I am a speech language pathologist (SLP) in the Edmonds School District. I work at Spruce Elementary and Maplewood Center.

This blog is intended as a resource for parents and teachers of the students I serve. Take a look around!

 

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We have been exploring Pete the Cat books in teacher Norma’s classroom the past few weeks. This month we are reading Old MacDonald Had a Farm, featuring Pete the Cat.

I love this book/song for how versatile it is. Students at many different levels can interact with the book in different ways.

Emerging language: Students in the beginning stages of language can practice using “more” to continue the song, or to turn the page. Some students are working on the sign for “more”, while others are using switches or words. This works well for students who are motivated by music or interaction with adults. Pause the song in the middle or end of a verse, and wait expectantly for the student to request “more.” If they are still learning “more,” they may need you to model using it (“Let’s do MORE”, accompanied by helping with the sign, or pushing the switch with the child) and then continue.

Imitation: The repeating refrain “E-I-E-I-O” is great for imitation of speech sounds. I have a few students who are in the babbling/imitation stage of learning language, and they love to sing along and practice different sounds.

Labeling: Students who are beginning to use words can label the different animals in the song or book. Farm animals are fun to label, especially when paired with their funny sounds. I sing the song, and pause when we get to the animal to let the student fill-in the animal themselves. If the student does not know the word yet, I point to it, label it, and then look at them to see if they will label it with me.

Answering questions: Students who are using longer word combinations can start to answer questions about the pictures in the book. Questions starting with “what,” “where,” or “who” are the easiest ones to start with. Talk about what is on each page, and ask questions starting with wh-words to engage more advanced students.

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Where is the turtle? Where is the pig? Who is in the truck? What does a cat say?

You can find Pete the Cat Old MacDonald Had a Farm at the Sno-Isle library, on BetterWorldBooks.com, or you can read it free on YouTube!

Long-time readers of this blog may remember waaaaaaaay back in 2012 I started a pilot program in my district doing what we called FIT therapy. A group of SLPs in the district wanted to try to implement the new model of short, frequent, intense therapy sessions to see how it would work for our articulation students.

The pilot year went very well, and the following year we kept data on our rate of students graduating from speech therapy. The data was impressive, and I’ve been doing FIT therapy with my articulation students ever since. I have also expanded to use it with students working on vocabulary as well.

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This past October I presented the method, along with our district’s pilot program and data, at the Washington Speech Language Hearing Association’s annual convention in Tacoma. My presentation was well-received, which was a relief to me because I was very nervous about it! Several other SLPs have since asked for my slides, in order to present the method to their colleagues and spread the information further.

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Me, nervously waiting to present!

I am thrilled that others are interested in implementing FIT therapy (also known as QuickDrill, 5-minute therapy, or 5-minute kids) with their clients. I have put my presentation on Google Slides, which is available for viewing for anyone who is interested. The handout is also on Google Drive, free to download (see below).

I would love to know if anyone else uses this service delivery model, or if you are inspired to try it!

This month we have been talking about shapes in Teacher Norma’s classroom! Some students are at the level of exploring physical shapes with their hands, and other students have begun to label shapes verbally. There are many, many ways to play with shapes that can be done at home.

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The book we have been reading together in class is called Shape Capers. You can get it at the library, or on BetterWorldBooks.com. The book introduces shapes – circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, and semi-circles, and then uses the shapes to create fun pictures of different objects (a race car, a rocket, a dinosaur…). The students enjoyed touching each shape, and matching the shape they were holding to the picture in the book.

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I made puffy fabric shapes that velcro onto a display board, which we used as we read the book. Each student got a shape to hold and explore, and when their shape came up in the book, they added their shape to the board. It gave students a chance to learn new words, as well as listen for their shape to be called. And the students enjoyed the texture and squishability of the fabric shapes!

At home, playing with Play-Doh can be one way to learn more about shapes. You can download Play-Doh shape mats here, which you can use while playing with Play-Doh to create and reinforce different shapes.

Flash cards and sorting is another way to learn about shapes. Here is a shape activity with cards of objects that are naturally circles, triangles, squares, etc. Cut them out, and have students label the shapes they see, or sort them into groups based on shape. If your student is not able to label yet, then you can do it with them and model the words as you look at the cards.

Happy Holidays everyone! Stay safe and warm, and I’ll see you in January 2016!

 

 

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In October I presented at the Washington Speech Language Hearing Association’s annual conference. I spoke about QuickDrill Therapy, and had a great response to my session.

While I was at the convention I had the privilege of hearing Elyse Lambeth from Children’s Hospital in Seattle present about tools for stuttering therapy. One of the tools she shared was the concept of “fluency lanes.” I loved her graphic, and have adapted it into a handout that I use with my students.

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The handout is a drawing of a freeway, with the goal of “say what you want to say” at the top. The goal for every student who stutters is that they are able to say what they want to say, when they want to say it. We work on speech strategies as a way to help students towards that goal, but they have other options also. The real goal is not that a student use X strategy. The goal is that each student will chose whatever option works best for them in each situation, even if that option is stuttering openly. Sometimes saying what you want is more important than using a strategy.

The graphic helps students to visualize their options. The box at the side of the road is a parking space. A student is “parked” if they decide not to talk at all. Will it get them to their goal? No. But it is an option they have the power to chose. In therapy we talk about this option, and the consequences of choosing it. Will people know what you think if you stop talking? How will you let your friends know what you like or what you want to do with them? I rarely have a student chose to park instead of drive, but it is still an important option to point out.

The bumpy shoulder on the side of the road is for when students avoide words to prevent stuttering (circumlocution). If a student continues talking, but is avoiding words to keep themselves from stuttering, it will take them more time to go around the tricky words. They might not say exactly what they want. They are still talking, but it is a slow and bumpy road.

The lanes on the road are for different ways to say what they want. One of the lanes is to continue talking and allow the stuttering to happen. Easy stuttering is always an option for communication, and sometimes it is the fastest option! A student can always feel okay choosing to stutter if that will get them to their goal. Working on stuttering acceptance, easy stuttering, and voluntary stuttering are good ways to practice communication in this lane.

The other two lanes are for changing the way you talk (fluency shaping) or using a strategy to alter a stutter (stuttering modification). I don’t differentiate between these two approaches much with elementary-age students, but the difference may be significant in some situations. A student can chose to use their tools to speak more fluently, which will get them to their goal of saying what they want. A student may chose to travel in these lanes if it is important to them that they not stutter while they talk, such as during a class presentation, or talking with a particular person or in a particular situation.

The freedom to chose how to communicate is a fundamental human right. I love this handout because it helps children who stutter to express themselves however they want!

I love books.

I love books to read at home. I love reading books at school. I love using books with my students to introduce language concepts. And I LOVE using the same books repeatedly, especially with my students who need many repetitions to learn a new idea or concept.

Over the summer I was assigned to a new school, with students at different levels than I worked with last year. This has given me an opportunity to develop MORE book activities!

In teacher Norma’s room we are reading the book “In the Small, Small Pond” by Denise Flemming during circle time in November. It’s a fun book featuring many different pond animals. Students with higher vocabulary skills are exposed to many fun animals in the book – there are water beetles, herons, swallows, minnows, tadpoles, and muskrats! – and other students are working on the word “in”. My book poster (see below) has each animal OUT of the pond, and on their turn, each student puts an animal IN the pond.

A great way to solidify learning is to do the same activities at home as at school. In the Small, Small Pond is available at the Sno-Isle Library, or on Better World Books.

This is another re-blog from several years ago, because I want to highlight ways to keep LEARNING over the summer!

“Shared book reading” is the term for reading a book with your child. It can be any book, so long as it is an interesting book for your child. Picture books, comic books, newspaper advertisements, Lego catalogs… ANYTHING.

It is a *wonderful* way to support developing language skills during the summer.

Shared book reading

  • exposes children to emergent literacy;
  • fosters vocabulary growth;
  • aids in the development of narrative skills (important for reading comprehension and writing);
  • helps engagement in social participation;
  • supports entry into later true literacy skills.

Here are my tips for reading a book together with your child:

  • Pick an interesting book. Think about your child’s interests (robots, cars, food, television characters…) and pick something engaging. Librarians are a great resource to help you pick good books for your child.
  • Ask at least one question per page, and give time for your child to think and answer. It can be as simple as “What do you see on this page?”, or a more complicated question like “Why did Sally feel sad?” Encourage your child to think of her own questions about the book, too!
  • Make comments on each page. Point out interesting things you see, or comment about how something is similar or different to your own life. “That car looks like ours!” “Curious George sure is a naughty monkey, isn’t he?” “I see blueberry pancakes. I love eating pancakes!” Encourage your child to make his own observations.
  • Wait for 5 seconds at the end of each page, to give your child time to think of their own comments or questions. 5 seconds can feel  like a long time, but you don’t need to rush. Kids sometimes need the extra thinking time!
  • Pick a time of the day that is free from distractions so that you can read every day. Bedtime works great for many families, but pick whatever time works best for you!

Here is a link to a great summer plan for reading that has a different focus for each week. There are so many opportunities for fun learning in the summer!

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. ~James Bryce

I posted on this topic a few years ago, way back in 2012. It’s been long enough that it’s time to bring this one back. In short, children cannot read too many books. Books can be used for almost any purpose, and today, our purpose is to support articulation skills.

There are many ways to use a book to practice speech sounds. The first thing for all of them is to pick a book that is easy for your child. The content should be lower than their reading/understanding level, because you will be asking them to pay attention to the sounds in words, in addition to listening for meaning. You can use familiar books from home, or head to the library and get something new and exciting.

Ways to use a book to practice speech sounds:

  • Pick a page, and find all of the words that have your child’s speech sound. Say each word 5 times. If your child has trouble, you say the word 5 times instead. Children learn by listening too! Skip words that are too hard.
  • Look at the pictures, and find objects/actions in the pictures that contain your child’s speech sound. Again, have your child say the word 5 times if she can, or if not, you say it 5 times and have her listen.
  • You read the story slowly out loud, and have your child listen for any words that have his speech sound. He can earn a point for each word he hears, and you earn a point for each one he misses. The person with the most points at the end of the page wins! 
  • Make a list of all of the words in the book beginning with your child’s speech sound. Make a goal to find at least 10 words. If that is easy, try to find 15 or 20 words in the next book! For added writing practice, have your child write the word list.

Have fun reading this summer!

If you’ve been paying attention to the countdown widget on the left side of this blog, you may have noticed that there is only ONE MONTH LEFT of school! Summer break is almost here!

Every year I work to provide my students with summer practice for speech and language skills. This year, like last year, I have a calendar format that has one idea per day, and instructions for how to focus on speech, language, or fluency skills. If you would like to use the calendar with your students, you can download either the Spanish or the English version (FOR FREE) by clicking on the picture.

 

This month in room 10 we worked on absurdities. An absurdity is something that is weird or ridiculous, like the picture above with a pig using a vacuum. In room 10 we have been focusing on verbal absurdities, where the strange thing is found in a sentence or the words from a book. Working on recognizing absurdities is a fun way to boost listening comprehension, because children need to pay close attention to the words in order to identify whether a sentence is silly or normal. Laughter is a powerful motivator!

 

Our first book was Don’t Be Silly, Mrs. Millie, by Judy Cox and Joe Mathieu. The students loved the illustrations in this book, because they are so silly! Mrs. Millie gets words mixed up throughout the school day, saying things like “Hang up your goats” or “Gorilla cheese sandwiches for lunch!”. To work on listening comprehension for absurdities I read each page aloud, without showing the pictures, and had the students tell me what was wrong with the words, and what the Mrs. Millie should say instead. Then we looked at the pictures to see if we were right.

Frog salute?

Another book we used was “Fall Mixed Up” by Bob Raczka and Chad Cameron. This book used semantic absurdities, where pumpkins turned red, leaves fell up from the ground, and mummies flew on broomsticks. It was much trickier for students to identify what was wrong in this kind of book, but they enjoyed the challenge. Students really had to think hard to catch all of the impossibilities in the book!

 

In small groups, we worked on shorter sentences that contained absurdities. You can find some FREE activities on TPT that target absurdities by clicking HERE.

Summer break is in 2 years!
I’m going to wear a parka and mittens all summer!

Last weekend I attended a 2-day SIOP professional development class, focusing on vocabulary and language comprehension strategies. SIOP stands for Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, and is a method of providing instruction for students learning English. SIOP focuses 30 “features” spread across 8 different areas of instruction – things like defining language and content objectives, providing rich supplemental materials, and explicitly teaching learning strategies. The class was focused on teaching, but I was able to glean some good ideas for language therapy. After all, my students are also struggling with understanding language, though for different reasons than a student who is learning another language. And some of my students are struggling both with learning a new language, AND with a language disability! I am glad I went.

The main book that we used for the day we spent learning about strategies was “99 Ideas and Activities for Teaching English Learners with The SIOP Model“. Again, the book is focused on general education classroom instruction, but the chapter on strategies contained some true gems for me. I realized that, while I am continually working on language comprehension from text with my students, I have not been giving them enough instruction on how to become independent in comprehending, even when they still struggle to understand. SIOP reminded me that students need to be explicitly taught language comprehension strategies, and given practice in using them independently.

Learning strategy vs. Teaching technique

SIOP is very clear about the difference between a strategy and a technique. A strategy is something a learner uses to enhance their own learning. A technique is something the teacher does to support student learning. I use techniques constantly to support my students. I scaffold, provide cloze-sentences, give word-finding clues, provide context, use visuals, explain new vocabulary, and break longer passages down into small chunks.

A strategy is something a student does to help themselves learn. Using a graphic organizer, identifying unfamiliar words, using wh-questions, different ways to summarize… these are all student-based strategies. I realized during the class that I usually just do these things for my students (teaching technique), rather than teaching them how to do it themselves (learning strategy).

My take-home from the class was to teach strategies more explicitly and intentionally. The first thing I needed to do was to figure out which strategies to target. The 99 Ideas book has an entire chapter listing different learning strategies, so I went through and found the ones most focused on language comprehension. I also wrote down additional language comprehension strategies that were not in the book, but that I have used with students before.

Language Comprehension Strategies

To transfer accountability to students to use the strategies, I made an anchor chart for each strategy. Last week in each of my language groups I introduced one of the strategies. The strategy I taught depended on which grade-level text I was using with the group. We first talked about the strategy, and then practiced using it to organize/understand the passage of the day. For example, I used a Comic Book Summary with my 6th grade group. We were using a historical passage about the invention of the Eskimo Pie, so the drawing element fit great! After creating our comic book summary, my students were able to retell the story using just the visuals, with no cues from me. Success!

I have uploaded the anchor charts up on Teachers Pay Teachers (FREE DOWNLOAD), if you would like to use them in your language therapy, or with your child at home. Enjoy!

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