Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gobble Up Holiday Goodies

Can you believe it's the LAST WEEK of November?! This Fall has FLOWN by, and I can't believe it's almost time for Thanksgiving! Thankfully, I have plenty of goodies for you to gobble up, along with many of the other ladies that are a part of The Frenzied SLPs!

First off, if you have to work a portion of this week leading up to Thanksgiving and still need some turkey-themed activities, here are a couple of ideas for you:

1.  Articulation chef hats

These were so cute on the kids! Our 4 year old classrooms are doing food units and learning about bakers/chefs, different kinds of foods, and different tools you may use to cook and bake.  The chef hats were a perfect tie-in!

If you have short sessions like I do (15 minutes) and want these done in one session, then I'd recommend cutting up artic pictures ahead of time in addition to having the strips already cut and ready to go (If you have one of those industrial paper slicers in your building, that makes it way easy!).  However, you could easily stretch this into two sessions and have them color the pictures while they practice during one session, and then during the next session,  have them glue the pictures on while practicing.

2.  Dough and Dot:  Fall Edition

Fun fact #1:  Little kids love dot markers.  Especially the "extra juicy" ones that give out a lot of paint without a lot of pressure.  I mean, I guess if I were in preschool and could make a lot of mess with very little effort, I'd probably be happy, too.  Fun fact #2:  Little kids don't ever get tired of playdough. Ever.  EVER!  This packet includes dot marker pages for Fall/Thanksgiving WH questions and basic concepts, and playdough pages for -ing verbs/pronouns/'be' verbs, vocabulary, and open-ended pages.  I stick the playdough pages into 3 ring page protectors so I don't have any prep work involved!

However, if you are off the whole week, or have your Thanksgiving lesson plans already set and are gearing up for winter, I have some ideas for that, too!

1.  Christmas cookie craft

When I look back at this picture, it always makes me chuckle :) I've typically used this activity during our Give A Mouse A Cookie unit, but this would be great leading up to Christmas (if you celebrate and are allowed to incorporate it into your lessons at school) to pretend to decorate Christmas cookies!  It's a fun sensory experience that usually gets my littles talking, and we can work on simple sequencing of steps, too. I can hit some /sp/ blends with this too-- if we use a "spoon" to "spread" the shaving cream and use glitter as the "sprinkles!"  Find more cookie activities in this blog post.

2.  TpT Products & A Freebie

Grab some language activities for your younger students, and get your kids up and moving with the phonology games! Winter Wonderland of PreK/K Language, Decorate the Tree Phonology, Build a Snowman Phonology-full version, Build a Snowman Phonology-freebie /f/ version

Also, over 70 SLPs contributed to this year's Gifts of Gab ebook-- download it for free to see hundreds of both paid and free TpT products for your holiday/winter season!

What are some fun holiday activities you do with your kids? We'd love for you to link up and share your ideas with us, too!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thankful and Grateful- A reflection on the last 2.5 years (and giveaways!)

Hi, guys! I'm teaming up with the rest of the ladies from The Frenzied SLPs to bring you a "thankful and grateful" blog hop with the chance to win some great prizes! After reading, you will want to collect the letter at the end of my post, and make sure to hit "next blog" to continue along the hop. When you put all of the letters in order, starting from the first blog, it will spell out a message that you'll enter into the drawing for some great prizes!

I can't even believe it's been almost TWO AND A HALF YEARS since I started this blogging journey.  I started in July of 2013, after several months of talking myself out of it, convinced that I couldn't do it.  As I sit here reflecting on the last couple years, there are so many people and opportunities I am thankful for, so bear with me-- this may get a little long.  And, maybe a little sappy... #allthefeels

I am beyond thankful for every single one of you reading this right now.  Every single instance where you have taken the time out of your busy days to pop over to my blog and read a post, every time you have "liked," commented on, or shared something of mine on social media, every time you spend your hard-earned money in my TpT store-- every single instance encourages me to keep going.  I'm just one little fish in a sea of many incredibly creative and talented SLPs, and to know that my ideas are inspiring others and being used all over the country (the world?) is inspiring to ME! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all of your support, no matter how large or how small of a gesture!

I wouldn't have started this journey without my husband.  He has been 100% supportive and believed in me every single step of the way, even when I didn't believe in myself. He was the one who, ever so slightly, kept nudging me towards stepping outside my comfort zone and going for it.  He refuted every argument I had until I had no more, and convinced me that what I had to contribute to the SLP world was worthwhile.  He is and always has been my #1 fan!  Words would never do justice to the gratitude I have for him being my personal cheerleader and always pushing me to do more, even when I think I can't!  Both of our families have been super supportive, too, and my little sister tells every SLP-to-be she meets at college about my blog, for which I am also very grateful! :)

Right around the time I was almost/kinda/pretty sure I maybe wanted to start a blog, the School-Based SLP Facebook page was started, and in the thread for introductions, I said I had a TpT store (I had started about 6 months prior to that), and that I was contemplating blogging.  Mia from Putting Words in your Mouth, said she found me on TpT and was following me <insert excited squeal and total fangirl moment> and encouraged me to start a blog if I was already thinking about it.  I loved Mia's blog already, so her encouragement helped nudge me in the right direction.  Rachel from Queen's Speech, whose blog I also had already been following, was really supportive in that thread, too, and gave me advice on starting a Facebook page for TpT/blogging (I was probably just fan-girling all night throughout that thread, talking to all of those "big-timers" I had followed for a while!)  I'm sure Mia and Rachel have no idea that I still think about their encouragement from that thread from time to time... but I do!

"A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships"
If you happened to watch the Lucky Little Learners/Schroeder's Shenanigans in Second periscopes from TpT Vegas this past summer, they used this quote several times to talk about the importance of supporting others. Helping other fellow bloggers/TpTers be their best in turn helps you be your best.  Keeping in line with this, I have to give shoutouts to some other SLP bloggers that have helped me along in the journey, whether they realized it or not!

1.  Jenn from Crazy Speech World:  My very first blog post was participating in her "Show me the Data" link up.  She was so sweet responding to my post, saying she felt lucky that I linked up with her for my first post, related to my being chronically messy, and welcomed me to the blogging world! Having another one of my favorite bloggers take the time to read through my post and acknowledge various things I said in there was SO COOL! (I was ecstatic when she commented on my post... another fan girl moment. Don't judge.)  It was another little nudge in the right direction-- this time, to keep going, rather than just beginning.

2.  Jenna at Speech Room News:  About 4-5 months after I started blogging, Jenna messaged me on Facebook to tell me she'd nominated me for "Best New Blog" in the Edublog awards! (I simultaneously celebrated and, you guessed it-- fan-girled out again at the same time.  Are you noticing a trend here?) I was ecstatic and so honored that a well-established blogger with thousands of followers took notice of my blog! That was probably a major turning point for me, when I thought, "Hey! I really CAN do this!"  Words would not do justice to the amount of gratitude I have for giving me that moment. THANK YOU, Jenna!

Jenn & Jenna are also two people whose "voice" and personalities really come through in their writing through blog posts and posts to Facebook/Instagram--something I am always striving to do more of! I really admire their ability to do this with such ease.

3. The ladies that are a part of the Frenzied SLPs: I was genuinely honored to be asked to join your group of other great bloggers over the summer! I've been struggling to keep a balance this school year, trying to juggle my workload + TpT + blogging + social media for blogging + keeping the non-SLP parts of my life alive, and I probably would not be as motivated to keep blogging as consistently without the topic ideas and support from all of you! <3 You are all wonderful, talented women and I have so much respect and admiration for what each of you do!

4.  Everyone who has asked me to guest post, join their blog/Instagram/Twitter/Facebook hop, or join their giveaway... Manda & Shanda at Twin Speech, Felice from Thedabblingspeechie, Danielle from Sublime Speech, Elizabeth from The Speech Owl, Lyndsey from Speech to the Core, Jessica from Figuratively Speeching, and Maria from Communication Station.  There are hundreds of other bloggers you could have asked instead of me, so I have always been grateful for the opportunity to join in the fun!  I've had the opportunity to get to know Felice and Danielle a bit more, too, and they are both hilarious-- grateful for the SLP friendships this blog has opened up for me!

Starting a blog/TpT store was a risk--a risk in the sense that I was putting myself out there to be judged and was making myself vulnerable.  Heck, it still is a risk!  Every time I create something new or write a new post, or am about to share a therapy idea on social media, that little voice of insecurity comes back to rear its ugly head.  As we all know, though, without risk, there is no reward, so I'm much better now at silencing that voice than I was when I first began.  And speaking of rewards....

One of my Instagram posts was featured in the August issue of the ASHA Leader a couple months ago!!  THE ASHA LEADER that is sent out to over 150,000 SLPs every month!! (#nobigdeal #famous)  I decided last January that making it into the ASHA Leader via my blog would be one of my goals for 2015. #REALTALK:  Honestly-- I was way too scared to put it in writing in my 2015 SLP Resolutions blog post because I thought it was maybe too far of a stretch or that other people reading would think that was a dumb, unrealistic idea.  But, referencing Lucky Little Learners' Periscope sessions from the summer again... "If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough."  Despite that inner voice of insecurity, I continually put myself out there over and over via this blog, and the rewards have been greater than I could have imagined! One of my coworkers is good friends with someone on our school board, so she passed on the article link to the Board member, and it then made its way to my superintendent, director of special education, and principal.  I mean, really, how cool is that?! And it's all because I have had support from my husband, all of you readers, various bloggers, and other friends/family!

In closing... Blogging has made me a better therapist. It pushes me to try to think outside the box and be more creative with my students in order to have material to blog about or share on social media, which benefits all parties involved! Blogging has also allowed me to connect with others who are passionate about what they do, and I am inspired by them every single day.  I am SO thankful for this avenue and for every opportunity I've had to connect with other SLPs, both bloggers and non-bloggers alike.

If you're still with me (I know, I'm sorry this was long.. I just have a lot to be thankful for!), thank you.  Thank you for all of your support over the last two and a half years.  I wouldn't be here without you! xoxo.

Here is my letter for you to collect along the hop:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Easy Peasy Playdough Monsters for Language Therapy

Halloween is just around the corner, so it’s all talk of costumes, monsters, and creepy crawlies around here! The kids get SO excited in the days leading up to Halloween that it can be hard to keep their attention, so I needed some fun, new activities to keep them working and focused during our time together… Cue: Playdough monsters!

I collected some fruit loops from the preschool snack closet, grabbed beads, straws, and googly eyes from my arts/crafts drawer, and cut some bamboo skewers I randomly happened to have because I couldn’t find the pipe cleaners over lunch (and broke my scissors in the cutting process... womp womp.  At least I got enough cut for the activity, though!).

I took these materials, along with playdough, into the preschool rooms for my in-class small group language lessons, and they were a huge hit!  It kept them engaged the entire time (which isn’t an easy task!) and kept their little hands busy, as well.  We used these to target basic concepts and following directions.  They were given directions like…

-Put 2 googly eyes on your monster
-Find the long stick and put it above the eyes
-Find the short stick and put it next to the long stick
-Put 1 red fruit loop on the short stick
-Put 2 green fruit loops on the long stick
-Take 2 straws and give your monster two noses (and talked about whether our noses are above or below our eyes)
-Find another googly eye and put it below the monster’s noses
-Stack 3 purple fruit loops on top of the green ones
-Add 2 yellow fruit loops to the short stick
-Take 5 beads and make a mouth below the nose and eye

...and so on and so forth!


We hit on spatial concepts by using words like “above” “below” “under” “on top of” and “next to,” and hit size concepts by discriminating between the long stick and the short stick to stack the fruit loops.  This activity was great for working on colors, counting, and even some fine motor skills, too, which are all areas of need for many of my students!

Check out other fun Halloween-themed language treats from The Frenzied SLPs below!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Organizational tips!

This post is all about functional, easy, time-saving tips to help you GET and STAY organized. These tips are coming from a non-Type A SLP so I promise these are totally doable! I implemented these ideas at the start of the school year and they have continued to work wonders for me thus far, a full 9 weeks in, so I wanted to share them all with you! I'm quickly approaching 60 preschool students and counting, so I HAVE to be extra organized in order to make it through this year alive!

You may have seen some of these tips and tricks on my Instagram over the last couple months, but some of these tips will be new ideas! I hope these tips are helpful for you guys, because we all know... #speechinainteasy #neitherisorganization ;-)

1. Organizing books by theme:

Mayyybe you don't know this about me yet, but I love themes. As in, I love themes in every aspect of my life-- themed therapy, themed parties, etc...(check out the "Saying Goodbye to the Roaring 20s" party I recently threw for my husband and several friends' 30th birthdays!).

Since I plan my therapy by themes, I keep my books organized by theme/time of year, too. Now that I'm using cardboard magazine holders from IKEA, it's SO easy each week to grab a box and pick books to use, and it's really easy to put books back in their spot.  I don’t have any wall cabinets and have limited shelving, so I love that I can store them above filing cabinets and my bookshelf.  BONUS: They're only $1.99 for a 5pk!

2.  Organizing artic card decks by initial/medial/final position for each phoneme

Guys.  This has been LIFE-CHANGING!! Life. Changing.  I cringe to think about all the time wasted sifting through card deck tins to pull out the specific phoneme position I needed for each kid.  I can switch out sounds and specific positions so quickly now!  I bought french fry boxes from Hobby Lobby for cheap and stuck magnets on the back, inner portion of the box to hold it to my filing cabinet.  I've had to tape the sides of some of the boxes that have come slightly undone, but overall they have held up well.

3.  Using 3 ring page protectors for play dough mats

Using the page protectors cuts down on lamination (and subsequent cutting) time, which is a win-win for me! I can swap themed play dough mats in and out quickly, and I can save on the number of page protector sheets I need if I can swap in and out, as well.  

For example, If I know I'm only going to be using the "All About Me" or "Apple" pages during those units, then I can swap them out for another set of mats I know I'll only be using for another specific unit.  For more general ones that I might be using year round, I put each individual page in a protector with copies behind the originals, so I can add those to the empty page protectors if I need multiple copies of the same page in a group. I keep them all stored in a 3 ring binder, either in a page protector or in pockets/pocket folders within the binder.

4.  Keeping Memory games/puzzle pieces in pencil cases from the $1 store
I love that these are clear so I can see what's inside.  This method prevents you from losing puzzle pieces that might otherwise fall out when you try to store the puzzle, and it also saves space when you don't have to keep the whole box for games like Memory!

5.  Keeping all testing manuals together in one spot for easy access

When I didn't have a designated spot for the manuals, they might have ended up on two different bookshelves, or in the testing material bag, or who knows where, and I'd have to waste time looking for them.  No more! This year, I have a magazine holder specifically for testing manuals.  I have easy access to all of them when I'm ready to score an eval, and I always put them back in their designated holder now! (Why did it take me so long to come up with this idea?!)

6.  Having an assessment tub

This has worked SO well for me since last Spring.  I have folders that hold my play-based assessment forms, and all the other informal assessment forms/stimulus items I might need for evals or annual IEPs (check out Busy Bee Speech's free Preschool Quick Probes and Speech Room News' evaluation forms!).  I keep my WH question card tins and object function rings from The Speech Summit in here, too.  The tub keeps everything together and I can just pick up and go when I am needing to do more informal or play-based assessments in the classroom or in the preschool pod!

7.  Grab & Go activities by sound/language target
As much as I try to plan therapy activities by the thematic units being used in the classroom, sometimes, it just isn't going to happen. I have print and go activities from various SLP bloggers/TpT sellers divided up by sound or language target (ie "categories" or "grammar"), so on days when I need to grab something quickly, I just pull something out of these folders! I have things like artic puzzles, do-a-dot pages, roll and cover/roll and color pages, etc... in the folders. These activities also double as easy homework pages to send home for parents! I also keep other general items like blank data sheets, parent handouts, etc.. in these, too.

PS- how stinkin' CUTE are the front two folders?! I snagged these at Home Goods in August during Back to School and I couldn't possibly adore them any more than I already do!

Well, what do you think? Which one of these tips was your favorite? What easy organizational tips do YOU have for ME?! Leave a comment below and share your ideas with me!

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Frenzied SLPs bring you... Screening Tools!

Today, The Frenzied SLPs are bringing you a series of blog posts on.... drumroll, please....

Speech and Language screening tools!  

As you all probably know, I'm an early childhood therapist.  In my district, we hold screenings one Friday a month, where parents in the community can sign their child up for a screening in all developmental areas: fine motor, gross motor, social skills, cognitive skills, and speech/language skills.  Our ECSE teachers and therapists all participate in the screenings.  We used to use our own forms that we created, but to make it more streamlined, we're now using the DIAL-4 screening tool for all developmental areas.  Truthfully, it's not my favorite (like, at all), but it was the best tool out of the ones we looked at, as far as what was covered in the speech/language portions.  In a nutshell, I just don't feel like it has a high enough sensitivity, especially since it combines articulation and language, so if a kid has great articulation skills but poor language skills, he may still come out average because the artic portion inflated his score. 

You're not here, though, for my opinion of the DIAL-4-- you're here because hopefully I'll have a freebie screening tool of sorts that you can utilize yourself, right?.  Good news: I'm going to share with you the informal screener I used during my first 3 years in preschool!



It includes stimulus pictures for labeling actions, objects, and object functions, as well as for identifying/explaining associations.  Also included are WH questions, where you can laminate the page if so desired, and have them stamp the circle, color in the circle, place a chip in the circle, etc... after they answer the question.  Depending on how your screening is set up, you may not have time for them to color in a circle, or depending on the kiddo, they might need that extrinsic motivator to get through it! ;-)  

I don't use all of the stimulus pictures for every kid-- it just depends on their age.  For example, for expressive language with a new 3 year old, I may just do labeling of objects/actions/functions, and do the "what" and "where" questions, and leave out the associations and the rest of the /who, when, why/ WH questions.  Sometimes you can get what you need from just playing and taking a language sample, and you may not even need the stimulus pictures!

At the time I was using this screener, the PreK teachers checked basic concepts with their screening tool (and still do with the DIAL, as concepts are included in the cognitive portion that I don't administer), so that's why I don't have it included in mine.  However, another awesome FREE resource that does include basic concepts is Busy Bee Speech's "Preschool Quick Probes."  I use these all the time for informal assessment for IEPs! 

How do you do PreK screenings?  Do you have a monthly date set up with the whole team, or do you just set up appointments as you get requests from parents in the community? It's done very differently in my district here in Kansas than it was in my district in Ohio when I was in grad school doing my school practicum, so I'm always curious to hear how other places are performing preschool screenings.  Drop me a line and let me know! 

Be sure to check out the other SLPs below who are sharing what they use for speech/language screeners, as well!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Surviving your first week!

It's back to school for me... TODAY!   Summer got away from me and it seriously feels like I just wrapped up my last IEP a week ago, not 12 weeks ago.  Regardless of whether or not I'm ready for the start of the new school year, though, it's coming, and I need to be prepared! I want to help YOU be prepared, too, so I'm joining The Frenzied SLPs again to give you some tips!

Tip #1:  Expect the Unexpected (#amiright "Big Brother" fans?!)
Be prepared to have at least one unexpected thing thrown your way.   You will probably get emails about new move-in students throughout that first week, so your caseload will be fluctuating a bit.  You may be asked to provide assistance for something that's not normally part of your work duty.

A couple years ago, one of my dear teacher friends had a funeral to go to and missed the first day of school.  She was new that year, and had brand new paras and a sub with a class full of special needs 3 year olds.  It. Was. Crazy Town.  My principal came to my room and asked if I could go down and help manage the classroom, so I did.  I didn't have her morning kiddos on my caseload because of how the SLPs split the prek load that year, but that first week is all about jumping in and helping each other survive, so I helped anyway!

Really, just know that one or two things will probably be thrown your way.  Problem solve/go with the flow as best you can!

Tip #2:  Be extra nice to your secretaries and custodial staff!
Bring them cookies or brownies or some other little treat! They are going to be crazy busy the first week, too.  Secretaries will have class lists and the Master Schedule, as well as info on transfer students.  Custodians may help you move a piece of furniture in your office or procure an extra bookshelf for your space, etc...  and if you're nice to these people at the beginning of the year, they'll be willing to help you out throughout the year!  They might be two of the most underappreciated positions in the building, so show them some love!

Tip #3:  If you're new (to the school, to the district, to being an SLP.. whatever!), find someone who can help show you the ropes!
This is pretty self explanatory, but find someone that can help explain building-specific procedures, building politics if there are any (which, let's be honest, there almost always is), IEP paperwork, the procedure for setting up meetings, etc...  This may be another SLP, another therapist, or maybe another SPED teacher!

Tip #4:  Get a caseload list from your SPED secretary, and make a few spreadsheets:
Your SPED secretary (or equivalent person) will have a list of students on your caseload.  Get that list, and if you're a veteran and see new/unfamiliar students on that list, ask for a copy of move in IEP paperwork if it hasn't been given to you already.

Once I get my caseload list, I input everyone into Excel spreadsheets with the following information:
-Name, DOB, IEP date, # of days/minutes per week of therapy (or however yours are set up-- weekly/monthly/etc), related services, brief summary of goals, and classroom teacher.

You can sort the lists in Excel in whatever ways you find helpful, but I find the following helpful for me:
-Alphabetically:  I have one spreadsheet of students sorted alphabetically.  If I need to look up a piece of info like DOB or IEP date for a specific student at a glance, I can accomplish this quickly.
-By IEP date:  This lets me see at a glance how many IEPs I have due in a particular month, or if there is a cluster around the same time, so I know to try to plan ahead.
-By # of days per week they get therapy:  This helps me when I'm ready to start making my schedule!

By putting the info in an Excel spreadsheet and sorting it, I can add new students throughout the year and just re-sort it without having to create entirely new lists.

Tip #5:  Make a spreadsheet to track evaluations throughout the year
A spreadsheet with students' names, ages, eval/IEP dates, amount of time spent on testing, reason for referral, and whether or not the students qualified will be helpful to track an aspect of your caseload that can't always be seen just by tracking caseload numbers.  If you need to go to administration about needing help, having various types of data other than caseload numbers can help your cause.  If you track this info from year to year, you can show trending data, as well, over time!

Tip #6:  Plan an EASY activity that can be used with almost EVERYONE for your first therapy sessions:
You probably won't see kids the first few days of school as you get teacher's classroom schedules and get your caseload sorted out, but once you DO start seeing some kids, plan an activity that can be used across all of your students.  The first week is crazy with all of the administrative things going on, so make this one easy! I work with preschoolers, so with 99% of them, I can ask them draw a picture of what they did over the summer and then I have them tell me about it.  You can get a little bit of info for areas like vocab, MLU, articulation, and grammar with this activity and it takes zero time to prep except by getting some paper and crayons!

Were these tips helpful for you? I hope so! What are some things you do during your first week?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Why I use dot markers in speech/language therapy

Bubbles, Cariboo, and dot markers:  three things my students never get tired of, and are always excited about.  I don't know what it is, exactly, about those three things that make them just as exciting after the 100th time as they were the first time, but they definitely hold some sort of magical powers when it comes to the little ones (Teach me your ways, inanimate objects!).

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about why I use one of those items--dot markers--in therapy sessions, and what skills they help promote!

1.  Fine Motor Development:
Especially in an early childhood setting, there is a lot of collaboration between service providers, and we are always trying to promote our students' development and generalization of skills across people and settings.  Using dot markers is an easy way for me to work on development of early grasp patterns with those kiddos who are still pronating (wrist turned so that their thumb is down while they're holding their writing/drawing utensil).  I just give them a cue of "thumbs up!" and most of them can remember to turn their wrist.  From there, I can help facilitate moving from a fisted grasp pattern to holding it more with their fingertips (OTs, aren't you impressed with what I've picked up from listening to you guys in IEP meetings? Ha)  Side note: Teacher and OT friends, you're on your own, though, with scissors.  Teaching preschoolers to wield scissors is terrifying and I'm leaving that work to you ;-))

2.  1 to 1 Correspondence:
As I mentioned earlier, all of us service providers are working towards helping our students master and generalize skills.  1 to 1 correspondence is an early math skill I can help facilitate for the classroom teacher.  When I'm using dot markers, we can work on counting each dot as we stamp it, because I always have them stamp more than one on each turn!

3.  It's a quick reinforcer:
Some of my students need an immediate reinforcer to stay on task or to stay motivated.  When they enjoy dot markers (and I've yet to meet a preschooler who doesn't), their reward is immediate-- Practice 5 artic words, stamp 5 dots.  Easy peasy!  It also keeps them busy when their partner is practicing their targets, as well.

4.  Creativity:
Sometimes I feel like there's so much push for our little guys to master all of these academic skills at an early age, that creativity and learning through play can get left in the dust.  With all of the academic demands expected to be met in the classrooms, there is often limited time for art and play, and general creativity.  With dot markers, some of my kids like to switch colors throughout their picture or make patterns by alternating colors.  It's just a little thing I can let them do to foster some of their creativity, but every little bit helps! :)

5.  They have a clear ending:
Dot marker pages are an activity that have a clear ending.  It's a visual that lets my students see how much of that activity is left before we move on to something new or before they go back to class.  When they see that 3/4 of the dots are left, they know we still have a bit before our session is over.  When they see that they only have 5 more dots left, they can figure out that they've just about completed their work.  It's a visual reference of what they are working towards (ie peacin' out of speech and getting back to their friends-- ha! Just kidding (kind of.  for some of them.))

I love dot markers and include them in a lot of my TpT creations! You can find dot marker pages in my Apple Speech & Language pack, Print & Go Phonology seriesCommunity Helpers Mega Pack, and my Spring Print & Go Pack,

For some freebie dot marker pages with an apple theme for Fall, Back to School, or a Nutrition unit, check our this free sample of my larger Apple Speech/Language pack here.  You can also find a lot of dot marker pages (or magnet pages, as they are called on this site) by theme at Making Learning Fun.

Are there any other go-to resources you love for dot markers? I'd love to see them!

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Best Thing I Learned This Summer

I'm so excited to have been asked to be a part of "The Frenzied SLP" group to bring you helpful tips throughout the year to stay #SLPstrong, and excited to bring you my first post with these wonderful ladies, as well! 

The best thing I learned this summer... Well, I've learned a lot of things this summer-- like painting a fence by hand with a paintbrush is awful, and that potty training male puppies takes significantly longer than it does with females, for example.

But, the BEST thing I learned this summer?  

The best thing I learned this summer was how to find my balance between being an SLP, and being a person outside of an SLP.

The end of last school year was tough.  I really struggled the last couple months of school.  I had a higher caseload than I'd ever had before, with more significant-needs students than I'd ever had before, and had more meetings in the span of two months than I had ever had before.  58 meetings in 60 days-- YIKES! Tons of evals from screenings and Infant/Toddler transitions, and a plethora of annual IEP meetings rolled into kindergarten transition meetings for many of my students in those last two months.

I was BURNT. OUT.  I had a really hard time compartmentalizing-- probably in part because I was writing reports at home every night, but also in part because being an SLP is such a big part of my identity that I was feeling like my self-worth as a whole directly correlated to my performance at work.  I know I was doing the best I could, given my caseload numbers, needs of the kids, and the number of evaluations I had to complete, but I still felt like it just wasn't good enough-- I knew that some of my students could be making more progress than they were, and even though the circumstances necessary for that to happen were out of my control, I couldn't shake the feeling that it was still a reflection on me.

I felt like I was failing.

As paperwork consumed my entire being, I was not feeling inspired to come up with fun and engaging therapy activities.  A lack of inspiration when you're a blogger, too, is never a good thing.  Most days during those last two months, I could barely bring myself to look through my Instagram feed (and guys-- I L-O-V-E LOVE Instagram!) because it would be chock-full of wonderful, creative, and fun therapy ideas from other SLP bloggers, and I'd feel like a failure for not being inspired enough to come up with something noteworthy of my own to execute in therapy sessions and subsequently blog about.  Womp Womp.  Talk about a double whammy!

Something had to give, and I needed to find more of a balance this summer.  I like to visualize myself as having multiple "buckets" to fill-- with each bucket being a separate aspect of my personality (if you're not familiar with the term "bucket fillers," go here).  The "SLP bucket" is an important bucket for me that needs to be filled, but does not need to be overflowing while other buckets go empty.  I needed to be able to come back and be my best self in August for myself, my coworkers, and my students.  So, here's what I did to help achieve that balance!

1- Less time providing ESY services:  I dropped down from my regular 4 day/week position providing summer school services, to the 2 day/week position, and let another SLP take the 4 day slot.  This was one of the best decisions I could have made.  It gave me a chance to still make some extra money while taking some time to be away from the building!  I also had the chance to try out some new things I hadn't had time to test out during the school year, like doing a large group lesson in a prek room (I always do small groups but haven't done large group yet!) and using music with my AAC users (side note: One of those AAC/music ideas is going to be featured in the August issue of the ASHA Leader! Look for it when you get it!)

2- Less time being creative on the computer and more time being hands-on creative:  I put blogging and TpT off to the side for a little while this summer to spend more time being creative in other ways.  I finished some Pinterest projects I'd been wanting to do for a while, and got started on redoing our front porch and master bedroom.  During the school year, often times blogging and TpT and all of the things that go along with it are enough to keep my creative side happy and engaged, but I was craving something different and more hands-on, so I switched gears!

3- Less time perusing Pinterest for actual therapy ideas to start the new school year, and more time perusing for organizational ideas to help me start off the school year:  This small change has actually made a big difference.  Rather than going into full-blown therapy mode, I'm spending more time getting inspired for tips and tricks on how to make storage and organization more streamlined in my therapy room.  Can't completely turn off that SLP brain (nor do I want to!) but this is a way of focusing that energy towards ideas that will hopefully help me all year long!

4- Spending time with coworkers outside of work:  Spending time with coworkers is something that might seem counter-intuitive when I'm needing to find more of a balance between work and my personal life.  HOWEVER.... It has been such a fun summer with these ladies.  They are hilarious and have such big hearts.  We've been having bi-weekly-ish coffee dates, trying out various coffee shops in our area.  Outside of coworkers, all my other friends and my husband are still working M-F during the day, so naturally I spend a lot of time at home on my own.  I get anstsy after a while!  Spending time during the week with my coworkers is an added bonus to having fun on the weekends, too.  It makes me feel like I'm doing more with my summer!

An additional bonus is that we all work with special needs kids, so these friends "get it" in the way that other friends don't--they understand my love of all things school/office supply-related (ha), they understand the emotional toll working with special needs kids can take on you, and they also completely understand the passion I have for what I do, because they have that same passion in the same or related fields.  I can be 100% supportive of an awesome project a friend is doing at work, or empathize with other friends going through stress at work, but I can't fully understand their excitement or stress in the way they experience it, and vice versa.  It's not a bad thing-- it's just different.  

I love being a speech-language pathologist and SLP blogger/TpT creator, but I've been working hard to find a balance between all of my "buckets" this summer and am going back to school in a couple weeks feeling more refreshed than I have the last two summers.  I'm going to work really hard to keep a balance this school year, even if it means having to write out and schedule specific times in the evenings to help me stick to it-- for example, 
7-9pm: Blog & TpT
9-930: Read my book
930-1030: Watch a tv show with husband

It seems a little crazy but I think it just may work! 

What are some ways you are achieving balance between work and personal life? I'd love to hear your ideas! If you want to read about what some of the other SLP bloggers have found to be the best thing they've done this summer, click through to some of the blogs below!  And, if you want to link up, too, follow these instructions!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sidewalk Chalk and Speech Therapy: Taking your session outdoors

Some days (aka every day), a girl just needs some fresh air and sunshine.

While I'm fortunate that even though my room is on the small size with no cabinets for hidden storage, I DO have two windows in my room. You win some, you lose some...Who needs more storage when you've got sunlight, am I right?

Even if you're lucky enough to a) have a therapy room/office that's not a former closet or bathroom and b) have windows (I know, we're reaching for the stars for some of you here), sometimes those windows just aren't enough. There are days when my body is CRAVING fresh air and the feeling of sunshine on my skin. When I get to that point, I'm pretty sure my students are feeling that x10, so on nice days, when the patio off the PreK/K pod or the blacktop are open, I'll sometimes take therapy outside of the confining 4 walls of the therapy room. 

Cue: sidewalk chalk

My students LOVE switching it up (I'll never forget the time I told one of my preschoolers we were doing therapy outside with chalk-- his response was "YES! YES! YES! This is the best day EVER!!"  I mean, who am I to deny a child that kind of happiness?), and there are so many goals that can be targeted just using sidewalk chalk!

1.  Grammar:
a) Possessives: We draw a picture of a boy and a girl and draw objects around them (the girl's ___, the boy's ____, his ___, her ____).

b) Pronouns:  We use "he" and "she" in carrier phrases (ie "She has a..." "He has a....").  We draw clothing items/accessories on the stick people, or draw objects around them.

2.  Associations/Go Togethers:  I say or draw a picture of an object, and the student(s) I'm working with have to tell me something that goes with it, and then draw a picture of their answer (ie I say or draw "web," and they'd draw a spider).  I work on associations a lot with my 4 year olds going to kindergarten the following year!

3. Articulation: We draw pictures of words with their target speech sounds while we practice!

4. WH questions:  I ask a WH question, and the kids draw a picture of the correct answer.  For example, if I ask, "What does a bird build?" then they would draw a nest.

Sometimes I'll get the "I don't know how to draw it!" response, but I just encourage them to try their best and let them know that I don't care what it looks like, just as long as they try! Most of them are good with this response :)

What other ways do you target speech and language activities with chalk?? 

PS- If you're looking for handouts with more great ideas for chalk play (and lots of other outdoor play ideas!) to give to parents, check out this great "Summer Play" packet from SpeechRoomNews.  Shortly after I purchased it last May, I had a parent of a newly-evaluated student ask what he could do to work on communication skills over the summer.  Pulled this packet up on TpT, downloaded, hit "print" and off he went! 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

PreK Pushin: Math & Communication Goals-- How do they go together?

Graph image by Creative Lessons Cafe

Push-in therapy.  In-class support.  Co-teaching.  Whatever you want to call it, going into the classroom to provide in-class support minutes to your students can definitely require some outside-of-the-box thinking if you're not the one who has planned & is leading the lesson.  I know--it's hard sometimes as SLPs to let go of having a set therapy plan at all times!

Depending on the schedule (a public school SLP's favorite thing!), you might have to come in during small group instruction times and just keep your fingers crossed they're doing a language arts-type activity and not something seemingly completely unrelated like, say... math.  As many preschool programs become more academic lesson-based rather than more play-based, you might be encountering situations like this more often when providing in-class minutes.

Sometimes, I come in and my students are at a group working on vocabulary (woot! My lucky day!).  Other times, I'm not so lucky, but with a little creative thinking, I can make it work.  Let's take a look at this math activity where the class was learning the concept of graphing.  As they took turns rolling a die with various colored baseball hats, they colored a box in the column of the same-colored hat they rolled.

Upon first glance, one might be thinking, "Colors, counting, and graphing... completely unrelated to speech and language goals.  How do I target my students' goals doing THIS?"  Well, I'm glad you asked! Here are a few different areas of preschool speech and language skills you can target in an activity like this:

1.  MLU
This activity would easily lend itself to structured sentence building.  Working on combining two words together? My turn, your turn, my roll, I roll, you roll, blue hat, red hat, etc....  Three word combos? "I got blue" "I have red" "More yellow hats" "Two blue hats" "My turn roll" etc...

2.  Basic Concepts
Preschool math involves learning about quantitative concepts, and many of my students have goals for basic concept knowledge.  With graphing, you can work on concepts like more/less/most (Which column has more? Which one has less, blue or red?  Which one has the most boxes colored in?) as well as full/empty/no/none (Are there any columns that are full? Any that are empty/that have none/that have no boxes colored?).  I also targeted spatial concepts like "Color the box that's above/on top of  the yellow one you already colored"  or "The red column is next to the yellow column."  Throw in some size concepts such as long/tall/short columns and make comparisons, too!

3.  Pronouns
If you have a student in the group working on pronouns, have them practice using "he" and "she" to tell you what their peers just rolled "He rolled a blue" "She rolled red" etc... and even "I" if they are using "me" instead of "I" (I had a kiddo on my caseload where we worked on using "I" for two school years.  His teacher would model it/recast it with emphasis when he made an error, as did I, the classroom paraprofessionals, and his other therapists.  We all did the happy dance this Spring when he finally started using it in conversation!)

4.  Articulation
I generally do pull-out therapy with my artic/phono kids, but try to do a little in-class support when I can, in a natural environment like the classroom.  With this activity, I can work with my artic students on initial /f/ (four, five), initial /t/ (my turn, two), initial /m/ (me, my turn), and /p, b/ sounds for colors like "pink" "purple" and "blue."

Speech and language skills can be worked on just about anywhere, at any time!  How do you target communication goals in math or other seemingly unrelated lessons?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Favorite Games for Final Consonant Deletion

As SLPs, many of us use games as general reinforcers while working on a variety of speech/language targets.  A lot of times, the games may have nothing to do with the target we're working on.  Some games & activities I've been using this school year with my phono kids, though, have turned out to have great opportunities to work on specific words pertinent to their targets AND to the game. Preschoolers learn a lot through play, so when I have the opportunity to use meaningful target words for artic rather than the drill/take a turn/drill/take a turn method, I take it! The following games/activities are my favorites to use when targeting the phonological process of Final Consonant Deletion:

1.  First up is this cookie jar game I made.  The cookie jar image comes from MyCuteGraphics, and is just pasted into a Word doc, stretched out, printed, and attached to a tissue box with a hole cut out of the middle.  The cookies are just circles cut from brown construction paper with black marker dots on them for chocolate chips.  So. Simple.  But my prek students LOVE it!

Words to target for FCD: eat, hot, out, plate, in, on, gone, time, scoop, chip, bake, take, make

2.  Honey Bee Tree game:
This one is played just like Kerplunk, but has leaves/bees/honeypot in a tree rather than just sticks and marbles. 

Words to target for FCD: in (putting leaves in, putting bees in), out (pulling leaves out, bees falling out, taking bees out), drop (dropping bees in) down (bees fell down), turn (my turn/your turn), buzz, bees, gone, come/home (one of my kiddos liked to make the bees buzz away for a second, and I would have to tell them to "come" and then she would have them fly "home" for each turn)

3.  Potato Head
This should come as no surprise, but there is an abundance of great words to target for FCD with everyone's favorite spud!

Words to target for FCD:
final t: hat, foot/feet, out, put
final n/m: in, arm
final s/z: eyes, nose, toes, purse, any other plurals
final f: off, 
final p: top, hop
final k: take

4.  Don't Break the Ice:

Words to target for FCD: turn (my turn/your turn), in (work on as you set up and put ice blocks in), gone (all the blocks have been knocked out), hit, out, knock, break, ice

Do you have any specific games you use for particular speech or language targets? I'd love to hear about them if you do!
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