Friday, May 31, 2013

Book of the Week: A blue cat who shall remain nameless!

The school year is winding down for me.  I know for some of you it may be over already!  For the last few weeks of school, I tend to use "fun" themes in my speech room.  The book I'm using this week is a very fun story.  It happens to be about a certain blue cat who has some new white shoes.  Because of copyright issues, I will not be providing printable activities to accompany this book, but thought I would share some of the things that we did.

For starters, we read this book (Amazon affiliate link).  First we previewed the book.  All the kids immediately noticed the gleaming white shoes!  Then, we took turns describing our own shoes.  Next, we  started reading the book.  After the incident with the strawberries, we made predictions about what might happen next.  When we finished the book, we discussed how we would feel if those things happened to our own new shoes.  Finally, we went back through the book, this time while playing the song.

What happened next really depended on the group.  For the younger kids (3-year old preschool classes), I created this album on my iPad's camera roll by saving pictures from Google Images (If you don't know how to do that, you can read about it HERE).

As we scrolled through the album, kids took turns selecting the shoes ("Oh No! Cat stepped in cotton candy!  What color are his shoes now?").  

For the older preschool students (4-5 years old), we drew these "If...then" strips and answered the questions (examples:  "If Cat's shoes are blue, then what do you think he stepped in?" or "If Cat stepped in plums, then his shoes would be what color?").  If you're wondering, the strips are in an undecorated Crystal Light container.  I wanted to decorate it with duct tape, but I'm bored with the two patterns I have.  So I'll get to that as soon as I get some new tape!

And with some of my groups, we colored shoes by following directions and/or answering questions.  You can make this as simple or complex as you'd like.  Some examples: 
  • Color the first pair of shoes the color of strawberries.  
  • Color the next shoes the color of spinach.
  • Color the last pair of shoes the color of an elephant.
  • Color the shoes that are under the gray pair the color of blueberries.
  • Cat stepped in strawberries. What color should you make his shoes?

Kiddos working on articulation used this sheet from 3 Dinosaurs (I covered the "Color in the shoe patterns" title before photocopying).  The students said their target word a specified number of times, then rolled a die (the one from the Chipper Chat game that only has 1-3).  Then they got to color in that many pairs of shoes.  The person who finished coloring their shoes first was the winner

I did find some nice resources online for this story and I will list a few for you.  Here they are:

  1. 3 Dinosaurs - huge printable packet
  2. Fun for First - lots of nice activities/worksheets with a focus on adjectives
  3. Making Learning Fun - story props, worksheets, magnet pages, etc.
  4. Finally in First - class book idea
  5. Mrs. Plant's Press - emergent reader featuring color words
  6. Creating and Teaching - activity cards
Do you use this book in your therapy sessions?  If so, what are your favorite activities to accompany the book?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Product Review: Tell Tales Fairy Tales by Blue Orange Games

Back to that box from the other day...

The other day, I posted a review of Spot It Jr! Animals by  Blue Orange Games (see my review HERE).  Today I'm going to share my experiences with  Tell Tale Fairy Tales.  This game is a variation of the original game - Tell Tale.

By the way, Tell Tale Fairy Tales has won the following awards:

  • Dr. Toy 10 Best Creative Products
  • Play Advances Language Award
  • The National Parenting Center

Like the games in the Spot It! family, this game comes in a convenient tin for storage.  And again, I wanted to include this part of the box in the picture so that you can see that this game is recommended for ages 5 and up, can be played with 1 to 8 players, and takes approximately 20 minutes to play.

This game contains 60 double sided cards with 120 total illustrations.  The game instructions include four different ways to play:

  1. Storyboard:  Everyone takes 6 cards and places them in the order they would like to tell their own story.  Players take turns improvising a story based on the 6 images on their cards.  ALTERNATE:  Play in teams of 2.  Make up the storyboard together and then tell the story taking turns.  When the first team is finished, the next team tells their story.
  2. Round 'N Round:  Everyone takes 4 cards and looks at their images.  The first player chooses one card and places it on the table.  Using this card as a starting point, s/he begins a story.  The next player chooses one of his/her cards, places it next to the first card and adds to the group story.  The game continues until the last card is used.  ALTERNATE:  Play in teams of two.  Each team takes 6 cards.  Teams take turns telling their communal stories.  Storytellers within each team alternate as they add on to the story.
  3. Showtime:  Everyone takes 6 cards.  Without peeking, players place the cards face-down in a pile in front of them.  One player begins a story by flipping over the first card.  They continue flipping over all cards to add to the story until all cards have been used.  The next player begins a new story, and so on.  ALTERNATE:  Play in teams of two.  One team weaves the story together, alternating between team members (one team member starts with the first card, the other adds on to the story with the second card).  Then it's the next team's turn.
  4. The Stack:  Shuffle the cards and place 24 of them in a pile in the center of the table.  The first player takes one card and begins a story.  Players take turns picking one card from the stack and adding on to the story until no cards remain in the central pile.
I don't think the folks at Blue Orange set out to make a "therapy game" with Tell Tale and Tell Tale Fairy Tales, but boy did they ever!  The therapy implications with this game are endless!  Here are just a few:

  • Narrative development:  You can teach story grammar elements (characters, setting, problem, solution) and have students make sure to include these elements in their stories.
  • Sequencing:  This game is great for sequencing story events and for teaching words like "First," "Next," "Then," and "Finally."
  • Sentence formulation/MLU:  You can't tell a story without using full and complete sentences.  This game provides a motivating, naturalistic way to target sentence formulation.
  • Grammar/Syntax:  This goes hand in hand with sentence formulation!
  • Descriptive language/Colorful sentences/Vocabulary:  Fairy tales are a great way to add "color" or description to otherwise simple (aka boring) sentences.
  • Written language:  Students can write out their stories using introduction, story, conclusion. 
  • Topic Maintenance and Perspective Taking:  Students creating a story need to stay on topic and to make sure their listeners have sufficient background information to follow the story.
  • Carryover activities for articulation and practicing voice and fluency strategies.
  • Pragmatic language/Social skills:  Form many of the variations, students need to work together to create a story.

I first used this game with a group of preschoolers (all of whom are five years old and going to kindergarten in the fall).  I placed a bunch of the cards in the center of the table and told the students that we would be using the cards to write our own story.  I gave them a few minutes to look at the cards and told them that they should remember to (1) keep the characters consistent throughout the story - you can add new ones, but don't let the others disappear; (2) add to the story without changing the setting; (3) link to the parts of the story that have already been told.

This is the story they came up with:
Once upon a time, there was a queen in a castle.  A ghost was in the castle.  She was afraid.  The cat came and fight the ghost.  The cat went back to the forest.  He went into the cave.  There was a dragon in the cave.  The dragon had a princess tied up.  The king asked the cat to save her.  The cat used a sword to fight the dragon.  The cat needed help from the knight.  The knight called a genie.  The genie came on his magic carpet.  He had a map.  The map showed a pirate ship.  Then the sun came out and there was a rainbow.  The cat and genie got the dragon and played a song.  The cat gave flowers to the princess.   She used the key to start the car.  The End.
During the first session, I transcribed the story as stated.  I did work on keeping them on topic and keeping the story consistent.  During my next session, we working on adding adjectives and more descriptive words, correcting grammar, and basically editing the story.  This is their final result:
Once upon a time, there was a queen in a castle.  A ghost haunted the castle.  The queen was very afraid.  The brave cat came and fought the ghost.  Then the cat went back to the forest and into a cave.  There was a fire-breathing dragon in the cave.  The dragon he had captured a princess and tied her up.  The king asked the cat to save the princess.  The cat tried to use his sword to fight the dragon, but he needed help from the knight.  The knight called a genie for help.  The genie came to the rescue on his magic carpet.  He had a map that showed a pirate ship.  The cat and genie defeated the dragon and the cat played a song on a harp.  The cat picked some beautiful flowers for the princess.   She used her key to start the car and drive everyone back to the castle.  Finally, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared in the sky.   The End.
Later on, I used this game with a first grade student.  First, I set out 9 cards on the table:

I asked him to think about the order that he wanted to use, think about the characters, the setting, the problem, and the solution.  For him, we used the app Scribble Press ($3.99 in iTunes) to illustrate his story.  With Scribble Press, you can use your iPad's camera function to add pictures to book pages.  We took pictures of the individual cards and groups of cards.  Here are some sample pages:

In the screenshot above, you can see that we have already added the pictures and words.  You can also use markers and stickers to add to the pages.  Once you have finished your book, you can "publish" to iBooks and also email to parents.  With this student, I emailed the story to his mother so that the student could tell the story to his family members as practice.

*We fixed my typo before emailing to his mom!

If you're curious, here's his story:
The Queen and the Knight
Once upon a time, there was a nice queen who lived in a castle.  Then a dragon came and took the queen to a magic forest.  In the forest, the queen saw a magic wand, a red potion, a green potion, and a blue potion.  Then a knight came and fought the dragon. The magic wand touched the knight and turned him into a baby.  The queen escaped the dragon and fed the baby the red potion and he turned back into a knight.  Then the queen and the knight had a wedding and got married. And they lived happily ever after! The end.
We didn't have time in our session to edit or add to his story, but we might just do that during our next session!

One more variation I used...I had a group of 4 reluctant speakers.  After giving them the run-down, I gave them each three cards.  Each child was told that they needed to use their cards (one at a time) to add to the story.  Then I gave incentives to the kids who got rid of their cards first!  This particular group always fights over who gets to be the line-leader, so the first student to get rid of all their cards was the line-leader back to class.  The second got to turn off the light when we left the room (these don't sound like major incentives, but for these kiddos, they are!), and each student got a sticker when they turned in their last card!  It worked like a charm!  They all participated and only rarely tried to give me a totally off-topic story addition!  I didn't get a chance to write down their story to share with you, but it was a thrilling tale of pirates, treasure, and a genie in a golden lamp!

I love this game for developing not only language skills, but also imagination!  I do not have the original Tell Tale game, but if I did, I would bet that you could combine cards from both games to create even more stories!  My only "problem" with this game is that the game cards are double sided.  There were times that we were searching for an image ("I know I saw it somewhere!"), only to find it on the back of another card we were using.  Also, the directions for some of the game variations call for you to place cards "face-down." Since both sides have illustrations, there really isn't a "face-down."  For my kids, I would prefer one sided cards with the logo on the other side.

Well, there you have Tell Tales Fairy Tales!  I hope you enjoyed the stories that were created using this game...we sure had fun writing them!  If you are interested in purchasing this game, you can do so through the Blue Orange website.  In addition, I was able to find both of the Tell Tale of the games on (affiliate links are below).

What do you think of this game?  What would you use it to target?

Tell Tale and Tell Tale Fairy Tales (plus some other popular games from Blue Orange):


Disclaimer:  Blue Orange provided Tell Tale Fairy Tales for the purposes of this review.  However, the opinions expressed are mine alone.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Song Title Synonyms {Freebie}

I told you all recently that I had purchased some cute new clip art and that I was working on some new freebies!  Well, I was inspired by the Technology Clip Art from Scrappin' Doodles to create this latest activity...

In this free download, you get 3 pages (4 cards each) of song titles in three different categories...

Children's Songs:


On the Radio:  

I also included a blank sheet so that you can create your own song title synonyms!  The last page of this download is a "cheat sheet" - a list of all the songs I used.

You can download "Song Title Synonyms" HERE.  I hope you enjoy this activity!

PS, If you do download, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

App Review and Giveaway: Kangaroo Island Photo Classifying

Recently I was contacted by the good folks at Super Duper, Inc. about reviewing one of their new apps, Kangaroo Island Photo Classifying.  I have a few of the Super Duper Fun Deck apps, but this app is different as it is more interactive, and I was very excited to give it a try!

Getting Started:

This is the home screen of the app:

As you can see, there are six different activities included in the app:
  • Class-a-Roo
  • Picking Parrot
  • Skink Ball
  • Turtle River
  • Koala Canvas
  • Seal Search

If you tap on the lighthouse, you can see a list of the categories that this app offers, as well as all of the individual members of those categories.  This is especially helpful if you wish to pre-teach members of a given category.

There are three icons along the bottom of the home screen as well.  Tapping the first, the "Share" icon, will allow you to email Super Duper and view their Facebook and Twitter pages.  Tapping the center "Thumb up" button, will allow you to report a bug, review the app, or make a suggestion to the app developers.  Finally, tapping the "i" or "information" button, will show you a description of Kangaroo Island (see below).

Playing the Games:

To collect data, you must first add a player.  Also, it should be noted that only one player can play at a time.  To add a player, tap the Tiki labeled "Player."  Next, tap "add player."  You can enter the player's name and select the categories you wish to target.  It should be noted that, although you are able to choose more than five categories, no more than five will be used during any given game activity.  You can also choose to use pictures or text for the category items, and whether or not you want the app to say the category and item names.

This "Player screen" is where you can view data from previous sessions.  As you can see, I entered a player named "Any" to be used with groups of students and for students who may not use the app frequently.  I figured that this way, I could jot down the accuracy level on paper rather than store the data in-app.  Under the graph, you can see the different animal pictures.  If you tap a specific picture (e.g., the kangaroo), you can see data for that specific activity only (e.g., "Class-a-roo").  Tapping the last icon will show combined data for all the different activities.  You can also email or print your data ("share" and "print" icons just above the graph).

Once you've set up your students, you're ready to play the games.  Here's a breakdown:


In this activity, the student is prompted to help Sally the Kangaroo find her friends by choosing the correct item and placing it in her pouch.  Sally hops across the screen and a thought bubble appears with the target category.  Players then have to choose the correct coconut and either tap it or drag it to her pouch.  If incorrect, the coconut will rise up off of the screen.

After a predetermined number of correct responses, Sally will meet a different friend:

Picking Parrot:

In this activity, the student is told that Paul the Parrot is hungry and they can feed him a snack after sorting the items into categories.  The categories are marked on the sand and the students sort the category items (circles) by dragging and dropping to the correct location. If incorrect, the circle returns to the top line-up.

After a student has sorted 2 items into each category, they are able to feed a snack to Paul:

Skink Ball:

Where I live, we call this game Skee Ball.  Regardless of the name, the kids love this one!  Basically, the little skink (I looked it up, a skink is a type of lizard!) holds a ball for you to roll down the correct lane.  When correct, the lane lights up.  When incorrect a buzzer sounds.

After a while, the student will earn a ticket from the machine:

Then they trade in their ticket for a toy on the shelf!  From what I've experienced, the more correct items you get, the more toy options you have.

Seal Search:

For this activity, the student is prompted to find Cindy the Seal by choosing an item that does not belong with the others.  In this example, "pizza" would be the correct response because it is not a color like the others.  If the student is correct, the puzzle piece will remove to reveal a portion of the background.  If incorrect, the items in the circles fade and the puzzle piece remains.

When a student gets all four correct, they find the seal!  The backgrounds will change for subsequent trials.

What I love about this game is that you can easily include targets such as:  describing pictures, using prepositions (on the beach, under the water), answering WHERE questions, etc.

Koala Canvas:

In this activity, students can paint a picture with Cole the Koala.  First, they will need to choose a picture an a color palette.

Next, they dip the paintbrush into a color (category) and tap an item that belongs to that category.  As they tap items, portions of the picture are colored.  You do need to return the paintbrush to the paint each time you tap an item.  For example, you cannot tap "colors" then bring your brush to both "orange" and "blue."  If a student is incorrect, they are told why they are incorrect (e.g., "Cow goes with animals.").

Here's the finished picture:

Turtle River:

For this activity, the student is told that the turtles need help finding their home and that students should place the turtles on the correct island.  The turtles swim between the islands and, although they move at an acceptable speed for many people using this app, I found that they were a bit too fast for some of my students.  If a student is correct, the turtle will go to the island.  If incorrect, they hear "Ooops, try again" while the turtle returns to the water.

After the student finishes, an animated turtle is seen walking on the island toward a cluster of eggs, one of which hatches.

What I like about this app:

  • The variety of games.  With this game you get six different activities, all targeting classification/categorization.  I also like that in Seal Search, category exclusion is targeted.
  • The graphics and animations make this game motivating and entertaining to students.
  • The amount/content of categories included.  I like that this app includes academic categories (e.g., upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, etc.).  We often see students who have difficulty recognizing the difference between letters/numbers and this would be a great app to reinforce that concept.
  • The ability to target inclusion/exclusion within the same app.
  • There is a large number of items within the given categories.
  • I also love the interactive element.  This app plays like a game, which is always more motivating to students than apps that do not have a game-play component.  

Changes I would like to see in an update:

  • I would love to be able to play with more than one player at a time.  I don't think this is a real "negative" as far as playing the game.  I created a profile to be used only for groups.  However, when you are playing with a group, you can't effectively use the data collection features.
  • Again, for some of my students, the turtles in "Turtle River" moved a bit too quickly.  I would love to see an added setting with maybe 2 or 3 speed options.

The Bottom Line:
No doubt Super Duper is your go-to location for speech-language therapy materials "hard goods."  I was excited when they branched out into the app world with their Fun Deck apps.  Now, Super Duper has really hit the ball out of the park with the addition of more interactive apps, Kangaroo Island Photo Classifying included.  This app has been frequently requested since I added it to my therapy sessions.  It makes working on category inclusion and exclusion more fun and interesting.  If you find yourself working on classifying/categorization, then this app is a must-have!

Kangaroo Island Photo Classifying is on sale for $9.99 (in iTunes) during the month of May for BHSM.  As of June 1, it returns to its regular price of $12.99.  However, Super Duper was kind enough to offer a code for me to give away to one lucky reader!  Enter to win using the Rafflecopter below.

Disclaimer:  Super Duper provided the codes for this app review and giveaway. However, the opinions expressed in this review are mine alone.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Product Review: Spot It Jr! - Animals by Blue Orange Games

If you follow me on Facebook, you might have seen this picture that I posted:

I asked what you thought might be in the boxes and many of you guessed that I was receiving games to review for you.  You were right!  The top box contained two fun games from Blue Orange - Tell Tale Fairy Tales and Spot It Jr! Animals.  Today I'm going to share my experiences with Spot it Jr! Animals.  This game is a variation of the popular Spot It!, which is recommended for ages 7 and up.  You can try out the original Spot It! online HERE to get a better idea of how the game works.

As you can see, the game comes in a convenient tin for storage.  I wanted to include this part of the box in the picture so that you can see that this game is recommended for ages 4 and up, can be played with 2 to 6 players, and takes approximately 15 minutes to play.

What else should you know?  This game has 31 cards that each have 6 different animals of different sizes.  There are 30 different animals in all.  There is only ONE animal match between any two cards. The object of the game is to Spot that match as fast as you can!

The game directions provide FIVE different ways to play:

  1. Twins:  Each player takes turns drawing two cards from a pile (face down in the center of the table).  Once the cards are turned over, all players try to find the match.  Whoever finds the match gets the cards.  The person with the most at the end is the winner.
  2. The Tower:  (see below)
  3. The Well:  One card is put face up in the center of the table, shuffle and deal the rest to the players.  At the same time, players turn over their piles and look at the top card.  The first to find a match places it on top of the center pile and play continues.  The first to run out of cards is the winner.  
  4. Hot Potato:  Deal one card face down to each player.  Players turn over their cards at the same time, holding it flat in an open palm.  If you find a match on another player's card, call it out and place your card face up on that player's card.  Repeat until one player has all the cards.  Continue with another round.  The player with the least amount of cards at the end of the final round is the winner.
  5. Triplet:  Place all cards face down in a pile.  One player takes the first 9 cards and places them face-up 3x3 (like a tic-tac-toe board).  At the same time, players try to find a match on any THREE cards.  The player calls out the animals and gets to keep the cards.  Those three cards are replaced and another round begins.  The person with the most cards at the end is the winner.

The day I received the packages, I just happened to be home with a sick little boy.  As soon as I opened the box, he perked right up and wanted to play "Nemo."  By the way, most of the preschoolers with whom I played this game thought it was "The Nemo Game" at first.  I opened the package and read the instructions and we got right to it!  We played "The Tower" version.

He doesn't look very sick, does he? :)

To play "The Tower," you shuffle the cards, deal one to each player, and place the remainder face down in the center of the table.  You flip over the top card and the first one to shout out their match gets the card from the middle. Keep playing until the cards in the middle are gone. The player with the most cards at the end of the game is the winner!  We played with two players and my son is three years old.  Even though the game was recommended for ages 4 and up, he did fine with it, as did my three year old preschoolers at work.  It might have taken a bit longer for the little guys to find their matches than the older kids, but they still enjoyed the game!  Surprisingly, I occasionally found myself having difficulty finding matches!  I think this is because the animals vary in both size and position from card to card.

After a very successful test-run at home, I brought the game to school to use in therapy.  Because all of my students are on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), I decided to stick with "The Tower," because I thought it would be the easiest variation for the kids.  Here's a group of four students looking for their matches:

And a group of two students...This little guy had to touch each picture and compare to his card before finding his matches.

I wanted to mention that I found that my kids with decreased attention really needed extra time to find the matches.  If you have a child with reduced attention in a group of other children with better attention, you might want to play as a turn-taking game.  At the end of one session, I had one child (with fairly reduced attention) who ended the game with only two matches - and I made them all take turns for their first attempt!

You may be wondering how this game relates to speech and language therapy?  Well, we used it to target:

  • Vocabulary:  animal names
  • Classification:  ocean animal, zoo animal, forest animal, etc.
  • Attributes:  color, size, legs/wings, etc.
  • Superlatives:  e.g., "My biggest animal is the octopus"
  • Receptive language:  e.g., Point to the smallest animal, Point to an animal that lives in the water, etc.
  • Confrontation naming skills:  Before we started, I quickly flipped through all the cards and had students name the biggest animal on each)
  • WHO questions:  Who has a big octopus?, Who has an animal that can fly?
  • WHICH questions:  Which animal has the most legs?  Which animal runs the fastest?
  • Comparing/Contrasting:  How are an octopus and a dolphin alike?  How are they different
  • Articulation of multisyllable words:  Spot it Jr. Animals features animals like alligator, octopus, gorilla, grasshopper, etc.  Perfect for sound sequencing skills!
  • Articulation carryover:  Not sure why, but many animal names contain common tricky phonemes /l/, /s/ and /s/ blends, /f/, /k/, /r/, etc.

I played this game in groups of 2-5 people (sometimes I played with the kids).  I used it with ages 3-6 with good success.  No one was bored and everyone had fun!  I found that it took a little over 15 minutes for some groups, but others were able to play twice in a thirty minute therapy session.  It probably took longer because we first reviewed the vocabulary and then added speech/language targets (see above).

The Bottom Line:
Overall, I thought this game was GREAT for therapy sessions!  You can target so much in that little round tin!  Matching is a simple concept and most kids can pick up on the idea pretty quickly, so it doesn't require a lot of pre-teaching.  Also, because of the versatility of this game, you can easily use it with mixed groups and target multiple objectives within the same session!

If you are interested in purchasing this game, you can do so through the Blue Orange website.  In addition, I was able to find all of the games on (affiliate links are below).

What do you think of this game?  What would you use it to target?

Spot It Jr! Animals and other games from the Spot It! series:  

Disclaimer:  Blue Orange provided Spot It Jr! Animals for the purposes of this review.  However, the opinions expressed are mine alone.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sometimes plans get thrown out the window...

The second grade students in my school have been learning about dinosaurs.  They completed 3-D projects about the different types of dinosaurs that they studied.  I have to say that they came out GREAT!  They are on display for the school to see - and they just happen to be located right outside of my door.  Needless to say, they are quite the conversation starter on the way to therapy!  Many of my students love dinosaurs and have had a hard time transitioning from talking about the projects to working on my planned therapy activities.  Now what?

Well, I just threw my plans right out the window (figuratively speaking of course - I don't actually have a window!).

I grabbed my little dinosaur figures and some play dough and we made fossils.

I used my articulation cards and we did a couple of different things...

We added dinosaurs to the top of the cards as the words were said a specified number of times.

We added playdough and dinosaurs and had to excavate to find our words.

With some groups, we used the Buildo History app (this app is similar to Clicky Sticky) to create and discuss scenes, to follow directions, to give directions, etc.

And, finally, we used the Dinosaur Preschool Pack posted by Brea at Let's Talk Speech-Language Pathology.  This packet is AWESOME (and free)!  We used Yes/No and What questions, along with the game board.

Images used with permission from Let's Talk Speech-Language Pathology.

And that's how I ended up with "Dinosaur Week"!  How often do you end up scrapping your plans for the day/week?

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