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A ‘who’ question is asking about a person. I usually work on ‘who’ questions after students become good at answering ‘what’ questions. Giving an answer that is a person is still very concrete, and students can learn that when the question begins with “who?”, the answer must be a person.

Students in my intensive support classrooms often need visual supports to be successful answering questions, so having picture choices for answers helps them both to figure out how to answer, and to show us what they know.

I made a Boardmaker Online WHO question activity with visual answers, similar to the one I made for WHAT questions, which has been getting lots of use in the intensive support classrooms this month. To access this activity for free, you will need a Boardmaker Online subscription. You can search for it in the community activities, or find it in the Ms Petersen SLP group.

If you do not have a Boardmaker Online subscription, you can find a printable version of the WHO questions with visual answers on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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(Note: I have no financial connection to Boardmaker Online, or Mayer-Johnson. I did not receive any compensation from them in exchange for my opinions about Boardmaker Online. I am simply using it myself, and finding it very helpful).

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A ‘what’ question is asking about a thing or an action. Typically developing children learn to answer simple ‘what’ questions by around age 3 (example: “What is your name?”). However, students with language disorders can struggle with answering questions. For students who are “emerging communicators” (just beginning to use words or pictures to communicate), learning to answer questions can be very, very difficult!

I have several students this year who are ready to work on answering WHAT questions, and who are just learning to use words (verbal or pictured) to communicate. For these students, the typical WH-question materials that I have used in the past are too complicated, and do not give them enough support. I needed to make more materials, which could give my students more clues to help them learn to answer questions.

Boardmaker Online is a resource I have been learning to use. I finally got my district to pay for a subscription this year, and have been loving it! It replaces the old Boardmaker disks that I have been using (last updated in 2006!). The most useful feature is that when you create interactive activities, they can be played on a FREE iPad app, so that students can use the activities over and over!

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My first activity was for WHAT questions, with visual answers that students can chose from. This allows them to show me if they know the answer, and also supports students who are learning to answer these questions, because there are only 3 options to chose from. If they chose the wrong answer the app tells them that it was wrong, and gives them another chance to find the right answer. It has been working FABULOUSLY for many of my students who love using iPads.

Another neat thing about Boardmaker Online is that you can search for activities that other people have made, and save them for your own use. I made the WHAT interactive activity public, and put it in a Ms Petersen SLP group to make it easy to find. If you have a Boardmaker Online subscription, you can add it to your activities and use it for free!

Some of my students do better with low-tech paper materials instead of using the iPad, so I also made a printable version of the same questions, which I laminated and bound into a book for the teachers of those students. I wanted to give away the book as a freebie, but one of the restrictions of using Boardmaker Online is that I am not supposed to give away PDF versions of materials that I create using the Boardmaker symbols, because of the copyright laws. However, I am allowed to sell materials, so long as I credit Mayer-Johnson as the source of the graphics.

In order to respect the law 🙂 and also share what I’ve made, I have two versions of the printable WHAT questions. If you have a subscription to Boardmaker Online, you can download the printable version for free off of the Boardmaker Online website. When you logon, search for “Ms Petersen SLP” in the groups, and when you join, you will find all of the activities I’ve made so far to share.

If you do not have a subscription to Boardmaker Online, you can still get the printable version of WHAT questions with visual answers for emerging communicators from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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Further reading:

(Note: I have no financial connection to Boardmaker Online, or Mayer-Johnson. I did not receive any compensation from them in exchange for my opinions about Boardmaker Online. I am simply using it myself, and finding it very useful).

It’s here! My 2016 summer speech/language practice calendar. The calendar is in both Spanish and English, and can be used to practice articulation, language, or stuttering strategies from the end of June to the beginning of September.

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Top reasons to practice over the summer:

  • Summer Slide

The “summer slide” is a term educators use to refer to what happens when students leave school for summer break, and don’t practice any of their academic skills until they come back in the fall. June – September is a long time to not practice! Students who do not practice their skills will actually go backwards in their skills, falling further behind their peers, and begin school in the fall at a disadvantage with their peers who have practiced, even only a little.

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The good news is that it doesn’t take much practice to prevent the slide. Even 5 minutes a day, a few times per week, can keep students from losing skills over the break.

  • Make faster progress

Students who practice at home, during the year or over the summer, make faster progress on their skills than students who don’t practice. Research on therapy effectiveness has shown that therapy programs that are more “intense” help students to grow more than therapy that is less intense, and one of the key factors in intensity is how often students work on their target skills. Practice at home is a major way to increase intensity, and boost the effectiveness of what is happening in the therapy room.

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  • Graduate from speech/language therapy!

Having a large-ish caseload in a public school, I have a variety of homework-completion levels amongst my students. Some students practice and bring their homework back every week, some students do it occasionally, and a few students are not able to do it at all. I work just as hard with the students who bring it back as with those who don’t, but I have noticed a definite trend, where students who practice graduate significantly faster than students who don’t. For speech sounds, learning a new motor pattern takes time and practice, just like learning to play a sport or play the piano. The more you practice, the easier it becomes! For language skills, practice talking and listening is working on the muscle of your brain, which also needs exercise in order to grow. The students who practice the most are the students who graduate from speech/language therapy the soonest, and get back to full-time learning in their classrooms.

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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!

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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!

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.

 

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!

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.

Characters

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

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.

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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!

Today I’m sharing some charts that I have been using for a while, but that I come back to every year. An “anchor chart” is a visual support that reminds students of the most important elements of whatever topic they are learning. I have posted anchor charts in my room for my students who stutter: one chart listing the kinds of stuttering (which we use while we practice voluntary stuttering during therapy), and another of different speech strategies they can use.

Students refer to the anchor charts to remind themselves of the different ways that they can stutter, and also when they need to pick a speech strategy to increase their fluency. After we talk about the anchor charts during therapy, students get a copy to keep in their speech folders to use at home if they wish. The anchor chart is also a way that parents can have this information at home.

Click the picture if you would like to download the anchor charts for yourself! I have also included blank pages for strategies and types of stuttering, for use during therapy sessions.

To wrap up the unit on wh-questions, this week we did books and activities which feature ALL of the wh-questions mixed together. It is important to make sure that students understand each of the wh-questions separately before mixing them altogether, but once you have checked or taught each of the wh-questions, it’s time to bring on the challenge!

My theme this week was Robert Munsch books. His books were some of my favorites when I was a child, and I love sharing favorite books with my students today. Munsch books are always a hit with the students, who love the silly themes and ridiculous (but *almost* realistic) reactions of the characters.

Our first book was “Purple, Green and Yellow”, about a girl who begs for her mother to buy her markers, and ends up coloring herself all over with “super-indelible-never-come-off-til-you’re-dead-and-maybe-even-later” coloring markers. The opportunities for wh-questions are almost endless: Who was in the story? What did Brigid want from her mom? Why did Brigid color herself? Who did mom call to help? Etc.

After the story the students took a quiz of wh-questions, and did a coloring activity based on the book.

CLICK HERE for the wh-quiz and activity.

CLICK HERE to listen to Robert Munsch reading Purple, green, and yellow.

Our second book was Thomas’ Snowsuit – a silly story about a boy who does *not* want to wear a snowsuit outside. He ends up getting it on both his teacher AND his principal, and then back onto himself, before he runs out to play. Our activities and questions were very similar to the day before, so I won’t post them here, but  CLICK HERE to listen to Robert Munsch reading Thomas’ Snowsuit.

WHAT are you doing this summer?
WHERE are you going?
WHO is going with you?
WHEN are you going?
Are you excited for your plans? WHY or WHY NOT?