Wednesday, August 29, 2012

50 Great Books for Speech & Language

Hi All!

You guys know how much I *love* books, right? I use books almost every single therapy session. Literacy is so, so important. I make it my goal to incorporate literacy into all of my therapy sessions (including artic and fluency!)

I get a lot of emails about which books I use the most, book suggestions for Story Grammar Marker, etc. If you're familiar with my Teachers Pay Teachers store (Whitneyslp), you know I make a lot of book companions for my favorite books. But you can use books to target any therapy goals with or without a book companion, and whether or not you're using Story Grammar Marker.

Below, you'll find a list of 50 books that I use regularly to target speech and language goals, as well as at home with my own little one. This is by no means a complete list....I use MANY other books throughout the year, but these are ones I believe everyone should have in their personal libraries. :) Click on the book titles below to see if I have a book companion for that book!

1. Big Al, by Andrew Clements
2. The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch
3. Miss Nelson is Missing, by James Marshall
4. All of the "There Was An Old Lady" books, by Lucille Colandro
5. All of the "If you give a..."books, by Laura Numeroff
6. Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister
7. Pout Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen
8. Turkey Claus, by Wendi Silvano
9. Big Al and Shrimpy, by Andrew Clements
10. Katie Loves the Kittens, by John Himmelman
11. Princess Pigtoria and the Pea, by Pamela Duncan
12. Mr. Duck Means Business, by Tammi Sauer
13. All of the Bear books, by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman
14. The Mitten, by Jan Brett
15. Gingerbread Baby, by Jan Brett
16. Gilbert Goldfish, by Kelly DiPucchio
17. From Tadpole to Frog, by Wendy Pfeffer
18. The Important Book,  by Margaret Wise Brown
19. Pierre the Penguin, by Jean Marzollo
20. Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch, by Eileen Spinelli
21. From Caterpillar to Butterfly, by Deborah Heiligman
22. Pig's Egg, by Katherine Sully
23. Tarra & Bella, by Carol Buckley
24. Knut the Polar Bear, by Craig Hatkoff
25. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams
26. Turkey Trouble, by Wendi Silvano
27. Just A Snowman, by Mercer Mayer
28. Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson
29. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
30. Turkey Trick or Treat, by Wendi Silvano
31. All of the Little Critter books, by Mercer Mayer
32.Where the Wild  Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
33. The Napping House, by Audrey Wood
34. The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
35. Caps For Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina
36. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst
37. Corduroy, by Don Freeman
38. The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
39. Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Williams
40. Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola
41. Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
42.The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn and Ruth E. Harper
43. The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown
44. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, by Jon Scieszka
45. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by Mo Williams
46. Swimmy, by Leo Lionni
47. Goodnight Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann
48. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
49. A Bad Case of the Stripes, by David Shannon
50. The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash, by Trinka Hakes Noble

Don't see a book companion for a book you need? Check out my Best-selling Book Companion Companion....a HUGE No-Prep packet that works for ANY book you're using! (And keep checking back....MANY more book companions are in the works!)

I'd love to hear what some of your favorite books are! Did I leave any books out that you can't live without?

Friday, August 24, 2012

SGM Day Five: Personal Story Grammar Marker Ideas

Hi Everyone!

I hope today finds you doing great! For the last day of SGM week, I promised some personal ideas for Story Grammar Marker, so that's what the post is about today. Again, the best part about SGM is it's flexibility. While the manuals make recommendations and others have their own ways of teaching/implementing, you should feel free to dive in, try different things, and see what works best for you and your students!

Following are ideas that I use to teach/organize/display Story Grammar Marker:

My SGM team from St. Petersburg, FL! For Halloween, we decided to bring Literacy to Life by dressing up as The Paper Bag Princesses!

This is a science fair board covered in felt. The icons stick to it nicely, which helps to store all of my "extra" Braidy pieces not being used at that time!

The student story braids hang on Command hooks on the wall. The students know that when they come in the classroom, they should grab a story braid before sitting down!

One of the two SGM Bulletin Boards outside of my classroom. We did this one when we first started learning character and feelings. I found body part stickers, and the students chose different facial expressions for their characters!

SGM Station:

A few notes:
  • Once you really get into SGM, you may find that you are having a hard time navigating around the different teaching manuals. There are so many worksheets (not a bad thing), that sometimes it's hard to remember which ones you have and where to find them. Because of this, I spent time making a copy of the worksheets I use and organizing them into my personal teacher binder. I organized them by icon (character, setting, kickoff, etc.) This way I can choose which worksheet to use for different kids, depending on their ability levels.

  • I love to do a Story Grammar Marker "Book of the Month." The book of the month is most always a holiday or seasonal book. We make visuals and crafts that go along with each SGM Book of the Month, and these go on the other SGM Bulletin Board. This is great because many classes use the same book! Here are the ones I used for each month last year.
    • January-Pierre the Penguin by Jean Marzollo
    • February-Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli
    • March-Lucky Tucker by Leslie McGuirk
    • April-Pig's Egg by Katherine Sully
    • May-The Night Before Summer Vacation by Natasha Wing
    • September-The Teacher From the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler
    • October-The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams 
    • November-Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano
    • December-Just A Snowman by Mercer Mayer
  • Use the Data Sheets! They help you know exactly where to start on each kid, and exactly what areas you need to spend more time on. (And exactly how far the kiddos have come!)
  • Utilize the SGM blog on Mindwing Concepts for additional ideas.
  • Get other teachers involved! Carryover into the general education classes is key!
  • Be creative! You can print pictures from stories and velcro them on Braidy, make sequencing visuals for story retell, use the magnets, stamps, and just about anything else to teach SGM!

Good luck! Do you have any questions about SGM? I'd love to hear from you! Please share with us how you are using SGM!

Friday, August 17, 2012

SGM Day Four: Story Grammar Marker and Writing

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Just one more work day, and we're off for the weekend!

Today, we're talking about transitioning to writing today.

I actually just took the Talk to Write, Write to Learn training under Mary Ellen Moreau, the creater of SGM, last Thursday. When I first started using SGM, I didn't even think about writing. Last year, however, I had several older (3rd-5th grade) students on my caseload who were struggling writers, and with FL Writes coming up, another SLP and I decided to take on the daunting task of teaching these kiddos how to write logical, sequenced, purposeful, grammatically-correct stories with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Boy, we didn't know what we were in for! One particular group of 5th grade boys had learned the SGM icons and could easily pick out each story element on their own orally. However, when asked to write a complete episode (including all of the story elements) on a topic of their choice, they flopped. We couldn't believe it when we read their stories: they had no purpose, one had no character, they had no conclusion, and don't even get me started on their grammar and spelling! We decided that they needed to see the process of pre-writing a draft, editing, and producing a final copy that they could be proud of. We had no idea it would take them 3 months to get there!

But through our patience, their hardwork, and bribing them with McDonalds, they finally got it done! (This is where the SGM icon stamp collection came in great, as well as the outline worksheets!) Following is one of the students' first draft, and after is his final draft. Notice that through the editing process, he was able to include all of the story elements (macrostructure), but look at how his microstructure improved as well!

First Draft:
One day I was walking my dog around my neighbor hood and then I seen a fireball. It was coming at me. My plan was I wanted to be safe and survive so I start to run but I trip. It was a disaster because the fireball was coming toward me again. I was scared. I was really scared. I started to run again but I start getting tried. I looked back to see if the fireball was coming toward me but finaly it stop coming toward me. I was so happy but when I looked behind me the fireball hit a persons house It was disaster because the person in side was had a injury. My plan was I called the hospitul to tell them that someone is injurred. When they got there they said he is injurred. They said if I would have called the, he could have died. They said he will be out in 3 weeks because he has a broken arm. I fult excited that he would be out in 3 weeks. Also I was excited that I help him also that he wasent fever injurred.  When I got home I told my parents that I help someone out by safeing them. I was also excited that the fireball stop coming towards me and that it was gone. That was the time a fireball came towards me and hit a house. 

Final Draft:

One day I was walking my dog around my neighborhood, and all of a sudden, I saw a gigantic fireball soaring through the sky. It was coming straight towards me! I knew I needed to get to safety in order to survive, so I started to run, but I tripped. It was a disaster because the fireball was very close. I was scared. I began to run again, but I started getting tired. I looked back to see if the fireball was still near, but finally it stopped. I was so happy until I realized that the fireball had hit a person’s house. It was terrible because the person inside was hurt. I knew they needed help, so I decided to call the hospital to tell them that someone was injured. When the paramedics got there, they said the man inside the house was very injured. They said if I hadn’t called them, he could have died. The paramedics thought he could be out of the hospital in three weeks because he had a broken arm. I felt surprised that he would be out in three weeks. I was excited that I had helped someone out and also that he wasn’t very injured. When I got home, I told my parents that I helped someone out by saving them. I was thankful that the fireball was gone and we were all safe once again. It was a day I’ll never forget!
Added bonus: Instead of just using SGM with my kids in therapy, I met with teachers from different grade levels and did a quick mini lesson for them. Then I went into their classroom during writing and modeled a lesson for the teachers and kids. The kids loved it, and the kids on my caseload loved being able to help teach their peers. SGM works great with ALL kids, not just kids who are language impaired!

One other note: SGM's Talk to Write, Write to Learn kit also comes with big board magnets and stamps, which I adore! They are super easy to use in multiple settings, and the students love them too! After the students complete their writing drafts, I have them use the stamps to stamp out each story element. If they can't find it to stamp, they know what's missing!

Tomorrow, I'll show you some ideas and activities I use when teaching Story Grammar Marker.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

SGM Day Three: Story Grammar Marker and Autism

Ok-so did I mention that I love SGM?

Well, I loved it even more after I took the Autism Training! Children with Autism make up a large portion of my caseload. I am always looking for ways to expand their language use, vocabulary, and social skills. Lucky for me, Story Grammar Marker does all that and then some!

Have you ever noticed how all kids love to touch things? This is why I never wear white! When kids touch, it stimulates senses-and it helps them learn! With SGM, they can play with Braidy, change his or her face around to show different feelings, and incorporate movement and motions into learning to make it more fun, interesting, and therefore memorable! When I first introduced my students with Autism to Braidy, they loved him. They wanted to hug him, kiss him, take him apart, put him together, and make him mad! For some reason, they liked mad better than happy. So our Braidy is usually mad! What a great way to teach feelings, though! We talked about what a character is and how all characters have eyes, a face, and a head. We talked about how characters have thoughts and feelings, and how each of us are characters, too. We talked about how we feel and what makes us feel that way. Each student took a turn telling the group a feeling and making Braidy's face match their face. To put it mildly: They Loved It!

We then moved to talking about the setting, and then the kickoff. We read books, asked questions, had Braidy act out the story, used visuals to retell the story, used Braidy to retell the story, and velcroed visuals on Braidy to help them retell the story. They even started kicking their feet in the air for the "kick-off!" Not every student started on the same level, and not every student ended on the same level. But every student made progress. Each and every one.

The Autism kit comes with three different books: It's All About the Story, Making Connections, and Facilitating Relationships. Also included are icon stamps, a DVD, CDs, and the Story Grammar Marker Games.  According to Mindwing Concepts, the Autism Collection "helps children: tell their “story,” take perspective, develop Theory of Mind, become critical thinkers, build Central Coherence, solve problems, initiate & repair conversation to establish relationships, recognize feelings through verbal and nonverbal cues, infer, plan and write with cohesion."

The posters are also great for added visuals around our room. These are 8x11, and laminated for durability. 

The Autism Collection is a wonderful addition to Story Grammar Marker. Nothing excites me more than a student with Autism yelling at me from down the hall, "Hey Mrs. Whitney! Braidy is a character with eyes, face, and head!" Do you use SGM with students with Autism? If so, how?

SGM Day Two: Getting Started and Data Collection

Hi Everyone!

This week on the blog, we're discussing all things Story Grammar Marker! Today, we're looking at how to begin  with data collection. I do need to add a disclaimer here: There is a whole separate training and teacher's manual on data collection, and I can't possibly cover even close to half of what is available on a simple blog post.  So if you like what you see and don't have the data collection manual, I highly recommend you get it, as it is an intricate part to the teaching process. After today's blog, if you have questions or want more info, I will be glad to help, but I also encourage you to check out MindWing Concept's website ( There you will find contact information, research (yes, SGM is evidence-based), SGM forums, frequently asked questions, video clips, and much more!

So let's get started: Just as in any therapy program, you need baseline data. Baseline data is super easy with Story Grammar Marker. All you have to do is pick out a book or short story that you have not previously taught, read it to the student and show them the pictures if there are some, and then have them retell the story back to you, including as much detail as they can remember. You can encourage them along by asking questions like "Is that all?" or "Tell me more," but be careful not to cue or help them. Make sure you tell them "good job," as this can be frustrating to a kid who can't remember much detail, and we don't want them feeling bad about themselves. It is best to record their retell so you don't miss anything, as you will need to analyze it later. After you finish recording their story retell, you will want to go back and write each and every word they said down to analyze their retell for macrostructure and microstructure. Macrostructure includes the story content, such as the story elements. Not all stories are complete episodes with every story element included in the Story Braid. Some stories, poems, etc. are descriptive by nature and don't necessarily tell a story from start to finish. The macrostructure of the retell includes the story elements and details that were included in the story by the author. The microstructure includes the "extra things" such as conjunctions (FANBOYS), mental state verbs (think, know, remembered, dreamed), adverbs (here, again, slowly, suddenly), elaborated noun phrases (noun + adjective(s), and linguistic verbs (shouted, whispered, yelled). Both macrostructure and microstructure are very important. The student may have neither, one or the other, or both. You can tell a student who lacks microstructure when you see or hear lists, simple sentences, etc. Their story lacks  the "flow."

Included in the SGM teacher's manual are wonderful data collection worksheets and progress monitoring pages. The Language/Literacy Developmental Checklist: Sequence of Narrative Developmental Stages includes a breakdown of each of the sequences: descriptive, action, reactive, abbreviated episode, complete episode, complex episode, and interactive episode. This developmental chart also tells you which sequence the students should be able to do by which grade level. These are great for analyzing your baseline data and progress monitoring. You can determine where the student is before being taught the story elements and SGM, and then see how they are progressing, through additional story retells (with different books, of course!) The Progress Monitor and Instructional Planner worksheet is also an excellent tool for progress monitoring. It assigns points for each story element based on how well the student describes the element. The point system is easy to use to determine if the students are making progress, and which specific areas, if any, need to be addressed to a greater extent.

The SGM Data Collection Manual is filled with a plethora of information, as well as printables perfect for keeping data on all of your students. The data collection forms are easy to complete and simple to read, making is very easy to track progress. There are data sheets for students using Braidy, as well as students using the story braids.

After you get your baseline data, you can begin teaching Story Grammar Marker. I've said it before, but the wonderful thing about SGM is the flexibility. You can make it work for any age, any grade, and any ability level. I have probably never taught it the exact same way twice, but you want to start by teaching the students about the icons. For my older kids who can handle it, I do a quick overview of all of the icons, and then go back and spend time on each one until we have explored it completely. For the younger students, I start with character and feelings. (This also works great with those students wit Autism). Once they know character, we talk about setting. The icons also go along great when teaching WH questions. (Who-character, Where-setting, etc.)

Next, we'll talk about SGM as it relates to Autism. Thursday, we'll discuss transitioning to writing. And Friday, I'll show you ideas, activities, and examples of what I do personally when teaching SGM. Do you have any questions? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, August 13, 2012

SGM Day One: An Introduction to Story Grammar Marker

Hi Friends! 

Welcome to Story Grammar Marker week on the blog! As I’ve said before, the Story Grammar Marker (SGM) materials are my favorite materials in my entire bag of materials. If I could only choose one type of material to use as an SLP for all of the kids on my caseload, SGM would be an easy choice! Not sure what SGM is? Have you heard of it, but need a refresher? Are you using SGM and like to hear how others are using it too? Then stay tuned this week as we discuss everything Story Grammar Marker!

SGM, by MindWing Concepts Inc., provides tactile and visual cues to teach story elements and discourse both orally and in writing. According to their website, MindWing’s conviction is that “every child regardless of age, ability or culture - can benefit academically, personally and socially from building his/her Discourse Skills.”  The goal of their methodology “is to help children think and communicate.”
I have been blessed to have been a part of SGM training taught by Mary Ellen Moreau, the creator of SGM and the President of MindWing Concepts, Inc.  I have taken the 2-day workshop on Braidy the Storybraid and SGM, the Data Collection Training, Autism Training, and the Talk to Write, Write to Learn Training. Each of the trainings are wonderful, and if you ever have the chance to learn first-hand from the “Pro,” I highly recommend you take advantage of the opportunity!
We’ll start today with introducing the icons included on the Storybraids and Braidy, which is typically how I begin teaching SGM. Braidy is usually used for the younger kids, and the Storybraids are used for the older kids. But the beauty of this program is its flexibility-you can use it however it works best for you and your kids. I allow the kids to touch and hold the materials. Braidy has different facial features that the kids can change to make him feel differently (mad, happy, sad, surprised, scared, or disgusted). The more they explore, the more they learn! The head represents the character. The star represents the setting. The shoe represents the “kickoff” or initiating event. The heart represents the feelings of the character. The hand represents the character’s plan. The sequencing beads represent the attempts of the plan. The ribbon-tied bow represents the direct consequences (did the plan work?), and the heart beads represent the resolution of the story. 

Here's an example of a short story I use to introduce SGM: 
Every day after school (setting-when), Johnny (character), walked to the candy store (setting-where). One day on the way to the candy store, Johnny fell into a huge, very deep hole (kickoff).  Johnny was scared/terrified (feelings). He knew he needed help getting out of the hole (plan). First, Johnny pulled out his cell phone to call for help, but his phone was crushed in the fall (first attempt). Next, Johnny began yelling for help (second attempt). When someone came to the entrance of the hole, Johnny asked him to bring a ladder.  The helper didn’t have a ladder, so he called the fire department (third attempt). The fireman lowered a ladder down the hole and Johnny was able to climb out, unharmed (direct consequence). Johnny felt happy to be out of the hole, and very thankful for the help he received (resolution).
Depending on the students and their ability levels, it may take 2 days or 2 weeks for them to learn the icons. For the lower level kids, I start off teaching one icon at a time.  The students love the program, too.  Nothing is better than bringing out Braidy, and having Pre-K students holler out, Braidy is a character, with eyes, face, and a head!” They can also tell you that characters have feelings, and their feelings can change throughout the story. We’ll discuss the next steps and printable materials that are included in the program tomorrow.

For more information on Story Grammar Marker and related products, visit Tomorrow, we'll go more in-depth with SGM!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday: Therapy Planning And Wingin' It!

Hi, Peeps!

Soon enough, the school year will be in full-swing, and if you're anything like me, you'll have days where you're struggling to keep up those promises you made to yourself over the summer about staying organizing and planning ahead. Today, we're discussing therapy planning vs. just wingin' it, and I've been known to do both!

Unlike some other SLPs (and all teachers) in my county, I'm not required to turn in lesson plans. This is great news for me, but others may prefer turning them in. The truth is, I do "concept planning," but very little "this is exactly what we're going to do today" planning. I enjoy the freedom of changing my mind last minute, asking the kids occasionally what they want to do, and my personal favorite, scratching everything I had planned for a more important "teachable moment" that arose on the way back to my room! (This is the case most of the time with the ASD population). Because many of my kids have Autism or Aspergers, I am frequently involved when there is a problem, even if they are not in my classroom at the time. I enjoy helping out, and it gives me a first-hand opportunity to encourage them to put into action some of those coping strategies or cool-down exercises we have been discussing for weeks in social group!

Anyway, my planning and the exactness of it, depends on lots of things: the group, the day, the goals, the kids' behavior, and my energy level! Let me say, though, that I always know ahead of time the goals we are going to address. Its just the WAY I address them is not always written down ahead of time. And this works for me. However, I know a lot of SLPs (I used to be one of them) that like to write everything down. And that's ok too. As SLPs, we have to be flexible when things come up, but I also know that we are Type A, organized planners, and you have to do what's most comfortable for you.

For Pre-K and K, I follow along with their themes. I lead circle times for Pre-K, and my book and activity matches the theme they are currently on. The Pre-K teachers and I collaborate on our plans, which makes it very easy. I tailor the activities to the goals my kiddos have. For the older grades, I still use a lot of literacy and language-based activities, even for artic and fluency. If a holiday is near, we focus on that, etc. And with Story Grammar Marker for my language kids, I pick a SGM book of the month (or several), and we stay on that lesson until they've all got it!

At the beginning of the school year, I go through our school calendar and plan out my themes for the year. Some themes take longer than others, so I spend 2-3 weeks on those. I plan my themes around holidays, special school-wide functions (Spirit week, for example, since South GA football is a BIG deal), and seasons. Then, I fill in empty weeks with other themes that go along with what the students are learning in the classroom.

Whether you like to plan everything out or not, the most important thing is that you are working on their goals, and tailoring the lessons to meet their needs and abilities. If everything doesn't go just as planned, I've learned its ok. The kids rarely notice!

Next week we're discussing Story Grammar Marker and Language Literacy. If you've already started school, I hope its off to a great start. If you're like me and you start soon, enjoy the last bit of your summer vacay!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thursday: Team Work!

Happy Thursday!

I've been at a Story Grammar Marker follow-up training today on Talk to Write, Write to Learn. If you're not familiar with SGM, you need to be! It is the single most used therapy tool in my bag of therapy tools. If you're not familiar with it or need a refresher, don't worry! I'm dedicating next week to nothing but Story Grammar Marker, including a day for SGM and Autism!

But today, we're discussing teamwork, which is unavoidable as an SLP. I'm one of the lucky ones. I am blessed to have a strong ESE team that I work with daily. In addition to me and another SLP, we have a full-time VE resource teacher, a psychologist, social worker, behavior specialist, RtI Coordinator, Diagnostician, OT, and our Autism and EBD teachers. Thankfully, we are all willing to help each other out, fill in when needed, and call on each other for advice. However, in addition to our ESE teams, there are two other very important links in the chain: teachers and parents.

I'll start with teachers. It didn't take me long to learn that it is imperative that we have good working relationships with our teachers. As SLPs, we're not just there to service our kids during the time they are in our rooms. We need to be in close contact with their classroom teachers, letting them know what we are working on, how the student is progressing, any concerns we have, and listening to their concerns. I often ask the teachers what they are working on in the classroom and build on that in therapy. Therapy should not be "extra" work for the kids. It should help give them interventions they need to be successful in the classroom. In addition, I want the teachers to know that I am there as a resource for them. This is even more important now with the enactment of RtI. Teachers, just like us (and everyone else), are swamped. Often times when there is a language concern, teachers appreciate our input on interventions or modifications they can be doing in the classroom. With students who are working on artic or fluency, we can show teachers how they should respond or encourage the students outside of therapy. Teachers are invaluable. And we need them to know that we are on their side, that we understand their frustrations, and that we are there to offer our expertise when needed. One more note: there are still other professionals out there who aren't exactly sure what we (SLPs) do. At the beginning of last school year, my SLP colleagues and I put together a short PowerPoint on what we do (and the types of students we see) to present at a faculty meeting. This helped many of them know the referral processes when they do have a student they are concerned about. In addition to the PowerPoint, if a teacher had a student who was on our caseload, I tried to give them a little research or information on the student's disability and how they can help, in addition to a copy of the student's IEP and any classroom accommodations.

OK-The other link is undoubtedly the parents. Research shows that when parents are involved in the therapy process, the students are much more likely to succeed. This is the case in other areas aside from academics as well. Parents are a necessary and extremely important part of the team. Having a good rapport with your parents and staying in close communication with them throughout the year is very important. I even send home parent surveys around January to see how I'm doing. Homework is important and letting parents know how they can help their child will help the child progress faster, as well as make your job easier! At the beginning of every school year, I send a letter home to the parents introducing myself and giving them my contact information. I also send home a letter before Christmas Break, and a Summer letter attached to homework packets for summer vacation. Attached below is a copy of the letter I give my parents at the beginning of the year. In addition, I have a bulletin board for parents to see what is going on in speech and language, and have some handouts for Parent Nights too. There are some awesome handouts for parents on MommySpeechTherapy, too!

I send home this Student Information Sheet for parents to fill out each year, which gives me not only important contact information, but also great insight into the parents' concerns. You can download this form and others for free by clicking the link below!

Finally, I made a quick packet of speech notes for parents and teachers that help me remind them about when their child/student comes to therapy and what they are working on, as well as a few reminders about IEP meetings/paperwork, and even a few notes to recognize good behavior. I'm finding these are a great way to stay in contact with parents and teachers, without taking up too much time! You can download them for FREE below! 

How do you collaborate with your team members to ensure student success? 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wednesday: Expectations & Behavior Management

Hi Everyone!

Today we're focusing on behavior management and setting clear-cut expectations for your precious little lovies (who probably never do anything wrong, right?!?!)

When people who are not in education ask me about my job, they are surprised to hear that so much of my job is dealing with behavior. This is especially the case if you are like me and have a large ASD population. Not all behavior is "bad." A lot of what I do is rewarding "good" behavior. In addition, we also use interventions and behavior management systems to extinct other behaviors (finger biting, head banging, tantrums, etc. due to lack of communication skills). Though sometimes negative reinforcement is necessary (mostly by parents at home), I most often use positive reinforcement. Depending on the age level, we have different expectations. However, my colleagues will tell you that I don't let much slip by me in the "behavior department." I'm a firm believer that kids will rise to whatever expectations we set for them. I set very high expectations when it comes to behavior.

One of the areas I am asked about most from parents is behavior management. Though it is typical that kids act differently for other adults than they do for their own parents, I often have to remind parents that clear expectations and consistency are the most important things. When kids know that there will be a consequence for all actions (whether good or bad), they will adapt. I mentioned in my bio that I was raised on a Black Angus cattle farm. I grew up showing pigs and cows. When breaking a show heifer, it was imperative that no matter how hard they pulled in the opposite direction, you never, ever, let go of the rope. Once the heifer gets away that first time, she knows she can do it again, and boy will she try! I use this analogy to make this point: When setting consequences, kids wait for you to let go of the rope. And once you do, they will try their hardest to get you to do it again and again.

In my classroom, my personal teaching mission statement is posted on the wall. In addition, the kids have their own personal mission statements (see Monday's post for the Student Folders Download). In addition, we have our classroom rules posted as well. The first few weeks of school, we go over these daily. Throughout the school year, we go back and review as needed. This way, the kids know what I expect of them. They can't ever say "I didn't know!"

You can download a FREE AND EDITABLE mission statement and classroom rules posters (along with an "I Our Room..." poster and color and black and white good behavior punch cards by clicking the link below:

I feel like I should also add in here that I love my babies dearly. We have a great rapport. I joke around with them, love on them, and make it an important priority to point out good behavior when I see it. You can actually see the kids swell with pride when their name is called out for doing something good. I have such a good relationship with my kids, that I very rarely have to discipline. They respect me and they know I respect them. With this kind of relationship, they want to make good choices.

OK-probably the grades that require behavior management the most are Pre-K and Kindergarten. Its not their fault. They are wired to move, move, and move! Instead of stopping instruction over to redirect behavior, I have a visual to remind the little ones of what is expected in order to earn their sticker. You can download it below. Feel free to use it however it works best for you. We use the 3-strikes-you're-out system. Each kids has a chart. When we see someone not following the rules, we quietly place an "x" in whichever box the child is not doing. When they get 3 x'es, they lose their sticker. Since this is very visual, the little ones can actually see (and count) their warnings. And boy, they hate to lose their sticker!

I know this is getting long. Can you tell that I love behavior management?! I wanted to add one more thing for those of you who work with the ASD population, or any other disability for that matter. Obviously, our expectations and the way we communicate those expectations are set according to the students' ability to understand. However, it is my personal belief that kids with disabilities can learn expectations and follow rules just like kids without disabilities. While there are some behaviors that we attribute to certain disabilities (such as acting out when schedules change for kids with Autism), it is our job to put interventions in place and teach these kids in therapy that while we understand why they are upset, there are certain behaviors that are unacceptable, and instead, give them the resources they need to learn appropriate behaviors instead.

How do you use behavior management in your job? Parents-how do you use behavior management at home? I'd love to hear from you all on this topic!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday: Meeting Your Kids and Surviving the First Few Weeks!

Hi everyone!

My post today is about getting to know your little school babies and surviving the chaos of the first few weeks. Anyone who has worked in a school before knows that the first few weeks can be crazy. I don't know about you guys, but SLPs are pretty much at the bottom of the totem pole as far as scheduling goes, and when the master schedule changes (as it does about 14 times in the first 2 weeks), we have to basically re-do our entire schedule. We also spend time doing lots of things that we don't normally do the first few weeks, such as tagging kids backpacks for which bus they ride, comforting crying kids, dealing with bad weather changes, etc. Call me crazy, but I love it and can't wait for it to start! My advice for the first few weeks is to stay calm, laugh instead of cry, and if you're like me, pray...a lot!

Even though scheduling can be difficult, we still need to start seeing students as quickly as possible. I'm blessed to have a Special Ed team that works wonderfully together. We do a lot of scheduling sitting side by side, collaboratively. We are all important, and we all have to fit the kids in, so even though its not easy, we work together to figure out the best solutions. (More on teamwork coming on Thursday!) In addition, we try our hardest to think of whats best for the kids when scheduling-I've found that waking a Kindergartener up half-way through nap time does not lend to much talking!). I've often said that scheduling is the hardest part of my job. And even though it is very frustrating, getting upset and freaking out doesn't help!

As chaotic as the first few weeks are for us, they are also crazy for the kids. Some of these poor little Pre-K and Kindergarteners have never been away from their parents before, and a 800+ student school with all new faces is terrifying. Though therapy drilling is important, it can wait. The most important part of our jobs over the first few weeks is to get to know our kids, make them feel comfortable, and establish rapport. If your lovies are not comfortable in the therapy setting, they are not going to make the progress they should. Below you'll see some examples of getting-to-know-you activities I use for the first few weeks.

  • The Let's Talk Vocabulary Box (from Lakeshore Learning) is filled with question cards that work great for getting to know your students, as well as assessing their language skills. 
  • The question cubes have questions on them for the students to answer-and the students go crazy over rolling the soft dice!
  • The All About Me questions deck from Super Duper are also super fun!
  • Finally, the worksheets are from my "Getting To Know You" freebie! You can download it below!

Though crazy, the first few weeks can really be fun as you learn about your kids and develop relationships with each of them. I love to give kids the chance to tell me and others in their group about their summers. (Great opportunity for baseline data, too!) What do you do during the first few weeks of school? As always, I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday: Student Speech Folders

Hi everyone!

Welcome to my Back to School Week! Today, I'm focusing on my speech folders!

Student folders really help me stay organized. I use them to keep data, student information, and sticker charts, as well as student work samples!

Each folder is a 2-pocket file folder (without the 3-punch thing in the middle). You can get them from Target for $0.10.  I get different colors and let the students pick which color they want. If you're not a fan of the 2-pocket file folders, you can keep them in a large 3-ring binder with separate sections for each grade! (This is what I do for all of the students who don't come to my actual speech room (mostly inclusion and consult students).

Here's what I include in my student speech folders:

Parent Student Information Sheet: I send this home for parents to fill out. It gives me their important information at my fingertips without me having to look it up, and gives me an insight into what the parents' concerns are for their kids long before I meet them at an IEP meeting.

SLP Student Information Sheet: I fill this out on each of my students. I started doing this the year I went out for maternity leave. It made the transition between therapists easier. It also helps me to establish a rapport with my students when I remember what they like and don't like!

Speech/Language Mission Statement Sheet: I have all of my students fill this out during the first week of speech. For those who can't write, I write it down for them and they sign their names. It is SO important for students to know WHY they are being pulled out of class each day. They need to take ownership of their speech goals and be able to explain to others what they are working on! This keeps us all accountable! (Plus, administrators LOVE to see this, hint hint!)

Student Data Sheets:  I keep one of these in the folders for each goal. We may not take data on every goal every day, but again, it helps students to take accountability of their progress and self-monitor. They LOVE to color in their data and see their graphs rise! Even my Pre-K and Kindergarten students do this, with a little help!

Student Sticker Chart:  I use stickers and a treasure box for behavior management and motivation. The only requirements are that they show up, follow the rules, and try their best. Five stickers in a row earns them a trip to the treasure box (which they'll do just about anything for!)

In addition to these pages, I also keep student work products in their folders to pull out during parent conferences, IEP meetings, etc. It's so great to give these samples to the students at the end of the year and see how far they've come!

Having everything together and easily accessible for each child makes my life much easier. Whether I keep them in separate folders or one big binder (I've done it both ways), these student folder sheets keep me organized and on track!

You can download these student folder sheets for FREE in my TPT Store! Click on the picture or the link below!

Here's a breakdown of the posts for the rest of the week:

Tuesday: Getting to Know Your Kids
Wednesday: Expectations & Behavior Management
Thursday: TEAM Work
Friday: Therapy Planning & Wingin' It!