What does that mean??

Some years back, my son moved to Brazil to marry a lovely Brazil college professor.  During his time there, my son became fluent in Portuguese, and this became my grandson’s first language.  When little Miguel was 2 years old, my son started exposing him to English in preparation for their planned move to the US a year later.  When Miguel arrived here at age 3, he had some conversational English, but Portuguese was still his go-to language.  One of the first things I taught him was to ask, “what does that mean?” when encountering unfamiliar vocabulary.  Now he is nearly 6 years old and his language skills are off the charts, mainly because parents and grandparents speak to him in an adult-like manner and read to him constantly (his favorite activity).  He has a deep love for words and is always happy to learn new ones.  Here’s an example of a recent conversation as we walked home from the bus stop;  mind you, he does know what some of the words mean but enjoys playing this as a game.

  • Me: Miguel, I have a proposal for you.
  • Miguel:  What’s proposal mean?
  • Me: It means a suggestion.
  • Miguel: What’s a suggestion?
  • Me:  It’s an idea I want you to consider.
  • Miguel:  What’s consider mean?
  • Me:  It means to think about something to see if it is a good idea or not.
  • Miguel:  Oh, so you have an idea you want me to think about, like “I propose that we go to the Crayola Factory!”

Bingo!  By encouraging Miguel to ask for definitions, by using vocabulary and reading books that are above his age level, and by making word-play (puns, riddles, knock-knock jokes) fun games that we play, he has become a very competent speaker of English and has learned a very useful strategy for life-long learning:  if you don’t understand something, ASK!

product_wad_Storyteller_s-Word-a-Day-three-assembled-illustration-and-facts_900xI recently purchased a stand-up book for Miguel from MrsWordsmith.com called “Storyteller’s Word a Day.”  The book is kept on an end table in the living room and is the first thing Miguel goes to when he comes over.  A recent word was “incessant.”  After we reviewed the meaning, he told me that they had a fire drill that week and the alarm was incessant.  Then he flipped back a few pages to another word and said, “It was this, too — grating!  The noise was incessant and grating!”   Pretty good carryover for a kindergartener, don’t you think?

This book would be ideal for SLPs to use in school, as there are words for every day from September to May.  Each page has a cartoon drawing depicting the meaning, the word, the definition and part of speech, and an easy to understand example.  (That’s as far as I go with Miguel right now).  For those who are really into words, the back of the page provides etymology, word pairs, synonyms, frequency of use, and a story starter.  Wow!  Just think of how many IEP goals you can hit with this!  “Storyteller’s Word a Day” is designed for ages 6-13, making it ideal for your middle-grade language students. Also available through this website are a similar book for 3-6-year-olds and an illustrated dictionary.  All use colorful, humorous cartoons to bring the words to life.

While this book is new to me, the strategy of teaching students to ask goes way back in my career when I developed a game I call “Hit or Miss” for my language students.  I realized that reading comprehension issues are often related to vocabulary deficits AND the student’s tendency to read the word fluently but never stopping to figure out the meaning.  I liken this to the students as Swiss Cheese reading:  they are solid on a lot of the words but they do have some holes that can greatly affect their comprehension.  The “Hit or Miss” game goes like this:  As a student reads aloud from his textbook or grade-level library book, he is to stop and ask the definitions of any unfamiliar words and earns a point (a “hit”) each time he does that.  If he doesn’t stop at a word that I suspect might be unfamiliar, I will stop him and ask for the meaning.  If he does know the word, he gets another point.  If he doesn’t know the word, that’s a “miss” and I get the point.  After the first session or two, the student nearly always wins because he has learned to ask for help when he needs it.  I’ve shared this strategy with their classroom teachers, who have then used it in small group reading instruction — ideal carryover support!

 

The Many Uses of Wordless Picture Books

There is no moment more magical than the first time a child reads — actually reads — a book independently.  Such focus, such concentration on the text as the child decodes the printed words!  This is the first step on a lifelong journey across time, space, cultures, and ideas that a love of reading will provide.

29313But firing the imagination is not limited to books with text.  Indeed, wordless picture books may tap into more imagination, more language, more critical thinking, and more projecting of one’s self into the story.  Whether illustrations are simple or lush, the reader uses them to answer so many questions, because that is the only way the story can be told:  Who or what is in the picture?  Where and when is this taking place?  What is happening?  Why is this happening?  What is the problem?  What are some solutions?  How did the character’s actions work out?  What is the difference between this picture and the one before and the one after?  Did anything change?  How does the character feel? What is the character thinking?  How would you feel?  What would you do?  What will happen next?  And on and on….

Wordless picture books are ideal for speech/language therapy.  Just think of how many 17165875goals can be addressed by a single wordless book by letting the child take the lead in “reading” the story:  describing, labeling, grammar, predicting, articulation, and fluency are just a few of the typical s/l skills that can be practiced and measured.  Add to that joint attention, answering questions, turn-taking, and perspective-taking, and you’ll see that wordless picture books are ideal for working on pragmatic skills.  When the child has finished “reading” the book, review it for practice in recall, retelling, and sequencing.  Have a student who is weak in written language?  Use wordless picture books to practice sentence and story writing. Working with very young children or children with cognitive impairments?  Use the books to build receptive skills and basic concepts:  Show me —.  Point to —-.  Where is —?  What color/shape is —?   He is clapping;  now you clap.    Imagine — all of these communication skills can be  worked on, no reading required!

the-lion-and-the-mouseWordless picture books are especially good for children who use AAC.  In addition to building all of the skills detailed above, the children can use their AAC system at the single word, phrase, or full sentence levels to tell the story, answer your questions, and ask questions of their own.  This builds fluency with the system as they learn how to navigate to needed core and fringe vocabulary, and helps AAC users increase their mean length of utterance.

22750286If you Google “wordless picture books,” you’ll find a lot of “top ten” recommendations.  If you want to find titles of a hundreds wordless picture books, join Goodreads.com (free), then put in this URL:  https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/wordless-picture-books.  I guarantee you’ll find a year’s worth of books that will appeal to and be appropriate for all of the students on your caseload, regardless of age, gender, personal interests, or IEP goals.  Many may be available in your school or public library.  To add to your own collection, you can search local booksellers or find nearly all on Amazon.

“What goes on in that Speech Room?”

Kids are curious about that little room down the hall, next to the nurse’s office.  What is that room for?  Who goes there?  It looks like a fun place!  Why can’t I go, too?  Kids who WILL be going to speech/language therapy have different questions.  Why am I going to Speech?  What is therapy like?

To help SLPs and teachers explain speech/language therapy to newly identified students AND the rest of the class, I’ve written three children’s books that address three different aspects of what we do.

Matthew cover“The Mouth With a Mind of Its Own” is about a little boy with such significant articulation issues that he can’t even say his own name.  He is isolated from his classmates, who think he is speaking a foreign language, and he misses out on daily activities because he can’t make himself understood.  Fortunately, the speech/language pathologist comes to the rescue and leads him through the process from screening to articulate speech. At the end of the book, I’ve answered questions submitted by students from my own elementary school in a section called “Get to Know a Speech/Language Pathologist.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 12.06.24 PM“There Was a Speech Teacher Who Swallowed Some Dice” is a silly rhyming tale to introduce students to all of the items commonly used in therapy. Kids love this “speechie” twist on a familiar tale.  The book ends with a glossary of all of the therapy items and how we use them, and has a “Speech Room Scavenger Hunt” that you can photocopy for the students as they hunt for all of  the items in your room — a language lesson in itself!

 

Katie cover“How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool new nickname)”  acquaints students with assistive technology, including augmentative communication, and how it changes the way classmates view a fourth grade girl who has significant physical and communication disabilities.  This book ends with a section on disability etiquette.   Katie is also available in a German translation from Amazon in Germany.

 

 

Each book can be a stand-alone lesson, but you don’t have to stop there!  Here are additional resources that will extend each book into lessons in articulation, vocabulary, language, story mapping, and more. Click on the colored text below to get to the resources, the majority of which are FREE!

“How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool new nickname)”:  I’ve created a Reader’s Theater version of the book and PowerPoint “scenery” you can project, a free Discussion Guide which can also be used as writing prompts, and a Communication Word Search.  A Disability Etiquette video, “Making Everyone Feel Welcome,” told by the characters of the book, is on my YouTube channel. While on YouTube, check out the amazing video made by Polish students who have disabilities, inspired by Katie’s story, ideal for middle and high school students.  Clever SLP, Truvine Walker, offers a number of free artic and language activities related to this book at her TeachersPayTeachers store.

“The Mouth With a Mind of Its Own”:  Truvine Walker offers a free Speech/Language Companion Packet for this book on TPT that extends the story in many directions to meet a variety of s/l therapy goals.

“There Was a Speech Teacher Who Swallowed Some Dice”:   Truvine Walker created an amazing Speech/Language Companion Packet for this wacky story — again, it’s free!

These books are super gifts for student clinicians and SLPs in the school.  Autographed and personalized copies are available through Speaking of Speech.com.  Did you order your copy from Amazon but wish it was autographed?  Send me an email at pat@speakingofspeech.com, and I’ll send you a free signed bookplate!

S/L Therapy is Child’s Play….with LEGOS!

LegosThe majority of boys on my K-5 caseload are LEGO maniacs.  I couldn’t be more thrilled, as I am all in favor of any creative activity that doesn’t include a battery or video screen, so I have been searching for ways to use LEGOs in therapy.  Having had a son who had the same affliction years ago, I’m fortunate to have large plastic totes filled with LEGOs and DUPLOs that he left in the basement when he flew the nest.  Since possession is 9/10th of the law, I have declared them mine and now use them for therapy activities and motivation. The boys love them….and so do the girls!

Here are some of the FREE resources I discovered that can easily be adapted for all kinds of therapy goals, including artic, language, following directions, social skills, basic concepts, and more:

7 Skills Kids Can Develop Playing Legos — justification that might lead to therapy ideas and IEP goals

LEGO Foundation’s Six Bricks Booklet — your lesson planning is done for you!

75+ Fun LEGO Ideas from Kids Activity Blog

A Mom With a Lesson Plan’s free LEGO board game and directions

FriendshipCircle.org: How LEGO therapy can help children with special needs

The Speech Knob:  LEGOs + PECS (or AAC) = Great Idea!

Cooking Up Good Speech:  Barrier Game and others

Speech2You: Ideas for sentence building and morphology

LEGO Game Board on BoardmakerShare

Counting Syllables with LEGO Bricks

LEGO Learning with Fun Activities

Of course, Pinterest and TPT are loaded with other ideas, some that come with a price tag.  And there are many free and cheap LEGO and DUPLO apps that could be used in therapy, so check out the App Store if you want a virtual LEGO experience for your students.  How do you use LEGOs in your therapy room?

Story Book Game….and much more!

Story Book GameFive Below comes through again!  The Story Book Game is a tin full of picture cards that can be used for telling stories.  You know how it goes:  pick a card, use the object in a sentence; the next player picks another card and adds to the story with that word.  This is fun for verbal narrative, and can also be used for written narrative.  But why stop there?

With students who need phonological awareness practice, use the cards for identifying initial and final sounds, sound blending, and counting syllables.

With language students, use the cards for naming, categorizing, describing, and comparing.  Name 3 in the array and ask the students to identify how they are related.  Give the student a question word and a picture card for practice in generating questions.

For auditory processing, spread the cards on the table and give descriptive clues.  Name 3-4 cards in row; have the students repeat back in sequence.

Of course, your artic, fluency, and voice students can benefit from any of these activities.

That’s a lot of therapy for just $5!

UPDDATE 4/25/15:  I just found another use!  I’m working with a little girl who is learning to use TouchChat HD with Word Power on an iPad for communication.  These cards were great for “going on a hunt” for vocabulary!  She looked at the card, hit “groups” to open the categories, then we figured out the correct category and found the word.  She loved it…and learned a lot about vocabulary organization on her device in the process!