Friday, September 27, 2013

Super Duper Speech!

I was contacted recently by the nice folks at Super Duper about reviewing one of their products on the blog.  I was given a list of items to choose from and, not surprisingly, I already owned more than half of them!  While I'm waiting for the product I will be reviewing (you'll have to wait to find out what it is!), I figured I'd share some of my favorites!

I started looking around my room and was surprised at how often I saw the Super Duper logo! (You know, the two kids in the black oval).  So here are some of my favorites (in no particular order)...

I've talked about this product before, but in case you missed it...FLIPS stands for "For Learning Intelligible Production of Speech."  I use this with most of my expressive language/articulation kiddos for 3-5 minutes at the start of just about every session. It's a great warm-up for expressive language/articulation activities. Also, it a good preschool vocabulary building activity! What I didn't mention the first time around is that it's great for kids with apraxia or other motor planning difficulties.  The book is divided into three sections and each section is printed with CV words, divided by sound (e.g., bee, boo, bye...tie, tea, toe...shoe, show, she, etc.).  You can make any combination of words you'd like.  My first copy of this book was so well loved that I ended up getting a second!  Now I have the opportunity to have kids sequence up to 6 CV sequences!

Lids 'n Lizards:
I bought this game some time last year and it has instantly become a favorite (of mine and of the students!).  With my little kids, I typically keep the magnetic pictures on top of the lids and have kids either name the picture, tell me about the picture, find a member of a specified category, or choose a picture to answer a WH question (e.g., What can you use to heat up your food?).  They absolutely LOVE finding the lizards!  I love that you can target /l/ in the middle of a language lesson!  I also love that you can grab other little animals at the dollar store (frogs, dinosaurs, etc.) to coordinate the game with classroom themes!  In addition, there is a list of game variations printed on the inside cover, making this game VERY versatile!

Grammar Gumballs:
This is another new-to-me product that I got at the end of the year.  I love that I can address multiple targets in the same session and the kids love the reinforcement of collecting bubble gum.  I've even used the game board within articulation sessions as reinforcement.

Fun Decks:
I have a bunch of these.  I store them in a drawer-box that is designed to hold CDs.  I found the box at an odd-lot type store and the fun decks fit perfectly! Also, did you know that many of the fun decks are available as apps?

(I couldn't find Voice Choice! on the website so I'm not sure if it's still available)

Voice Materials:
Last year I got my first ever student (pediatric) with a voice disorder.  I needed help (and materials) FAST! I ended up getting Voice Choice, Voice Adventures, and Martha Mouse & Baby Bear.  They have been a HUGE help for this kiddo!

Chipper Chats (etc.):
Whenever anyone asks me what my "Must Have" therapy materials are, I always answer with Artic Chipper Chat and WH Chipper Chat!  They are so versatile and can be used in many different ways!  I like to use WH Chipper Chat to take baseline data for answering questions!  Auditory Adventures is another great product for kids with comprehension and processing difficulty and Basic Concepts is wonderful for my youngest preschoolers!

These are another "Must Have!" If you're a new SLP, you need at least one of these (preferably one that comes with a CD!!).  I STILL use these books to make my own artic cards!!  In fact, I wrote a post about that, which you can read HERE.

Category Cut-Ups:
Last, I shared with you yesterday about how I introduced the EET to my preschoolers (you can find that HERE if you missed it).  After I wrote the post, I had an older student.  To introduce the concept of "groups" or "categories," I made some copies from this book, then we sorted the items (I didn't give him a whole lot of instruction other than to "make many as you need").  We used dry erase markers to draw circles on my table and give names to our groups!

And there you have some of my favorite things from Super Duper!  Now, while I'm waiting for the red box to show up at my door, Super Duper has given my fabulous readers (yes, that's YOU!) a special code that will earn you 30% off web orders!  When you check out enter the following code to receive the discount:


Happy Shopping!  

PS, What's your favorite Super Duper product???

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Introducing the EET (Expanding Expression Tool)

I'm guessing that you've heard of the EET before (Expanding Expression Tool). I first saw the EET described in a catalog from Northern Speech Services and thought "This looks cool!"  I couldn't imagine that it would be appropriate for my caseload that is largely (maybe 90%!) preschool.  Still, I kept coming back to it...reading reviews from other bloggers, checking out materials developed by other bloggers to use with the EET, and checking out the EET website itself.

If you haven't done this yet, head over to the EET website and watch some of the videos. I couldn't believe the four year old little girl! I thought, if she can do it, my kids can do it!  I finally broke down and bought my own kit.

I was so excited to get the EET, you'd think I was a kid on Christmas! I ended up ordering the kit, some small student strands, and the EETCHY steppers.

I started using the EET in therapy this week (yes, with preschoolers!) and I wanted to share with you.  I "introduced" my students to the large EET strand and drew their attention to the different parts of the strand.  We paid particular attention to the head, which is green. The manual and poster will tell you that GREEN=GROUP.  Many of my kids weren't sure how to define "group," but they were able to make groups!  I gathered some items and put them in a "mystery bag."  (I recently bought some new sheets and they came in a bag that is made of the sheet material and has a flap with velcro closure at the top. We used that).  Then I gave them baskets and I placed an item into each basket and told them they would make groups.  Some of the kids needed some supports and assistance, but most were able to sort the objects into groups:

We had the food group, the crayon group (aka the "colors" group), the animal group, the block group, and the dishes group.  I know some of these aren't "real" groups, but the activity helped the kids understand the concept!

My plan is to introduce the strand one ball at a time.  As we go, I'm going to create a caterpillar on the wall.  This pin was my inspiration, but I don't think I'm going to get that fancy.

Overall, the kids seemed to enjoy the activity and the "caterpillar"!  I'm hoping they will continue to have fun with this and expand their language at the same time!  If you're looking for more EET ideas, I've started an EET board on Pinterest.

I would love to know...I've heard people call the EET strand a caterpillar and a worm, but do you have a special NAME for it?

Update: Since writing this post, I've added a product to my TPT store that targets the first three beads of the strand. You can find that HERE.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book of the Week: I Like Myself!

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

Wow! I feel like it's been such a long time since I've written a book of the week post!  I brought home some books to write about over the summer and somehow never got motivated enough to do anything with them.  I guess I needed some time off from more than just work over the summer!

I just finished up my first full week of therapy and this year I'm so excited about a new project that will be happening at my school!  I'm teaming up with a super-fabulous OT and wonderful special educator to run a group in a substantially separate preschool classroom!  We are following the themes that our preschool curriculum uses (the theme for September is "All About Me").  Also, we are going to center our lessons each week around a story and this is the first book we used:

"I Like Myself!" by Karen Beaumont is a fun story that celebrates our differences - all the things that make us unique!  The illustrations are great and the kids wanted to comment on each page of the story!  So for our follow-up activities, we wanted to celebrate the things that make our students unique!

First, the students made "Paper Bag Back Packs" similar to these.  Here's our sample:

The children took them home and were asked to find something to put in the bag that represents themselves and bring it back to school for show-and-tell.  My son actually had the same assignment in his preschool class (not the back-pack craft, just the bag with a poem on it...which still was cute!)  So, for example, he put in the following items:

  • Foam #4 from a puzzle - "I am 4 years old"
  • Thomas the Train:  "Thomas is my favorite toy"
  • A small book:  "I love to read"
  • A small soccer ball:  "I play soccer"

For the speech part of the activity, I wanted to look at the students' ability to provide personal information and to name a member of a given category.  I found a few "All About Me" fill-in the blank sheets, but decided to create my own.  Here's what it looks like:

(There's also a "girl" version)

You can either have the students draw a picture of themselves in the box, or take a picture and paste it in the box. Categories targeted include: color, food, movie, book, animal, song, and game. (BTW, my favorite response of the week went something like this: "What's your favorite color?" Yellow. "What's your favorite food?" Yellow. Can you relate???). You can download the "All About Me" sheets HERE.  

What are your favorite "All About Me" activities?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vocabulary Barometers

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

This summer, I read (most of) Bringing Words to Life.  Now I've been putting a lot more thought into vocabulary. Especially Tier 2 words.  We all work on synonyms, right?  Ever notice that some synonyms are just a little more "bleh" and others are a little more extreme?  Take mad for example...You might think that someone who is furious or enraged is more mad than someone who is annoyed or bothered, right?

Here's an activity to work on those "degrees" of words...Vocabulary Barometers!  (or Synonym Barometers, if you prefer).

On each page, there's a barometer.  Put your target synonym in the middle and challenge students to come up with words that are "more" or "less" that word!  I've filled in a few words for you to start...

Here's a sample of the sheet filled in:

There is a blank page as well so you can choose your own target words.

I'll be honest here.  This idea isn't 100% my own.  Our new superintendent suggested a similar activity during our professional development day.  I created these worksheets based on her suggestion of "degrees" of synonyms.  This free download is available on my Facebook page.  You must like the page to download. Once you do, click on the "Free Downloads" tab!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

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

Avast ye mateys! Thursday is International Talk Like a Pirate Day...There really is a day for everything! I may be one of the few SLPs NOT doing anything in my speech room to commemorate this day. I just started seeing kids on Monday and am very busy collecting baseline data. Since we end the year later than other states, I typically reserve the "fun themes" (Pirates, Super Heroes, Dinosaurs, etc.) for the end of the year.

I digress! I figured I would share some Pirate themed activities, books, and games for those of you who do plan on celebrating!

Favorite Pirate Books:

I wrote a blog post about how I use "There Was an Old Pirate Who Swallowed a Fish."  There are free printables included.  You can find that post HERE.  I also wrote a post on Pirate Pete and a Pirate themed pronoun activity (FREE), which you can download HERE.

Favorite Pirate Games:

I know that Cariboo isn't necessarily a pirate game, but because there's a treasure chest, most of my students call it "The Pirate Game."  I have the old version and frequently swap out the images to target seasonal/thematic vocabulary, articulation, SVO sentence structure, etc.  Also, if you're looking for a fun way to increase trials in articulation practice, what could be more fun than counting out 100 gold doubloons and having students place them in a treasure chest bank for each correct trial?!?

Looking for more pirate themed activities?  Check out my Pirate Pinterest Board!

Have a swash-buckling great day!

PS, I haven't checked out Pirate Talk from Super Duper yet, but it looks amazing! ;)

Monday, September 16, 2013

App Review: School of Multi-Step Directions

Today I will be sharing another fun app by the Virtual Speech Center - The School of Multi-Step Directions! I'm guessing that all SLPs everywhere have at least ONE student working on following directions. Am I right? Typically I work on single step directions (and even 2-step directions) in the context of other therapy activities (craftivities, games, etc.). When it comes to following 3+ step directions, however, I find that I really need to target these skills on their own. Why? Because students who have difficulty with complex directions really need to concentrate to be able to hear all of the steps, remember all of the steps, and execute the directive. The School of Multi-Step Directions is perfect for these students!

I want to point out that from this home screen, you can view your reports (data from previous sessions), modify the settings, and view a list of other apps by the Virtual Speech Center.  Under the "info" tab, you are able to watch a video tutorial.  Whenever I get a new app, I typically jump right in and get started, but I do recommend that you watch the tutorial (more on that later). If you want to see the app in action, here's the Video Tutorial from Vimeo (the same as in the app):

School of Multi-Step Directions from Virtual Speech Center on Vimeo.

When you're ready to begin, tap the Start button and enter a student.  You will have three options from which to choose:  English, Math, and Chemistry.


In the "English" section, you have a choice of multiple targets. They are:

Two Step Directions:

  • Level 1:  2-step directions with pictures
  • Level 2:  2-step directions with letters
  • Level 3:  2-step directions with words
  • Level 4:  2-step directions with letters and size or color concept
  • Level 5:  2-step directions with letters and first or last concept
Three Step Directions:
  • Level 1:  3-step directions with pictures
  • Level 2:  3-step directions with letters
  • Level 3:  3-step directions with words
  • Level 4:  3-step directions with letters and size or color concept
  • Level 5:  3-step directions with letters and first or last concept
Four Step Directions:
  • Level 1:  4-step directions with pictures
  • Level 2:  4-step directions with letters
  • Level 3:  4-step directions with words
Here's an example of a 2-step direction with pictures:

Students may be asked to touch, underline, cross out, highlight, or erase a picture (e.g., "Touch the house and cross out the lion").  I'll be honest here...I jumped right in and started playing and couldn't figure out how to underline, highlight, cross out, etc.  I figured out that each tool corresponded to an action, but it took me a few tries to figure out that you have to drag the tool and hold it over the picture for a few seconds!  Also I want to note that you need to touch "Go" once you've completed all the directions in order to move on to the next item.

Here's an example of directions with letters and color or size concept:

"Underline the green R and highlight the yellow E"

Just like "English," in Math, there are multiple targets:

Two Step Directions:

  • Level 1:  2-step directions with shapes
  • Level 2:  2-step directions with numbers
  • Level 3:  2-step directions with shapes and size or color concept
  • Level 4:  2-step directions with numbers and even or odd concept
  • Level 5:  2-step directions with numbers and smaller or bigger concept
Three Step Directions:
  • Level 1:  3-step directions with shapes
  • Level 2:  3-step directions with numbers
  • Level 3:  3-step directions with shapes and size or color concept
Four Step Directions:
  • Level 1:  4-step directions with shapes
  • Level 2:  4-step directions with numbers

Here's an example of 2-step directions with shapes:

"Erase the circle and touch the square"
And here's an example of 2-step conditional directions with numbers and even or odd concepts:

"If 11 is even, cross out the 6 and underline the 7.  If not, erase the 9 and touch the 3"

In this last "class," you can target:

Two Step Directions:

  • Level 1: 2-step directions with one element
  • Level 2:  2-step directions with size or color concept
  • Level 3:  2-step directions with color and first or last concept
Three Step Directions:
  • Level 1: 3-step directions with one element
  • Level 2:  3-step directions with size or color concept
  • Level 3:  3-step directions with color and first or last concept
Four Step Directions:
  • Level 1:  4-step directions with one element
Notice that, in chemistry, there are different tools along the bottom.  They stand for: set temperature to cold, set temperature to hot, mix, and shake.  There are also icons on the shelf behind the table.  You may be asked to add items from this shelf (e.g., "add coloring dye," "add salt," or "add ice cube.") 

Here's a sample of a 2-step direction with size or color concept:

"Add yellow soap to the small flask and touch the big flask."

And an example of a three step directive with color and first or last concept:

"Add water to the last red flask, mix the first green flask, and touch the first blue flask."

Built-in Reinforcement:

As with most of the apps from Virtual Speech Center, School of Multi-Step Directions comes with built in reinforcement.  The default setting is to provide reinforcement after 5 correct items, but you can increase or decrease as desired.  The reinforcement is a "Pong" game that is sort of a cross between ping pong and air hockey.  Needless to say, the kids love it!

Finally, with all apps by Virtual Speech Center, you can view reports of data collected from each session from the home page.  You can view data by activity or by date.  This is great for monitoring progress over time!

Some thoughts:

I would advise that you pre-teach some of the vocabulary for Chemistry class if you're using this app with early elementary students.  They may not know words like flask or beaker.  I would also recommend pre-teaching the tools and what they do (not just for Chemistry, but in each "class").

Personally, I found it difficult to remember some of the more complex directions!  (Good thing there's a repeat button for directions!) However, if you find that they are "too easy" for you or your clients, or you want to provide distractions, you can go to settings and add in background noise!

Here's what you should take away:


  • This app is very versatile.  You can use it not only for school aged clients, but for adults as well.
  • There are multiple levels of complexity.
  • There are three different "classes," meaning you can use the app over multiple sessions and not be dong the same thing each time!
  • There is a repeat button if your student (or you, for that matter) doesn't remember the direction.
  • Data collection is always a plus
  • Some of the kids had difficulty holding the tool over the targets long enough to "mark" it correctly. Also, there were a few times that I had my finger directly over the target, but a portion of the tool was more to the left.  This cause the app to "mark" the picture to the left of my target.

The Bottom Line:
Multi-step directions are often difficult to target in new, motivating ways during therapy sessions.  Virtual Speech Center made this goal so easy to target and  in a fun, challenging, yet motivating way! The School of Multi-Step Directions is very versatile and can be used with students through adults.  This app sells for $18.99 in the App Store.

What are your favorite ways to target following directions?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Examples of the Use of Gestures and Problem Solving in Early Intervention

Picture if you will, a small child sitting in a highchair.  A brightly colored toy sits just out of reach. As you observe, the child makes eye contact with you, reaches for the toy, then looks back at you.  What do you do?

Chances are you give the toy to the child! This child did not use words to let you know what they wanted, and yet you figured it out!  Maybe you're a mind reader...more likely you have picked up on the nuances of nonverbal communication.

What is nonverbal communication?  In simple terms, it's the ability to convey a thought or idea to another person without talking. We use nonverbal communication every day - we raise our fingers to our lips to signal quiet, we smile and wave to a friend to say hello, and we put our hands on our hips and frown to signify displeasure. Nonverbal communication takes many forms, including (but not limited to) eye contact, facial expression, touch (haptics), and gestures. 

Nonverbal communication is so much a part of our "language" that babies pick up on it very early on! Take the child in the example above, she used nonverbal communication (in the forms of eye contact and conventional gestures) to gain your attention, regulate your behavior, and get her wants met.  That's pretty sophisticated problem solving!

This article from Science Daily gives us a preview of recent research conducted by Patricia Miller and Gina O’Neill.  To summarize, Miller and O’Neill gave children (aged 2-5) cards that were printed with different colored shapes.  The children were asked to sort the cards first by color, then by shape.  The findings suggest that gesturing proved to be a better indicator of success than other factors, including the age of the child. 

This article was initially written for and published on Pediastaff.  You can view the rest of it here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

App Review: Basic Concepts Skills Screener

Today is the first day of school for preschool and kindergarten in my district (the older grades start a week earlier than the little ones).  I'm excited to see the little faces!  If you don't know, I work primarily with the little guys - preschool and kindergarten.  At that age, so much of what is worked on in early childhood classrooms is also targeted in speech and language therapy.  I so frequently work on comprehension and use of basic concepts.  Because of that, I was so excited to check out Basic Concepts Skills Screener (BCSS) by Smarty Ears Apps!

This app is designed for single player assessment and has two options - the Full Screening or the Quick Screening. The full screening consists of 79 questions and according to the Smarty Ears website, takes 10-15 minutes to administer. The quick screening has 30 questions and is estimated to take approximately 5 minutes.  I'm planning on use the quick screening as part of my baseline data collection for this year.

As with the other Smarty Ears apps, this one is really easy to navigate! When you first open the app, you need to choose a language.  You can use BCSS in English and Portuguese.  (FUN FACT:  My little corner of the world has a very large Portuguese community and many of the students in my district speak both English and Portuguese!).

Under the "Info" tab, you can view a 20-page manual for the BCSS, watch a Video Tutorial, and learn more about the app and Smarty Ears.

Tap the "Add Student" button and enter the child's Name and Date of Birth:

I administered the Screener to my son (don't judge, you know you've tested/screened your own children before!)  Next you choose the full screening or the quick screening.  In the app description, it's estimated that the full screening takes 10-15 minutes and the quick screening takes about 5 minutes.  I opted to go for the full screening.  My son has good attention, is generally cooperative, and has no speech or language delays.  It did take us closer to 20 minutes and he did need encouragement to keep going.  I wanted to tell you this because, if it took him extra time to finish and he needed breaks/encouragement, your language delayed preschoolers might need the same (or even additional) modifications.

During the screening, the student is shown four pictures and asked to touch one based on a description (e.g., "Touch the balloon that is ABOVE the house"):

Here are a few other examples:

In the upper left hand corner of the screen is a "Notes" tab.  You can click this at any point and add notes for your session:

When you are finished, you can see a list of screens that have been created by student:

You can quickly determine progress by looking at the Raw Scores reported, or you can view a full report of your session.  The report includes a description of the BCSS, the child's number of correct responses, number of items attempted, and overall accuracy level:

 It goes on to list the concepts that were answered correctly and incorrectly as well as those that were skipped.  Next is a breakdown of the student's performance by concept type (e.g., comparative, spatial, temporal, etc.):

There is also a table that depicts the student's mastery of concepts by age level:

And a color coded visual of concepts depicting types that are achieved, emerging, not achieved, and not tested:

And there you have BCSS!  I love screening apps because they're a great way to collect data on your students!  Data is one of the least fun, yet most necessary aspects of our profession.  Many times, the iPad is just motivating enough to get kids to participate in baseline data collection and data collection for progress monitoring.  Working in preschool, I often get students with objectives for following directions and comprehending concepts.  This will be a great way for me to track progress this year!

BCSS can be found in the App Store.  It sells for $14.99.

Do you target basic concepts in your therapy sessions?

Disclaimer:  Smarty Ears provided a copy of BCSS for the purposes of this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.

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