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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.

Frog salute?

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!

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.

The story mat

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!

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!

 

apr10_ins1

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!

CLICK HERE to download the powerpoint slides for thanksgiving dinner.

We have worked on making inferences and predictions before in room 10, but it never hurts to review a good thing! Making a “smart guess” based on clues from what someone says, or from written text, is something that children are often asked to do in school. When interacting with fiction, students frequently are asked to predict what will happen next or how the story will end. For students who have language disabilities, these skills can be hard.

HERE is my previous post on making inferences. We used many of the same books and activities this month. However, I always try to add something NEW even when doing a unit I’ve done before.

We started with and old favorite of mine, “Guess Where You’re Going, Guess What You’ll Do“. This book is out of print, but you can find it used on BetterWorldBooks.com for about $4.

The book uses the formula of a scene full of clues (both in the words, and in the pictures), and asks the question “Where are you going? What will you do?” The next page has a scene showing where the children went, and what they did. The illustrations are full of fun details, and the students love looking closely for the clues. The book is aimed at younger children (pre-K through 1st grade), but I find that older students can enjoy it when they view it as a sleuthing game.

I checked out Teachers Pay Teachers (my go-to website for finding new materials!) and found THIS product by Mia McDaniel, which uses a text message format for students to make inferences and predictions about what is happening. It was a great addition to our fun unit!

It’s almost 12:00pm. My stomach is growling.
Where do you think I will go?
What do you think I will do? 

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 represented 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.

Our last unit in room 10 has been focusing on describing. I say “describing” to talk about adjectives, though we did not get in to parts of speech with this lesson.

This was a short unit, because the school year is almost over, field trips are happening, and we had our end-of-semester cupcake party! But we still got in some good practice with describing.

Our book for this unit was “That Pesky Rat” by Lauren Child. I like this book because the font of the book highlights many of the describing words. It is about a PESKY rat, who wants to be a pet. He is CUTSIE, HANDSOME, and HELPFUL. He wants to be someone’s pet, and have a name.

Each scene of the book is him describing a pet friend of his, and imagining whether he would like to have their life. We talked about how to describe the rat in each situation (A joyful rat! A scared rat. An embarrassed rat.). By the end of the book of course he finds an owner who wants him, and he becomes a loved rat. 🙂

How would you describe this rat? He is ____________________.

rat

Another resource we used was the Magic Jinn – Animals app. This app is free on iTunes. It is a cat-like alien creature who claims to be able to read your mind. We used it with the whole class. We thought of an animal (a giraffe), and the Jinn asked questions to try and guess the animal. It is a way to model asking questions, but also to show how to describe an animal. When the Jinn asked “Does it have hair or fur?” I modeled “Yes, it has fur.” Once the students figured out how it worked, they were inverting the sentences themselves.

No, it’s not smaller than a microwave! Yes, it lives in Africa! No, it is not dangerous to humans! The app was very engaging, and facilitated great models of describing language that the kids could manipulate and copy.

There are some fun, free activities on TPT that you can download if you want to work more on describing at home.

I am blown away that it is almost the end of the school year! Time flies! We spent this month cracking up learning about fun and funny idioms. An idiom is a saying that means something different than the words it uses. We all use them every day, and for students with language impairments or difficulty understanding figurative language, they can be hard to follow.

There are some great children’s books about idioms. For this unit, I checked out at least ten of them from my library, and then used my favorite ones to read aloud in class. They all introduce an idiom, have a funny picture showing what the idiom would look like if it were literal, and an explanation of what the idiom really means. Here are my favorites:

There are many activities available for free on TPT to target idioms. There are too many for me to list, so if you need more activities to practice at home, click the link and check them out! I also have an interactive idiom powerpoint in my TPT store, which we played as a whole class game.

And of course, YouTube is another resource to find engaging videos that teach idioms.

What idioms do you use most at home? How do you learn about idioms in your classroom?

Narrative skills have been the focus in room 10 this month. A “narrative” is a story. People tell narratives all the time, for many reasons. I may tell a narrative about my morning (why was I late today?), a narrative to explain an event (“Officer, I swear I have a good reason for going that fast…“), or a narrative to make a connection with another person (“I remember that something like that happened to me one time!“). Kids use narratives to express their ideas, tell jokes, and explain things that happen to adults. Adults use narratives to teach, share information, and connect with children. Narratives are all around us!

Students with language impairments can struggle telling stories that make sense. They may not include all of the parts of a story, or it may be in a mixed-up order. They may not tell their listener who is in the story, or where it is happening.

There are several important parts of a story. At a basic level, a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The beginning of a story includes the characters (people or animals who are named in the story), the setting (where is the story happening?), and an event (something that happens).

The middle of a story includes another event, often a problem. The middle of a simple story may contain more than one event, but when teaching basic story structure, I usually limit the stories to no more than 3 events in the middle.

The end of a story includes the conclusion. The conclusion resolves the problem and/or wraps up the story.

I’ve posted before about the George and Martha book series by James Marshall. This series is perfect for working on beginning/middle/end story structure. Each book contains 5 mini-stories, each with a clear and simple story structure. The stories are funny and engaging, and also rely heavily on the student’s ability to make inferences. These stories are a great way to practice narrative structure at home.

How to practice narrative structure at home:

  1. Read a story with your child
  2. After the story, ask questions about the story.
    • Who were the characters in the story?
    • Where did the story happen? (setting)
    • What happened at the beginning?
    • What happened next? What was the problem in the story? (events)
    • How did the story end? (conclusion)
  3. If your child does not know the answer to a question, go back together and find the answer in the book.
  4. Have your child retell the story to you in their own words. The retell can happen right away, or a day or two later.

More narrative resources:

I designed a new unit this month, focusing on making inferences and predictions. Making a “smart guess” based on clues from what someone else says, or from written text, is something that children are often asked to do in school. When interacting with fiction, students frequently are asked to predict what will happen next or how the story will end. For students who have language disabilities, these skills can be hard.

We started with the poem “The Secret Place” by Tommy DePaula. I put the poem on a powerpoint presentation, with one line of the poem on each slide. After each line the students made smart guesses about what was happening. As we learned more, the students changed their guesses to match the new information. The poem has a surprise ending which was very fun to discover. You can find the powerpoint here in my TPT store (it’s free!).

We read “Suddenly!” by Colin McNaughton as a whole class. Each page set up a situation where Preston the Pig was about to be eaten by the hungry wolf. But SUDDENLY! something would happen to change the outcome. The students used clues from the picture and from what Preson said and did to infer WHY the wolf was unable to eat him! It is a very fun book, with lots of opportunities to make inferences and predictions.

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“I Like Your Buttons” was our next book. This book featured a cause-and-effect chain of reactions between people, as one person did something nice for someone else, who passed along their good feelings to someone else, who passed them along to someone else. I chose this book because it gave practice inferring feelings of other people, which lead to actions (a critical skill for social development!).

Our last book was my favorite of this unit – I Need My Monster! A boy discovers that his normal under-the-bed monster is on vacation, so he receives a series of substitute monsters for the night. Each monster is missing a critical element the boy needs in his monster, which leads perfectly into what we did half-way through the book. We made a list of what we could infer about the boy’s monster, and each student drew a picture of what they inferred the monster to look like. Then we finished reading the book and compared our drawings to the illustrations in the book. CLICK HERE for the freebie worksheet to accompany the book!

More resources: