery", "apprehensive", "surprise ending", "unexpected". I also used it to teach the students that feeling nervous is a universal emotion, and adults may feel that way, at times, as well.

My students and I brainstormed situations that make us feel jittery, and drew pictures for these situations.

Zombie nightmares make this 1st grader feel jittery..    ...and math makes this 2nd grader feel anxious.
This was a fun and easy intro activity for the new year!