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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.

2016 summer practice calendar preview

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.

summerslidebanner

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.

growth

  • 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.

graduation

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We just wrapped up a unit on before and after in one of my classrooms. These concept words are tricky because they are more abstract than some of the spatial concepts. It’s hard to draw a picture of “before” without drawing on preexisting knowledge of what is supposed to happen next; similarly with “after”, a student needs to have sequencing ability in order to understand most of the examples that come to mind.

But never let it be said that I backed down from a fight because something was hard. We learned before AND after this month! And we had fun while we did it!

AFTER:
The simplest ways I found to help students understand before/after had to do with familiar sequences. We started with a number line, 1-10, and me asking the simple question “What number comes after ______?” What number comes after 1? What number comes after 2? What number comes after 3?

BEFORE:
Once students understood the concept of “after,” we moved on to “before.” I explained that using the word “after” was like going forwards. “Before” is like going backwards. With an alphabet line (letters written in order from A-Z) I asked the same kind of questions. What letter comes before C? What letter comes before F? I used the visual to point to the letter in question, and students were allowed to point to their answers. (Some of my students don’t know all of their letters, and I wanted to see if they could understand the word “before” independent of whether they can say the letter names).

We also used the daily schedule in the wall to practice using before/after. What do you do AFTER lunch? What do you do BEFORE you go home? These questions, relating to their familiar routine, really helped the students to connect the words with their real-life meaning. In order to learn and use new words, they must be connected to real life. Using the schedule was a great way to do this.

BOOKS:
Any book with a sequence could be used to talk about before/after. Here are a few we used:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carl. This book has become a staple of the modern children’s library, and for good reason. The colorful artwork, the predictable yet fun sequence, the life cycle of a caterpillar, and the simple language all make it ideal. The version I used was also bilingual Spanish/English, which engaged my kids immediately. My Spanish accent is good enough to pull off single words, so I supplemented my reading with the Spanish as I was able. What did the caterpillar eat before the plums? What did he eat after the oranges?

The Secret Birthday Message, by Eric Carl. Another Eric Carl book. This one follows a boy who gets a mysterious letter, with directions for a treasure hunt. I asked lots of questions about the sequence of the book (What did he do before he went in the cave? What did he see after he went up the ladder?). After the book, we went on our own treasure hunt around the school. Such fun!

Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carl. Yes, all of the books I used were by Eric Carl. This one was the sequence of Jack, a boy who wanted to eat pancakes for breakfast. Before he could eat them, he needed to get flour, and after that some milk, and after that make some butter, and after that make a fire… you get the idea. We drew pictures of our favorite pancakes after we sorted out the sequence from the book.

One challenge in a public school system is working with students whose home language is different than mine. Many of my students are learning English as their second or third language. For students who have a communication disorder, it is important to recognize that their difficulties will exist in both languages.

One of my students who is working on the L sound comes from a Spanish-speaking home. Using Boardmaker, I’ve been able to create personalized speech practice sheets with both Spanish and English words! (Boardmaker has multiple language options, so this is pretty easy).

The coolest part is that I was able to find words that began with the L sound in both Spanish AND English, so he can practice the same skill in English at school, and in Spanish at home!

lips = labios!

lobster = langosta!

I feel pretty brilliant today. 🙂

Here is a link to one of my practice pages.