If you have junk in your purse/car/couch etc….you can make this awesome language activity!

I had a LOT of paperwork to do this week…thus, my creativity was a bit stifled due to long hours in front of my computer.  With that being said, it seems that the most simple activities are often the most well received by my students. Meet this week’s craft…it doesn’t really have a name, but I can assure you that it is awesome. Here is what I did….

Step 1:

I found all the random bits and pieces of things that didn’t have a place in my room. (Think: displaced legos, impractical erasers, paperclips etc).

Step 2:

Put said random bits and pieces into an old toiletry bag with a zipper.

Step 3:

Duck taped a toilet paper roll to the top of a tissue box.

Step 4: (Optional)

Decorated toilet paper roll and box with Washi tape. (What’s that? You don’t own 50 rolls of Washi tape that you store on a Lazy Susan style dispenser which was designed specifically for Washi tape?…weird.).

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Here is how we used this activity….

Students took turns reaching into the bag (without peeking, of course) and were asked to make a prediction about whether or not that item would fit through the tube.

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I provided this visual support for several students. These sentences were great for my kindergartners because they are filled with sight words! Even though sight word recognition is not a direct therapy goal for my students, it is a great way to incorporate reading into their language therapy.

Here are some areas I targeted with my younger students:

1. 4-5 Word Sentences

2. Future Tense Sentences (“The ______will fit.)

3. Describing (“Tell me about the item you found.”)

4. Basic Concepts (Big/Small/ Wide/Narrow/Tall/Short)

With older students, I targeted…

1. Expanded Sentences (“The _______ did not fit because it was too big.”)

2. Using Language to Make Predictions and Verbalize Results

Visual Supports

3. Future and Past Tense Sentences (“The ______will fit through the tube.” “The _____went through the tube.”)

4. Answering “why” questions (“Why didn’t the tractor fit through the tube?”)

This is definitely an activity I will be using again. My students LOVED it. I will probably swap out the items and use a longer tube to mix things up. I plan to use it with all my preschool classes next week to target the concepts wide and narrow (each student in the class will take a turn picking something and testing it to see if fits). I love that this activity uses a multi-sensory approach. I find that using real objects (rather than pictures), provides a much richer experience. I also love that it was SO easy to make!

Okay….now stop reading and go search for junk under the couch cushions so you can make your own.

Happy recycling!

-Katie

Recycled Crafts are SNOW Much Fun!

It’s week 1 of my recycled craft challenge, and I’m on a roll…a toilet paper roll, that is.

It was COLD in Charleston this week…so cold that we even had a two hour delay on Tuesday! It was a perfect week to read one of my absolute favorite winter stories, “The Snowy Day,” by Ezra Jack Keats. Lately I’ve been really into having my kids act out stories. In a perfect world, I would have lots of cool story props, and maybe a stage…but in real life, I have a very small room that barely fits 4 chairs. I’m not complaining, because I love having my own space, and the kids and I agree it’s rather cozy. It also allows me to make cool things, like this week’s snowy day box!

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This took approximately 10 minutes to make and it has been a hit!

Here is how I made it:

I lined a paper towel box with computer paper from the recycling bin.

I added some craft trees that I just happened to have in my craft bin. (Once upon a time I thought I was going to make snow globes with them. It never happened, but a girl can dream….).

I made  a little person out of a toilet paper roll and felt.

I added  some cotton  balls which were also in my craft bin (I plan to reuse these, of course).

I took a piece of cardboard from the top of the box and taped it in the corner to make a hill (for sledding).

I also added some houses from a block set  that I bought on black Friday (from Michael’s…with a coupon).

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Here are some goals I targeted with this activity:

  • Story Retelling– The students acted out the story with the props.
  • Verb Tense-To target present progressive, I asked students what the boy was doing (e.g., “He is sledding,” “He is running in the snow,” “He is making a snowman.”). To target past tense, I asked students to tell me what the boy did (e.g., “He ran,” “He made a snowman,” “He went in his house).
  • Following Verbal Directions– I gave the students various directions such as “First make the boy slide down the hill, then make him run behind the tree.” I varied the length and complexity based on students’ age and ability.
  • Vocabulary– We talked about each item in the box, what it looked like, felt like, what parts it had etc. I love it when students can actually touch the items to tell me how it feels (rather than just looking at a picture).

Some notes on this activity:

  • The toilet paper man is sort of creepy looking. While I was making him, there was someone in my room fixing my heat. I saw him glance over several times, but he never asked what it was. When I was done, I just put it on my desk facing him. We never talked about it. I think it’s important to maintain a certain air of mystery in the workplace.
  • The trees kept falling down. Ordinarily I wouldn’t care, but it was SO distracting to the kids. I ended up just putting one tree in the box and taping it down. Next time I might just draw a tree on the side of the box or use something heavier.

So, all in all, this activity was super easy and fun. It was also FREE! I encourage you to try it with your kids or students to celebrate the snowy season.

I’ll leave you with one final thought today. If a tiny craft tree falls in recycled box full of cotton balls and no one is around…does it make a sound?

I guess only the creepy toilet paper roll person will know…

Bring on the toilet paper rolls folks, I’m doing a recycled craft challenge!

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Happy New Year! As always, the holidays were a bit of a whirlwind. I am enjoying my last few hours of holiday break before it’s back to the grind tomorrow. Although I love time off, I do enjoy getting back into my routine and seeing all of my little friends again. During my break, I had the opportunity to obtain a Green Classroom Professional Certificate through the U.S. Green Building Council. This training was awesome, and I would highly recommend it to any school or district  looking to create healthy, resource-efficient and environmentally sustainable learning spaces.

One segment of the training focused on using recycled materials in classrooms. This idea was not totally new to me, and I will admit that I have started to become a bit of a hoarder when it comes to  toilet paper rolls, egg cartons and yogurt containers. I frequently use crafts and projects to target different speech and language goals, however, I don’t utilize recycled materials nearly as much as I’d like to. Thus, I have decided that 2014 will be the year I embark on my recycling challenge. So here is my plan….

I am not going to purchase any new materials for craft projects from now until the end of the school year. Instead, I plan to use up materials I already have, as well as recycled materials from the school or my home (or other people’s homes….”hello kind neighbors, do you have any empty toilet paper rolls or yogurt cups you’re not planning on using?”). Each time I come up with a new recycled craft,  I will post it!

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have a weakness for craft supplies, particularly those that have been purchased with a Michael’s 50% off coupon. So, this will not only be an environmental endeavor, but a complete test of my willpower….and it begins tomorrow. Stay tuned!

-Katie

Fall Finale…the Pumpkin Roundup

It’s officially November, and I think we are finally ready to put our pumpkin theme to bed. With that being said, here are a few of my favorite pumpkin activities from the past few weeks…

1. Ring Around the Pumpkin

This activity is a great way to get your kids up and moving. I find that gross motor activities like running and jumping are a fantastic way to get my students talking. It is also a great way to energize students who are feeling a little sluggish.

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This activity requires 2 things:

-Construction Paper

-Stickers

How to Play:

-Turn on some awesome music (I highly recommend Gen Gereb who makes songs especially for students with sensory needs). Students jump from color to color until the music stops. When the music stops, students flip over the paper that they landed on and make a sentence about what they see. We used this activity to target:

Language Concepts (big/small) and Expanded Sentences:

I put small pumpkins on half of the sheets of paper and big pumpkins on the other half.  My students had to make a sentence each time they landed on a pumpkin (“I found a big pumpkin,” “I see a small pumpkin.” etc.).  I varied this activity based on skill level, for example, some students were only working on combining 2 words, so we stuck to “big pumpkin,” “little pumpkin.”

The back of the paper looked like this:
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Articulation:

-For students working on sound production, I taped articulation cards on the pumpkins. For example, a student working on the “R” sound might say “I see a ‘rose’ on the pumpkin.

Prepositions:

I added more stickers to some of the pages and asked students to tell me “where” certain things were. For example, they might say “The spider is next to the pumpkin.”

2. 5 Little Pumpkins Finger Puppets

If you google “5 Little Pumpkins” you will find MANY versions of this poem. We used this one:

5 little pumpkins sitting on a gate

The first one says “Oh my it’s getting late”

The second one says “There are bats in the air”

The third one says “But we don’t care”

The fourth one says “Let’s run let’s run”

The fifth one says “I’m ready for some fun”

Then “woooo” went the wind and

Out went the lights

And five little pumpkins rolled out of sight

I had the students wear a glove while we read the poem together. They put one finger down for each line. I used gardening gloves and pumpkin stickers. Here they are:

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Poems and rhyming activities are great for young students, as rhyming is an important pre-reading skill!

3. Pumpkin Snack

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This was our garden club snack this week. We didn’t use it in speech therapy, but it can absolutely be adapted as a language activity at home! (The pumpkins are simply a tangerine with a small piece of celery on the top).

While you make tangerine pumpkins, you can target:

-Following Directions

-Vocabulary (what parts does a tangerine have, what parts does a pumpkin have etc.)

-Sequencing (what did we do first, second, last etc.?)

I chose these activities based on how EASY they are. We are entering the time of year that tends to get a little crazy, and I am always looking for activities that are not too labor intensive. Another reason I chose these activities was because they were a tremendous hit with my students! I encourage you to use these activities this month, or store them in your tool box for next year. Enjoy!

This week’s unbeLEAFably easy fall craft

photo (2)This week in speech we read “Leaf Man” by Lois Ehlert. It’s a really neat book because all of the illustrations are made from leaves! I read this story to most of my younger students, and followed it up with this delightful little craft pictured above.  This one was done by a very young student, we stuck to just a leaf and eyes. Some of my older students got more crafty and added a nose, arms, legs etc. Like this…

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As per usual, we infused all kinds of language learning into this activity. Here are some highlights:

 

1. Vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary.

There are all kinds of treasures to be found outside. We named things we found on the ground like acorns, bark, rocks (oh and a few wrappers and dead bugs…). We also named the parts of the tree and different animals we saw . There happened to be a gaggle of geese outside on the playground one morning which was a perfect teachable moment since there are also geese in the story!

 

2. Following Verbal Directions

Because I am just a teensy weensy bit obsessive about my crafts, I wanted to make sure my kids found all of the right things to make their leaf men. So, I gave them very specific directions on what to look for. This was a great way to target listening skills. For example:

“Find one big leaf, and two small leaves.”

“Find two acorns and one piece of bark.”

“Look next to bench that is under the big tree.”

 

3.Sequencing

After my students made their leaf men, I had them tell me exactly how they did it. For example:

-First we went outside and found a big leaf. Then we found two small leaves and a piece of bark. After that, we went inside and got a piece of paper and some glue.

….You get the idea. Sequencing stories and events is an important skill and is embedded into the Common Core Standards starting in kindergarten. For children with language impairments it can be extra tricky. Teaching this skill through real life experiences can make it much more meaningful and concrete.

 

4.Fresh Air

This is not a language skill…but it sure is important. My kids were literally giddy when I told them we were going outside. I’ll be perfectly honest, I was little giddy myself.  I think most people, regardless of their age, will agree that spending time outdoors just makes you feel better.

On one final note, this craft is really simple, cheap and fun, and it’s a great excuse to get outside to enjoy the fall weather. Enjoy!

 

 

Fall Fun in the Speech Room!

Apple-Farmer-Annie

This week in speech we read “Apple Farmer Annie!” This colorful story by Monica Wellington depicts the process of apple farming in simple, kid friendly language.  The story follows Annie as she picks her apples, makes treats with them (pie, muffins, apple cider) and then sells them at the farmers market. Lately I have been emphasizing gross motor movement and real-life connections with my kids. I like to get them up and moving and acting out stories, since it tends to help make the language more meaningful. So this week, I quickly made some props to re-create  this story in my teeny tiny speech room. Here they are!

Felt Apple Orchard

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Students took turns picking apples. from my felt “apple trees”. We used  these to address a multitude of goals including:

  • Turn taking
  • Following directions (“Pick two red apples and one green one!”)
  • Spatial concepts (Top Bottom, Middle)
  • Vocabulary (Apple, Stem, Leaf, Trunk, Orchard)
  • Fine Motor Skills (the Velcro was surprisingly strong, so little fingers really had to work to pull them off)

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Okay this was seriously a hit. After the students picked their apples, they were able to take turns selling products at the “apple stand.” Here is what I used for my apple stand (most SLP’s I know have a box of pretend kitchen items…so use what you have!):

  • Decorative Apples…I think they were from Wal-Mart or Target ( freshly picked from my felt apple trees of course)
  • Teacups ( for “apple cider”)
  • Toy pots from my pretend food kit ( for “apple pie”)
  • Cupcake liners ( for “apple muffins”)

When students were “selling apples” they practiced:

  • Following directions
  • Number concepts
  • Social language (“Hi how are you?” “What do you want to buy?” “Thank you!”)

When students were “buying apples” they practiced:

  • Verbal requests
  • Expanded sentences (“I want three green apples and one cup of apple cider.”)
  • Social language (“How much is this?”, “Thank you!” “Have a nice day!”)

I find that when I use play-based activities that encourage movement and imagination, not only do I get great language out of my students, but I also have very few behavior problems. Playing and pretending are a a “child’s work,” and unlike some adults I know… their work makes them happy! Happy kids are engaged kids, and kids who are engaged are LEARNING! So I challenge you to stretch your imaginations this week and make a story come to life!

What we’re reading in speech this week…

Pete-the-Cat

Speech therapy is back in full swing at my school…and we’re starting off the year with Pete the Cat!

I will be the first person to admit that I have a tendency to lean toward “crazy cat lady” status. WIth that being said, both my kids and I are HUGE fans of Pete the Cat. Most of my kiddos have read Pete stories in their class, so they are already familiar with him.  I like to pick familiar stories, since repetition is a really great way to facilitate language learning.  For those of you who don’t know, this story also involves some singing. You don’t actually have to sing it…but I absolutely do.  Here are some areas we targeted this week while reading:

1. “Where” questions

-Each page describes a location in the school and the kids have to try to guess where Pete is going.  A lot of my kids have WH question goals and “where” questions can be particularly tricky, so this is a great time to practice that skill!

2. Verb Form

-I have some students who are working on the “verb+ing” form.   This is embedded throughout the entire story! In fact, each time we sing, we use it (e.g., “I’m eating in my school shoes”). What’s cool about this, is that the singing portion repeats the same sentence 3 times. So not only are the kids hearing and practicing it more than once,  but they are also hearing it in a different modality (i.e., song).

3. Sequencing

-The story takes Pete through his entire school day, so after we have read the story I ask the kids to tell me what Pete did. What’s nice about this story, is that it is a familiar context (since his day is very similar to the kids’ day) which makes sequencing easier.

*When kids are learning to sequence stories or events, it’s great to practice with familiar activities (e.g., brushing your teeth, getting dressed, making cereal).

4. Vocabulary


-There is a lot of great vocabulary in the story that fits with the “back to school” theme that I am targeting this month.  It’s a great refresher for kids who are returning to school, and a nice introduction for our new preschool and kindergarten students.  Teaching vocabulary words within a theme is an effective way to help kids organize and store newly learned words.

So that’s what’s up in speech this week, and in the words of my boy Pete…”it’s all good.”

Back to School Butterflies?

Breathing

Break out the backpacks folks, it’s time to head back to school!  This is an extremely exciting time for our little ones…but it can also be a stressful time. The anticipation of a new teacher, new classmates and a new routine can leave some kids feeling anxious. Breathing exercises help children slow down their bodies and minds, and can be extremely useful in helping them manage stress.  I use breathing exercises with my students before we begin therapy sessions. I find that they are particularly helpful at the beginning of the year when students may still be a little apprehensive about coming to speech.

Here are two breathing exercises to try with your child:

1.  “Ocean Breath”

-Sit “feet to seat” (i.e., kneeling on ground with backs of feet touching the bottom). Be sure to sit straight and tall! Take a deep inhale into the belly. Exhale through the nose while creating a sound in the back of the throat (it sounds like the ocean!).  Repeat 3-5 times.

2. “Lion’s Breath”

-Sit “feet to seat.” Take a deep inhale into the belly. Open the mouth and eyes wide. Stretch the tongue out long, and exhale with a big “HAAAAAAA” (like a lion’s roar!). Repeat 3-5 times.

(Source: Marvel, J. (2013). Kid’s Yoga Journey Teacher Training Manual. Charleston, SC.)

Try these breathing exercises with your child at night before he or she goes bed, or in the morning before your child leaves for school. You might be amazed at what a difference it makes. Maintaining a calm, relaxed environment can help your child start his or her day on a positive note. Wishing everyone a fantastic start to the school year!

-Katie

picmonkey_imageI love to incorporate bubbles into my therapy sessions.  I think they are simply fantastic…and here is why:

1. They are an excuse to get outside. 

2. They encourage deep breathing.

-I always tell my kids to breathe into their bellies in order to get really big bubbles. This can be an important skill for children who stutter or children who have difficulty getting enough breath support for speech. Deep breathing is also a great way to re-energize!

3. They are calming.

-Sometimes we just need to take a break.  No matter how old you are, sitting and watching a bubble float away can have a tremendous calming affect.

4. They elicit language.

-You can work on “wh” questions (“where did the bubble go?”), spatial concepts (“it went under the tree”), qualitative concepts (“was that one big or small?”) etc.  When you are doing something different and fun there is always a lot to talk about!

5. They are fun. 

-Bottom line: whether you are using bubbles as a reinforcement activity or to target a specific skill, you and your kids will probably be having fun.

And that my friends, is why I think bubbles are awesome.

Want to make  your own bubbles? (Come on…I know you do). Here is a recipe to try:

Homemade Bubbles

1 cup water
2 tablespoons glycerin  or light Karo syrup
4 tablespoons dishwashing liquid

Mix together and enjoy!

If you are feeling SUPER ambitious…here is a link to make your own bubble wands!