Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Knuffle Bunny

"Oh, NO! Where did I put it?"

Everyone can relate to the extreme panic of misplacing their beloved (or their child's beloved) childhood toy.  Whether it be a blanket, stuffed animal, or pacifier (gasp!!), when that treasured item goes missing, emotions run high.  Pair that emotion with a child's inability to "talk" and  you could have a full blown panic attack on your hands.

The story of Knuffle Bunny, written by Mo Willems, depicts this scenario perfectly.  Although Trixie is not yet "talking," she is still trying to communicate.  Like many children with communication disorders, Trixie cannot always get her message across to others, which can be really frustrating for both the "speaker" and the listener.

The illustrations that go along with this story are fantastic and the characters are very expressive, which is one of the reasons why I love this book.  Not only is it a topic that children can relate to, it is engaging and funny, in true Mo Willems style!  

Thus, my inspiration for my newest Book Companion Pack, available on TPT...

The "Emotions" activity included in this companion pack is presented in multiple choice format, with associated picture choices.  The emotions targeted include angry, happy, sad and scared. While these are certainly not the only emotions appropriate for each situation, they seem to be the ones most easily identified by young children.  The prompts used relate directly to the story and are intended to be used along with the book.

"Go Together" includes 36 semantically related pairs, which can be used in memory-game format.  And for a little extra fun (and fine motor practice), a clothespin can be used to hold the pair together, before dropping it in the laundry basket!

If only I had as much fun sorting my laundry as the kids do with this "Laundry Sort." The kids can take turns pulling laundry out of the basket and putting them in the matching washing machine.  10 colors and 6 different clothing items are ready to be sorted. I chose to work on four colors at a time, with 2 colors on each "washing machine" (fits well on square tissue boxes), but this can be adapted to suit the child's skills.

This companion pack also includes laundry-themed minimal pair cards for targeting final consonant deletion (15 pairs) and velar fronting (12 pairs).  You can hang a clothesline and attach each card, as the child produces it correctly or as they correctly discriminate between the pair.

Another great way to encourage our kids to enjoy reading, is to build confidence during their attempts at independent reading.  With this emergent reader, the child is able to easily grasp the repetitive language and concepts targeted through the use of picture cues.  They will be so proud of themselves for "reading" this story!

"Where's Knuffle Bunny?" is an interactive book for targeting prepositions.  This is definitely a kid favorite! Directions for assembling the book are included (with pictures).

Lastly, a "Game Board" is included.  Children can help Trixie find her lost bunny.  This is intended to use along with your targeted drills to turn boring practice into a fairy tale ending.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Big Pumpkin

This book, written by Erica Silverman, is by far my favorite book for Halloween.  The characters are familiar, without being scary, and the cadence of the story is repetitive, readily encouraging recall.  For those who haven't read it... it tells a tale of a witch who plants a pumpkin seed with the hopes of making pumpkin pie.  Her plans get foiled when the pumpkin grows so big, she cannot get it off of the vine.  Each Halloween character arrives to help, insisting that they have what it takes to get that pumpkin.  It is not until the tiny bat comes along and devises a clever plan to work together in getting that pumpkin, that they finally get to enjoy their pie together.  There are so many great lessons in this story and the kids really love that the littlest character is the one who outwits all of the bigger ones.

Inspired by this book, I created several activities to work on in therapy...

Included are templates to make these adorable puppets, which can be used to act out the story and aid in retelling.  Remember, the more senses you incorporate into your therapy, the more likely the kids are going to really "get it."  Holding and moving the characters tap into the sense of touch and adds another way to incorporate visuals, besides just the book itself.  And if you give the child an opportunity to complete repetitive phrases (e.g. First she pulled hard and then she pulled...harder.) you are also incorporating his or her sense of hearing, verbal turn-taking, anticipation, and the list goes on and on.

I also incorporated these same characters when creating pattern cards.  I laminated two pages back-to-back to save on laminating sheets.

A Big Pumpkin-themed game board is also included to be used along with any of your activities or drills.

For all of your little pumpkins working on prepositions and following directions, I have included an interactive book of prepositions.  This is definitely a favorite among kids and therapists.

This emergent reader can be practiced in therapy.  The kids love to be able to "read" their stories to their teachers and families!

Let's not forget BINGO!!  Great for working on Halloween-themed vocabulary.  Take turns being the "caller" once the child is familiar with the vocabulary.

And finally, for those little pumpkins working on final consonant deletion and/or velar fronting, I included minimal pair ghosts (15 pairs) and candy corn (12 pairs).  Both sets can be cut and placed back-to-back and then laminated.  Great for working on auditory discrimination!

Happy Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dollar Store Dash Linky Party

After a life-changing move from New York to South Carolina, it was Teach Speech 365's Dollar Store Dash that motivated me to come back to the blogging world.  After all, what therapist can resist the dollar store?  Not this one!!

I started to gather the Halloween-themed items and ended up putting them back in exchange for items I could use throughout the year.

Here are the items I chose:
Pom Poms
Go-Together Cards
Mighty Mustache Fun Straws
Styrofoam Cube
Paper Plate Animal Craft Kit

Since I work primarily with preschoolers, they were my inspiration.  I will be using the Paper Plate Animal Craft Kit to work on body part identification and following directions.  I plan to cover the Styrofoam Cube with paper to create a picture die, which the kids can roll on the table or floor.  Each side will show a body part, which they can then choose to put on their Paper Plate Animal.  This can also be modified into a small group activity by integrating turn-taking skills.

The Go-Together Cards will be separated with only one-half of the pairs visible on the table. The kids will take turns choosing a card, identifying what is on each and then trying to figure out what goes with it.

The Poms Poms and Mighty Mustache Fun Straws will be used to target oral motor goals.  The kids will each get a straw to blow the Pom Pom across the table and over the edge. My favorite part about these straws, aside from the kids looking adorable with their mustaches, is that the mustaches are adjustable on the straw and work as a lip block!

More to come from the Palmetto State...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pragmatic Development in Preschoolers

What is pragmatics?
Pragmatics is the social use of language.  In other words, it is the way that we communicate with both words and our bodies in a social context.  For example, establishing eye contact, taking turns verbally, greeting, showing and responding to emotions of others.

Preschoolers with delays in pragmatic development are typically seen as "self-directed" or "prompt-dependent."  Gaining skills in pragmatic development is essential for children to develop functional communication skills, establishing friendships with peers and improving self-esteem.

Here are some strategies I find helpful when targeting development of pragmatic skills in preschoolers:

When targeting eye contact, I make sure to be eye level with the child and try to minimize distractions before speaking.  If eye contact is so poor that the child does not respond even when their name is called, I will pair the verbalization (in this case, their name) with a visual (e.g. bubbles).  I reinforce their response to turning toward me when their name is called by blowing bubbles (a preschool favorite).  Once the child responds to the pairing consistently, I will gradually fade the bubbles and increase distractions, to encourage a more naturalistic context.

Verbal turn-taking is another biggie.  Before a child can respect your and their verbal turn, they have to be aware of the general rules in turn-taking.  This can be targeted during singing songs by leaving off the final word of a familiar song for the child to "fill in" or by engaging in simple turn-taking games, such as "Go Fish" or rolling a ball back and forth.

A child's ability to respond to a question seems to come more easily than asking questions.  When I target this goal, I first must create a functional reason for the child to communicate.  My favorite way to "set the stage" is to sabotage the situation.  For example, with a group of three students, I may use a color, cut and paste activity and only provide one red crayon or one glue stick to be shared.  Being able to ask questions of peers is usually a HUGE turning point in the child's ability to take the perspective of others and engage peers as social communication partners.

I used this M&M End of the Rainbow activity from Lisa at Criss-Cross Applesauce to target pragmatic development with a small group.

I adapted the directions to engage the children in a verbal exchange with each other.  I started each child with a blank rainbow board and separated each color of M&Ms into cups.  I then gave each child one cup to be "in charge" of.  If a child drew a card containing someone else's color, they had to ask for what they needed before adding it to their rainbow.  The children initially needed modeling to ask questions and by the end of the session, I was barely helping them interact with each other.  Truly awesome for them!!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Keeping It Together

I am forever looking for ways to organize and keep materials easily accessible.  I have tried folders in a filing cabinet, page protectors in binders by season, boxes by category, boxes by month, and the list goes on and on...

My newest method is an idea from Pinterest to use over the door shoe organizers to store my therapy materials.  I have been loving this!  I have been loading up the organizer once per month to include themes for holidays and books I'm using.  I have each section categorized so that I always have something for following directions, articulation, at-home practice, turn-taking games and any other typical goals for my students.  Having the materials handy has been a lifesaver.

And you know those little calling cards to go with your BINGO games?  I use a binder ring to keep them all together.

For those materials that are just to big to keep in a little pocket, I use a small bookcase to keep everything together.  Because let's face it, preschoolers are not known for their patience while you find what you are looking for.

Monday, February 25, 2013


Ok, well....maybe that's an exaggeration.  Ever get that child in your room that is talking much louder than is necessary given your close proximity?  Or maybe that child who is whispering to you and you are struggling to hear them?  This visual given to me by one of my colleagues is a lifesaver, or should I say ear-saver?

The kids really relate to this visual and enjoy trying out the different loudness levels.  Thank goodness!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Goldilocks and The Three Bears Speech & Language Companion Pack

What's that you say?  Someone's been eating your porridge? Oh, that Goldilocks is such a trouble maker!  It's no wonder why this story is so popular with kids!  As I'm sure you are becoming aware, I am a self-proclaimed "book enthusiast."  I love to come up with activities that target IEP goals and reinforce themes from stories at the same time.  After all, SLPs are great at multi-tasking.  Who else can manage behaviors, facilitate language and articulation, choose fun activities (that are also educational), all while taking data?

My inspiration for this project came from searching the crazy cute graphics from Scrappin Doodles.  When I saw the clip art for this story, the wheels started turning.  Here is a glimpse at what transpired...

The first thing that went through my mind was "This is perfect for PRONOUNS!!!  Now how do I make the activity so that the child is really engaged and doesn't feel like they are being drilled?"
So the activity goes like this...You choose an object to place into the prompt box.  For example, "Whose (chair) is this?"  The child then moves the picture to the response strip along with a picture of who it belongs to.  Even though my preschoolers can't read, they are learning that the printed word "says" something and they quickly pick it up.  Once they have "read" the response, they pull off the object and place it with the correct character.  I attached each character to a paper bag, which makes it perfect for containing all of the little cards.

Then I thought "How do I use this to target pragmatic development?"  Well, the story lends itself to so many opportunities to discuss feelings, talk about manners, etc. and so I thought with the use of puppets, the children could role play.  So, I made these too!

Many of the children I see have difficulty sitting for an entire session so I try to create activities that require movement, even if only taking a few steps away from the table in my cubicle.  I use my cubicle walls as a work surface very often since it doubles as a felt board of sorts.  Velcro is one of my therapy staples. In this prepositions activity, the child stands at the felt board and re-creates the picture chosen using manipulatives.

Reading can be particularly challenging for many children with speech-language delays and disorders.  Why not give them a head start with some pre-reading and early reading activities?

This next activity was inspired by one of my kids with a repaired cleft palate.  We have been working on discriminating between /p/, /b/ and /m/.  With "P"apa Bear, "M"ama Bear and "B"aby Bear, this "Minimal Pairs Porridge" activity worked out perfectly.

Working on Wh- questions is another "classic" IEP goal.  My groups love board games, another perfect opportunity for also working on turn-taking, and so I created a Wh- game with a Goldilocks-themed board and playing cards.

"Category Cabins" targets vocabulary development, as well as categorization through sorting.
My little Goldilocks testing it out
I also included printable worksheets with directions for at-home practice.  Having parents help with reinforcing new and emerging skills is so important and having these ready-made activities makes it so much easier!