This blog is intended as a resource for parents and teachers of the students I serve. Take a look around!
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.
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.
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.
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 am thrilled to announce that I have received a fellowship to attend the Stuttering Foundation Western Workshop this year! The workshop is 5 days of professional development around stuttering therapy – this year focusing on adolescent children who stutter. I got my acceptance letter in the mail on Friday, and have not stopped grinning since! I’m sure this will mean more posts about stuttering in the future, as I learn more and more about my favorite topic. Now you know what I will be doing in June!
This month in room 10 we have been working on narratives. Narrative skills are a child’s ability to tell and understand stories. Stories have characters, setting, and things that happen. They are generally organized into a beginning, middle, and end format. You can read more about narrative skills here. We worked on narrative skills in room 10 this month.
A character is a person, animal, or thing that has a name in a story. Many children who have language impairments will leave out character names when they are telling a story, or not pay attention to the different characters when they are listening to a story.
We read the book Chicken Little by Steven Kellogg to think about characters. The book is ideal for targeting characters, as each character is added one by one, and has a funny, rhyming name. We read the story together our first session, and then reviewed the book the next session in small groups by filling out a Chicken Little Character Chart I made (FREE download!). It took some practice to get all the students used to naming the characters (they all wanted to say “him!” or “her!” instead of giving the names), but we got there in the end.
Setting is the place that story events happen. Just as many of my students leave out character names when telling or listening to stories, many of them also leave out the place that the story is happening.
The book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was perfect to talk about setting. The settings in the book change throughout, and are so funny! Again, we read the book all together first, talking about the setting on each page. Some pages had as many as 4 settings! The tricky part of talking about setting is that my students often wanted to talk about what was happening (raining soup!) rather than WHERE the action was occurring (on a baseball field). But because it was such a fun book, they stayed engaged until the end, and we were able to all talk about setting by the end.
Beginning, Middle, End (BME)
In addition to characters and setting, most stories share a similar structure. Stories have a beginning, things that happen (middle), and an conclusion (ending). In my shorthand notes, I call this BME. Understanding BME structure is very important, both so students can understand stories they hear, and so they can tell stories that make sense.
We used George and Martha stories to practice retelling the beginning, middle, and end of stories. These stories are great because they are SHORT, funny, and almost all of them have a clear beginning/middle/end structure.
Another great book we used was Ivan the Terrier, which I found last week in our school library. The book is about a cute-but-naughty little dog named Ivan. The book has a narrator telling a story, and Ivan being naughty (beginning). Ivan interrupts each of the stories the narrator tries to tell (middle), and the book ends with Ivan going to his bed and falling asleep (ending). Using the BME format helped my students to summarize the story, which is a skill many of them need help with.
To tie everything together, we played the Tell Me A Story game at the end of the unit. This is a noncompetitive game that has students create stories, Madlibs-style, by manipulating the characters, setting, and events. We played as a whole class where we made one story all together, and each student re-told it as the story changed. The next day we played where students each made their own story, and got to “steal” story elements from each other in order to change their stories. The game is always a hit, and is such great practice of using characters, setting, and BME story structure.
That’s what we did this month in room 10! Spring break is around the corner. Next month we will be working on absurdities. Stay tuned!
Stuttering therapy is something that many SLPs have a hard time with. Only 1% of the population stutters, so it is one of the less common disorders we treat. It is one of the disorders we cannot cure, which also makes it tricky to work on in therapy – how do you work on something that will never go away? It is highly variable, which means that what worked for one student may not work at all for the next. And the success of stuttering therapy depends as much on the motivation of the student as it does on the skill of the therapist.
I think that is why SLPs focus so much on teaching fluency strategies. We want to measure things, and we want to target specific skills. We see a motor pattern (blocks, prolongations, repetitions), and we think “I can fix that!” So, we spend hours and hours focusing on motor patterns, but in the end our students are burned out from the drill-n-kill approach, they still feel weird about their stuttering (which of course is still happening), and maybe they don’t even like the strategies we taught them. No wonder stuttering therapy is hard!
Part of the difficulty is the over-focus on speech strategies. They seem the most “concrete”, so they are the easiest to target, but they are only a part (and sometimes a small part) of the whole picture. Stuttering is multifactorial, which means that it is influenced by multiple factors.
The graphic above was developed by Dr. Charles Healey, who is a person who stutters and a professor at the University of Nebraska. He has identified 5 main factors which impact stuttering: Cognitive, Affective, Linguistic, Motor, and Social. He calls this the CALMS model of stuttering.
- Cognitive: what a person knows about stuttering
- Affective: how a person feels about their stuttering
- Linguistic: how language demands impact stuttering
- Motor: prolongations, blocks, repetitions
- Social: how stuttering impacts a person socially
As I said above, we SLPs tend to focus on the motor component of stuttering by teaching speech strategies to increase/establish fluent speech. Sometimes we have “stuttering facts” activities which teach kids about stuttering, and we’re pretty good at providing language therapy to address linguistic demands.
The two most challenging of the 5 factors to address are affective and social – how a person feels, and how stuttering impacts them socially. Talking about feelings is tricky, as anyone with a significant other already knows! On top of that, we need to address self-advocacy, how to manage social situations, stuttering acceptance, and feelings of anxiety, particularly for middle and high school age students. It sometimes feels like I should have a counseling degree on top of my CCC-SLP.
How do we target feelings and social impact in stuttering therapy?
Since emotions, stuttering desensitiztation and stuttering advocacy are so important, how can we target them in therapy? Using voluntary stuttering is one way. Using YouTube videos of people who stutter is another. I’ve done lots of activities over the past few years, used tons of topics and videos (many from current events), and had quality conversations with my students about accepting their stuttering. I finally decided to consolidate my ideas into one spot, to make sure that I can hit important topics and could always have ideas ready to spark important conversations.
Stuttering Chat Pack is a collection of 36 questions, topics and scenarios centered on the experience of stuttering. Students have the opportunity to think about their stuttering, figure out how to advocate for themselves in different situations, and explore how they feel about stuttering. The only way to normalize talking about stuttering is to talk about stuttering! I have used it several times in the past week, and am so glad to have all my ideas down in one place. Since it is a powerpoint presentation I don’t have to print it – I can bring up the topic for the day on my laptop without using any paper! I like to let my students pick a number (1-36) for the “question of the day”, but you could just as easily do it chronologically. Here is an example of one of the pages:
I use one page per week, as an icebreaker before we begin to work on strategies. I notice that my students have become much more confident talking about stuttering, and more comfortable about their own stuttering, since I started incorporating these kind of conversations. My ultimate goal for every student who stutters is for them to have easy communication, and to like the way they talk. Talking about stuttering helps!