Friday, August 30, 2013

Freebie Friday: Which ones START with...

Initial sound ID game I make for one of my kiddos who tends to omit sounds in the initial and final word positions.  Once I started working on phonological awareness tasks, his ability to discriminate between correct and incorrect speech productions and his ability to correct his own productions has improved significantly.  We must remember not to under estimate the power of phonological awareness skills when working with clients with phonological processing issues!

Also great to send home for homework!


Grab your free copy from Google Docs here!

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Little Saints PK: I Belong to God!

Last spring I was on a search for a home, faith based preschool program that I could do at home with my son.  Although, I knew I was going to send him to PK 2 mornings a week this fall (yes, it started this week...sniffle!), I wanted something I could do to supplement what he was learning academically with what I wanted him to learn spiritually.  I came across Little Saints:  A Catholic Preschool Program with Classical Disciplines by Cynthia A. Blum and Julie Kelly online and knew this was it! (cost $50 plus tax and $4 shipping)  This curriculum included 3 lessons per weekly theme (takes about 1-1 1/2 hours to complete).

I know, I know, for all you modern mamas out there, the name sounds awful..."classical disciplines"...UGH!  Sounds horrendous!  But as soon as I opened up the curriculum, I knew it was for me and my son!  This curriculum teaches traditional morals such as being kind and loving one another, generosity, compassion, understanding, friendship, etc. while presenting them in appropriate weekly PK thematic units (some examples:  Alphabet, 5 senses, Safety Friends, Zoo animals, winter fun, various holidays, Insects, Plants, and so get the idea).  Now if you have read my Tip Tuesday post this week on Thematic Therapy, you know how much I LOVE thematic therapy so this of course is right up my alley.

The one criticism, I have read about this program online is that it requires a lot of prep work.  Well I guess if you follow each activity exactly as they are written (which come on now...I'm an SLP, my life is all about "modifying") it could require much prep work.  For me, since I am used to making many of my therapy materials myself, making adapted/modified PK materials is not much of a challenge.  And whenever I make something that can be reused, I make sure to do that!  I do NOT believe is reinventing the wheel!!!

Also the books on the suggested reading list are numerous, however you can supplement them with whatever books you choose.  I found some nice books at my public library and my church's library actually so...that is a plus!

I thought, since I am taking this journey with my son this year, I'd bring you all along with me!  This week I'll explain my pk process/schedule as well as the fun activities we've been doing relating to the week's theme of "Belonging to God".

The PK process:

So what is my process for doing PK at home?  Well firstly I want to say that I have taken every single idea you see below from the many wonderful early childhood teachers I have worked with in the past.  I'm not nearly this brilliant! :)

Name "Sign-In":  I know this isn't a classroom full of kids, but even though we are at home, I still want my son to practice writing his name daily, so I tell him he needs to "sign in" so I know he's here!  This way we works on letter naming (we ID each letter and the sound they make), letter writing (as best he can to work on fine motor skills), and name recognition (I actually have several names on the name cards and he has to find his own).

Yes, he connected the dots to trace each letter but still pretty impressive if I may say so myself!  

Morning Hello and Prayer:  My son and I begin by singing a "Good Morning" song, followed by saying the Our Father and a special prayer of thanks that we are able to be together that day.  (My goal:  beginning each morning in the presence of God)

Calendar Time:  This is when we go over the DOW, MOY, Weather, and Date.  We also do some counting (1-20).  I use Steven and Greg-We All Live Together (Vol 2) to teach these skills (you can find out how to get your own copy by clicking on the link).  My son loves the Addam's Family version of Days of the Week so that is what we do (check it out on youtube).  Here's a cute MOY song you can check out too.

Here is a picture of my MOY and DOW (I just printed them out from Microsoft word and laminated for reuse)

Here is my calendar and 1-20 # chart.  I bought these at the dollar tree believe it or not!  I laminated the apple dates, put contact paper over the calendar and hung the numbers using poster putty.  I made a simple AB pattern with the calendar apples but as weeks continue through the year I'll be changing up my patterns.  My son LOVES to count from 1-20 via The Number Rock (check it out on youtube).  In fact we have been signing the number rock off and on for  a few months now and my son can now count to 50 by himself!
Ah, the power of learning through music!

I bought these cute weather cards at dollar tree as well and put contact paper over them so I can reuse them as well.  This is not the song we sing, but if you are looking for a weather song you can check out this one (or others on youtube).

Daily Scripture and Lesson Emphasis:  Each lesson of this curriculum comes with a daily scripture to focus on.  I write it out on a dry erase board, I read it and we discuss (mostly I explain at this age) what it really means.  That turns into me emphasizing what I feel is the most important thing about that day's lesson.

Don't judge my awful writing in this picture.  I was in a hurry!

Storytime:  At this time, my son and I snuggle up and I read either some of the recommended books from the curriculum or a few books I so choose that relates to the theme.  This weeks theme was "I belong to God" and we have been discussing how God made us all special and that we are His children.  My son LOVES this book I borrowed from my church's library so we have been reading and re-reading it all week.

It's a super cute book about a little boy who wanders how God made him.  Did God use clay, snow, wood, dough, etc.?

Fingerplays/music fun:  After books, my son and I spend time saying curriculum made nursery rhymes as well as playing some fun kid friendly music and dancing around the house.  We follow directions in songs, make up our own dances, or just get wild and crazy and shake our wiggles out!  Here are some of my favorite kid CDs we play (click on each picture to take you to the amazon page for more details):


We spent time snuggling today and looking at photos of my son growing up while listening to these child friendly hymns and it was so nice!

Art:  There is always a daily art project suggested for each lesson in this curriculum.  B/c I have so many craft materials already that I use for therapy, I have yet to find an art project I will have to buy materials for (and yes I've looked through the first semester of until the new year, I'm set. Yay!).

Here are a few of the art projects we've done this week:

After making his hand prints, I told my son to finger paint a picture of himself and God and this is what he came up with.  He added his mommy, daddy, and his dog, Max, of course!!! What a sweetie!!!

Did you notice my son is still wearing his PJs?!  That's his favorite part about doing Pk at home...he doesn't have to get dressed right away if he doesn't want to and today was a PJs day I guess! Ha!
This was supposed to be made in felt but since I know my son's love for painting I decided to do watercolor art instead.  We discussed all the parts of our body and that God made each one and then my son painted clothes to put on this picture of himself!

Learning Games:  Art is followed by learning games which are academically focused.

This learning game is about matching up same pictures but since my son knows how do to that already, we did "memory" instead.

This activity was supposed to be made of index cards and religious stickers, but I didn't have any cute packs of stickers so I just went to online, copy and pasted 5 images to PPT and printed 2 copies and voila' memory activity was born!  Easy peasy!  So as you can see I don't follow every activity to the letter but as long as the goal is the same, in this instance understanding same vs. different, I don't think it matters how you get there.

This is another learning activity we will be doing tomorrow.  My son will get to color the front of this card (we of course will talk about colors and who this is, who is in the picture with Jesus, and who my son thinks Jesus loves).  When he opens the card, my son will find a picture of himself staring back at him.  He will write his name at the bottom of the card (another great writing opportunity) and done!

And that's pretty much it for our 1st week of home-Pk "I belong to God".  I personally LOVE being so involved in my son's learning and development and I LOVE that I can talk about Jesus and share with him my beliefs and instill in him my morals!!!

Next week we will focus on the alphabet and maybe if I'm on the ball, I'll share with you our art activities and learning games :)

Oh and I found this cute FREE children's bible stories online that I thought I'd share!  Check it cute!

Do you home school?  If so, what grades are you teaching and what made you decide to do so?  Please share in the comments below!  I think this could be an awesome discussion!!!

Enjoy and Happy Talking...and Schooling!!!

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tip Tuesday! Thematic therapy and vocabulary!

I have been working with preschool age children with speech and language deficits for many years now and I have found, for me, the most effective way to improve language skills and receptive and expressive vocabulary is to do so using themes in my speech therapy!

If you look at a typical preschool program, they are modeled by following a weekly theme as well so it makes sense to me, that I would model my therapy for the same children in the same manner.  When I worked in the schools as an early childhood speech pathologist, I would obtain a list of classroom teachers' weekly themes for the whole year up front and build my therapy sessions around the child's weekly classroom themes.  The nice thing about this was that most of the early childhood teachers did follow the same weekly themes throughout the year so my therapy activities could be used for most of the children on my caseload regardless of what classroom the child was in.  Of course modifying the activities to focus on individual goals and highlighting individual strengths is a necessary component of any successful speech therapy session.  So keep that in mind when planning your thematic therapy.

As you know, I am a firm believer in play therapy as well, although I do believe there is a time and place for drilling an new skill prior to expecting carryover.  So setting my therapy schedule up to match the classroom teachers' themes actually allowed me to have more in-class therapy time (push-in therapy, inclusion therapy, whatever you want to call it) during their free play times in order to practice learned skills in a functional play setting with same-aged peers.  I found this to be very enjoyable as well as effective.  While in the classroom, I was able to observe what skills each child has generalized to the classroom setting and which skills required more work from me.

I also found that (what I call) the "speech hat" effect at times could be more of an illusion than true mastery.  The "speech hat" effect is what I call the phenomena when children seem to demonstrate success with a speech and/or language skill in the speech room with myself (as if they put on their "speech hat" at my door) but cannot carryover to other environments.  So getting a bird's eye view in the classroom really helped to guide my therapy goals and expectations accordingly.

Another reason, I very much love to create thematic therapy units is because it is a natural way to teach and increase awareness of categories which aids in semantic networking, word retrieval and of course language development.  If I'm focusing on zoo animals, then I will not be taking about a sheep or cow, but I will be discussing giraffes, lions, and tigers.  Now I've naturally created a scheme for zoo animals without having to actually spend time "teaching" the category.

So how did I create my thematic units?  What types of activities did I include?  Well, each week I planned and included at least one of each of the following activities below.  Not every child would participate in every activity as I would choose which activities best met their communication needs (I was always thinking "individualized therapy" and that was my guide to determining the best activities for each student on my caseload).  These activities are in no particular order and can be interchangeable.  I usually presented at least 2 different activities during our sessions as appropriate (which were only 20 minutes due to shorter attention span and also aided in keeping groups smaller which improved 1:1 attention).  However if spontaneous natural learning was occurring I would NOT change to another activity just because I had another one planned.  Therapy at this age is all about following the child's lead.

Here is a list of the types of activities I would plan for thematic therapy:

1.  Thematic Book:  I always chose a book about the weekly theme.  I tried to keep this book just above the current language skills (so I usually had 3 different levels of books for my lowest to highest kiddos and would choose books accordingly).  By the way, the school library (or media center, since that's what many are being called these days) is a great resource for thematic books of varying levels of complexity!

2.  Thematic Song:  I loved incorporating music with our weekly themes so I would teach my kiddos 1 or 2 new songs each week.  We added gross and fine motor movements which made it all the more fun.

I LOVE the Piggyback song book series and I use them even with my own son!!!  I know they are old but they are great!  These books are filled with wonderful kid songs to familiar tunes so you don't have to read music to learn new songs.  And where did I purchase these gems?  On Amazon of course! :)

3.  Craft/Art project:  This activity could be as simple as coloring or as complex as following multi-step directions to complete a craft.  A few time-saving tips:  I always cut up all the pieces to a craft ahead of time. I organized my glue, scissors, crayons, markers, paints and brushes in a small plastic tote for quick and easy use, and I always had child wipes on hand for those times we were enjoying a messy craft!  Wipes are a quick way to clean up kiddos that need to head back to class.

Back to School Countdown Craft Advent Calendar Using an Egg Carton from Lalymom
Since it is BTS time, here is just one example of a cute craft activity that can be used to incorporate language (following directions, vocabulary, spatial position words) and academics (shapes, numbers, etc.).  I found this craft on Twodaloo.  Click on this link for more BTS ideas. 

4.  Play activity:  There was always at least one play activity that incorporated fine or gross motor skills and thematic play.  Tip:  I always had the play activity as my second activity of the day, b/c it's easier to transition from playing back to the classroom, than from playing to another speech activity.  Here are just a few examples of play activities I have done in the past:

  • I had the fire trucks and doll house out the week we discussed fire safety
  • We played with my fisher price farm and animals when discussing farm animals week
  • We played with zoo animals and blocks to create zoo gates for each animal
  • We played with cars, trucks, planes, trains when talking about transportation week
  • We played restaurant with fake food the week we talked about our 5 senses (I would use real food to discuss concepts such as sweet, salty, sour, spicy, etc.)
  • We played with my band in a box (awesome for early phonological awareness skills, rhythm, tempo, pitch, etc.)  and sang many familiar children's songs during music week.

5.  Speech/language drill activity:  Sometimes, even with the above activities, I still needed to drill a skill in some way, so I would usually play a quick game (usually a reinforcer game that could be used with all goals) in order to drill the skill I was targeting that day.

6.  Academic skills:  I never made a separate activity for academic skills but I always incorporated academic skills into the above activities.  For example, I might ask a child to give me three zoo animals and see if he/she can show one to one correspondence when counting.  Or we might label colors of objects in play.  I also would see if children recognized their names by sitting where their name tag was.  Sometimes we made patterns when building with legos, etc.  The list can go on and on, but its very, very easy to support academic skills in speech therapy tasks even at a very young age.

When I first started using thematic units as a therapy guide I created my own table like the one below to keep me on track and organized.  Over time, I used the table less and less but in my mind I still organized my thematic therapy the same way.  So here is just a visual example for you:

As you can see, I love thematic therapy and thematic vocabulary!  I feel it's the most functional way to teach vocabulary and expand language for young children.

Here is a nice website, I shared on my FB page months ago that allows you to create your own thematic therapy schedule for the year. Check it out!

Enjoy and Happy Talking!!!
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Friday, August 23, 2013

SRN's Love It & List It Linky: Organization!

Speech Room News is hosting her Love It & List It linky on Organization this month, so I though I'd share with you how I organize my materials too.

I know many of you following these blogs are school SLPs but I thought for those of you who are hoping to moonlight with your own caseload or those that are hoping to open your own private practice one day, I'd share with you how I do things in my practice.  First thing to keep in mind when looking at these pictures is that I provide home-based therapy which means I have no awesome speech office to store my materials.  Therefore, all of my speech goodies are in one tiny closet (that happens to be smaller than my bathroom)!  Yikes!  So I try very hard to keep myself and my materials organized.  So here goes nothing... 

This is what you see immediately to the right when you open the door to my "speech closet"!  I have this brown bookshelf that holds all parent resource books, educational textbooks, journals, CEU coursework and school-age and adult therapy materials.  Oh and do you spot my laminator?  I have yet to find the perfect place for it so there it remains for now.

Here is an example of my seasonal therapy materials.  Nothing confidential in this picture!
Next to my brown book shelf are my locking file cabinets, where I hold my client files (hence the locks!), assessments, themed lessons, TpT products and seasonal lessons.  I only lock my client files and assessments (just in case!).

Next to my file cabinets is a utility shelf my husband found on sale at Home Depot.  Because the room is so small he had to put it together inside my speech closet! As you can see it holds many of my wonderful therapy materials.

The top 4 shelves hold mostly games and speech therapy materials!  Yes you are correct if you think they are piled up to the ceiling!  That is about 12 years of therapy purchases and's a masterpiece if you ask me!!!

The bottom shelf holds plastic totes full of my craft materials and materials for specific holidays.  Yes my labels are ugly...I KNOW!  My next project is to create cute labels for these totes.  We shall see how long that takes. :)

On the back wall of this room, you can see I used a multicolored bucket shelf (bought from consignment!) for toys and materials I need more readily.  I have my band in a box, some sensory toys, my bowling set, my baby dolls, puppets, cars and homemade and purchased language based card decks and bingo games.

By the way, in the frame above my coat hooks is my business license!  So proud of that piece of paper!!!

On the left wall is a built in shelf (GLORIOUS!) that was here when we moved in.  Top shelf, I have some fun toys: farm, Mr. Potato Head, jungle animals, duplo blocks, etc.  The second and third shelves are filled with more art supplies as you can see below.  

I really need to make these labels cuter!

The next two shelves are full of book that I love the use in therapy.  Don't worry they aren't all of my books...I have a whole other bookshelf in my son's closet!! Hahahaha! The bottom shelf, are my puzzles, and other manipulatives   Below that are two more large totes full of miscellaneous materials that would fit no where else.  I know it looks awful but I will eventually find a better way to organize it!

On the back of my closet door, hangs my articulation cards.  I don't know who first thought of this idea, but I believe the first person I saw share this idea was Jenna at SRN but don't quote me on that.

And finally, that last thing I want to share with you is how I organize my picture symbols.  I organize them by category and they are placed in a hardware organizer I bought (also on sale) at Home Depot!

So that's it!  That's my home "speech closet"!  I know it's a bit stressful for some of you to look at, but I like knowing where everything is.  And do you know what is the best part about my closet?  I can just close the door!!!

Happy Talking and Organizing!!!!

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FREEBIE Friday: Patriotic Phonological Awareness

It's that time again....Labor Day is quickly approaching so I thought I'd make a fun phonological awareness game for my kiddos.  Found these super cute stars and stripes capital letters at From the Pond so I made the following fun CVC sheets that can be used to target the follow skills:

  1. Sound/letter (phoneme/grapheme) identification
  2. Create word families (great for rhyming)
  3. Encoding and Decoding activities
  4. Want to increase complexity?  Add and E at the end of each word to make the vowel a long vowel and you've just taught the  silent E rule!
Best part about this material is you can create real and nonsense words to make sure your students are NOT relying on their whole word knowledge but on their phonological awareness skills to "read" the words they make!!!!

I'm sure you can come up with numerous other ideas on how to use this freebie!  Feel free to share in the comments below!

Want your freebie?  Grab it here!

Happy Talking, Reading, Rhyming and Spelling!!!!

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tip Tuesday! Cookie Cutter Playdough fun!

This is one of my favorite holiday therapy activities!  Cookie Cutter Playdough
is so simple and cheap to do.  As play dough is a staple in most therapy supply closets AND homes for young children, whether you are a parent or therapist this is a super easy activity to do to work on any speech and language goal.
I head down to my local dollar store and buy a bag full of holdiay cookie cutters (which ever holiday or season it may be at the time).  Above are my Christmas cookie cutters I bought a few years ago.  Below you will see pictures of my Halloween Cookie Cutter Activity but the premise is the same.

I use a small muffin tin (makes 6 muffins) and put a different color of play dough in each whole.  I either place the cookie cutter on top of the play dough (like the picture above)...or sometimes I use pictures of cookie cutter shape (so picture of a real bat, ghost, etc.) and place them over top of the play dough or in a bucket so the kids can pick which cookie cutter they will use "out of a hat" to create anticipation that way.
First, we practice our stimulus cards (I usually try to practice 5-10 items or words in a row) then take a turns "making" our holiday shape with the playdough and cookie cutters.  If I get 10 practice trials between shapes that's a total of 60 trials during this one activity!!!!
At the end of this activity we get to compare and count the shapes we made and talk about the colors we used to make those shapes (great PK vocabulary)!

And that is it!  Simple, fun, cheap, and motivating!  Don't have your own cookie cutters?  Don't worry...just head on down to your local dollar store and buy a bag (usually I get 5 or 6 cookie cutters for $1).

Have fun "play doughing" and happy talking!

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