Thursday, November 29, 2018

Kicking off Christmas!

Hi Friends!!

It's not quite December, but the holidays are in FULL SWING!! We're busy decorating for Christmas, planning fun Christmas activities for school and home, and trying to finish up our Christmas shopping! We had family pictures made for our Christmas card over Thanksgiving break, so that's one thing I can scratch off the to-do list!

It's true that this season is filled with lots of things to do. It's easy to get caught up in the business of the holidays and forget to relish the small things, the time with friends and family, and the memories just waiting to be made. I have to remind myself regularly to slow down and focus on being present instead of focusing on buying or wrapping all the presents! I created this Winter bucket list a few years ago that we keep on the fridge to remind us of what we should be focused on: spending time with the ones we love! We don't always get through the whole list, and that's ok! You can download a copy for free by clicking HERE. 

Because I work with students in pre-school through fifth grade and have a 5 year old and 1 year old of my own, I get asked A LOT about what kinds of books and toys I recommend for gifts. I put together a quick compilation of some of my current favorites for the holidays.

Many of you who follow along on social media know that I live for children's books, and every year we wrap 25 Christmas books up at home for the kids to unwrap and read each night. They love this tradition, and it's one I hope we can continue for many years to come! I usually wrap some of their favorites, and add a new one or two each year. Besides some of the toys that are currently at the top of their lists and some great options for therapy too, I also included some of our favorite Christmas books that may help you add to your collection. Everything included on my Amazon page are items that I have personally used and stand by!

This link will take you to my Amazon affiliate page where you can see my suggestions for items perfect for kids during the Christmas season. There are also pages there with my game and year-round book favorites too.

I hope this helps you spend less time looking for awesome gifts for your own kiddos, family members' or friends' kiddos, or even your therapy room this Christmas, and instead gives you more time to spend with those you love!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Down on the Speech Farm

Hey Ya'll!

Many of you know that I live for therapy themes. I'm at an elementary school with both gen ed and Pre-K through 5th grade self-contained classrooms, so I have a pretty wide range of ages and abilities. I personally find that using themes, even for my 4th and 5th grade students, keeps me much more organized and on track. I prep any new materials the month before so I stay ahead, and have activities targeting all of my students' goals that somehow relate to the current theme.

Perhaps my favorite theme to do all year is the farm. I grew up on an Angus cattle farm and spent many years traveling to cow and pig shows and helping with both the animals and the garden. (See the below picture)! I live in South GA, so farming and agriculture here is huge. It's important to me for my students to not only know where food comes from, but to also have an appreciation for farmers and how hard they work. Though I sometimes change up my theme calendar from year to year, the farm theme always has a place, and this year, I carried it on for 2 1/2 weeks because there was so much to do! Take a look at some of the activities we did below!

Me and "Annie" 

The first thing I did this year was decorate my speech room. Though I don't normally decorate for themes, I decided to do so this time, and I'm so glad I took the time to do it. My students were coming off of 2 weeks of state testing. They were tired and over it and needed something to excite them about learning again....and boy did this do the trick! I covered my book cases for the barn and silo, and just used bulletin board paper to make the scenes. I covered Pampers diaper boxes with yellow bulletin board paper and drew lines on them to look like hay, and raided my kids' rooms for farm stuffed animals and the stick horse! It took about 3 hours of work after school, but it was worth it....I had some of the best engagement all year! 

I knew I wanted to do a "Speech Orchard", as I wanted to make sure I taught the kiddos that some farms are fruit orchards instead of just animals or row crops. I used bulletin board paper to make the trees and printed out and laminated the different fruits. Then I put sticky magnets on the back of the fruits, and used a dry-erase marker to write words with target sounds on them. Since they're laminated, the dry erase marker wipes right off, and new words can be written. (Just a note-if you're going to do it this way, make sure your white board is magnetic. If it's not, you can use tape!)

The kiddos loved "picking" their fruit, saying their word/phrase/sentence, and putting their fruit in the baskets (bought for $1 each from the Dollar Tree!)

This homemade garden was probably my most favorite activity of all! I used bulletin board paper, a cardboard box top, and cut pool noodles to make the dirt! Then I printed, cut, and laminated the veggies and hot-glued popsicle sticks to the back! The shovel, rake, and watering can came from the Dollar Tree. The students had so much fun planting, watering, and picking the veggies! We used these for sequencing, vocabulary, sorting (by size, color, fruit/veggie, etc.), describing, and more! 

This adorable "Feed the Cow" activity came from Ms. Gardinia's Speech Room.  It's editable, and the students loved picking a piece of grass, practicing the target sound in words (my language students made sentences or described the word), and feeding it to the cow. (PS: Keurig cup boxes make the best boxes for these animal feeding activities.)

We also used these adorable interactive books from Panda Speech. They were perfect for Pre-K and Kindergarten!

We used quite a few other farm books as well. These are just a few of my favorites!

My Pre-K and Kindergarten students loved using these Playdough Smash Mats from Simply Speech!

This Melissa and Doug egg set paired perfectly with a stuffed hen (swiped from my son's room at home) for matching colors, requesting, following directions, counting, sequencing, and more! 

We used the fence and farm animals to practice prepositions, basic concepts, and following directions.

And Uno Moo and Big Roll Farm Animal Bingo worked great for this theme too as reinforcers!

I probably couldn't survive my themed therapy units without No Prep activities. This time of year (well, all year, really), I am swamped. I don't have a ton of extra time, and having No-Prep packets ready to go helps me address student goals and even progress monitor to determine any new goals that need addressed. My Farm No Prep packet is one of my favorites. You can see example pages below, and see it on Teachers Pay Teachers by clicking HERE.

Older students practiced verbs, writing, comprehension, describing, comparing and contrasting, and more, all with activities from the No Prep packet.

And sometimes, simple coloring pages work great for eliciting authentic language samples!

I also had my Farm Vocabulary and Comprehension packet prepped and ready. This packet has both prep and no-prep pages and focuses on vocabulary, describing, following directions, sorting categories, comprehension, and more! 

And what's a theme without crafts? These EASY farm crafts paired with writing/coloring pages make the perfect functional decor for your speech room! 

At the request of many, I bundled all three of these activities together in one money-saving Themed Therapy Farm Bundle. You can find it by clicking the picture below:

And if you know me at all, you know I incorporate books into almost every therapy session. The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash is the PERFECT book for Farm week and is so wonderful for targeting comprehension, sequencing, and cause and effect! You can see my book companion for the book below! 

If you made it to the end of this super-long post, you deserve a treat. And here it is....a real-life quote from a real-life therapy session when I was being observed! (At least our job is never boring!) 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

15 Great Christmas Books for Speech & Language

Hi, Friends!

Can you actually believe I blogged?!?! I'm back from a super-long blogging hiatus!  Between working a full-time SLP job, running my TpT and Etsy Stores, being a full-time mommy to a toddler, a wife to my hubby, being pregnant with our little boy, and having both of our sisters and two sets of friends get married, 2017 has been a whirlwind of crazy. Sometimes you just need to step back and focus on priorities, which is what I did. I didn't expect to be away for so long, but now we've managed to get through having our new baby (see pics below!) and 3 of the 4 major weddings (the last one is next weekend!), and I'm happy to be back! I have a super long list of plans and ideas for 2018, and I hope you'll hop back on board after my break to see what 2018 brings....I promise to be around more! (And quick tip....even if I'm not on the blog, I post daily on my Instagram, so you can see quick snapshots of my daily speech and home life there too--- @whitneyslp)

If you know me, you know I live for themes in therapy. They keep me organized, they are chock full of vocabulary, and most importantly, they are super fun and engaging for the kiddos! 

You guys already know how much I love books, and my Christmas book collection just keeps growing (both at school AND home!). Here's my list of my top 15 favorite books to use during Christmas! I linked to any corresponding book companions I have as well!

1. Turkey Claus, by Wendi Silvano

2. Moosletoe, by Margie Palatini
3. Llama Llama, Holiday Drama, by Anna Dewdney
4. Bear Stays Up, by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman

5. The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
6. How The Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss
7. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson
8. The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen
9. Gingerbread Baby, by Wendy Pfeffer

10. How to Catch An Elf, by Adam Wallace
11. There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell, by Lucille Colandro
12. The Sweet Smells of Christmas, by Patricia Scarry 
13. Snowmen At Christmas, by Caralyn Buehner
14. How Santa Got His Job, by Stephen Krensky
15. How Santa Lost His Job, by Stephen Krensky

Bonus: (Not specifically Christmas, but Winter)

Just a Snowman, by Mercer Mayer

Do you use any of these in therapy? Are there any great ones I missed? I'd love to hear your suggestions!