December 27, 2014

The Elf on the Shelf -- Part 2

Before the holidays have completely wound down, I wanted to share the last tricks our elf Peppermint played on my speech students this month. This was my first year doing Elf on the Shelf and I had even non-Speech students stop by to see what the elf had done - word of mouth apparently travels fast!

December 8th: Peppermint decided to eat a little snack.
December 9th: Peppermint hid 6 candy canes around the speech room and challenged students to find them all. This was a fun hide and seek game that the kids really enjoyed.
December 10th: Peppermint got into the Lego box and decided to create his own Christmas tree.

December 11th: Who knows what Peppermint did? I was out sick that day.
December 12th: Peppermint got into the marshmallow bag.
December 15th: Peppermint decided to take a little nap.
December 16th: Peppermint used marshmallows to make a snow / marshmallow angel.

December 17th: Peppermint made a paper chain and posted a sign next to it that read: "Count the links in the chain to find out how many days are left until Santa comes."
December 18th: Peppermint shared his generous holiday spirit by offering a lollipop to all my students.

December 19th: Peppermint pranked my students by putting Santa hats on the characters of our feelings posters.

I don't know whether Peppermint will return next year... it was a lot of work keeping up with him! But we will see, the kids definitely enjoyed his visit...

December 24, 2014

Icicle Christmas Ornaments

The completed ornament.
Around the holidays, I always like doing a craft project for the students to bring home and give to their parents as a gift. Of course, with 50+ students on my caseload, it is always challenging to find something that is within my personal budget (i.e. under $30) and at the same time looks nice (i.e. won't go in the trash as soon as students come home). This year I opted for some neat beaded icicle ornaments. Fortunately I still had some beads left from last year's project, so the main investment was the tinsel pipe cleaners. You will need one pipe cleaner per student and aim for 20-30 beads per student.

Step-by-step instructions.
In order to make this activity therapeutic, I had students "earn" their beads. My artic students had to say a target word 10 times to earn a bead, and my language students had to complete a task specific to their goal (e.g., solve a problem solving scenario, formulate a grammatically correct sentence about a picture, tell a descriptive detail about an object, etc.). Students then got to string their beads onto the pipe cleaner until they had a decent amount. I found that even if we did not have enough time to fill the pipe cleaner to the top, the tinsel gaps still made it look beautiful. This was good, because students didn't have to feel pressured to complete the whole thing. Of course, I had some kids who tried to set the record. In the end, one of my artic students practiced her sound 52 times (that is 520 productions in a single session!). To save time, you can also have students who are working on the same sound practice their words chorally at the same time.

The rainbow versions were particularly striking!
Most of my students had no problems with the fine motor component of this task. If you work with younger students, I would recommend using pony beads (versus tri-beads), since they have bigger holes and are easier to string.

Once we had enough beads, we curled the pipe cleaner around a pencil, tied the tip, attached wire, and a gift tag. The tags read either, "For each bead I practiced my Speech sound 10 times" (Artic) or "For each bead, I practiced one of my Speech targets" (Language).

My students (and I!) were impressed at how well these ornaments turned out. Some kids opted for a pattern and others just strung random beads together. In all of the cases, the ornaments turned out beautiful. In addition, they were easy, fast, and affordable. I can't wait for next year's project! Happy Holidays!

December 6, 2014

Speech Room Fun with the Elf on the Shelf

This week has been really exciting for my Speech students: for the first time we are having one of Santa's holiday elves visit our Speech room. Most of my students were already familiar with the Elf on the Shelf concept from home, and I told them that this one was probably sent to make sure they behave while at school. Our elf has been creating all sorts of chaos in our room, and I now have students stopping by even on their non-Speech days, because they want to see what the elf did this time. Here are some of the things that happened...
 December 1st: The elf arrived, wanting students to vote for  a name for him. Throughout the week, all the students got to choose their favorite. The votes are in, and it looks like "Peppermint" is the most popular!
December 2nd: Peppermint got into our bookshelf and thought it would be funny to turn all of the books upside down.

December 3rd: Peppermint showed off his acrobat skills when he decided to dangle upside down from the ceiling.

December 4th: Peppermint built himself a sled out of candy canes and went sledding in a marshmallow winter wonder land.
December 5th: Peppermint got into my sticker box and had some fun with its contents.

Stay tuned for more updates from Peppermint! I'm sure he has some more ideas of how to entertain us during the month of December!

December 4, 2014

USAopoly Review: Treasure Trax
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Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Just in time for the holidays, I am reviewing some more games for promoting language development. One relatively new addition to my speech room is Treasure Trax, by USAopoly. This scavenger hunt-themed game is geared towards a younger crowd (ages 3 and up) and would be the perfect stocking stuffer for a parent with young children who love activities that require them to be on the move.

The game contains 60 sturdy square cardboard cards that are broken up as follows: 
Game components.
-- 30 location cards: These cards contain a picture of a place/item that is commonly found within and around a home: bed, doormat, dresser, sofa, vacuum, TV, tree, etc.
-- 18 search clue cards: These cards contain descriptive attributes -- either a color or a letter (A-H).
-- 12 animal cards: Each of these cards depicts a different animal.

The game also comes with a cute little cloth tote to store your cards in.

Prior to playing the game, an adult helper chooses 10 location cards, 5 search clues, and 5 animal cards. One location card is put aside (this is the place where the scavenger hunt will begin). At this chosen place, the helper places a search clue (e.g., card with the color 'blue'). An animal card is then hidden by an item that corresponds to the search clue (e.g., the lion card is hidden by a blue toy). In addition to the animal card, the next location card is left in this spot so that the child knows where to look next. The helper continues hiding the cards in this manner until they are all placed around the house.

To play, the child starts out at the first location card. They use the clues to find the next card until they have collected them all. For extra fun, the helper could place a little treasure or prize at the last location.

This game has a lot of educational components for young children, such as color identification, sound identification, and vocabulary. You can also work location concepts into play by asking the child where they found a particular card (e.g., under the table). And because of the movement component, this activity would be fabulous for active kids! The game duration is estimated at 10 minutes, which is about the attention span of many preschoolers.

Please note that this game will require an adult or older child to facilitate play (since someone has to set up the game by hiding the cards), which may make it challenging for two younger children to play independently.

I was really excited about this game, but found some limitations for my Speech room setting. Most of the location cards have items that are only found within a house and are nowhere near a classroom. I think another way to improve this game would be by adding different attributes (rather than letters A-H), such as "soft", "small", "cold", "squishy", "wet", etc. I think many pre-Kinders would have difficulty identifying items that start with a particular letter, which renders the letter cards useless.

With some finagling, I was able to pick out enough cards that matched my setting in order to play this game with some of my younger kids. They did really enjoy it! It was something different and they got to move around! I am definitely holding on to this game for the day I have kids of my own, so I can play it with them around the home ;).