Thursday, August 25, 2016

Speech Room Tour, 2016 Edition

Hi Friends!

I blogged before about my first speech room in St. Petersburg, FL, but I've yet to blog about my new speech room in my hometown of South GA, and I've been here two years now! So I thought that today, I'd give you a little view inside our speech room!

Welcome to Speech!

Though I'm in the same room, my speech room looks a lot different this year than it did last year! Last year was my first year teaching in the same school system I grew up in. I inherited a room that the previous SLP had been in for years, and with it I inherited a hodge podge of therapy items and furniture. I cleaned a lot out last year and brought a lot of my personal items in, but I did little to decorate, as there just wasn't much time. Over the summer, I took out book shelves and filing cabinets and repainted them, refinished the wooden student table, bought new shelving, and hung new curtains! When all of the other decorations were added, I could finally see my personal touch on our room!

We have a Superhero theme school-wide this year. I made a Superhero Decor packet, which you'll see featured in the pictures below! You can check it out in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store HERE. 

Here's a view of my desk when you first walk in the door. Though my room is small, we're cozy and not in a broom closet, so I'm thankful!

I spray painted an old ugly file cabinet, and it turned out so much better than before!

The side of my file cabinet is my inspiration wall....the bible verses help me get through the tough times!

My family is represented on top of the file cabinet, as well as my Chika Chika Boom Boom treee and The Giving Tree book. The Giving Tree book was given to me after I graduated college by my 5th grade teacher. I was in his class his first year of teaching. We kept in touch, he sang in my wedding, and now he's the principal of my new school!

These organizational drawers sit to the left of my desk. They hold my school supplies....yes, I'm a school supply hoarder!

Here's a view of the rest of my room from the doorway!

I bought these new shelves from Hope Depot this year, and I love them! They're much better than the corkboard bookshelf I had before that was going to completely fall apart at any time! They house my laminator, printer, treasure box, extra ink, and CD's.

I just hung this bulletin board this year, as well as the new SPEECH letters! The bulletin board houses our school Superhero Expectations. I bought the cardboard SPEECH letters from Hobby Lobby. I spray painted them navy blue to match my room, and hot-glued green ribbon to the top. They hang on command hooks!

Here's a close-up of our speech table. I LOVE the size of this little wooden table. I refinished it over the summer and it looks even better than before! The lime green stools were ordered from Amazon (my favorite)!

Here's a closeup of the supply box. I bought this silverware/napkin holder from Target over the summer on clearance for $0.70!!! I used my Silhouette to put the word "Supplies" on there, and Viola! it keeps all of our craft supplies organized!

The board houses our calendar and weather activities, as well as our Weekly Theme, CCSS Reference, Essential Question, and Ticket Out the Door!

I write below these each week depending on what we're learning. (Administrators LOVE seeing this!)

Of course, my room wouldn't be complete without Braidy!

 Finally, my bookshelves. These babies also got a makeover this summer with new paint! The left bookshelf houses all of my teaching workbooks, notebooks, children's books, and SGM items! The right bookshelf houses artic materials on the top, language materials in the middle, and games at the bottom!

And that's it! A little glimpse into our speech room! *Not pictured are two additional filing cabinets outside of my door. It's small, but cozy, and we're proud of it! (Plus, it's currently clean and perfectly organized, since it's the beginning of the year!)

Have a great new year, friends!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sunny Speech Minimal Pairs Flip Book for FCD {A Product Review}

Hi friends!

I'm back today with a product review for a neat way to practice those dreaded final consonants! Sunny Speech Games were created by Annika Suarez, an SLP in sunny Florida. The flip-book games were created to target phonological processes, such as final consonant deletion, fronting and backing, stopping, voicing/devoicing, gliding, and cluster reduction, using a minimal pairs therapy technique.

I met Annika during the ASHA Convention, and she graciously offered to supply me with one of the flip books in exchange for my review. I chose FCD, as it seems to be a very popular goal around here! Disclaimer: While the Flip Book and contents were provided free of charge, the following opinions are all mine. 

It seems we do a lot of work on final consonants. A lot of work. I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to practice articulation sounds and phonological processes that keep my little kiddos engaged and motivated. This minimal pair flip book has been a huge hit with my babies!

Each flip book set comes with a spiral bound flip book (that stands up!), 2 sheets of reusable stickers, reusable data sheets for both younger and older students, a blank sky page for the stickers, 10 SLP data conversion sheets, and 5 SLP data sheets. An adorable Sunny Speech bag is also included to house your set, which is perfect when I'm traveling around the school!

The book includes a detailed directions page for explaining how to play the game, how to keep data on the data sheets, and tips for working with younger students versus older students. It also includes directions for Auditory Bombardment, directions for playing an "I'm Aware" game for Auditory Discrimination, and directions for playing a "Say It" game to practice the phonological process you're targeting. There are TWO sets of flip-books for Final Consonant Deletion. My set targets the final deletion of /n/, /ch/, /p/, /t/, /k/, /m/, /d/, and /s/.

The pictures in the flip books are set up as minimal pairs. Minimal pairs are great for helping children become aware of what sounds they are saying, and how the sounds they choose effect how someone understands them. For instance, if a child is trying to say "couch" but leaves off the /ch/ on the end, you can visually show them how they said "cow" instead! Minimal pair therapy has been very effective for my kiddos with phonological processes!


The best part about the flip-books is the sunshine stickers for motivation. These stickers are made from vinyl, so they are easily removable for reuse again and again! The students can either place them on their data sheets to help keep data, or they can place them on the sky sheet. My students love earning as many sunshine stickers as they can! 

The data sheets are great as well. They are easy to decipher and color coded based on the amount of cueing needed. This is great for keeping up with how well the student is doing independently! 

Overall, this flip-book has become a great edition to my arsenal of speech materials. In fact, it is one of my most requested activities during speech groups! 

You can learn more about Sunny Speech games and order one or more for yourself by clicking the link below! 

Have you used any flip books from Sunny Speech? I'd love to hear what you think! 

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Story Box {A Product Review}

Happy Monday, friends!

If you know me at all, you know I love books. All books. But especially children's books. I own so many children's books that I have to keep them in multiple locations. But I still buy more any chance I get!

Have you heard of The Story Box? It's a *super affordable* monthly subscription service for children's books created by a certified Speech & Language Pathologist! Each adorably packaged box comes with two new children's books that are yours to keep forever! The books are specifically chosen to be brightly colored, fun, and attention-keeping for your child. In addition, the boxes come with a monthly tip or challenge (for the board book package), a parent guide (for the picture book package) or both (if you get the family package). The price of the box is less than the cost of both books, so you really can't go wrong!

The Story Box was created by Holly, an SLP, and her husband, Clint in an attempt to pass on their passion for reading with their children to other families. I love the story and heart behind this mission!

Each month you are subscribed, you will receive a box with two children's books. You won't know ahead of time which books are coming, so it will be a great surprise for you and your children! Should you receive a book that you already own, simply send them a picture of the new and old book together, and they'll include an extra book in the next month's box (This is great for children's book hoarders like me!)

As an SLP and mommy, the best part of the box is the parent guides. There is a different parent guide for each book, and each parent guide explains why the book was chosen. It also lists language concepts and suggests supplemental activities for each book. These suggestions are broken down by age range (babies: 1-2 years, toddlers: 2-3.5 years, pre-schoolers: 3.5-5 years, and early elementary: K-2nd graders). These guides are AWESOME for quick lessons for SLPs and teachers, and even better for modeling how parents can interact with their children during reading!

So who's The Story Box good for? In short, everyone. But more specifically:

1) Parents, who are looking to spend some quality time with their kids and fill their home up with something better than junky toys

2) Teachers, who are looking for quality books to add to their classroom library, as well as quick suggestions for extension activities

3) Speech Therapists and other service providers, who are looking to add new and exciting books into their therapy sessions, as well as quick extension activities filled with language-rich content

4) Grandparents and other family members, who are looking to give a gift that will keep giving and giving and giving

5) Children, who are looking to dive into exciting books and expand their knowledge and love for reading!

Still have questions? Follow The Story Box on instagram and Facebook to see examples of past boxes, as well as gain access to occasional coupon codes....I promise you won't be disappointed!

Have you tried The Story Box yet? I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Learning the Piano, One (Online) Lesson at a Time! {A Product Review of Hoffman Academy}

Hi Friends!

I'm back today with a review of Hoffman Academy....a website designed to teach piano lessons all online!

If you've been reading my blog for long, you know I love music. I'm always listening to music in the background while I work, and I use music in my speech therapy lessons every single day. I just simply can't do life without music!

I grew up playing the piano. My grandmother was a piano teacher, and my mom plays as well. But children don't always learn well from their parents, so my dad lovingly paid for about 12 years of my piano lessons. I enjoyed playing, but I didn't always love practicing. I had tons of things going on, and I didn't always put in the time I should have. Nevertheless, I managed to become pretty good at reading music. But I never learned to play by ear. Not even a little. Ok, maybe I could tap out the melody to songs I knew, but that was about it. No chords. Certainly no inversions. Just the melody! Because of this, if I didn't have piano music in front of me, my playing was virtually useless.

Fast forward about 10 years. I was in the work force and a new mom. I was super busy all the time. But I needed "me time." I wasn't playing the piano regularly. I didn't even have a piano at the time. I missed playing, and I wanted to start playing again. But this time, I wanted it to be different. I wanted to fill in all the "gaps" in my knowledge, and learn the theory, learn the harder rhythms, learn the chords and inversions so I could play by ear. I wanted to be able to play the praise songs from church and sit around and play while my husband was playing the guitar, just for fun!

So I started taking piano lessons again. My current piano teacher plays the keyboard for our church. She's incredible. I love listening to her play, and I love her ability to hear something and effortlessly recreate it on the piano keys. I've been taking again for about a year, and it's one of my favorite parts of my week. We're working on reading harder music, but she's also teaching me about the piano chords, inversions, and improvising....things I never learned before and things that definitely don't come as easy to me. I've thought often before about how if I had learned these things from the very beginning, it would have been so much easier than having to learn them now.

Me in my happy place!

Ironically, a few months after I started taking lessons again, Hoffman Academy contacted me about doing a review of their FREE piano lessons on my blog. In the art of full disclosure, I was hesitant at first. I had always thought it necessary to be sitting right beside your piano teacher....but I decided to do a little more research on The Hoffman Academy to see what it was about first.

The Hoffman Academy website is wonderful. I loved how it explained who Mr. Hoffman is (there are simply too many accomplishments to list here), his story, his teaching method, and his teaching philosophy. One of the first things I read was Ear Before Eye, and I was instantly intrigued. The website went on to explain that The Hoffman Method works on ear training, rhythm, sight reading, technique, improvisation, and music theory right from the start, so he can develop the whole musician. The comprehensive approach helps children (and adults) to truly comprehend music, not just play it. How much easier would it have been for me if I had learned this way from the beginning?!?! I instantly wanted to learn more and write a review!

Hoffman Academy is a website where ANYONE can go to watch short video lessons by Mr. Hoffman FOR FREE and truly learn to play the piano. There are 7 "Units" (the higher the number, the harder the lesson), and there are around 20 lessons in each Unit. The lesson videos are free for anyone to watch. You can purchase supplemental materials, including worksheets and music files for each of the units to dive deeper into the lessons.

 A sample of the information from Lesson One. 

Many lessons have worksheets included as supplemental practice! 

The videos are short and engaging...perfect for both children and adults!

My friends at Hoffman Academy supplied me with the supplemental materials for Unit 1, and I went through each lesson one by one. The lessons in Unit 1 do a wonderful  job of introducing the piano keys and notes, teaching beginning theory, and even teaching you to play a song! The lessons were simple, easy to follow, and fun. Mr. Hoffman is very engaging, and the supplemental materials made practicing fun!

Research shows music is very important for children. Music helps them learn. Music fosters creativity, critical thinking skills, character development, and much, much more. I often use music to reach the children I teach with special needs, and I am making sure to foster a love for music in my own 2 year old as well. Although my little one at home is a little young yet to start piano lessons, when she gets a little older, I'll let her start working through the lessons in The Hoffman Academy. Even if we still decide to use a traditional piano teacher, these lessons are wonderful supplements. Even I plan to continue working my way through them, as I'm sure there is plenty of material I can glean from the lessons even as a more experienced pianist.

Bottom line: I love what Mr. Hoffman and his team are doing at The Hoffman Academy. He had a heart for finding a way to make it possible for everyone to be able to take piano lessons, and he has done just that. Anyone can learn piano through his engaging, comprehensive,  and rigorous lessons! Even more so, I love that he is fostering a love for music in children and adults all over the world!

Want to give Hoffman Academy a try? Enter below to win a copy of Unit 1!

You can also check out Hoffman Academy online to learn more!

Do YOU play an instrument? Do YOU use music in your therapy lessons or classrooms? I'd love to hear how!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Wrapping Up The School Year!

Happy SUMMER, Peeps!

Yesterday was our last school day with students, and today teachers are busy reading their classrooms for summer cleaning and getting ready to head out for a much needed (and much deserved) break!

I, for one, am super excited about this summer. This will be the first summer since I graduated college that I haven't worked. When I was in the schools, I always worked summer school. And the past 2 summers, I worked at the hospital, so therapy continued over the summer. While I considered working summer school again now that I'm back in the schools, I had to remind myself that I have a 2.5 year old, and she's only going to be little for a short while. Eventually there will be another baby, and eventually they will grow up. So instead of teaching other kiddos this summer, I decided to stay home and enjoy teaching my own!

Halle Jane is a mover and a shaker. She probably gets that from me. She's always busy, always on-the-go, and always in to everything. Neither of us are happy relaxing with nothing to do for too long. I knew that in order to keep us both content, I would need to be intentional about planning activities for us to do throughout the summer weeks at home, and also be intentional about including down time as well.

I'll share a little more about our summer schedule of activities and how I'm keeping us on track in a later post, but for now, I thought we could all get started with a Summer Bucket List FREEBIE! We all know you can incorporate language and learning into ANY activity, and these activity suggestions are no exception!

You can download this Summer Bucket List FREEBIE by clicking the picture or the link below.

Hope you all have a wonderful summer! I'd love to hear what you all are doing this summer, and if there are other activities on your summer bucket list!

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Spring Time Freebie!

Hi again, friends!

If you're like me, you're so, so happy Spring has sprung! I don't do cold very well. In fact, I try not to do it at all. So warm weather, sunshine, and new life is my jam!

We're finishing up with State standardized testing tomorrow (FINALLY!), and then this speech room is moving OUTSIDE! I love doing speech outside in the warmth and fresh air....and *most* of my students do too!

I love using Chalk in therapy. There are SO many ways to incorporate speech and language goals into drawing with Chalk. We have recently been working on an "Imagination" theme, and the book Chalk, by Bill Thomson, works perfectly! This book has NO WORDS! The kids in the book find a bag of chalk near the playground, and everything they draw comes to life! I love getting my students to "write" the story with their own words!

If the weather cooperates, we'll go outside and draw after reading the book. If the weather is rainy, the students can draw with chalk inside on construction paper! 

I also created this quick FREEBIE to go along with this lesson. The students simply add to the shapes to create pictures. Then, I have the students share what they made, and we talk about how different people can see things differently, and there are no right or wrong answers!

Here's an example. I recently updated the FREEBIE to include a second page with added shapes!

 You can download this FREEBIE in my TPT store by clicking the link below.

Do you use chalk in therapy? How do you work on imagination? I'd love to hear! 

Tacos & EZPZ Play Mats

Happy Monday,  SLPeeps!

If you've been reading my blog or following along on any of my social media accounts, you know I have a major obsession with the Happy Mats and Bowls by EZPZ. I seriously believe they are the best thing ever.  EVER!

You probably also know that I have a 2 year old, Halle Jane, though I haven't talked much about some of the sensory/anxiety issues we've been experiencing with our precious toddler. As an SLP, I work in a school with Pre-K through 5th grade self-contained classrooms for students with Autism. The majority of my caseload is students with Autism or other special needs outside of just speech and language impairments. Most of the students I work with have sensory needs.

When I first started noticing a few "red flags" with my own daughter, I flip-flopped back and forth between believing there was something there, and thinking maybe I was over-thinking things since I see it all day long. In the end though, especially when others starting noticing as well, we all agreed that there was something going on.

Most of her sensory issues center around not wanting to get dirty. She wouldn't eat a doughnut without a fork. She wouldn't eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich unless it was broken up in bite-sized pieces so the jelly didn't get on her mouth. She didn't like to go outside without shoes. She didn't like to play with play-dough unless I cut her nails short so it didn't get under her fingernails. She didn't like band-aids or stickers on her skin, but loved to wear them on her clothes. She LOATHES tags on clothing, her dolls, her blankets. She pretty much just loathes tags in general. And she's terrified of loud noises (the vacuum, the flushing of an unfamiliar toilet, airplanes, lawn mowers, and anything that makes a noise that she can't identify.)

We've slowly but surely worked through many of these issues. We did a lot of playing barefoot outside, and we planted a garden. We covered her in stickers and band-aids. We played with a lot of play-dough and finger paint. We DID NOT cut ONE single tag off of anything, unless it was a particularly hard or scratchy tag. My mom took her to the airport to sit in an airplane. We flushed a lot of public potties. (so gross!) We vacuumed and went outside when daddy was cutting the grass. And we worked a whole lot on eating.

Eating was the one area that was killing me. We were fighting a battle at every meal, just to get her to eat a few bites. Part of the problem was that she just didn't want to slow down to eat. But she also didn't like getting her hands or mouth dirty, so eating finger foods or anything sticky would sometimes just about send her over the edge.

Enter EZPZ, and everything began to change, You can read my previous blog post on what the EZPZ Happy mats and bowls did for our mealtime HERE. But let's just suffice it to say that the mats made eating fun and interesting, which reduced her desire to leave the table, which increased the opportunities we had to work on sensory needs with eating.

Today, I wanted to show you another EZPZ product, and how we've used it to work on sensory needs while also fostering her independence and ownership in mealtimes: The EZPZ Play Mat!

While there are SO many ways to use the play mat (stringing beads, arts and crafts, finger paint, Legos, just to name a few, we've been using the Play Mat to let Halle Jane help make her own dinner or snacks. Instead of me preparing her food for her, she gets to help me "cook dinner" by fixing her own plate. Last week, we had tacos for dinner, and it was a HUGE deal to see her happily making her own tacos, getting her hands dirty, and EATING the tacos she made....THREE TACOS, to be exact!

She loved getting to do it all by herself, and this SLPMommy loved the mess she made! Side note: While she did have some spillage, the mess was contained to the mat. The beauty of these silicone mats is that they stick to the table, so they aren't knocked off, and when you're ready to clean up, you simply peel them off, and rinse with soap and water. They don't harbor bacteria, and they're also dishwasher safe. You can read many more "Pro's" to the EZPZ mats in a previous blog post by clicking HERE. 

We've also used the Play Mats for decorating cupcakes and sugar cookies with different toppings, making a bowl of ice cream with different toppings, fruit salad, and many others! Below, Halle Jane helped put strawberries and whipped cream on pound cake in an EZPZ bowl.

If I've made a believer out of you, and you want to order them for yourself, or your friends, or for baby gifts, you can use my link below for 10% off your order!

Are YOU using the EZPZ mats? I'd love to hear what you think! 

Stay tuned for another post coming soon on how I use them at school!