December 15, 2016

Scheduling Efficient Make-Up Therapy Sessions

Winter is here, and with it come seasonal illnesses. I'm fighting a bad cold as I am typing this. If you are anything like me, you hate missing work because it is impossible to find the time in our busy schedules to squeeze in make-up sessions. However, life happens and sometimes you just have to take a day off. I figured I should write a post on how I try to do make-up sessions efficiently, getting as many kids seen as possible in the least amount of time while providing an adequate learning experience. Be aware that when you run large group lessons, you will need access to an adequate amount of space - make sure to reserve a spare classroom / conference room beforehand!

Before you get started, you will need to make a list of students working on like goals or at similar skill levels. Your group may have 5 students, or it may have 10, whatever works for you! Some examples of students I might group together are as follows:
  • all 12 of my SDC students
  • all of my 1st/2nd grade students with language goals
  • all of my students working on a particular sound
  • students with social skill needs
Once you have your list of students that will get seen together, you will decide on an activity to do with them. Some of my favorite large group activities include:
Guess Who is a favorite!
  • Jeopardy (see this related blog post) - I love this because it is versatile and can be adapted for artic, language, social skills, etc.
  • Guess Who - this game can easily be adapted into a large group activity for the classroom. It targets multiple skills and is always a hit with my SDC students!
  • Read a book to the group and work on comprehension
  • Felt board stories are great to work on comprehension and vocabulary with younger students, and they are hands-on
  • Target a specific social skill - you could do a Volume lesson using the 5-point scale, read "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?", etc. 
  • Speech stations - with large articulation groups, you can rotate the students through stations, at each of which they work independently. I am planning a blog post on activities to include at Stations, so stay tuned!
  • Play 20 Questions - Have a student take turns thinking of a mystery item, while the other students in the group ask Yes/No questions and attempt to guess the item
  • Charades - this is another great group activity, because you can have students split up into separate teams  
These are just a few ideas to get started... by seeing students in larger groups for make-up sessions, you can save time for other important tasks and make sure everyone is getting seen. Can you think of any other great activities that lend themselves to large groups? Please leave a comment!

December 8, 2016

My 8 Best Tips for Teaching Question Formulation


Being able to formulate questions is an important language skill that is also emphasized in the Speaking and Listening section of the Common Core Standards. Yet, many of our language delayed students lack the grammatical skills to ask basic questions using correct word order. I can’t even begin to tell you how often I hear things like, “We can play a game today?”, “What we doing today?”, “I doing a good job?” Questions that begin with auxiliaries (e.g., is/are, can, do/does/did, will, would/could) seem to be particularly challenging.

This post showcases my favorite ways to work on question formulation with students.
  1. Games: Games are always a great way to get student buy-in. Some good choices are “Guess Who? ”, “HedBanz”, and “Mystery Garden”, all of which involve having students ask questions to guess a mystery item.
  2.  Wh-Cards: Most of us own Wh-question cards that we use to work on answering Wh-questions. You can also use these to work on question formulation by showing your students the card with the answer and prompting them, “Ask me a Who/What/Where/When/Why question about ___.” For example, you could give them a card with “Milk” on it and prompting them, “Ask me a Who question about milk.” Correct responses would include “Who gives milk?” “Who likes to drink milk?” etc.
  3.   Sentence Questions: Have students formulate questions about specific sentence elements. Read a sentence including Who/What/Where/When/Why elements (e.g., On Saturday, Suzy went to the store to buy some milk) and have students ask specific questions about the elements. You could prompt them in multiple ways: "Ask me a Who question about this sentence" or "How can I ask find out who went to the store?"
  4. Magic 8 Ball: This is my favorite way to work on these pesky Yes/No questions that involve auxiliary reversal. You are probably familiar with the classic Magic 8 Ball toy. You ask a Yes/No question, shake the ball, and the answer will magically pop up. Kids absolutely LOVE this thing! It is also a great tool for working on articulation carryover.
  5.  20 Questions: Think up a random item (these Picture Cards by Language Builder work great for this). Students then have to guess the item by asking yes/no questions (e.g., Is it an animal? Is it red?) until they guess the item. You can also purchase this activity in a board game format: 20 Questions for Kids.
  6. Interview: Have students interview each other (or you!) to find out more about each other. You can pretend to be news reporters.
  7. Conversation Starters: Similar to the above suggestion, you can use pre-made conversation starters to have students ask each other a variety of questions. My Conversation Starters UNO works great for this purpose!
  8. Have Students be the Teacher: Kids love it when the roles are reversed. For this activity you could read a story and then have students come up with comprehension questions that you have to answer for students to see if the teacher was paying attention.
    I hope these tips are somewhat helpful. Working on question formulation isn't exactly exiting, but now you should some ideas of how to bring variety into teaching this skill.

      December 1, 2016

      Making Your Own SGM Braid

      I always have a number of students working on listening comprehension. I have tried different programs to teach this, including Visualizing and Verbalizing by Lindamood-Bell. However, the one tool I always seem to come back to is the Story-Grammar-Marker (SGM) braid by Mindwing Concepts.

      The original Braidy
      For those unfamiliar with the SGM program - it is essentially a visual organizer that can be used to talk about and recall story elements. It consists of a braid that can be manipulated via removable icons and beads. Each part of the bead corresponds to a different story element. 

      I have been using this braid with some of my 5th grade students to work on short story / paragraph comprehension this fall. They really loved "Braidy", so I promised them that I would figure out a way to make our very own version of the story braid to keep. 

      To create our homemade SGM braid, I searched for beads similar to the ones on the original Braidy, which we strung onto a pipe cleaner and secured with a Binder Ring. Some of the beads we used include Smiley Beads, Star Beads, Heart Beads, Faceted Beads, and a hand bead (I found this one at Walmart!).

      The result was a cute little visual that students can use whenever we work on story retell.They really enjoyed making these and are now even more into the retell activities than before! This is a great extension activity for those little hands-on learners if you are using SGM with them.