This blog is intended as a resource for parents and teachers of the students I serve. Take a look around!
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!
You may *hear* about what we are doing *here* in room 10 this month – multiple meaning words! We did many of the activities I posted about before (CLICK HERE for the previous post) so you can check that out for more book ideas and YouTube videos.
Multiple-meaning words, otherwise known as homonyms or homophones, are words that sound the same but mean different things. Words like flour/flower, blue/blew, see/sea… Working on these words helps expand students’ vocabulary, but also increases the connections between different words within their vocabulary. Those connections contribute to overall language skills and vocabulary robustness. Working on multiple-meaning words helps students who are concrete and literal in their thinking to learn to be flexible. Words can mean more than one thing! How cool!
I found a great addition to the unit this month — a new book!
Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School is an updated story about the same nutty character you knew as a child. I don’t often like “updates” to classic stories, but this is an exception. The original Amelia Bedelia books were great, but many of the jokes are pretty dated (“dress the chicken”, anyone?) and went right over my students’ heads. The update keeps the same nutty style, and the same misunderstanding of multiple meaning words and idioms for the humor, but uses up-to-date words and content that kids today can relate to. The class LOVED the page where Amelia Bedelia glued herself to her chair, as well as the part where she “wiggled her fingers in Clay” (instead of clay).
There are a whole series of updated “Amelia Bedelia’s First _____________” books, which I look forward to checking out. They would be a great way to follow up at home with more multiple meaning words and idioms!
I’ve created a brochure to share with parents and teachers when a child is first diagnosed with a speech sound disorder, similar to my brochure about fluency disorders. Many parents have questions, and it can be hard to remember all of the things we talk about at an evaluation or IEP meeting. I designed a brochure to summarize current research on what we know about speech sound disorders, and why speech therapy is important.
Here is the text from the brochure:
What is a speech sound disorder?
Speech sound disorder (SSD) is an umbrella term referring to any combination of difficulties with perception, motor production, and/or the phonological representation of speech sounds and speech segments (including phonotactic rules that govern syllable shape, structure, and stress, as well as prosody) that impact speech intelligibility. (ASHA)
What causes SSD?
Speech sound disorders may be motor based (dysarthria, apraxia), structural (cleft palate, short frenum), caused by syndromes (eg: Down Syndrome) or by a hearing impairment, or may have an unknown cause. They tend to run in families, but also appear in families with no history of SSD.
SSDs are NOT caused by learning another language, bad habits, “baby talk”, or parenting style.
Is there a cure?
Speech therapy is used to treat SSDs. Most children who receive speech therapy for SSDs will master their goals and eventually be able to speak with clear sounds. Speech therapy can help reduce frustration, and increase your child’s ability to be understood.
A Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) is trained to provide speech therapy for speech sound disorders.
What can I do at home?
There are many things parents and caregivers can do to help children develop clear speech sounds.
- Practice at home: if your child receives speech therapy, ask your SLP for home practice pages to review at home in between sessions. Short, daily practice is best! Aim for 2-3 minutes per day.
- Model clear speech: Children learn by listening. Show how to use clear sounds by example!
- Read books: Reading together helps all areas of speech and language development. Choose high interest books on topics that will interest your child. Point out words that have your child’s sounds in them (eg: Find all the L words, or all the S words). Talk about the story, ask questions, and encourage your child to ask questions or retell the story to you.
- Play with letters: Use sidewalk chalk to draw letters on the ground. Make playdough letters, or have fun with letter magnets on the fridge. Draw letters in the steam on the bathroom mirror. Talk about the sounds each letter makes.
Does my child need speech therapy?
Children develop at different rates, but there is a range for normal development. If your child is significantly below these guidelines (see below), please talk to an SLP about speech therapy.
If your child is frustrated by not being understood, that is also a sign that she/he may need speech therapy. You can talk to your doctor for a referral to a hospital-based or community SLP, or contact your local school district for a free communication evaluation.
- 2 years old: 50% intelligible
Many speech sound errors
- 3 years old: 75% intelligible
P,B,M,N,H,Y are consistent
D,T,K,G,F,S,Y are emerging
- 4 years old: 90% intelligible
B,D,T,F,K,G,Y are consistent
- 5 years old: 90-100% intelligible
May not have TH, R or S/L-blends
- 6 years old:
S/L-blends and R start to develop
- 7 years old:
TH begins to develop
R sound and S/L-blends may still be emerging.
What should I expect from speech therapy?
Speech therapy is the treatment for SSDs. An SLP will do some testing with your child to determine exactly where they are in their speech sound development, and then set some goals to work on in therapy.
If you receive speech therapy through public schools, your child will have an Individual Education Program (IEP) developed for him/her, which will include their speech goals, and how much time each week they will work with the SLP.
Your health insurance may also cover speech therapy through hospitals or community providers. Contact your insurance provider for more details.
- Info on speech development
- Free speech therapy worksheets
- Free downloadable Speech Sound Screener
- Articulation apps for your iPad or iPhone
If you feel your child has a speech sound disorder, you can receive a communication evaluation and, if necessary, speech therapy through your public school.
Contact your local public school for more information about speech therapy for your child.
I know, I know. It’s been ages since I’ve posted. I can only say, that’s because I’ve been very busy doing therapy! Also, I’ve been busy updating the Fluency Homework for the Whole Year packet, which is up on TPT. I added 10 new stuttering missions, so there are now 4 per month (3 in December and June).
I have a lovely graduate student intern coming on board this month, so hopefully that will give me some breathing room to post more frequently.
I like focusing on comparing and contrasting in November. There is lots of seasonal material to use (fall vs winter, comparing Thanksgiving foods or holiday traditions). It is also far enough into the school year that students are getting more comfortable, and are more confident to take risks during speech.
Almost all of the students in room 10 know the basic concept words “same” and “different.” If they didn’t, we would start by working on those words. Stating how things are the same is often related to a student’s ability to categorize (identifying that two things are the same type of thing). Stating how things are different is related to ability to describe. Both of those skills are integrated into every major curriculum, including the Common Core State Standards. They are important skills to have!
For previous activities I’ve used to target compare/contrast skills, CLICK HERE.
A fun website to use at home that compares different things is the Diffen website: http://www.diffen.com/. You can type in any two things, and it brings up a chart to compare them! Very cool.
To get ready for thanksgiving, we did a whole class activity comparing/contrasting common thanksgiving foods. After talking about the ways each pair of foods was the same and different, each student chose their favorite and drew it on their plate. Yum!