October 22, 2017

Using STEM in Speech: Skeletal System

Note: This post contains affliate links.

Given all of the spooky skeletons everywhere in the month of October, our monthly STEM unit revolved all around bones and the skeletal system. Just as with the unit on Density, you can incorporate tons of language concepts and adapt the activities for articulation/fluency/social skills. Below are some ideas to get started.

I introduced my groups to the concept of bones by reading the book Bones (Science Readers: A Closer Look). With my younger/SDC kiddos we read Skeleton Hiccups. Of course, you could read any Halloween themed book about skeletons to get into the mood.

I also purchased some Halloween decor at Walmart: An (anatomically correct - this is important!) Skeleton, as well as a "Bag of Bones". We used these props to talk about the different bones in the body and learned some of the scientific names. There are some great bones containing /r/ and /s/ - femur, humerus, skull, pelvis, ribs, spine, etc. that you can have your artic students practice. The bag of bones was great for guessing which bone was which by comparing them to the bones in the skeleton model. Bonus: I can reuse these guys as Halloween decorations!

Students loved exploring the animal x-rays!
Next, we got to the fun part!! I discovered two different sets of X-Rays on amazon - Animal X-Rays and Human X-Rays. We used the animal x-rays to compare the skeletal structure of different animals to that in a human body. I also had students try to guess what animal might be depicted by the x-ray. You can also have students compare and contrast the skeletal structure of two different animals.

Putting together human x-rays
I used the set of human x-rays to solidify students' knowledge of the names of bones and our general skeletal structure by having them assemble the skeleton on white butcher paper. This was actually harder for many of my kiddos than they anticipated! They were allowed to use a diagram of a human skeleton, as a reference. When they were stumped, I gave them hints such as, "This is an x-ray of a tibia." They then had to reference the diagram to figure out where the bone would go.

As an extension activity, we made the Q-tip skeleton that is plastered all over Pinterest. Students had to "earn" each bone by either saying their speech sound 5x or completing a language task. Tip: Make sure to cut all of the Q-tips prior to the activity, as it will save time in the long run.

What I loved about this unit was that I was able to incorporate STEM in a Halloween-themed unit, while teaching students about important concepts AND working on their speech goals at the same time. Win-win!!

October 5, 2017

Using Blank Playing Cards in Speech

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

As I was browsing Amazon for therapy materials over the summer, I came across the most amazing thing: blank playing cards! As soon as I saw them, the wheels in my head started turning to come up with ways on how to use them in Speech.

I tried out three different variations of blank playing cards made by Apostrophe Games: Rectangular, Square, and Dry Erase.

Blank playing cards are available in these three options: rectangular, square, and dry erase.
If you’re like me, you are probably tired of using the same old artic decks over and over in your sessions. To combat the monotony, my students and I decided to use these cards to make our very own articulation decks! At first I thought that we could use index cards. However, the quality of these blank playing cards is SO MUCH BETTER and definitely worth the extra money.They are about 2-3 times as thick as index cards and marker / Sharpie does not bleed or seep through to the other side. Since you will likely end up using the finished cards with your students in therapy sessions, it makes sense to want them to be durable. They are so thick that you could even skip laminating - seriously, who has time for that?

I started by having my groups come up with words containing their target sounds. This was great for stimulating their awareness of their sound. As they were rattling off words, I wrote them onto the playing cards with a Sharpie, making sure to highlight target sounds in red. Of course you could have students write the words themselves, but I wanted to make sure the writing was nice and big and didn't have spelling errors. To make this more engaging, I allowed students to include Pokemon and Minecraft things (Hey kid, if you want to practice the word "creeper", which has two /r/ sounds, be my guest!). Next, students drew pictures of their words onto the card (we used washable markers for this), although pencils or crayons would work as well. While we worked, we also practiced saying the words we were drawing. Students were super motivated throughout their session. And look how awesome their cards turned out!

I used both Square and Rectangular cards for this activity and didn't really have a preference. The square ones seemed to be big enough for a picture, and also might be better for little hands.

This would also make an excellent homework activity: send home ten blank cards with the words on it and have students draw and practice at home. You could also let students keep their cards at home for practice.

And of course you could adapt this activity for language groups - you can make homonym/homophone cards, opposite cards, WH-question cards, and so much more!

I also found a use for the Dry Erase Cards - I used them for a listening activity with my language groups. Because these cards are double sided, they lend themselves well to alternate response mode activities. I drew a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other. Each student in the group received one of these dual-sided cards. Then they had to listen to conditional statements (e.g. "If you have brown hair, hold up your happy face") and follow the directions. This was great for working on following directions and general listening skills. A note: To prevent smearing on these cards, you may want to consider Vis-A-Vis Markers.What is really nice about the dry erase deck is that it can be reused over and over.

This is a therapy activity I will definitely keep doing again and again as I cycle through new students. I'm so glad I found these cards!!

September 26, 2017

Using STEM in Speech: Density

One of my professional goals this year is to incorporate more STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) Activities in my therapy setting. STEM concepts and activities are rich in language and the hands-on nature of many of the activities lends itself wonderfully to our population. I am planning to have a monthly theme to support  this objective, so this blog series is a summary of my progress.

Our September theme was Density (Sink/Float). Not only is this super easy to implement in the therapy room, but you can target tons of language and articulation concepts with this lesson. Most of my groups got to do this and they seemed to have a blast (many kids asked if we could do this activity again during their next Speech session).

Before we started we had a brief discussion of molecules and density (i.e. how much something weights compared to how much space it takes up). We also defined the terms "sinking" versus "floating". Visuals are super helpful for this. 

All you need for the hands-on/experimentation portion of this lesson is a tub of water (perhaps with food coloring in it for effect) and various items collected from around your house or classroom. Make sure the items are small enough to fit into the tub. Some easy finds are: pencils, coins, dice, pompoms, leaves, twigs, rocks, keys, paperclips, erasers, markers, etc. 

Allow students to make a prediction (make sure to define this term!) about what they think will happen to the item before actually placing it in the water to watch the result.

I created a number of worksheets of varying difficulty levels that would allow students to record their predictions as well as the resulting observations. A lot of my younger students had a hard time navigating where to record each observation (they would often try to color in the wrong row), so this provided an excellent teaching opportunity.

Worksheet for my younger kiddos with pre-entered items.
Worksheet for my older kiddos - a little more complex.

We placed visuals on the board (with Magnet Tape) to keep track of whether the "Sinkers" or "Floaters" would win. You can also use the visual cards to let students randomly select one to see which item would be the next "experiment". My students had a lot of fun with this. I also "challenged" them to solve certain Sink/Float predicaments (e.g., how do you make a rock float using only a balloon) to stimulate problem solving and critical thinking skills. 

Additionally, I used this activity in my social skills group to work on turn-taking, interrupting, problem-solving, and dealing with making the wrong predictions. 

You can also adapt this lesson and turn it into a push-in classroom unit. I pushed into our younger SDC class and as a group we made predictions about the various items. To make the concepts more visually concrete, I drew a tub of water on the whiteboard and had students place the items onto the drawing based on whether they thought the items would sink or float.

With my articulation groups, we tested items that contained the target sound of students - you can see in the picture of one of the worksheets above that all of the items contain the /r/ sound. And the words "sink" and "float" are great for /s/, /k/, and /l/ kiddos!! I absolutely loved the versatility of this lesson!

If you want to try this with your own students and like the visuals/worksheets that I have used - they are available on TPT here. The unit also includes challenges and material lists with items containing specific phonemes.

This was a pretty successful lesson - I can't wait for our next monthly STEM unit!

January 11, 2017

Game Review: Bunny Peek-A-Boo

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Sometimes I run across a therapy material that is so awesome that I just have to share! Last month, a kind parent gave me an Amazon gift card to use towards therapy materials and one of the things I bought was "Bunny Peek-a-Boo" by SmartGames. It had been on my Therapy wishlist forever, but I hesitated to buy it because of the steep price (close to $30). Now that I own the game I am so glad I do!

Bunny Peek-a-Boo consists of three wooden blocks, a wooden bunny figure, and picture cards. The premise is simple: students have to arrange the blocks and bunny figure in such a way that it matches the picture on the card. There are 60 different challenges at four different difficulty levels (15 challenges for each level).

I used this during my therapy sessions with students ranging from Kindergarten through 5th grade (the 5th graders were students from our self-contained Special Day Class) - everyone thoroughly enjoyed it! Even though this toy is recommended for ages 2+, some of my older SDC students already began to struggle at Level 2, which was great in terms of learning opportunities. 

This game is excellent for speech & language therapy, as it promotes problem-solving, flexible thinking, and can be used to work on positional concepts (e.g., "Where is the bunny?" - "The bunny is on top of the blue block").

I absolutely LOVE this product and given it's sturdy quality I know we'll be using it for years to come! I can't recommend it enough!

January 6, 2017

Have You Filled a Bucket Today - An Extension Activity

One concept that I love using with the students in my social skills group is that of Bucketfilling. This idea is based on the book "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids" by Carol McCloud. 

Basically, the gist of the book is that everyone carries around an invisible bucket that represents the level of an individual's happiness. When someone's bucket is full, the person is feeling happy, and when the bucket is empty, the person is feeling sad. The author emphasizes that you should fill others' buckets by being kind and doing nice things for them. This in turn, will fill your own bucket.

I revisit this concept annually with the students in my social skills group and we talk about different ways to fill someone's bucket. This year we took it a little bit further. My students observed that in the book, a person's bucket tends to bear resemblance to the person it belongs to - for example, if the person is wearing glasses, the bucket is wearing glasses. We decided to create our very own personalized buckets to practice bucketfilling.

You will need:
First, we designed the buckets. Students colored their buckets in a way to resemble them. We also glued on wiggly eyes to add some life to them. We then used the pipe cleaners to poke through the styrofoam rim and create a handle.

Some of my students really got into it and spend a lot of time creating bucket-masterpieces. One student insisted on having Pikachu sit on his bucket's shoulder. I loved to see the level of creativity! 

Once the buckets were completed, we started practicing the act of bucketfilling. In the book, the happiness and good feelings filling one's bucket are represented by rainbow stars and hearts. In the past, I have used plastic coins and pompoms during these lessons, but this year I found something even better: Foam Beads! These beads come in different shapes and colors and kind of look like the bucket contents in the book.

For this part of the lesson, we practiced filling each other's buckets by complimenting or doing nice things for the people in our group. Students loved seeing their buckets getting fuller. We also practiced bucket-dipping: if a student interrupted or misbehaved in some other way, shapes were removed from the teacher's bucket and their own bucket.

There are so many things you can do with the concept of bucketfilling and this is just one of them!