Our CORE alphabet word this week is UNDER! This is an important word for describing where things are, and for following/understanding directions. UNDER is a conceptual word that is very useful. It typically comes after IN and ON as students are learning prepositions.


UNDER the covers!

UNDER is a fun word to practice. Here are some ideas:

  • Play hiding games, either with objects, or with the student themselves. “Where is the teddy bear? Is it UNDER the table? Is it UNDER the bed?” “Where is Kim? Is she UNDER the blanket?”
  • Bedtime routines are also a recurring time to practice UNDER. You get UNDER the covers every night!
  • Counting bears are a staple in many classrooms. These small, indestructible plastic bears are great for practicing many concepts. Combined with a cup, you can practice putting them IN the cup, ON the cup (upside-down), or UNDER the cup (also upside-down).


Our main book this week is Underground, by Denise Fleming. Each page shows a different animal or plant underground, working or growing. It is fun to imagine all of the interesting things happening UNDER the ground!


Two other fun books for students with higher language skills are Over and Under the Pond, and Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner. These two books have more complicated language on each page, and more words. The illustrations are enchanting, and both books show the things that go on under the surface, where we cannot always see what is happening.

I hope we all UNDERstand how to work on UNDER!



This week’s letter is T, and the CORE word is TURN!

TURN is an interesting CORE word, because it has multiple meanings. This just means that there are more opportunities to practice it!

  1. You can TURN the lights on or TURN the lights off!
  2. You can TURN around in a circle.
  3. Take a TURN while playing a game, or wait for your TURN to do something fun! (“My turn/Your turn”)
  4. TURN the page on a book!

Turn the page!

We are practicing all of these ways in class this week, since all of them are directions that students hear many times while they are at school.

Because all books have pages that we can “turn”, we don’t have a specific book that uses the word “turn” for this week. Instead, we are practicing using the word “turn” while reading every book!


Our CORE word this week is STOP! Stop is an important word for so many real world situations.


  • Our students need to understand STOP as a safety word. STOP because a car is coming. STOP a dangerous behavior. STOP and listen to the directions. STOP!


  • Our students need to be able to express STOP for their own safety and well-being. STOP doing something I don’t like. STOP touching me. STOP and give me time to think. STOP! Students have the right to express their opinions, and to tell others to stop. Rejecting is one of the basic functions of language, and the right to reject actions, objects, or situations is a human right.

STOP is an important word to know in different modalities. STOP needs to be available on communication devices, but sometimes communication devices aren’t available, or the battery dies, or STOP needs to be expressed very quickly and there simply isn’t time. We need to teach STOP using AAC, using manual sign, using oral language, and any other effective communication modality. STOP is too important to miss because one modality or another is not available.


American Sign Language – “stop”


Our book this week is “Bus Stop, Bus Go!” by Daniel Kirk. Students are on a bus, going to different places, and STOPPING and GOING every few pages. You can check it out from the library, find it on www.BetterWorldBooks.com, or watch it on YouTube.

Our letter this week is R, and the important fringe word is READ!


READ is a very important academic word, which is why we teach it at school. All students, including preverbal students and students who are emerging communicators, deserve instruction and access to literacy skills. Many of our students will become readers. All of our students can increase their ability to respond to and use text in their communities. Reading is important for everyone.

Multi ethnic group of pre school students in classroom

But how do we teach the *word* “read”?


Yes, it’s true. The best way to teach children about reading is by reading. Who knew?


Read It, Don’t Eat It!┬áby Ian Schoenherr is a great book to use, since every page has a picture of an animal interacting with the book. It is also great for working on negation, because every page except the first is showing what *not* to do with a book!


You Can Read by Helaine Becker and Mark Hoffman is another great book to read, to talk about reading. The word “read” is on every page, and the book goes through all of the different places you can read a book! Also nice for working on “where” questions.

Or… just read! Any book you want! Kids learn to read by watching adults read, and by reading fun books with adults, and by exploring books on their own. Any interaction with a book is a good interaction.

Head to your local library, and get reading!


QUIET is another fringe vocabulary word that is very useful for students, particularly at school.


The Quiet Book by Renata Liwska and Deborah Underwood is a gem that I discovered as I was searching for books using the word “quiet”. Every page describes a different kind of “quiet” – right before a surprise quiet, sleepy in bed quiet, best friends don’t need to talk quiet – and has beautiful illustrations as well. I like that every page has the word “quiet” on it, and none of the pages have too many words, making it a good book for emerging communicators and minimally verbal students.

It is tempting to practice “quiet” only by telling students to be quiet – in the library, when teacher is talking, when parents are giving directions. It is true that adults do often tell children to be quiet, but that is not the only important use of that word.


Many children who are emerging communicators have difficulty with loud noises. They may experience pain, fear, discomfort, or disorientation when loud noises are present. Loud noises often happen at school, and students need ways to tell adults and peers what they need. Teaching QUIET is a way to help students advocate for themselves in noisy situations that may be scary or overwhelming.

This week we are learning the word PUSH in Teacher Norma’s classroom. (We learned the word ON last week, which I will catch up with in another post. Last week got away from me!)


PUSH is not quite as common as other CORE words, but it is a very useful word for children, as it is a frequently used word during play.

Activities to practice PUSH:

  • Swings – PUSH on the swings. PUSH more! PUSH again! PUSH up! PUSH can be combined with other CORE words to make some great 2-word combinations.
  • Playing – PUSH a toy car! PUSH a ball! PUSH a button on a toy! There are tons of opportunities to use the word PUSH during play.
  • Behavior – less fun, but we can work on PUSH in situations where students are being inappropriately physical with peers or family members. Pair PUSH with a negation CORE word (no, stop, not) to teach appropriate behaviors, and help students to understand what behaviors are inappropriate.

“push” in American Sign Language

You can, and probably should, use the word PUSH in more than one modality. Using spoken words (verbal) is the easiest for most parents and teachers, but pairing the word with the ASL sign, or with an AAC icon, makes the teaching more powerful. Use whatever modalities your child responds to the best!


Our book this week is Don’t Push The Button! by Bill Cotter. Larry the monster tells the readers “Don’t push the button!”, and then of course the button gets pushed, and the monster cycles through different silly skin colors until finally he gets back to his original purple skin. Fun! There are lots of chances to pair PUSH with other CORE words (“not push” “push more” “push again”) as well as using PUSH with yes/no questions (Should we push the button?).

Keep PUSHing on with CORE words, and I’ll be back next week!


Our CORE word this week in Teacher Norma’s classroom is the word “NO”.

You may wonder why we are teaching students to say “no.” Isn’t that word something we wish students would say less often? Why should we encourage students to use such a negative word?

There are many reasons to teach the word “no.” One of the big reasons is because every person, including students who have significant disabilities, or who are using AAC, have the right to say “no” to actions, objects, or activities which they do not want. In the Communication Bill of Rights, developed by the National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities in 2016, the right to say “no” is the third item on the list of rights. It is a basic human right.


Another reason to teach students how to say “no” is because when students do not know how to say “no”, they will use behavior to tell us “no” in other ways. Tantrums, aggression, throwing, biting, hitting, shutting down, passive resistance, and crying are only some of the ways that students will tell us “no” without words. Students deserve to be taught socially appropriate ways to say “no” using words, so that they do not need to resort to the anti-social behavioral ways to communicate their rejection.


How do you teach students to say “no”? “No” often does not make sense without the option to say “yes” as well. One of my most-used apps is the Yes/No app by I Can Do Apps. It is a very simple app with only one screen – a large “yes” button, and a large “no” button. The app has voice-output, so it says “yes” or “no” when each button is touched. The app is FREE.


One of the easiest questions to start with for yes/no is the question “Do you want _______?”. Asking students about their personal preferences is more concrete than other kinds of yes/no questions, and gives them the ability to make a choice, and to reject things they don’t want. Start with one thing you know your child likes (food items, toys, etc), and one thing you know they do not want (undesirable foods, toys). Offer one, and then the other. If your child pushes away the thing they don’t want, you can model using their communication mode to reject. You could say “Oh! It looks like you mean “no” [touch the AAC, use the “no” sign, say the word]”. If it is appropriate, help your child to indicate “no” by touching/signing/saying “no”, and then immediately remove the thing they don’t like. When you offer the thing they do want, repeat the same prompts for the word “yes.”

Another way to teach the word “no” is using books! There are several which are particularly good.


The book “Where’s Spot?” is a classic lift-the-flap book, where a mother dog looks for her puppy. Is Spot under the rug? No! Is Spot inside the clock? No! Is Spot in the basket? Yes!

“No, David!” is another classic, written by David Shannon as an autobiographical children’s book. In the book, David does naughty thing after naughty thing, and every page he is told “NO, David!”. By the end of the book David is in tears, but his mother reassures him that yes, she still loves him. I love this book for the many opportunities to practice saying “no”!

One more book that gives many chances to use “no” is the book “Is Your Mama a Llama?” On each page, Lloyd the Llama asks one of his friends if their mama is a llama. Every page until the last one, his friends say “no”. So many chances to practice!

Little Stories icon

Here is something totally new [for this blog]: An APP REVIEW! Over winter break I received a copy of Little Stories Pro, the newest app from one of my favorite app designers Little Bee Speech.

I already own the Articulation Station Pro app, which I use regularly. It is my favorite articulation app, both for the beautiful graphic design, but also because it has clearly been created by someone who knows what SLPs need from an app, and has a mind for details. So I was interested when I learned that Heidi Hanks (the SLP who founded Little Bee Speech) was releasing a new app focused on stories.


Little Stories home

This app has 82 stories of 100 words each. The stories can be sorted by target phoneme, theme, or reading level. Each story has a phonemic target sound, and comprehension activities for each story. Each story also has a synopsis with critical facts (reading level, phonemic target, verb tense, point of view, theme) on the home page to make it easy to find an appropriate story. Each story also has an engaging illustration to accompany the story. I noticed that the illustrations feature children and families with a variety of diverse physical features (skin tone, hair texture, facial features) which was nice to see.


The features of this app are what impress me. Each feature shows how much thought and planning has gone into this app.

  • 100 word stories

Why is 100 words significant? 100 words is a short story. It has a story structure, but not a complicated structure. It is short enough that even my students who struggle with working memory can remember what happened in the story.

100 words is also the ideal length for a stuttering fluency sample. When I use other materials I have to count the words in the passage by hand, and then calculate the percent disfluent. With 100 word stories, the math practically does itself!

100 words is the ideal length for Quickdrill therapy (which I’ve written and presented about before). I have struggled to find materials that are both engaging AND short enough to use for Quickdrill therapy without extensive modification. I now have 82 stories which fit the bill!

100 words is the ideal length to provide multiple repetitions during a longer therapy session. If I am working on answering WH questions, or sequencing, I need to give many chances to practice those skills. Having short stories makes it easier to increase the number of repetitions.

  • Before you read

Each story has extensive information about it under the “before you read” heading. There is a list of sight words for each passage, as well as a list of words with the target phoneme. Most amazing is that there are also FLASHCARDS for these lists, to give students a chance to practice the words BEFORE they read them! I have been doing this with disorganized word lists and post-it notes. Now I have beautiful flashcards on my iPad!

  • Text features

The text customization features are amazing. I can chose the “easy reader format” which puts fewer words per line of text, for emerging readers. I can turn on the “reader helper” which is a colored box that helps students track the lines of text. I can bold the sight words, or the phonemic targets, or the challenging words in each passage. Each passage also has a Tongue Twister that goes with it, to practice oral motor skills (and have some fun!).

  • Story Retell – recording

Every story has a story retell spot, with the ability to record students as they retell the story. Once they record, you can replay their recording and mark words correct/incorrect, to get a percentage. What a perfect tool for data collection and progress monitoring! If you want to save recordings of individual students, you do need to set up a student profile for each student first. Having an easy way to make, organize, and score short recordings of students will make my progress notes so much faster, and my data so much more meaningful.

  • Sequencing

Every story has a 4-step sequencing sort in the story comprehension section. ALL of them! The sorting is errorless, meaning that the app won’t let students put the story in the wrong order (the tiles jump back to their original spot if they are placed wrong). It is basic sequencing, but a nice structured way to start for students working at this level of narrative understanding.

  • WH questions

This section blew me away with the clever design. All of the WH questions are here, but the unique detail is that the question is asked first, and students prompted to answer what they know. THEN, if the student does not know the answer, you click the button and multiple-choice answers appear. I LOVE THIS FEATURE!!!! It allows me to scaffold for students as they grow in this skill, from needing multiple-choice options, into coming up with answers independently.

LIttle Stories where 1LIttle Stories where 2

  • Story Talk

The “Story Talk” element of each story is one of the unique features of this app. Instead of the simple WH questions we usually get to accompany stories, the questions in Story Talk are more like book club discussion questions, and encourage students to give their opinions, draw inferences, use their imaginations, and dig deeper into the stories. This section gives great opportunities to work on articulation skills in a conversational context, and also to work on conversation skills themselves.


I definitely plan to use this app during my Quickdrill therapy with younger articulation students who are working at the reading or conversation level.

I will also use this app with my students who stutter, to get realistic fluency samples that are easy to score.

I will use this app with language students who are working on basic narrative structure, or answering simple WH questions.

I will use this app with students working on conversation skills, particularly focusing on the Story Talk section for each story.


Overall I am clearly impressed by this app. However, that doesn’t mean it is perfect, or perfect for every occasion. One limitation I definitely noticed was that this app is designed for younger elementary students. It is an awesome app for that age group (!!!), but both the design and content fit with a K-3 developmental level. I would hesitate to use this app with my older elementary or middle school students, just because it looks like an app intended for younger students.

Another limitation I see with this app is that for the most part, the language skills targeted are very basic. 4-step sequencing sentences. Simple WH questions that can often be guessed without needing to read the story. Etc. I definitely have students working on language skills who are at that level, and for them this app is perfect. But once students grow beyond that basic level, this app is going to be too easy for them. I guess that’s intentional, since the whole point of the app is to have short, simple, 100-word stories, right? It’s a strength, but also a weakness, to have such a narrow focus.

Lastly, while the story protagonists are diverse in terms of skin tone, hair texture, and facial features, it would have been lovely to see other aspects of diversity reflected as well, such as protagonists with different abilities, or stories from different cultural backgrounds. There were a few stories drawn from Western European myth and fable traditions, but none from other cultures (or, none that I noticed). Having a broader spectrum of representation would have increased the cultural value of this app even more.

Disclosure: I was given a copy of this app to review. I am receiving no other compensation for my review. The thoughts and opinions are entirely mine.


The word MORE is very, very important! Students who are emerging communicators are often working on requesting, and teaching “more” is a high-value way to do it! The word “more” can be used to request either quantity or continuation.


Students can request “more” of any thing – fish crackers, Legos, juice, balls, pizza, bubbles, lunch… any object that they may want to have more of. To practice “more” with food items, give your child a small amount of something they like to eat or drink. When they finish it, wait for them to ask for “more” (or help them ask for “more” if this is a new skill) before you give them another small portion. Using smaller portions allows your child to have more chances to practice the word “more”, without ruining their appetite for supper.


Students can also request “more” of any action – tickling, bouncing, running, swimming, playing, watching YouTube, playing with iPads… any action that they want to continue! To practice “more” with actions, begin a game or activity that your child enjoys. At a natural pausing point, stop the game and wait for them to ask for “more.” If this is a new skill, you will need to help them ask for “more” (using picture symbols, signs, an iPad app, or verbal words) until they learn how to request “more” independently. If this word is a familiar word for your child, then perhaps give them one reminder, and then wait patiently. Playing with another adult who can show how to ask for “more” is also a good strategy.


If you are using an iPad and know how to use the guided access setting, a great way to practice “more” is to set the guided access timer to limit the number of minutes the iPad will work before the screen locks. That is a fantastic opportunity for your child to request “more” iPad, and for you to oblige by turning it on again!


“more” in American Sign Language

“More” is a very common “baby sign” – manual signs taught to infants before they can talk. This is because it is a developmentally early cognitive concept, that many babies and children with intellectual disabilities benefit from learning. Instead of needing to know the name of whatever they just had, they can simply ask for “more” and get it! “More” is a multipurpose word, which are the best kind of words for students who have difficulty learning many new words all at once.


Our book this week is “Just One More” by Jennifer Hansen Rolli. In it, a little girl named Ruby always wants “just one more” of everything! One more minute in bed, one more hairy thingy, or one more push on the swing! She asks for “just one more” scoop of ice cream, but that turns out badly, so at the end of the book she decides that sometimes, just one is plenty.

We will continue learning MORE core words next week!


Our word of the week is LIKE! This is a particularly wonderful word. “Like” is a word we can use to comment about what we think. “Like” and “not like” are powerful ways to comment.

Students with complex communication needs are almost always taught to request; “I want _____.” While “I want…” is an important phrase, it is very limiting if we *only* teach students to request things. Communication involves more than getting what you want! We tell each other what we think (commenting), we say what we don’t want (protesting), we identify what we are experiencing (labeling). The word “like” is an entry into commenting, which is one of the pillars of language use.


Our book this week is a newer book, and deeper than most of the books I use. Every page has the sentence “I like _________” or “I don’t like ____________”. The last word of the sentence is something that western children often play with or enjoy – shoes, cars, bricks – and the spread on each page features a privileged child playing with the item on one side, and an underprivileged child performing child labor with the item on the other side. It is a thought-provoking look at childhood in different parts of the world, and a reminder that every child has the right to play, to receive an education, and to have a life of dignity. The last pages of the book have information about poverty and child labor, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.


“like” in American Sign Language

At home, model the word “like” any time you experience something pleasant! You can use any modality to model “like” (picture symbols, manual sign, words).

  • Foods: I like cereal. I like coffee. I like eggnog. I like cookies. I like ice cream. I like carrots (really!).
  • Toys: I like legos. I like my teddy bear. I like my iPad.
  • Activities: I like jumping. I like watching movies. I like swimming. I like reading.
  • Places: I like my house. I like the park. I like the gym. I like school. I like Starbucks.
  • People: I like grandma. I like my dog. I like my teacher. I like my friend. I like you!

What do you like?

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Spring break!

Spring break!March 30th, 2018
spring break!

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