November 30, 2017

A ROCKing Speech Activity

Our monthly STEM theme is Rocks and Minerals. While a more detailed post on all of our various STEM activities will follow, I wanted to showcase one product that we've been getting a ton of mileage out of during our sessions as it can be adapted to different disorders and ability levels: Dancing Bear's Rock and Mineral Kit.

This kit contains over 150 random pieces of rocks and minerals, including two geodes, arrowheads, and shark teeth. There is also a reference sheet that you can use to identify the minerals. Prior to using the kit in therapy I sorted the pieces into their respective categories and placed them in a jewelry organizer (although this might have been a fun activity for students in and of itself!). Here are some different therapy activities that I have done with my kiddos so far:

1. Describing: This is a great activity no matter whether a student is working on language, articulation, or fluency. We talked about the shape, size, color, and texture. A lot of my younger students didn't know what "rough" versus "smooth" meant, so we were able to hit those concepts pretty hard. You can also sneak in words like "opaque" and "translucent".

2. Matching: This was a favorite activity! After describing each mineral I had students find them on the reference sheet. This is a great activity to promote team work / social skills.
3. Guessing game: Another fun activity we did was "Mystery Mineral". I had students pick a mineral and provide clues based on the mineral's attributes. Once again, this activity could be adapted for different goal areas.

4. Compare and Contrast: We also used this minerals for a basic compare and contrast activity. You can use a Venn diagram to talk about the differences.

I love the hands on nature of these activities! My students enjoyed looking at the different minerals and learning their names. This kit had such a nice variety of stones and really allowed me to blend Speech targets with science concepts. I'll be using this kit for years to come!
What other activities do you think could be done with this kit? Feel free to comment!

October 27, 2017

Dollar Store Halloween Ideas

Are you in need of last minute Halloween-themed therapy ideas without breaking the budget? The dollar store is a great source of inexpensive materials. Below are some ideas for therapy activities that were super cheap, fast, and easy.

1. Magic Potion
I found foam cauldrons and Halloween sticker shapes at Dollar tree. I basically had students "earn" the potion ingredients by practicing their target words a number of times or completing a language tasks. This is a quick and easy activity to do with younger students. You can also pair it with a Halloween book about witches. Some good choices are:
* A Very Brave Witch
* Humbug Witch
* The Little Green Witch
* Excuse Me Are You a Witch?
* The Sweetest Witch Around
* Room on the Broom
* Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch
* A Job For Wittilda (this one seems to be out of print, but you can buy it through 3rd party sellers)

2. Spider Web Toss
For this you will need the following:
* A plastic basket with holes in the side
* White ribbon
* Fake spiders or bugs
 Thread the white ribbon criss-cross through the holes in the basket to create a spider web like appearance. Place the basket in the middle of the group and have students toss spiders or bugs. If the spider lands on the web, they get a point.

3. Halloween Jumpers
I'm sure you've seen these little jumping toys in the party favor aisle. I found this particular set at Walmart. These lend themselves really well for articulation therapy! Press one of the characters down and challenge students say a target word correctly X times. If they manage to do so before the character jumps, they get a point and it's the next players turn. Note that the production only counts if the word is being said correctly! This is a great way to work on carryover.

4. Jumping Spiders
For this activity you will need:
* Muffin tin
* Jumping Spiders (Walmart or Dollar store should have them in a smaller pack) - you can also use other critters and just throw them
* Construction paper

Cut out construction paper circles and write different point values on each (I used 1-6). Tape them to the muffin tin bottoms. Next, have students take turns making the spiders jump and see if they can get them into the muffin tin. Who can get the most points? This would also be a great activity for OT, as it works on finger strength!

What other cool materials have you found at the Dollar store? Please share in the comments!

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!