Friday, August 30, 2013

SLPs Hopping Back Into School: Who Works in Your School?

Hey everyone! Welcome to the "SLPs Hopping Back Into School" Blog Hop!  I've teamed up with some of your favorite SLP bloggers to bring you some new materials and a chance to win some awesome prizes!!

The rules are simple...Hop through the different blogs and download a back to school themed freebie!  While you're there, pick up a letter (see the bottom of this post for mine).  Unscramble the words and enter them into the Rafflecopter on the last blog post!

The prizes are AWESOME and I wish I could enter! Here's what you could win:

Now, here's my freebie:

"Whoo Works in Your School?" helps you work on WH- questions and to target vocabulary, specifically occupations within a school!  Here's a peek:

There are 12 question cards in total and you can download HERE.

Back to the hop!  Here's your clue:

Ready for more hopping?

Thanks for stopping by and happy hopping!

Thanks so much to our sponsors:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What I learned in professional development...

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links to for your convenience.

[Source: WikiCommons]

Monday and Tuesday, I participated in two professional days to start the year off.  The underlying message of both days could probably be summed up in two terms:  "time on learning" and "rigorous instruction."

Time on Learning:
Essentially, my principal suggested that we have a lot of down-time in our school.  Because I work in a low income district, the students get universal breakfast.  That means that all students enter the school and have breakfast before they begin their day.  Many times, this eats into instructional time.  We discussed ways to reduce down time and to increase direct instruction.  I won't go into a lot of detail on this because I think these strategies would very much be building specific.  However, I've been thinking that I might start coming up with a quick activity to do with my kids during transitions from their classrooms to my room to increase their time on learning.

Rigorous Instruction:
I'm going to preface this one by saying that I missed the first half of the session to attend a Medicaid billing session....However, what I gathered is that rigorous instruction occurs when students are actively engaged in a lesson, they are using higher order thinking and problem solving, and they are encouraged to be persistent in their efforts.

In the talks on rigorous instruction, we heard a lot about vocabulary, and the data from our school's performance on the ELA section of state-wide assessments.  After hearing all of this, I have to say, my selection for my professional summer reading book, Bringing Words to Life, was the right choice!  If you're not familiar, this book is about robust (aka rigorous) vocabulary instruction.  Many examples of rigorous instruction that were given to us reminded me of things that I had read in the book (and my principal hadn't even heard of the book!).


We also got to see some examples of test items that were difficult for our students as compared to other students in the state.  Many were related to vocabulary (especially synonyms/antonyms) and inferencing - two things SLPs work on quite a bit!  I'm really excited to use some of the strategies I learned in this book and to use my new EET this year!  I'm hoping both will make a difference in the students I service!

Are you implementing anything new this year?  I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What I did on my summer vacation

I've officially been back to school for two days!  We've had an orientation session and a professional development session so far.  I'll be off the rest of this week and back to school when the kids return on Tuesday.  You may have noticed I've been a bit absent on the blog lately.  I've really tried to spend some time this summer just "being" in the moment, enjoying my son, and relaxing!  I think we all need time to relax and unwind and many of us (especially those of us who are also mommies) feel that we need to constantly be busy...I know I often feel guilty when I'm not doing something.

As an end-of-summer wrap-up, I figured I'd share some of the fun things we've done...

We went fishing with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew.  My son LOVED it!

We also got a fire pit for our yard and, if you can believe it, I made S'mores for the first time in my life!

Here are some other highlights:

We spent a LOT of time in my yard.  My in-laws bought my son a gym set for the yard and we have the kiddie pool with a slide.  We went to lots of fairs and festivals, a couple of zoos, the splash pad, and the beach!  My city, New Bedford, MA is known as "The Whaling City."  We ended up at the whaling museum, saw some whale skeletons and replicas of the whale boats.  The museum is in the downtown area of the city, which is paved in cobblestones!

I had many more things on my to-do list that we did not get done, but we did have a lot of fun!  I hope you all enjoyed your summer vacations as well!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dollar Tree Finds {Plus a Freebie}

I don't know about you, but the budget I'm given to buy therapy materials through my district is non-existent! (I'm somewhat OK with that though because anything I buy, I can take with me if I choose to switch schools.)  When you're buying your own materials, you really want to get the most for your money. Recently I made a visit to my local Dollar Tree (ok, three visits).  I found a few cool things that I'll be using in my therapy room this year and figured I'd share them with you!

Room Organization:

I have a shelving system in my room with containers for everything - scissors, crayons, markers, colored pencils, glue sticks are all in their own containers.  The only problem with this is when I'm trying to do an activity with a group and have to pull out five different containers for the supplies!  So, I got this cute little bin:

My plan is to keep it stocked with enough materials for a typical group to do a craftivity! I saw something on Pinterest where you add small (empty) vegetable cans to further subdivide the compartments and I may just do that as well!  I also got these cute stackable bins:

I don't have an actual desk (you can see pictures of my room here), so I don't have drawers.  I figured these would be a good place to store things like rubber bands, binder clips, pens, etc.

Student Reinforcers:

I love the party section of Dollar Tree for stocking up my prize box! I got toy frogs, lizards and dinosaurs, as well as those spinning-drum things, tops, pencils and erasers.

I found this cool thing as well!  It's a light-up wand with a spiky ball at the top!  I figured it would be a good sensory toy, but also double as a talking stick for my groups of blurters (I always end up with at least one of those!).

Therapy Activities/Materials:

Have you seen these Weird but True books from National Geographic Kids?  There is a free app in the series as well (facts are limited in the free version but you can do an in-app purchase for more). They're great for keeping older elementary students interested and you can use them for just about any language/articulation target!

Wind-up toys!  I had just passed up some cute wind-up toys as a local pharmacy that were $5.00 EACH!  I love wind-up toys for several reasons (they're good for getting kids to make requests and you can use them as a fun way to work on any "card" activity...see here for more on that)

Next, I found a trash can!  (Yes I meant to put it in therapy activities/materials, not in room organization!)  I saw this post on Schoolhouse Talk and decided I needed a trash can of my own!  You could also use a can like this for this activity from Crazy Speech World.

I was on the fence about grabbing these mini books, but after opening them, I'm glad I did!

Inside are fold-and-go books.  They are designed to target sight words, but I found that I can use them to target syntax, articulation, articles, auxiliary verbs, prepositions, etc.  Here are some examples:

I've been looking for sticky hands ever since I saw Jenna's post on Speech Room News.  I still haven't found them, but I did find these sticky lizards!  I figured the kids wouldn't mind lizards instead of hands!

I think this is my favorite find!  It's a dry erase poster called "Describing:  Bubble Map."  I just got the Expanding Expressions Tool and I thought I could modify this map for use with the EET!

Since many of us are getting ready for back to school, I created these circles with back-to-school themed vocabulary to put in the center of the map (there are 12 vocabulary words total) for describing purposes:

You can download these HERE.

I also grabbed some stickers and cute mechanical pencils for me, but didn't think those warranted a picture.  :)

What's been your best Dollar Store Find?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Don't Throw it Away! Zoo Maps

Summer is the perfect time for visiting the zoo!  When you pay for your admission, make sure you grab an extra map or two because they're great for use in therapy!

Here's a map I grabbed during a visit to Southwick's Zoo:



Ways to use maps in therapy:

Life Skills Groups:  

  • Have students figure out hours of operation, cost of admission, parking, etc.
  • Have students brainstorm what they might need to bring with them if they were spending a day at the zoo (e.g., money for lunch, sunscreen on a hot day, etc.)
  • Have students figure out how much money they should bring for the activities they want to do.
  • Have students call and find out if there are shows that day/what time the shows will be.
  • Ask questions regarding hypothetical events (e.g., What would you do if you were by the lions and you had to go to the bathroom?  What would you do if you fell down and started bleeding?)

Receptive Language:

  • Following Directions.  Have students put their finger on a location on the map.  Give directions (e.g., "If you go south until you see the monkeys then turn to the left, what animal will you see?")
  • Answering yes/no questions:  (e.g., Can you buy pizza at the zoo? Are the leopards at the zoo?)
  • Answering wh- questions:  (e.g., Which animal is closest to the rhinos?, Where would you go if you wanted a drink?)
  • Comprehension questions:  Read the information/rules section (if your map has one) to students or have students read the section.  Ask comprehension questions.
Expressive Language:
  • Pick five animals from the map.  Have students describe the animals using as many features as they can.  (or grab your EET kit!)
  • Give a student two animals.  Have them give directions from one animal to the other.
  • Have students pick an animal they've never heard of (my map has animals like "Capybara," "Kookaburra," "Aldabra tortoise," "Muntjac deer," and "Patagonian cavy").  Get to your computer or iPad and look up the animal.  Have students report back to the group (or to their teacher) what they learned about the new animal.
Executive Functioning:
  • Have each student tell you their favorite animal from the map.  Ask them to make a plan as to how they will see each of the animals by using the shortest route on the map.
  • Provide a scenario where each student gets a certain amount of money and give students a list of costs associated with the zoo.  Have them make a plan regarding what they will spend their money on (rides, lunch, gift shop).
  • Find animals and locations on the map that contain your target sound (e.g., lion, lemur, llama, leopard, reptiles, buffalo, turtle, eagle, etc.).
  • Use any of the above activities for students to practice their strategies.

What do you think?  Do you use maps in therapy?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What's Your Super Power?

Have you seen this post by CC of If Only I Had Super Powers?  If so, you can probably relate to her experience.  I know I can!  Well, I loved the quote at the start of the post so much that I created some posters that you can use in your speech rooms as a little reminder of how awesome SLPs really are!

Here they are.  There's one for the ladies...

And one for the speechie gentlemen...

If you're wondering, I did get permission from CC to use her totally awesome quote!  If you like these posters, you can download them HERE.

PS, Like the Super Heroes theme? CC has a whole bunch of super hero super materials, including her Super Start to Speech room decorations and activities and her Super Planner, which is super, super cute!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Letterboxing, Part 2 (Incorporating into Speech/Language Therapy)

Warning:  This post will make a lot more sense if you have already read my post Letterboxing, Part 1. :)

Yesterday I shared a little bit about Letterboxing with you.  As soon as I heard of this activity, I knew it could have amazing applications in speech and language therapy sessions.  However, most of us can't just take our kids on scavenger hunts all over town...I mean, that would likely take WAY more than the standard 30 minute speech session would allow!  So, how can you incorporate Letterboxing into your therapy sessions?  Easily!  Instead of having your students Find Letterboxes, have them Plant one!

Think about it...every Letterbox out there was put in its location by someone.  Each of the clues on the site were written by someone!  Why not you and your students?  Public schools are, by definition, on public property.  You could plant a Letterbox without even leaving school grounds!  Also, have you checked out some of the clues?  They range from really simple (Go to X location. Look for Y landmark. Find Letterbox) to complex.  Some include a history of the location, some are elaborate fictional stories about the location, and some take you to on (what feels like) an expedition!

Planting a Letterbox in Speech:

  • First of all, I recommend this activity for grades 3 and up.  However, once you have planted the letterbox, you can go "find it" with some of your younger groups.  
  • You may also wish to get permission from your principal. Once you get the OK...
  • Explain Letterboxing to your kids.  You could even stage a mock indoor letterbox for your students to find so they get the idea. 
  • Take your sessions outside and decide on a location.  You can even do this with multiple different groups and then have the students vote on their favorite location.
  • Create your box.  You can view the Letterboxing website for some information on planting clues. I recommend a box that you know will be air/water tight and putting the items in a Ziploc bag within the box.  
  • Decide how much information you want your students to include in the clues.  (This may vary between groups.)  Some ideas:  a brief history of the school, students's favorite things about the school, a short bio on the person for whom the school is named, etc.  Help the students research and start writing the information you decided to include, as well as the clues to get to the box location.
  • Do a walk-through of the clues with the students.  Follow the directions as literally as possible.  This will help the students see which directions may need to be clarified.
  • Once your clues are completed, plant the box and upload your information to the Letterboxing website.  You may want to check your box once in a while to see whether or not you've had visitors.
  • Use the clues with your other groups, especially those that are working on auditory comprehension and following directions!  

You can target so many goals by planting a Letterbox (expressive language, receptive language, giving directions, following directions, written language, carryover of any skill, etc., etc., etc.)!  Do you think you could plant a Letterbox with your students?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Letterboxing, Part 1

The first time I heard the term "Letterboxing" was in the Facebook status of one of my friends.  She and her children supposedly had done this and had a great time.  The term "Letterboxing" doesn't give you a whole lot of information about what actually is involved, so I did a little research by checking out the Letterboxing North America website.  I was still a bit confused, but that was a few years ago and I was still living in the land of the sleep deprived (aka my son was still a baby).

Fast forward a couple of years and a co-worker mentioned that she had "gone Letterboxing" with her kids over spring break and boy did they love it!  Now I REALLY wanted to know more!  And I'm guessing you might too...that is, if you haven't already heard of Letterboxing!

What is Letterboxing?
In the most basic of terms, Letterboxing is a sort of treasure hunt, but you don't find actual treasure.  (Or, if you prefer, it's like Geocaching without the GPS!)

What do you find?
You'll find a box (typically a waterproof food storage container).  Inside typically there will be a small notebook and a rubber stamp.  There may be additional items, depending on who hid the box.  We went searching after a week of rainy weather.  Unfortunately we found a very wet box.  We couldn't add our info to the book because it was too wet. :(

On the bright side (especially when you're with a little boy), we did find a toad sitting right next to the box!

How do you know where to look?
That's where the Letterboxing North America website comes in! (If you're in another country, a quick Google search will let you know if your country has a Letterboxing website).  Under "Getting Starting" select "Finding."  This will give you a more detailed explanation of Letterboxing.  You can find/print clues to the location of Letterboxes on the website (Letterboxes--> Search Clues or Browse Map).  You can narrow down your search by state and county/region.

Sounds interesting, but there probably aren't any boxes to find near me.
That's what I thought too, but there are 158 listed in my county (Bristol County, MA) and 232 in the county to the southeast (Barnstable County), and 140 in the county to the east (Plymouth County)!  With that being said, pay attention to the comments because some may have gone missing, especially if they were planted a long time ago!

Now what?

  1. Create a Trail Name.  Your trail name is basically a user ID for the Letterboxing website.  When you find boxes, you will sign the notebook in the box using your trail name.  
  2. Gather your materials!  The Letterboxing website suggests you take your clues, a notebook (or sketchbook), a rubber stamp, an ink pad, a writing utensil, and a compass.
  3. Find some clues that you'd be interested in checking out.  Print them out or download to your phone and get out there!
  4. Follow the clues!  Hopefully you will find the Letterbox you are looking for (if not, you should use the Letterboxing website to notify the person who planted it and other Letterboxers).
  5. Stamp the notebook in the box using the rubber stamp that you brought with you and sign your trail name.
  6. Stamp your notebook with the stamp that is in the box you found.  Your notebook becomes something like a passport...the more Letterboxes you find, the more stamps you get!
  7. Grab another clue and start searching!

Here's our kit!

What does this have to do with Speech and Language?
So far, not much!  But it might be a fun thing to do with your kids! As far as the speech and language implications, you'll have to come back tomorrow for part 2!

Have you tried Letterboxing with your kids?  What did you think?  More importantly, what did THEY think?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

SLP August Link-up

Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links to for your convenience.

It's that time again!  I really look forward to these SLP Link-Ups that were started by Laura of All Y'all Need.  Laura always comes up with cute acronyms (acrostics?) each month!  This month is B.T.S.  Back to School.  I'm SOOOO not ready!! Oh well...Here we go!

Buying: I'm a sucker for a "good" informercial (if there is such a thing?).  I've been wanting to buy a juicer ever since I saw Fat Sick & Nearly Dead, but they are so darn expensive!  So, when I saw the infomercial for the Nutri Bullet (from the makers of the Magic Bullet), I was sold!  In addition, I've gotten a ton of great Back to School items from Target's Dollar Spot and Dollar Tree!  (I'll share some of them in an upcoming post!).

Trying:  I've been trying to eat more fruits and vegetables (hence the Nutri Bullet)...and now I'm trying out the Nutri Bullet with new combinations of fruits and veggies!  I have to say, the first time I tried it, the concoction looked disgusting, but tasted great!

Speeching:  I go back for professional development August 26th and 27th, but the kids don't start until after Labor Day.  I'm trying to enjoy the last few weeks of my summer vacation and not doing much speeching if I can help it (with the exception of blog posts, of course)!

If you're a blogger and want to link up, head over to All Y'all Need. If you're not a blogger, you should still head over and read some of the responses and get to know your favorite SLP bloggers a little better!

Happy August!

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