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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.

OVERVIEW

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.

FEATURES

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.

HOW I WOULD USE THIS APP

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.

LIMITATIONS

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.

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Today I worked with a 5th grade student on phrasing. Phrasing is a fluency strategy where the speaker pauses at the end of each phrase. You can take an easy breath during the pause, or just take a brief moment to collect and think about what to say next. Phrasing is a very effective speech strategy for many of my students. However, it is also tricky to get them to slow down enough to use it, or to remember to take the time! (CLICK HERE to download a list of my most-used strategies, with descriptions and examples of each).

We practiced first while reading a grade level passage out loud. The passage was in a sheet protector, and we marked places to pause with a dry erase marker. Poetry is another great way to practice phrasing – it not only increases fluency, but also improves inflection and expressiveness.

Practicing phrasing! #fluency

A post shared by Melissa P. (@dritta) on

The trickiest part of learning phrasing is always getting beyond doing it when you can see the marks on the page, and doing it during conversational speech. Today, I found a great activity to do just that!

Rory’s Story Cubes are a fantastic activity for many language tasks, but today we used them as a pacing guide for telling a story. Here is what we did:

  1. Roll the dice
  2. Tell a story using all the dice
  3. Pause after using each die

The dice gave a natural way to pace, and my student realized that she can use the “pause time” as thinking time to help her conversation be more fluent AND have more interesting things to say!

If you can’t find Rory’s Story Cubes in your local store they are available on Amazon, OR you can purchase the app!

I don’t do many app reviews, but I found one that I’ve been using in the intensive support classroom I serve that has been fabulous for helping my students stay on-track with their behavior.

Class Dojo is a FREE app and website for classroom teachers. You can get it for apple or android devices, or use it on the website. I use it to motivate students to make good choices during speech, and to help them begin to monitor their own behavior (for those impulsive kids we all have!).

Here is an introductory video for students, to show them how it works:

For teachers, here is a video on how to set up your class. It outlines the main features, and shows you how to set it up for your students/class.

I use it when I am working with a whole class to reward students for showing me positive behaviors, and to alert students when they are choosing poor behaviors. I set up my laptop so that students can see the screen, and give points as students show me positive or negative behavior.

Reasons I love this app:

  • Behavior expectations are┬árepresented visually, which is important for my students
  • Students like getting rewards
  • Everything is customizable
  • It reminds me to reward positive behavior!
  • It makes it easy to redirect negative behavior without interrupting the flow of the session
  • I can print reports of student behavior if I need to share with teachers or parents (though I have not needed to do this so far!)
  • I can access the same data from any device – laptop, phone, or iPad.

So far I have not needed to use this app to address any large behavior issues, but even with light use I am seeing my students more motivated to participate during therapy, and less likely to engage in negative behaviors.

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Spring break!

Spring break!March 30th, 2018
spring break!

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