Friday, March 21, 2014

The Weekly Wrap-Up: St. Paddy's Day and Beach Days

Hi Friends!

I'll admit upfront...this weekly wrap-up is MUCH shorter than last week's...because I spent A LOT of time this week in eligibility meetings (hey, it's job security, right?!?!) Anyway, take a look at what we were up to this week:

Of course, we had to start the week celebrating Saint Patrick's Day!

My younger students used Simply Speech's Old Lady Swallowed a Clover book companion to work on 'wh' questions and sequencing!

My older students used my History of Saint Patrick's Day companion to learn the history of the holiday and work on comprehension questions and holiday vocabulary!

Other groups used my Lucky Tucker book companion to work on sequencing, 'wh' questions, and writing!

Now for a few personal pictures:

Halle Jane spent her first day at the beach. Just so you know, she is not asleep here. She rather enjoys placing things over her head, including but not limited to, blankets, stuffed animals, clothes, and apparently hats. She really enjoyed "laying out", soaking up some rays (she was coated in sunscreen), and relaxing!

Finally, as earlier stated, I spent a lot of time in meetings this week, getting ready for meetings after Spring Break, and writing eval/reeval reports. Unfortunately, I don't "just get to play with kids all day," as my husband likes to tease me about! 

 AND...I ended the week attending a training on Common Core for Florida!

Now, we're off to GA for a week for Spring Break! I can't wait to sleep in (yeah right with the baby), enjoy being outside, and catch up on making TPT products. April's Book Club Bundle is coming soon!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

March OT Tip of the Month {Visual Schedules}

Hi friends!

My primary reason for starting this blog almost two years ago was for collaboration. And collaboration I have done! Whether it be questions from parents, planning for inclusion therapy with teachers, learning and sharing ideas with other SLPs, or asking questions to SLPs, OTs and PTs, the last 2 years have been invaluable to me as an SLP! I cannot stress this enough: collaboration and close working relationships with parents and other professionals is paramount to student success! I'm very blessed to have an amazing team of individuals who work very closely together. We are constantly discussing kiddos, brainstorming new ideas, sharing updates with each other, and reinforcing each others' goals in our own sessions!

One of the OTs in my school puts out an "OT Tip of the Month" every month for teachers and service providers. I asked her permission to share these tips on my blog, as they are great ideas for teachers, SLPs, OTs, parents, and others! Here's her March Tip of the Month below with a picture example:

This time of the year one of the frustrations I hear often repeated is…
“ We have been in school since August, they should know the morning routine. I have to keep telling them what to do!”
If this sounds familiar, I may have a solution…an individual laminated visual schedule that has the steps to complete the morning routine numbered in order. As the student completes each step they can check it off with a dry erase marker. I like to make these narrow in width so they can be laminated and attached with Velcro to the side of the desk. This serves 3 purposes: 1)  it doesn’t get lost in the desk; 2)they have quick access to it and 3) it is out of the way when they aren’t using it.
You may wonder why this is necessary…”why can’t they just remember the routine and what I tell them??” The reason is that many students struggle with the auditory processing of verbal information, have difficulty with recall and short term memory, or have decreased attention and focus. Using a strategy such as a written list of steps to complete can make all the difference in the world and help make your student more independent, complete work in a more timely manner, and decrease disruptions to the class!   
Have a nice day!
Michele L. Frommer, OTR/L

For younger students or non-readers, use visuals to reinforce a schedule! Thanks so much for sharing your tip, Michele! Do you guys use visual schedules with your students?

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Weekly Wrap-Up: PB&J and St. Patrick's Day!

Happy Monday, friends!  And Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Here's to hoping you had a relaxing, enjoyable, sunny weekend! I sure did!

Anyway, sorry in advance for the loooong post, but we did a TON last week! Check it out below: 

I started Monday off bright and early giving the Social Language Development Test-Adolescent Edition. I'm busy getting my 5th graders ready to transition to middle school. This is the first time I've given the Adolescent version. I liked it as much as the Elementary version...but there is a big jump as far as maturity goes!

For many of my older language groups, we used my History of Saint Patrick's Day packet to learn the history behind this fun holiday! 

In my social language group, we played Apples to Apples-dice edition! This super cute and fun game for learning came from a fellow SLP blogger friend: Rachel from Let's Talk Speech Therapy! This was the first day these students had played this version of the game (they love the board game version), so we got lots of great social practice in while practicing being patient when learning something new, taking turns, cheering others on, and losing and winning graciously! Not to mention the vocabulary and parts of speech practice! Thanks so much, Rachel!

Over the last few weeks, we've been explicitly teaching conjunctions and transition words for the students to use in their story retells and writing. For many of my students in the self-contained Autism classrooms, this concept isn't the easiest to learn...and visuals make it  much easier! We've been teaching them to use these words while sequencing steps to real activities. We sequenced the butterfly life-cycle last week, but this week we decided to do something different and fun to get the students excited! And what's more exciting than making Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches?!?! These are the cards I made to help sequence the steps. You can find these cards as part of my new Sequence It! activity on TPT here. 

 We went over the visual step cards first, and made sure we had all of the ingredients/materials we needed. 

We used my conjunction/transition word cards with the visual sequencing pictures to highlight the transitional words. 

Then, the classroom teacher found a Youtube video for the students to watch which shows the steps to making a PB&J!

 We stressed the transition words with each step: FIRST, you spread peanut butter onto one piece of bread. 

 NEXT, you spread jelly onto the second piece of bread.

 THEN, you put the two pieces of bread together.

 And LAST, enjoy eating your sandwich!

For those who wanted to do so, we used a shamrock cookie cutter to cut off the crust and cut their sandwich into a shamrock for a Saint Patrick's Day reference!

For the non-verbal students in the class, we used their iPad AAC apps to create visual pictures of the steps and materials needed, so they could participate too! 

Finally, the students wrote about the activity. Right now, they are drawing a picture and writing one sentence about each step, using the connector words! Eventually, we will transition away from simple sequencing activities to using the connector words in other types of story retell/writing activities. 

This PB&J adjective describing FREEBIE by Major Speech Minor Girl was a great addition to our PB&J activities!

For my younger language groups, we used Kristin from Simply Speech's There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Clover book companion to practice sequencing and prepositions! 

And finally, for my speech groups, we used Live Love Speech's Shamrock Articulation FREEBIE. It worked great as a no-print activity on my iPad!

How are you incorporating Saint Patrick's Day into your lessons? 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tricks of the Trade Blog Hop: Teaching Transition Words and Connectors in Story Retell

Hi Everyone!

I'm so excited for this blog hop that I'm letting it take the place of last week's Weekly Wrap-Up Post, because what you'll see in this post is exactly what we did in therapy last week!  Many thanks to Nicole Allison and Allison's Speech Peeps for organizing everything!

The idea of this hop is to go "back to the basics," where SLPs can give each other tips for things that have worked for us. I cannot wait to read through all of the posts...I know I'll learn so much! (Isn't it just amazing how easy it is for us to collaborate with and learn from SLPs all over the world?!?!?!)

Many of you know how much I use Story Grammar Marker in my therapy. Literacy and story comprehension are so important, and I literally incorporate SGM into about every therapy session I possibly can. But after I teach the students to identify the different story elements, I need to transition them into story retell, both orally and in writing. When first learning to retell stories or make up new stories of their own, the students are so focused on including each and every story element that their stories are in bullets. One thing listed right after the other, without many (if any) connector/transition words. This is what their writing looks like:

My brother had a birthday. He got a transformer. We had cake.
It was good. It was fun. We were happy. The End. 

So now that the macrostructure is there (mostly), it's time to work on the microstructure. I always tell my kiddos that after they write the story, they have to go back and add things to make it flow together. To make it smooth and interesting. To make it more descriptive. To paint the picture so well, that someone who wasn't there will feel like they were. 

One of the first areas I focus on are the transition words. Transition words or conjunctions make a huge difference in how a story flows. They make a story sound less like bullet points and more like a story. They also mean the difference between simple sentences and complex sentences (Common Core, anyone?)

But teaching transition words to Kindergartners (especially Kindergartners with Autism) can be challenging. So the easiest way I've found to teach them is to teach them right along with sequencing activities. I start with the easy connector words (First, Next, Then, Last), and have the students use them to explain HOW to do something or HOW something happens. (i.e. Making peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, building a snowman, or how a caterpillar changes into a butterfly). 

With most younger children and especially those with Autism, visuals are a must. No matter what sequencing activity we are working on, I always make sequencing cards to go along with it. The sequencing cards show each step, and the students can practice putting the pictures in order. Once they are able to list each step or action (verbally and/or in writing), we add in the connector words. 

I made connector word cards for my students so they could physically use them as cues. This past week, we used them along with the book From Caterpillar to Butterfly, and learned how to orally describe and write about the butterfly life-cycle!

 The Kindergarten Autism Classroom Teacher and I co-teach a writing block twice a week. We use the same book throughout the week so the students can hear it multiple times, and we can take the time to examine and explore several activities that pertain to the story. Here, she took the sequencing cards and taped them to the chart she made to help show the students the order in which everything happens.

The students wrote one step per page and illustrated the step. (This particular student needs blocks drawn for him to write his words in, or else his writing will be illegible.)

This student practiced writing the last step, using the connector word "last." Then he finished his story by writing a one-sentence tie-up. (Butterflies are beautiful.)

These are the connector cards we use. There are several ways to use these. Sometimes we tape them to the board or chart paper as we write out each step or story event. Other times, we pass out a card to each student, and have them line up with their connector card and orally tell the event or next step when it's their turn. (For your older kids, you can play a game where they make up a story as they go. Each student says one sentence with their connector word in it. Their stories turn out so funny with all of the twists and surprise turns!) You can click the link below to see the Connector Cards in my TPT Store.

Connector and Transition Words for Writing and Story Retell

There are also several great Smart Board activities using connector words. In this particular activity, the students can slide connector words wherever they need them.

Once your students understand using the simple connector/transitional words in their story retell/writing, you can add new words (yesterday, however, although, the next day, later than night, first, second, meanwhile, finally, etc.) Take a look at the difference these words make in the writing sample below. P.S. This is the same kiddo who wrote the first sample just a month later.

Do you know about the butterfly life-cycle? First, the mother butterfly lays an egg. Next, the egg hatches and a caterpillar comes out. Then, the caterpillar goes into a chrysalis. Last, the caterpillar turns into a butterfly. Butterflies are awesome! 

Do you have a special way of teaching this concept to your students? 

Now for the fun part! Here's my letter! Write all the letters down and enter them in the Rafflecopter giveaway on the last blog in the hop to enter to win TPT gift cards!
 Click this picture to move to the next blog!
Click this picture to go back to the first blog.

Good Luck, and thanks for hopping by!