Gratitude · Inclusion · The Human Connection

Home, Love, Family: A Gratitude Post

Hi there readers!

This has been quite the year that none of us expected. Virtual school, virtual speech, parents teaching kids, kids having to be more flexible than ever before in their schooling…the list goes on. Personally, I have found it easier and easier to complain about my situation, neglecting to take stock of what I have, what brings me joy and sanity, and what makes me happy. I keep a gratitude journal, but I’d like to share what I’m grateful for in this post.

  • Coffee.

    I can’t function without coffee. It makes me happy every morning, and is my favorite morning ritual. It has recently been improved by my new milk frother. 

  • Books.

    Since we’ve all been spending more time at home, I have never been more grateful for books. I’ve read books on personal development and anti-racism, works of fiction to escape some chaos, and memoirs to learn the perspectives and lessons of others.

  • The ability to work from home.

    While virtual school has been quite the challenge, I am grateful for having been able to work from home and keep myself safe while doing my best to provide services to my students online.

  • My amazing team at work.

    With all the craziness and chaos surrounding when/how to return to in-person instruction, changes made to virtual instruction every other day, learning new rules, new platforms, and keeping all of it organized, I can say I haven’t felt this overwhelmed since graduate school. My amazing special ed colleagues and fellow speech pathologists have kept me sane, laughing, and entertained. I truly don’t know that I could get through this without them. 

  • My students.

    My students have become so resilient during all this. They keep me on my toes for sure, but also have amazingly creative ideas for how to keep speech and school interesting. They’re technology experts and are doing their best this year without birthday parties, holidays with family, social events with friends, and virtual learning. They are rockstars.

  • My sanity team.

    My friends have come to the rescue on many subjects this year. From new recipes to try, new books to read, shows to watch, to ways to stay in touch. They’ve kept me laughing, smiling, curious, and connected. I can’t ask for more than that.

  • Everyone I’ve had the great fortune to interview.

    My last interview was with Derek McLane, and I learned so much from him about set design. I had never talked about set design with anyone before for this blog. I’ve gotten to talk with heroes of mine, performers from my hometown who’ve been on many different stages, and many more I never thought would agree to speak with me. Writing this blog has been a truly transformative experience.

  • Coloring Broadway.

    I’ve learned about coloring, that I like it, and that it makes for a great way to pass time, ease anxiety, and get creative. Andrea Koehler has forever changed my life for the better. She has just come out with new Christmas, holiday, and Broadway themed designs. Make sure to check them out. Also check out Broadway Makers Alliance for all your Broadway gifting needs. 

  • Technology.

    As much of a headache technology can be, I’m grateful to have it. Without it, connection with others would be less frequent, and I certainly would be without a job.

  • Streaming services.

    Sometimes, you need to escape into your favorite movies and shows. And I am happy to pay for streaming services allowing all those involved in movies and TV to continue to work

  • Virtual events.

    By the same token, virtual events with my favorite stage creators have been a true gift. I’ve gotten to take dance classes, watch performances, and feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself. I’m happy to donate to the causes these events support. They’ve given me a Seder, a Halloween celebration, and more.

  • My favorite scents.

    Creature comforts have been very much appreciated in my home. Candles and soaps in calming scents, specifically. There has been a lot of rose and lavender products in the past 8 months, and they bring me joy.

  • Exercise.

    I am not usually one who is fond of exercise, but I have found that the best way to get my anxiety out is through movement. Dance, walking, barre, YouTube videos, stretching–all of it relieves at least a little tension. Even the movement required in cooking is soothing to me. Adrenaline needs to go somewhere, right?

  • Cozy clothes.

    While I do get dressed professionally to teach, I’ve found there’s nothing better on a tough day or night than comfy clothes. These can be my favorite sweatshirts I’ve had since college or newer ones. 

  • Weighted blankets.

    These have been a life-saver for me and my evening anxiety. Highly recommend doing your research and finding the one that’s right for you.

I’d love to hear what you’re grateful for this season, and I hope you’ll share in comments. Naturally, I’m very grateful to you, reader. Thank you for giving me an audience for whom to write. 

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

Awareness · Inclusion · Language Comprehension · Strategies · The Human Connection · Virtual Learning

Celebrate You to Elevate You: ADHD Awareness Month

Hi readers!
I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted but virtual school I certainly keeping this SLP busy. This month, I wanted to celebrate a specific population who often goes misrepresented. October is ADHD awareness month, and I wanted to shine a light on this population I absolutely love working with.

What does ADHD look like?

ADHD looks different in each case. It presents differently in every person. I would like to dispel some stereotypes.
ADHD is NOT:

  • A behavior problem
  • A learned behavior

ADHD is:

  • A chemical imbalance
  • A medical condition

So if it’s always different, what can it look like? ADHD can manifest as distractibility to self and others, interrupting, sensory seeking behaviors, impulsive thoughts, and disorganization. It can also look like confusion, focusing on a particular detail, being talkative, restlessness, or fidgety. This is not an exhaustive list, and the combination of manifestations can include any, all, or none of these symptoms.

What does ADHD look like in speech?

ADHD has a complex appearance. In speech it can appear as difficulty following single or multistep directions, blurting out or interrupting in conversation, having a hard time following a conversation, getting stuck on a detail instead of the big picture, difficulty expressing thoughts and ideas clearly, or in a way that is easily understood by a conversational partner, determining main idea and key detail, and/or paraphrasing or summarizing what was just learned.

Strategies I’ve used:

I’ve used a variety of strategies and this is what I’ve seen work with my students. These might not work for everyone, but these are strategies I’ve seen in action.

  • Taking breaks from work (e.g. going on a quick walk/getting a drink).
  • Sitting on alternative seating (e.g. ball chair, wobble stool).
  • Highlighting the most essential parts of directions.
  • Chunking activities into smaller parts.
  • Visual schedules so students can follow along with the session in real time.
  • Pairing visuals with verbal directions.
  • Using weighted blankets for sensory input.
  • Preparing the student ahead of time, or telling them they’ll be next for a turn/to answer a questions
  • Flexibility in how they work–students don’t have to be seated to learn or work, they can stand, bounce, rock, as long as they’re on task.

There are far more strategies than I can list here, and there are excellent resources like Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)and Attention Deficit Disorder Organization (ADDA) with information on the subject, articles, and tools. I would love to know what your experiences are, what works for you, and tools and strategies in comments.

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

Articulation · Cognition · Fluency · Inclusion · Language Comprehension · Pragmatics and Social Skills · Strategies · The Human Connection · Virtual Learning · Vocabulary

Everything is Possible With Zeroes and Ones: The Start of the School Year

Hi readers,
I hope you found fun and creative ways to enjoy your summer. This has been quite the start of the school year. I took the summer off to teach virtual summer school and think about the future of this blog. I am continuing to provide services virtually for my students. I am about to start week three of virtual speech and I’m not gonna lie, this is hard. This is a lot on my students and their families. I miss my kids. I miss my staff. As of today, my schools have been closed for 6 months. I’ve gotten creative in how I provide support, thanks to Boom cards and Nearpod and Edpuzzle.

I am so proud of how adaptable my students have been. I’ve been forgetting to extend that same pride to myself. I find myself drained, and all I’ve done is sit at a desk all day. The purpose of this post is for students who find themselves in any sort of virtual learning. I have some ideas for how to make virtual learning work for you.

  1. Create a dedicated workspace.
    Find a space that is used exclusively for school. Maybe it’s a desk in your room maybe it’s the kitchen table, maybe it’s your couch. Keep all of your school supplies there–manipulatives, chargers, headphones, workbooks. Store those items nearby so you are always ready to work and you’ll always know where your school supplies are stocked.
  2. Stick to the schedule from your teacher or school.
    Just like school, it’s important to be on time for your virtual class, just like it is to be at school on time. You can set alarms to wake up, just like you would if you were going to school. Eat a good breakfast and keep a water bottle nearby.
  3. Take breaks.
    This one is important. My school district has mandatory breaks. During these breaks, step away from the screens. Read a book, take a walk, play with your siblings, adults, or pets. If you can avoid social media, do so. Don’t forget to move. Try some jumping jacks, a game of Simon Says, movement breaks from GoNoodle have a variety of movement breaks from higher cardio to yoga and calming breaks.
  4. Try your hardest.
    We know it’s tempting to work at less than 100% when you’re at home. You might be more comfortable than you would be at home. Your teachers are trying their best and miss you dearly. We are working to give you the best education possible in a virtual setting. We know this is very hard, and new for all of us. We know our digital platforms can be glitchy, and may not always work. We’ll understand. These are things beyond our control.
  5. Finish each day when it’s over.
    There are points in every day when we feel “done.” It’s important to recognize those moments and either take a break then, or push through until the end of your session. When the school day is over, walk away from your screens. Give yourself a break before starting homework, if you have any. Talk to your family and friends about your day and theirs. Write letters, make phone calls, walk your pet, stretch from sitting for so long. School will start again tomorrow, it will be a new day, and you’ll begin again. We’ll all get through this together.

    I don’t know about you all, but I’ve found I’m spending entirely too much times in front of screens. In an effort to decrease this, I will be posting once a month until the end of the year. After much careful consideration, I’ve realized this blog is no longer as fulfilling to me as it has been over the last few years. Speech has been stressful, to say the least, and never knowing if/when I’m returning to buildings is getting to be too much. I love this blog and all it stands for, but the season of my writing here is winding down. I look forward to continuing to post in the coming months.

    Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
    –Stef the StageSLP
Inclusion · The Human Connection · Wise Words

If I Could Tell Her: An Open Letter to My Students

Dear Students,
Monday was SpeechToStage.com’s third birthday. As much as I’ve learned from this blog over those three years, I’ve learned even more from you. This letter is everything I want to tell you given the current state of events.

I’m sitting at home and wondering how you’re doing, and if you’re missing our speech sessions as much as I am. I’m wondering how you like learning online, and how I can best help you. Over the past three years on this site along with many years of practice as an SLP, you’ve always taught me to look at the world in perspectives I have yet to consider. I want to tell you that when I get to see you again, I will likely cry tears of joy, because you are more than my students, you are my kids.

I want to tell you that this is weird for all of us. Online learning is new for your teachers and parents and we’ve never done this before. We’re as frustrated as you. We know it’s hard. We want to help you through it, but we don’t have all the answers. We’re all doing the best we can. I want to tell you to share your thoughts and ideas and this time with your family. You won’t get this time back, and as someone who is in a house alone, make lasting memories with those around you.

I want to tell you the other side of this will be quite something. It may not be how we left things. It will cause us all to keep learning, as challenging as that is. Sometimes the rules change when you least expect it. I am learning to roll with it, since I can’t control much. Follow directions, and do what feels right to you. I have had some great days and some days when I’ve felt sad. I’ve had days when I felt a lot of feelings all at once. I want to tell you to do the best you can, and that’s all any of us can do.

I want to tell you to keep in communication with your friends. Email, text, Zoom, call–staying at home doesn’t mean staying silent. I’ve been leaning on my friends a lot to keep me sane. Find the funny. Find the silver lining. Find the moments of joy in your day. Remember the times you laughed so hard with your friends that you cried. Remember birthday celebrations, and celebrate the little things too. Find your people. Keep them close. Love them hard.

I want to tell you that I am here. I am here however I can be, circumstances permitting. I want to tell you you’re in my heart and my head all the time. I want to thank you for being you, and that my memories made with you are bringing me laughter and comfort even when I can’t see you. I want you to know that this will end eventually, and when it does, I will be waiting for you.

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

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

The World Turned Upside Down: Activities You Can Do At Home

Hi readers. I’m writing this post without a clear theme. I know we’re all feeling so much, and we want what we consider to be normal back. We’re going through a lot of change quickly, and honestly, I’m feeling stuck and confused.  As Andrea Koehler of Broadway Makers Alliance and Coloring Broadway has been tagging her posts, #CreativityIsTheCure. I knew I needed help for ideas with this post, and I’m so glad I have friends like Andrea and Alisa Hurwitz to give me some ideas.

I know that home schooling right now is hard on everyone and is testing everyone’s patience. As an educator, I miss my staff and students so much and hope they are all well. So instead of work, I am going to share some activities that are more relaxed and easy to do. Anyone can join in on any of these activities, and I hope you enjoy them.

  • Taboo
    Write down a bunch of nouns on slips of paper and put them into a cup.  Set a timer for 60 seconds. One player chooses a slip of paper and has to describe it without saying the name of the object. The person or team who gets the most right during the allotted time, wins.  If you’re working on expressive language, describing is great practice, as the listener has to clearly understand your message. If you’re working on language comprehension, this activity focuses on your ability to consume all of that auditory information and turn it into a response. For pragmatic language, this helps inform turn-taking skills. For articulation, use your best speech sound and use nouns that have your speech sounds in them. Divide yourselves into teams, or just play against each other.
  • Listening to your favorite song
    This activity is similar to the Your Song project I started. Listen to your favorite song. Tell others why you like it and how it makes you feel. Make sure you’re patient and listen to everyone else’s favorite songs too. This encourages explaining, describing, speaking clearly, and conversational turn taking. The best part is having a dance party while you listen, moving around and dancing will make you feel better than sitting on your couch. Bonus creativity points if you make up your own choreography to go with your song.
  • Story time
    Reading is a great way to work on practicing speech sounds and asking and answering questions. Grab your favorite book, and take turns being the reader. The reader chooses where and when to stop and ask questions. After the story is done, The reader gets to ask a listener to summarize the main idea in their won words. This works on summarizing, paraphrasing, asking and answering questions, and turn taking. This can also be done with movies or online videos.
  • Articulation I Spy
    Go around your house and play I Spy with your family only using words that have your speech sound in them. Clues my students like to give are “The sound is at the beginning/middle/end of the word. Whoever guesses the right answer, wins. You get lots of practice with your sound this way. This also gets you up and moving around your house, which is always a plus.

I hope you’re all using the time we have at home to connect with your families and yourselves. Be kind and patient with each other. This is new to all of us. I hope these activities are useful to you. Do you have activities of your own you can share? I’d love to hear all about them in comments.

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

Inclusion · Interview · Performances · Pragmatics and Social Skills · Vocal Health

We’re All Connected in Emojiland: A Conversation with Laura Schein

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take myself to the theatre and see Emojiland the Musical. It was a show I had wanted to see for a while, but when friend of the blog Andrea Koehler of Coloring Broadway told me I needed to see it, I made sure I did. Ever since, I have not been able to get this show out of my head. From concept to casting, score to scenery, I cannot remember the last time I felt like I was truly a part of the world in which the show took place. It is currently playing at The Duke on 42nd Street and I can’t encourage everyone to see this show enough. After the show, I went to the stage door because I had to thank the actors for the performance I just saw onstage. I got to thank Laura Schein (whom I had asked about vocal health during an eight-show-week, because my job is never far from mind), for her performance and later learned that she also co-created the entire production. Based on that information alone, I knew I had to learn more about the work she’s done and how Emojiland came to be. I was already trying to find social skills lessons to base of the cast album when I learned she was also a health coach and beginning to co-host a podcast on functional health. At this point, I was so inspired by the amount of work one person is doing at once across so many different platforms and professions that I had to reach out to her. I am so, so grateful that Laura was as enthusiastic as I was to have this conversation.

Stef The Stage SLP: I am so inspired by everything you’re doing right now, thank you so much for chatting with me.

Laura Schein: No problem, I’m so happy to talk to you! And yes, I enjoy wearing a lot of different hats. I’m a hat lover.

S: I can barely do one thing at a time, but I’m trying to get better at multitasking.

LS: It’s tricky, but I like the challenge of it.

S: You do so much! What came first for you; acting or creating or being a health coach?

LS: Dancing, actually. I started when I was 2. I saw a production of The Wiz when I was 3 and at intermission I turned to my mom and said, “I want to do this.” I did children’s theater and community theater, and through a summer camp I was chosen to go audition for a professional Equity production of The Secret Garden and I got to play Mary. From there, I got an agent and I was also in the Chicago sit-down company of the first national tour of Ragtime for a year and a half. It was a really amazing experience. I kept doing theater all throughout childhood and went to Northwestern University, and that’s where I started writing, directing and choreographing, becoming more interested in those areas as well.

After college, I moved to Los Angeles and kept acting, but also started writing more with my writing partner Keith Harrison. We wrote stand-alone songs, music videos, we were always creating something. Eventually, we were asked ‘Where’s your big musical?’ We spent some time thinking about it and one night at dinner in 2014 a Google Trends alert came up on our phones that said the most searched word that day was “emoji.” It dawned on us at dinner that these are characters in an alphabet but also characters with potential stories we could tell. That’s where Emojiland began. It’s been a six-year journey since then.  We’ve probably written over 50 songs for the show and developed so many characters over different versions of the show. A lot of the characters that are in the show now didn’t exist when we first started writing—Nerd Face didn’t exist—so the show has changed along with the emoji alphabet.

S: I didn’t even think of characters evolving along with actual emojis evolving in our phones.

L: Very much so. And that’s been the biggest challenge with this show. The source material is not narrative, so deciding on which characters we wanted to focus on and the stories we wanted to tell was always a topic of discussion.

S: And you’re a health coach, too?

LS: Yes, the health coach side of things is a whole other aspect of my life. I’ve always been passionate about health. My mom is a psychologist and nutritionist and actually raised me vegan. She started a school to train health coaches, The Functional Medicine Coaching Academy, and I was in the beta class. This lead me to become the co-host of this podcast, What The Func, with my friend Clayton Farris. We became friends doing a play together, and he was essentially my first client. We’re exploring functional health and talking to all sorts of professionals and delving deeper into that world.

S: I discovered the functional health world through my students and their unique diet needs. The impact of nutrition on behavior and overall functioning didn’t occur to me until I had families of my students telling me how certain diet changes affected their student’s mood or behavior. This led me to go on my own functional health journey. My older students can actually tell me, I need to eat healthy foods today or I won’t be able to focus on my exam.”

LS: Oh yeah, it’s amazing how nutrition and health absolutely affect mood and behavior. That’s wonderful that your students are so in tune with their bodies. A lot of people have yet to make the connection that what they eat affects their mental health.

S: Changing topics, I am clearly in love with your show. You play Smiling Face with Smiling Eyes and she goes through a lot of emotions over the course of the show. How do you mentally and emotionally prepare for a role like that eight shows a week?

LS: I have always been interested in pursuing the depths of emotion that I possess. The first play I ever did was called Kindertransport and it was very intense. I really learned how to access all of those emotions, and I love being able to tell the story as a character and then put it aside at the end of the play and go back to my life. There’s always some of me onstage, and in a way, it helps me process my own emotions too. Everyone’s going through so much every day, and I feel lucky that I get to share some of that on stage with people, and hopefully help them feel less alone.

S: Your answer made me feel a lot more normal. Those are the same parts of acting and performing that I enjoy, and grew up being asked why I didn’t just want to see or do happier and lighter shows. All of your characters have such a range of emotions and real depth to them. How do you create such well-rounded characters beyond the superficial images the audience knows emojis to be?

LS: That’s what I try to do in life, see all sides of a person. I try to see what drives them, what’s their history, and not take anyone at face value. I would never want to create a one-dimensional character, because that’s not interesting to me. We’re all so multi-dimensional and multifaceted, and those are the types of characters I want to create.

S: Students of mine actually shared with me that they thought it would be easier to just create the characters exactly as they are and how people would expect them. And I guess you could do that, but there’s not much story in that.

LS: When we had the idea, we very quickly connected with the idea that emojis have a fixed, coded identity. But what happens when you are who you are and everyone sees you one way, but you feel differently? We knew we wanted to tell a story about that duality, and we thought that emojis were a wonderful way to represent that idea.

S: Has working on this show changed how you use technology and emojis?

LS: Definitely. Ever since we started working on the show, I get so excited for updates because that leads to new character and prop possibilities. And no surprise, I love using emojis when texting. You know how in musicals ‘when you can no longer talk, you sing’? With emojis, when you can’t convey something by text, you use emojis. We thought there was a wonderful parallel there between how music is used and how emojis are used.;

S: I have actually used emojis with my students who are nonverbal. All of my students are extremely tech-motivated, and I’ve taught some students to use emojis on an iPad to express their wants and needs. When I don’t have access to a dedicated device, they’re actually a great method of communication. And with the space that you’re in and how your show is staged, you feel like you’re such a part of Emojiland.

LS: It really does feel that way. I love the intimacy of the space. We’re all connected in Emojiland.

S: I noticed wile I was watching the show, there is only one instance in which a gender-specific pronoun is used. I really like that choice. Was it intentional, or did it just kind of happen that way?

LS: It was intentional. There are no pronouns in the script because the emoji code isn’t inherently gender or racially specific. We were really excited about that from the beginning. And we’re excited about future productions having wildly different casting because these roles can be played by anyone.

S: That would be really exciting to see this show with different casting, I hadn’t thought of that. I love the casting in the show, I think it’s great. I love your performance in this show, but I am curious about how you take care of your voice as a performer. In this show specifically, you’re also putting on a bit of a voice. How do you prepare for that?

LS: It actually feels, as the run goes on, that my voice becomes more comfortable. It feels like my voice now sits healthfully where it should. Obviously, as a health coach, I’m really health-conscious. I eat very well; I drink so much water. And ginger shots. I’m obsessed with them. There are some nights when non-theater friends will ask me to go out to a loud bar with them post-show, but with 8 shows a week I have to be really careful. I try to get my rest and not be somewhere where I have to yell over music. It’s tough because I want to hang out, but I also have to be careful and protect myself. My castmates are the same way. When we want to go out post-show we go to a quiet diner and have pancakes and tea.

S: I get that, but there was a moment when Nerd Face’s reaction was to scream and I thought to myself, ‘I know he’s using a microphone, and I know my seat is really close, but that has to hurt eight shows a week.’ I felt the same way about whatever crazy note Skull has to hit in his songs.

LS: I guess your voice just adjusts to it. And it fluctuates. Some days feel much harder than others.

S: I have to ask; how do you wear so many hats in this production without becoming exhausted?

LS: I’m just trying to enjoy the ride. I’m so grateful for this run. One of the first lyrics in the show is “Stay in the present, the future’s unknown,” and I am really trying to just be present and focus on one thing at a time. Once I start thinking about everything at once, I get overwhelmed.

S: See, that was fascinating to me as a lyric in the show since Emojiland takes place in a phone. Most of the time we’re on our phones, we’re using it to escape and not be present. How does that work?

LS: I think we all have love-hate relationships with our phones. Phones connect us to each other. Even now, we met briefly in person, and then you reached out to me online. I’m thankful for how our phones have expanded our world and our reach, but I do have to make myself put it down and be present with the people physically around me. You need to look up. I’m also a perfectionist when it comes to responding to every message I get, and I’m working on waiting before responding to people so that I don’t miss out on connecting with someone I’m physically with in the moment.

S: Every week I challenge my students and readers to do something outside of their comfort zone. What would you challenge them to do?

LS: I would challenge people to go through one full day without complaining about anything. Try to see if it’s possible to find the positive side of every situation throughout the day, to maintain a sense of gratitude and emanate that positivity despite whatever challenges you may experience.

***********************************************************************************

Very much like my first experience with Emojiland the Musical and Laura, I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. For context, we spoke at the end of a school week while Laura was in between teaching a masterclass and a meeting before her Friday evening performance. As busy as we both were, this was certainly the highlight of my day. I can’t wait to hear how you do with Laura’s challenge, please share the results in comments.

 

You can find Laura on social media at @thelillaura on Twitter and Instagram and Emojiland the Musical at @emojimusical on FacebookTwitter and Instagram as well. You can catch Emojiland at The Duke Theater on 42nd Street through March 19th, and tickets are available here. This show has something for everyone, and is the most relatable show I’ve seen in a while. I can’t recommend this show enough. The cast album is available on streaming, as well as physically and digitally.

 

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!

–Stef the StageSLP

Broadway · Inclusion · Performances

All You Wanna Do: Review of A Five Show Weekend

Hi readers! Sorry for the delay in posting, but I thought a delay was in order. Last weekend, I treated myself to a five-show weekend. I saw quite the range of shows, and wanted to post a review before spring breaks begin over the coming months. Let’s dive in!

  • SIX

    My first show of the weekend was SIX, and what a way to kick off the weekend! Believe the hype–it is entertaining from start to finish. A Broadway-pop concert telling the stories of the six wives of Henry VIII. 85 minutes of pure girl-power infused performing. I strongly recommend this show to everyone, but may be more suited to middle school and older.

  • Emojiland

    Next stop, off-Broadway for the most delightful show of my trip, EmojilandFor absolutely everyone, this show has the most inclusive messaging I’ve ever seen/ There are no pronouns used, leaving all feeling accepted. Don’t be fooled by the name, this show covers many topics that resonated with me and that my students could relate to as well. There is talk of acceptance, honesty, being true to yourself and others, and messages of positivity. Friend of the blog Lesli Margherita’sperformance is absolutely everythingI could want, and Natalie Weiss’ performance shines brighter than the iPhone lights the show lives in.  I experienced a range of emotions and I don’t believe I’ve met a nicer cast of people or fans at a stage door. Laura Schein and George Abud were kind enough to share how they keep their voices healthy. Steam is your friend, folks. Hurry to see this show, extended through March 19, 2020. Personally, I’m looking forward to the release of the cast album on February 28th.

  • Jagged Little Pill

    Jagged Little Pill is a show for now. It addresses very strong, very raw issues that are present in daily life. On stage, I saw reflected what my students, colleagues, and I all go through presented through the music of Alanis Morisette. Every performer on that stage has such a presence that draws the audience in immediately. This powerful, timely production would be best for high school age and up.

  • Moulin Rouge

    Once again, I adored Moulin Rouge. I gave a full review here, and my feelings remain the same. I may love it even more after a second viewing. This time, I got to see the fantastic Ashley Loren as Satine, and she is every bit the sparkling diamond.

  • Ain’t Too Proud

    I grew up listening to Motown and have always enjoyed it. The storytelling in Ain’t Too Proud is superb. The introduction of each performer is seamless and thoroughly entertaining. There were many times I forgot I was at a Broadway show and not a concert. To learn the history of The Temptations is to learn the history of Motown. I would recommend this show to everyone who enjoys music, its history, and excellent performances.

Between all of these shows, there is certainly something for everyone. My challenge to you this week is to find a form of entertainment outside of your comfort zone. You never know when you’ll find your next favorite piece of music, theatre, film, or television.

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