Performances · The Human Connection

Because I Know Her I Am Known: Miss You Like Hell

Hi readers,

Sorry for the late post. It’s been a bit of a week, with computer failure and beginning Quarter Three of our school year. Now that my computer is up and running, we have to talk about the most moving, timely, powerful production I’ve seen since American Son (if you missed the theatrical run, go check it out on Netflix). Last night, I had the opportunity to see a production of Miss You Like Hell at Olney Theater Center with my mother.

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Image from CultureCapital.com

This production is incredible to witness. It truly dives into the complexities of mother-daughter relationships, immigration issues, passing down one’s culture to the next generation and so much more. Olney Theater Center’s description says it best:

“From the Pulitzer Prize-winning co-creator of In the Heights comes a new musical as big as America and as intimate as love between a mother and her daughter. Beatriz arrives in Philadelphia to convince her estranged 16 year-old daughter Olivia to join her on a road trip to California. Along the way, they encounter a mosaic of characters as diverse and weird as America itself, but the hard truth of Beatriz’s undocumented status and pending deportation to Mexico threatens to build a wall between them. With sharp comedy and a winning acoustic score by folk-rock star Erin McKeown, Miss You Like Hell is an American story for our time.”

The book and score by Quiara Alegria Hudes and music and lyrics by Erin McKeown has everything. It is moving, funny, relatable, and heartbreaking all at once. Many times during the show, my mother shot me some sideways glances during many a universal mother-daughter interaction being portrayed onstage. My mother also decided that her new favorite song is “Mothers,” a song about everything a mother does for her children. Erin McKeown’s music is perfectly suited to every scene, underscoring moments of comedic relief and deep emotional conversations.

This show did well to remind me of my luck and privilege. My parents are still married, I was raised in the United States, as were my parents and their parents. Many of the stressors and hardships in this production are things I have never had to experience, or even think of experiencing. It gave me some perspective about others in our country who do not have this luxury. It informs the audience to treat every interaction with any other human being as valid and valuable. As we see culture passed down in a varietty of ways through generations, it inspired conversations between my mother and I to talk about our traditions and our memories together. This show moved us in ways we weren’t expecting, but thoroughly appreciated. As we left the theater with many mother-daughter duos among other patrons, we heard mothers telling daughters to appreciate their mothers and love their mothers, regardless of age, background, culture, or relationship. To hear so many conversations about family and its importance was fortifying and comforting in many ways I didn’t expect.

While this show is only at Olney Theater Center from January 29th-March 1st, I cannot encourage everyone to go see this show enough.

This week, I challenge my readers and students to write a list of what they are grateful for regarding their family and lifestyle–this could be time in the car together on the way to soccer practice or family dinners together every night. Do this as a family, and compare them at the end of the week. Find the commonalities and look for ways to incorporate these events and activities into a more regular schedule.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

 

Articulation · Fluency · Grammar · Language Comprehension · Lesson Plans · Pragmatics and Social Skills · The Human Connection · Vocabulary

The Season For Dreaming: Making Speech Activities More Abstract

One of my favorite lyrics in all of musical theatre comes from the show, Spring Awakening. “This is the season for dreaming” taken from the song The Guilty Ones, has always felt fitting in January. It reminds me of getting creative and dreaming of beginning again. It has been stuck in my head for a few weeks, and I’ve figured out why it’s been sticking in my brain–it’s telling me to get more creative. I created a few fun lessons out of this lyric while it has been comfortably settled in my brain.

  • Describe Your Dream

    This is a fun descriptive language activity. I have my students describe their dream from the night before, or one they remember. I give them a bank of adjectives and let them tell the group what happened in their dream. Here’s the catch: you can only use each adjective once. It tests the students’ use of vocabulary, knowledge of synonyms, sentence length, and grammatical structure. My students love engaging in this activity because they get to share about themselves and be creative and silly at the same time. This is also a great fluency activity to practice generalization skills for smooth speech.

  • Draw A Dream

    This is a narrative task, best done in groups for expressive and receptive language targets. I do this activity in pairs whenever possible. I assign one student a noun, and they have to create a narrative around it, beginning with the sentence starter “Last night, I dreamt about _________.” The dream can be as logical or abstract as they’d like. The other student listening to the narrative is tasked with drawing the dream in a flow chart I’ve provided them. They’re listening for main idea and key details. After the narrative is complete, they share their drawing while retelling the narrative. The students switch roles after sharing. This can also be modified to target a student’s articulation goal by making sure the noun contains their articulation target. This ensures multiple repetitions for the target sound while I take data on speech sound production.

  • My Dream Day

    This is a great community builder, and gives insight into my students’ interests and communities. I ask my students to walk me through their dream day from the second they wake up in the morning to the second they go to bed at night. These can be as logical as if they’ve already happened or as wild as their imaginations can roam. My only rule is that they must keep the day in order, making this a great progress check for verb tense, grammatical structure, sentence expansion, and sequential vocabulary. After the student shares, the task becomes about pragmatic language. The students who listened must ask three or more different questions about the dream day, or comment on something specific. This makes the experience more communal and the kids get to see what interests and dreams they share.

I am still playing around with this lyric to see what else I can derive from it, and have passed it on to my students as well. After all, I’m always challenging them to get creative, and what better way than designing their own speech lesson? This week, I challenge my readers to choose a favorite lyric of theirs and see how they can apply it to a daily activity to make it more fun. I look forward to hearing all about it in comments.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

Articulation · Grammar · Inclusion · Language Comprehension · Pragmatics and Social Skills · The Human Connection · Vocabulary

Let’s Make A Resolution: A New Year’s Speech Activity!

Happy New Year, readers! This week, the Earth took another trip around the sun, and everyone seems to be making resolutions. While I decided on what I wanted as my own New Year’s resolutions, I was trying to find a fun way to bring this into my speech room.

I was looking for activities and came across this one from Addie Williams. Teachers Pay Teachers is always full of great resources, but none as universally enjoyed as this one by Addie. With her permission, I am sharing how I completed her activity, as well as how to make it work for multiple speech-language targets.

First, let me show you the page I completed as the example (please excuse my spelling errors).

Addie

While my artistic skills are a work in progress, it really helped my students to see the final product before they took on completing the worksheet themselves. It was easily differentiated for each group. Instead of writing goals down, which would be great for older students, I decided to have my students get creative and really use the full extent of their imaginations.

Target: Receptive Language 

I turned this into a following directions activity. I sequenced the events like this:

  1. Read the question.
  2.  Share your response.
  3. Choose a crayon.
  4. Draw.
  5. Answer a question about a peer’s response.
  6. Provide a follow up comment or question.

This was repeated for each item. As students got a grasp on the routine the questions and comments about peer’s choices became more detailed.

Target: Expressive Language

This was similar to how I conducted it for receptive language with a few modifications. All responses had to be shared in complete, grammatically correct sentences. They could only use one crayon at a time so they had to ask peers for materials as needed. In addition to answering peers’ questions, they had to ask them as well as ask and answer questions of mine. They also included sentences with their drawings and/or had to read the prompt and fill in their response.

Target: Articulation

For this, I asked my students to try and choose items for their resolutions that included their speech sounds. After sharing their answer initially and drawing them, they were asked to practice the words in their resolutions containing their speech sounds while I kept track of correct productions and errors.

Target: Pragmatic Language

As my students completed each item, I had them engage in conversation about each other’s goals. What made them choose a goal, why was it important to them, how did they want to work towards it, etc. I also had them ask each other if they could share advice on how to complete the goals the others were setting. This fostered some great conversations between my students.

I absolutely adored this activity and my students loved this method of practicing their skills while thinking about the next year. in hearing their discussions, I learned a lot about my students. I learned that some wanted to imagine ways to change their grades, some to help the planet, some to design video games. I learned about my students favorite book series’, hobbies, and what they found interesting in school. In return, they learned about my interests and goals moving forward, providing me with suggestions on how to accomplish my resolutions. My challenge to my readers this week is to examine your own resolutions complexly, if you have them. What did you learn about yourself in this process? Bonus points if you took the extra step to engage with someone else about their goals. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say in comments.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

Better Speech and Hearing Month · Broadway · Improv · Inclusion · Interview · Performances · Strategies

Packages Tied Up With String: Wrapping Up 2019

Every year, it feels like time speeds by even faster. I feel like so much has happened over the course of this year, but like the year wasn’t long enough to feel like it lasted 365 days. In all of the chaos that comes with this time of year, I thought I’d highlight my favorite things from each month, related to blogging, Broadway, speech therapy, or both. Let’s start at the very beginning….

January:

BroadwayCon was the highlight of this month. I got to reunite with friends and #FriendsOfTheBlog. I got to nerd out with my community of theatre-loving folks, and form memories with my best friend. I met the Broadway Makers, and started contemplating joining their organization. I got to meet and thank performers I admire. I saw Come From Away, which was such a show to experience. Between the community feeling in the show, in the audience, and over the course of the weekend. I hope everyone gets an experience like this at least once in their lives.

February:

My Valentine’s Day post. Getting to share what I love, who I love, how I love them, and how I expand this holiday beyond romantic love. If you haven’t read it, please check it out, and consider how you’ll be spending the next Valentine’s Day

March:

My conversation with Heidi Blickenstaff. She and I had so much fun during this conversation. We talked about so much and I heard some great stories as we approached a milestone for [title of show]. I think about that conversation often and revisit it whenever I need to be reminded of what a strong female lead is.

April:

Finding out I’d get to work with a  few new populations in speech therapy. 2019 was a year of professional learning for me in every sense of the word. I’ve worked with more students in a greater variety in this single calendar year than I have in my time practicing. I learned a lot about myself in this year, learned more about my colleagues and students, and learned new strategies and skills. It is to the credit of my students that I am a more well-rounded clinician.

May:

Better Hearing and Speech Month. This month every year I get to educate others about this field, what I do, and why I do it. I also get to learn more from my colleagues. For some vocal health tips, read on here.

June:

The highlight of June was the Tony Awards. This, along with the conclusion of every school year, are points of reflection and celebration midway through the year. No matter who takes home trophies that evening, its us theatre-goers who truly win.

July:

Freestyle Love Supreme at Kennedy Center. This show was so joyful and everyone was so present. It was a night with  my parents full of laughter and entertainment. The crew is so talented and so quick, you can’t help but be invested in this show from the second mic check begins.

August:

Moulin Rouge! the Musical. I loved this show so much. I’m planning on seeing it again in February. I haven’t stopped listening to the album or telling everyone who will listen how much I adore this show.

September:

The start of a new school year. As hectic ass this time is each year, I love the feeling of a fresh new year full with new opportunities for myself and my students. I am new to some and familiar to others, and excited to begin lessons alongside my colleagues.

October:

Using Tatro in my speech room. This toy was such a hit with my students, I keep finding new ways to incorporate them into lessons. My students ask to use this playset over and over. I loved getting to support my friend Will Barrios.

November:

Celebrating World Kindness Day with my students and sharing some tips with my readers here. I truly enjoy hearing my students’ ideas and perspectives on kindness each year, and how they grow and change. I got to spend this day with students who were new to me and I got to learn so much about them by listening to their opinions and practices.

December:

Seeing Leslie Odom Jr. with the National Symphony Orchestra. This concert was a real treat. Anyone who knows me knows that Leslie Odom Jr. is one of my favorite performers, and to see him at my favorite venue alongside the NSO was incredible. It was just the thing to put me in the holiday spirit. I had already been listening to both of his Christmas albums and his new album, Mr, on repeat since it was released in November, but this was and auditory experience unlike any other live performance of his I’ve seen.

I’m so grateful to you readers for joining me over the course of the year. May you all have a wonderful holiday season and a very happy new year.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

Articulation · Grammar · Inclusion · Language Comprehension · Pragmatics and Social Skills · The Human Connection · Vocabulary

My Gift Is My Song: Finding Anthems in Speech

Music makes up so much of our lives. Songs are tied to memories, people, and places, and can transport us to any of those in an instant. Growing up in a big performing arts home, I’ve had song for every feeling, thought, big event and small moment. I was probably always living in my own mental music video, but it wasn’t until my junior year in college that I decided on an anthem.

It was my GRE tutor’s idea; to choose a song that would ease my anxiety and boost my confidence. That was a really big ask of a piece of music. I’d had songs I’ve related to over the years but I don’t remember having one serve such a purpose. I went through every song I knew. I had to find something that would really resonate with me. At the end of the day, I chose Katy Perry’s Firework. It simultaneously acknowledged my current overwhelmed state and reassured me that I was capable of big accomplishments. I had forgotten about my attachment to this song until being reunited with it at Moulin Rouge on Broadway, and it has been back in regular rotation since.

It goes without saying that this time of year is hard on all educators. Sometimes we forget that it can also be tough on our students. For this reason, I’ve started the Your Song project with my students, tackling all of speech and language goals at the same time. They get to use music to relax while working on speech and language at this buy point in the school year. I do this with my students in all grades, adjusting it to the age I’m working with. Yes, a Kindergartner can tell you why they like a song as easily as a high schooler, just not in the same words. I’m going to break it down for you here.

  1. Ask your students what kind of music they like.

    Is it pop? Broadway? Hip hop? Country? Is it fast or slow? How does it make them feel? By going over this, you’re validating your students’ opinions and tastes while they’re describing, explaining, and providing supporting details. At this point, we listen to different types of music and describe as we listen.

  2. Talk about the words.

    What kind of lyrics do they enjoy? Angsty? Spirited? Goofy? Are there words in their genre of choice? Why? Again they’re explaining and making text to self connections. Bonus points for learning about their peers in this exercise and encouraging conversations (and thus conversational skills).

  3. Choose the song.

    This is the most difficult part for the student. Settling on one song when they enjoy so many different varieties of music can be tough. I’ve found it helps if you let them know this isn’t permanent, and that it’s for this activity or for fun. The only stipulation I put on this project is that the song has to be appropriate for school. Other than that, it’s all up to my students.

  4. Have a listening party.

    This last bit I do the speech session before winter break. My students get to share their music. This involves recall (the memory connected with the song) expressing opinion and supporting reasons (why the song was chosen) engaging in conversation around each other’s music and preferences.

I love getting to learn about my students through music, and I always make sure to share my music, too. It shows them that you’re just as much of a person as they are. You could do this project any time of year, but I like to do it as a reflective project during the holidays. It lasts over a few sessions, and is universally liked by all ages. Readers, I’d love to know which songs resonate with you–please share in the comments. My challenge this week is to really get into someone else’s perspective by listening to music they love. I can’t wait to hear what you learn about your loved ones this way.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

Inclusion · Language Comprehension · Lesson Plans · Pragmatics and Social Skills · The Human Connection · Vocabulary

Grand Knowing You: World Kindness Day 2019

If you’ve been following along for a while now, you know that kindness and inclusion are important in everything I do with my speech students. Wednesday was World Kindness Day, so naturally, my speech students have been celebrating throughout the week. This post will focus on the kindness lessons I employed with my speech groups this week.Let me share with you what I’ve learned from my students, and the activities we used.
  • Kindness conversations
My social skills groups participated in kindness conversations. We used questions such as “Why is it important to be kind?” and “What does social media teach us about talking to others?” as conversation starters. I let my students lead the discussion. I learned that it’s important to be polite because it shows your conversational partner that you appreciate them and signals that you really listened to what they had to say. I learned many ways we can be kind without involving money. We also talked about how to be kind across settings and with friends, family, teachers, and others with whom we interact.
  • Kindness vocabulary
After discussing what it means to be kind, we discussed synonyms and antonyms for the words. From there, we provided examples of how those vocabulary words may present. This also lead to a great discussion of what misunderstanding someone’s act of kindness could look like,and how to repair that communication breakdown. I am more and more impressed by my students’ compassion and empathy after every session.
  • Kindness Compliments
My students and I discussed compliments, both superficial and deep. We practiced giving each other superficial and meaningful compliments, and then spread them into the students’ respective classroom. It was amazing to watch kindness radiate out of my students, to their peers, and across classrooms and recess sessions alike.
These are only three of the activities I employed in my speech lessons this week. How did you celebrate World Kindness Day? What should I do to celebrate in my speech room? My challenge to you, dear reader, is to find a creative way to show kindness to others even when it is challenging. I can’t wait to hear how you showed others that anyone and everyone can be kind.
Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP
Awareness · Cognition · Inclusion · Strategies · The Human Connection

Think of Me Fondly: National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. We have the holidays approaching and I know that I and many others are looking to make new memories with friends, family, and friends who have become family. This is the time of year I force myself to truly stop and be more present with myself and those whom I love because I know time is not promised to any of us. Sadly, neither are memories, and very few of us consider this. Cognition and memory are a part of my field as a speech-language pathologist, and one of my favorite areas to work in. Usually, I am working with children who need help with executive functioning, but I’ve occasionally worked on memory recall, word retrieval, and providing compensatory strategies for those with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease. I thought I’d share some of my strategies with my readers going into this holiday season, so we can help make memories and help others hold onto memories old and new.

ALZ 3

  • Use music.
    Have you ever heard a song and been immediately transported back in time, to a person or place or memory? Studies show that music is strongly correlated with memories and can help people remember specific events or people. I know for a fact that certain songs take me back to my childhood with my family singing, back to summer camp when the “song of the summer” was played on repeat in camp bunks. Hearing a song can evoke muscle memory as well–I still know choreography from 15 years ago the second I hear old recital tunes. Fill your days with music and attach moments to them. Those memories will surprise you at any and every turn.
  • Take pictures.
    We now live in an age of “pics or it didn’t happen.” While I know that’s not true, and some of my favorite memories have not been documented, pictures can improve recall, word retrieval, long and short term memory. Take pictures of family members and write their names on the bottom or back of the photo. Take pictures of objects for routines–real images or best, but digital images can be beneficial too. This can help someone know what is expected of them during a routine event (e.g. getting ready for the day, how to complete a daily task, etc.) or simply serve as a visual reminder of something on someone’s to-do list.
  • Write it down.
    If I don’t write down what needs to happen, it won’t get done. Digital reminders ust don’t work for me. When you write down what you need to do on paper, utilizing the motor function of writing, you’re also evoking muscle memory, forming a stronger cognitive connection more easily accessed than typing something into a notes app on a digital device. I personally color-code my to-do list by work, personal, and errands/chores. I did this in grad school with my notes and it helped me remember exactly what I needed to do. The power of visual reinfocement tied to motoric memory is strong!
  • Record conversations.
    Recording conversations is a great way to remind someone of what a conversation sounds like with their dear ones. There’s the recognition of their voice and the topic of conversation, which can bring someone right back to the scene of the event that was recorded. It also reinforces connection to the individuals in the recordings, and gives people something factual to tie to the people in the recordings, like that your best friend loves your dry sarcasm and ability to make them laugh, that your family member can’t stand golf but could watch baseball for hours on end. Remembering these little things can trigger other memories, like the time you took your friend’s sarcasm seriously and it resulted in a joke, or sharing sporting events with your family. It can also provide topics of conversation for the future.
  • Take advantage of technology.
    Technology is a tool. Use it to hold the pictures you’re trying to remember–create albums for topics or people you want to remember. Set alarms to remember to take medicine, run errands, or do things you enjoy. Use video chat to connect the voices from the recorded conversations to their owners. Type up stories or jokes you want other people to remember about you. Type up a list of things you like to do for fun or to de-stress so that you can remember strategies to bring joy back when you get stuck in frustration.

Alzheimer’s is something that hits close to home with me. If you are so inclined, please donate to the Alzheimer’s Association to help with research to find better treatment options.  There are walks you can be a part of, and other ways to support research for this disease. My challenge to my readers this week is to form new memories and be mindful of the ones you’ve already formed. Share your own memory strategies in comments.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP