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
Grammar · Improv · Inclusion · Language Comprehension · Lesson Plans · Pragmatics and Social Skills · Vocabulary

Time to Play: How I Use Tatro

Hey there, readers! I cannot tell you how excited I am about this post. It’s been in the making for some time now. I’ve spoken to Will Barrios of Tatro previously on this blog (you can read more here), and I couldn’t wait to get his playset into my speech sessions. The featured image is one of my students’ creations from a recent session. This might be one of the most versatile speech therapy tools I have in my arsenal, and I am so excited to share how I use it with you. In addition, I’ll be sharing what my students thought of the activities and the playset. Spoiler alert: it was a hit and my students did not want to do anything else in speech.

Activity one: Playset building means team building!
Tatro is a playset with a pretty straightforward design. I can say that as someone who has seen the product finished. This playset was new to all of my students, so I decided to try it with a fourth grade group working on pragmatic skills. I laid out all the pieces on the table with a visual of the final product. I asked them how they thought it should be built, and had them work as a team to build the playset. They had to give each other directions–bonus following directions task!–and problem solve their way out of disagreements. The students got to work together until arriving at the correct assembly of the playset. As one can imagine, this took quite a bit of time, so the remainder of the speech session was spent with free play and exploration of the playset.

Activity two: Prepositions Practice!
For those who aren’t familiar, the playset is mostly magnetic. My students were fascinated with this because ” Nothing rolls onto the floor! It’s so easy to play with!” There are a variety of themes to choose from with this playset. At the moment, I own the Matinee Time, Fairytale Village and Castles, and Spellbound Forest Magnet Packs. My students chose to use the latter two packs together to first design a scene, with many magnetic pieces left over. Using the target concepts “on,” “next to,” “above,” “below,” “over,” and “under,” I gave my students directions for how to continue to decorate their scene. This allowed them to demonstrate their knowledge of these concepts through play. Later on in the session, they got to give their peers directions and feedback.

Tatro2

Photo: tatrotoy.com

Activity Three: Playing through Problem and Solution!
Using the Matinee Time magnets and the two characters and movers, I tried a different pragmatic language task. I paired my students up, interchanging partners each turn, and read them a scenario in which they would have to solve a problem. For example, I would say “Pretend it’s recess. You want to play tag, but your friend wants to play kickball. Ready, set, solve!” The students would then create their own mini play and act out possible solutions to the problems I generated. There are plenty of such problem solving activities available on TeachersPayTeachers.com. After this, my students and I talked through how this could be used in their classrooms without the toy. Next steps will be to work on generalizing this into situations they’re already encountering throughout their day.

Activity Four: Recreate and Retell!
Many of my students are working on summarizing and retelling, and this is a great tool for that! I read my students a story–choose whatever is appropriate for your student, and had them use the playset and all of its accessories to retell the story. After this, the students get to create their own story, demonstrating their knowledge of beginning, middle and end. They also have to tell me the main idea of both the story they retell and the story they create through play.

This is only what I’ve used Tatro for so far, and the possibilities are endless. I’m hoping to bring some new magnet packs to speech soon. My students were obsessed with the fact that the toy is magnetic. “We can’t lose toys this way!” “I didn’t know magnets could be so much fun!” “Where can I get one of these for home?” The answer to that last question is Tatrotoy.com. I know I’ll be heading there soon to look at some other magnet packs for my students. Will, my students and I can’t thank you enough for creating this new speech room staple! My challenge to my readers is to create the thing you’re thinking about. Draw, paint, write, choreograph, build—it’s up to you! Make something new and see how many ways you can enjoy it!

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!

—Stef the StageSLP

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

How Lucky Can You Get: St. Patrick’s Day Speech

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope everyone is wearing their green and having plenty of family fun. This holiday was celebrated in the speech room a little early this year, since it fell on a Sunday. Here are a few of my activities.

  • Write your own limerick
    This activity can get as silly as you want. First I teach the structure and rhyme scheme of the limerick and have my students repeat it back to demonstrate comprehension. From here, they can choose their own topic, and I target the writing process to what they’re working on. Is it vocabulary? Then they have to use content specific vocabulary. Describing, as many different adjectives as will fit. Articulation? Use as many words with you speech sound as possible.
  • Design your own leprechaun
    For this one, I print out a picture of a leprechaun, after explaining its sneaky characteristics. I then pose the question to my students: If you could make your own leprechaun, what would it be like? How would they act? Why would they act that way? Would they have powers? What would they look like? This activity is great for expanding utterances, answering WH questions, describing and explaining.
  • Sequencing a story
    I like to use the story, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Clover to teach sequencing. While reading the story, I have my students retell the sequence as we read, and again after we read. I have a companion worksheet for them to sequence the events in the book, using the book to check their own work.
  • Holiday hypotheticals
    Hypothetical questions are a great way to get at abstract thinking. I like to ask my students what they’d do if they found a pot of gold. What would you do with it? Who would you tell? Where would you hide it?I also like to do this with the question, “What would you do with a four-leafed clover?” This speaks to language comprehension and expression, length of utterance and can be a great conversational topic for social skills work.
  • Describe your own traditions
    Not everyone celebrates this holiday. After using St. Patrick’s Day as an example, ask the students to describe or explain a tradition they have in their family. I use the example of having a family game night, complete with junk food and everyone choosing a favorite game. This gives the kids insight into the lives of their peers and allows them to appreciate the differences of those around them. You can also choose to talk about holiday traditions.

These are a few of my go-to activities. I challenge you to find a new way to incorporate different cultures into your speech work this week, and see what you learn about others.

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

Inclusion · Lesson Plans · The Human Connection

How Do You Measure A Year: One Year Active, and One Active Year!

1B7CF3B5-FFAB-4CAE-8769-CFBB90464A0ETwo years ago today, I saw a show called Hamilton: An American Musical, and left the theatre wondering what I would create as a legacy to leave behind. I knew I was reaching my students and their families, but I wanted to do more. I felt incredibly limited. I spent a lot of my time wondering what else I could do? Who else could I reach? And how would I do it?

In January of 2017, I attended the second annual BroadwayCon in New York City and got to see what so many artists were creating. I heard so many messages of encouragement, almost as if it was the mantra of the convention. Create what’s in your head, and you’ll figure it out. I had been sitting on the idea of this blog for a year at that point, and needed something new to focus my creative energy on. After seeking the advice of a few key people immediately following that weekend, I knew I had to create this space.

On March 29th, 2017, I acted. I took to my computer and decided to expand my speech community the only way I knew how: through theatre. Theatre has always been my home, my family, no matter where I’ve been in life. I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t care, either. I knew I was going to share my ideas and lessons, and if I did it right, I’d reach families beyond the four walls of my speech room. I’d reach educators and families and other children and give them the community I had always loved. Initially, it would be my take on everything within my practice as an SLP, with spotlights on lesson plans and my therapeutic approach. I was even ambitious enough to post twice weekly, though I quickly learned with my caseload that just wasn’t manageable, and went back to my weekly posts.

This year on the blog has been a rollercoaster for me. I’d go from great feelings of accomplishment, to many moments of doubt, reminding my students along the way that adults don’t always have it all figured out. Most of those moments included wondering why anyone I was reaching out to would want to talk with me. Never EVER doubt the theatre community–they will ALWAYS surprise you. I have gotten to talk to heroes of mine, many people I admire, and have had some of the most kind and honest conversations I’ve ever been fortunate enough to participate in. I adore this community and every time I edit an interview, I’m reminded even more of why that holds true. Thank you to all of you who have been so generous with your time. My gratitude is truly beyond words.

My students and I have gained so much from all of your knowledge, and I hope, dear readers, that this is also true for you. It is my wish that you’ve learned something, challenged yourself, or just become more open to hearing someone’s story. If you’re anything like me, you;ve learned to throw your mental script out the window and just listen. Thank you for joining me, sticking with me, and supporting me.

Cheers to an amazing first year, and my challenge to you is to create that idea that’s in your head. You never know where it’ll take you.

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

Grammar · Language Comprehension · Lesson Plans · Pragmatics and Social Skills · Vocabulary

I Wish I Could Rewrite This Story: Intersections in Spoken and Written Language

If it isn’t obvious by now, I am fascinated with storytelling. Many of my upcoming guests and I will be discussing this particular topic. Once upon a time, I thought I’d write–most likely become an author. At the tender age of seventeen I believed I wouldn’t be creative enough, despite teachers encouraging me in the opposite direction. Little did I know I’d enter into a profession that requires more writing than I can handle some days!

That is not the reason I write this post. I chose to write this post to discuss the translation of spoken language into written language. This is a complicated subject for many of my students, since most people write the way they speak. Their formal writing pieces may be less formal because they’re children, with vocabularies to match. This is not at all a negative, it’s wonderful. Have you ever read a child’s writing? It is straight to the point and you feel exactly what that child was thinking in that moment. Their writing is magical. Through speech therapy, it’s my job to stretch it. Below, I’ve bulleted what my students and I work on to enhance their writing without ever picking up a pencil–thank you, Occupational Therapists!

  • Vocabulary
    It really amazes me how influential vocabulary can be. it takes “good” to “excellent” and “mad” to “furious.” Through teaching with shades of meaning, and emoji images, I’ve taught vocabulary beyond the basics. My students know I have an expectation for their individual vocabulary skills. Usually, I’ll say, “We all know that word, can you give us a new ____th grade word for us to learn?” This gives them the opportunity to expand, practice, and show off their vocabulary. It makes the student feel like a vocabulary rock star.
  • Grammar and syntax
    This is how I teach perspective and pronouns. Are you telling me something that happened to you or your friends? When did it happen? Did you cook breakfast or did your dad? How do you think he liked waking up early to do so? The students know this is where pronouns come into play as well. We explore verb tense and the use of complete, compound, and complex sentences. There is an entire world to explore here that could be another post entirely.
  • Main idea/key details
    I usually get into this when we talk about our weekends in our first session of the week. Each student tells me about one event that occurred during their weekend. I ask them what the most important part of the story was. If they tell me instead their favorite part of the story, I ask if that’s what the whole story was about. Frequently, I’m met with “Oh! No, the story was about how I won my soccer game by scoring the final goal. The goal was just my favorite part.” The trickiest part is differentiation between the two “I”s: Important and Interesting. Important refers to the main idea and Interesting to the details. Once they get this concept, it’s wondrous what the students can unlock in their minds and the stories that come pouring out!
  • Sequencing/Thought Organization
    Every story has a beginning, middle and end. It’s very difficult to teach this skill. I should know, my own stories as a child used to be all over the place with muddled transitions, so this is my favorite area to work on. This is where the students decide how they want their characters to feel and act. We do this with the “Somebody Wanted But So Finally” model of sequencing. There are so many wonderful graphic organizers for this model, and I can always find one accessible to my students. We also get to delve into their intentions, how they want the piece to make its reader feel, how the characters feel, and how we ride that emotion from one wave to the next, and why their emotions change. This is a great opportunity to work in a social skills lesson.
  • Retelling
    I love hearing my students share their final drafts–or any drafts–with me. I get to hear how they want their story presented, including its tone and the structure they’ve assigned it. This lets me peek into my students’ brains and see where their creativity leads them, which is always a magical moment for me. It also gives me a moment to evaluate their strengths and areas of difficulty in the above mentioned areas, which is great for goal-building later on.

I love it when areas of what I love overlap,like in this instance. I hope you enjoy the posts coming your way from some truly amazing and kind guests. My challenge to you this week is to target your biggest challenge currently–in writing, in work, in life–and find a strategy that works for you to help you with it. Mine will be keeping my house clean, just keeping it real.

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

Broadway · Inclusion · Lesson Plans · The Human Connection · Wise Words

We’re Right Behind Each Other #Fearless: A Lesson Inspired by Mandy Gonzalez

Mandy Gonzalez, of Hamilton, In The Heights, and Wicked fame, released her debut album in October, Fearless. She is known as the “Fearless Squad Mother,” and encourages all of us members of her #FearlessSquad to come together and be fearless. The interesting part about this is that she doesn’t mean to never experience the emotion of fear. Her intention is that it’s completely acceptable to feel fear, but to find the way to face fear and quite literally fear less.

The first time I heard this song, I knew I had to make a lesson plan from it. I wanted to use this opportunity to educate my students on self-esteem in the speech room. I began my lesson by asking my students if they could tell me what fearless means. Some of them gave me a definition. Some of them told me they didn’t know. I explained to them that to me, being fearless means being unafraid to try something new. I asked them first how they were fearless in their daily lives; at home, with their families, in the classroom. I then narrowed it down to a specific question: How are you fearless in the speech room?

The students met me with always feeling safe in the speech room, and that they didn’t have to be brave in here. So I asked them, what makes you feel brave in the speech room? I was met with so many fantastic answers, that my students and I turned it into a poster. And because I’d never have my students do something I wouldn’t do, I added to the poster myself. Below is the outcome of my lesson, which is now hanging on the wall in the speech room.

C80FEB4B-005B-40B5-87BF-318741E7D66D

Thank you, Mandy Gonzalez, for inspiring my students and myself.  If you haven’t picked her album up yet, what are you waiting for? My challenge for the week is for you to write down the ways that you are fearless. I can’t wait to see what makes you fearless in comments!

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

Lesson Plans · The Human Connection

Cheer Up Charlie: Emotional Regulation Strategies

Let’s start with the basics: we’re all human, and we’re all entitled to rough days every now and then. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that kids can have tough days too. Think about the last time you reminisced about your childhood. Did you remember something positive? Chances are you did, and you didn’t remember the time you got frustrated with a word you were struggling to read or an equation you didn’t solve correctly on the first try. In my own experience, I’ve seen how much pressure is being put on students not only by adults, but by the kids themselves. That pressure is pretty heavy, and sometimes, it’s overwhelming. Most of the time, I can spot frustration before it has been reached, and I am armed with strategies for them to employ. I thought this would be a great space to share them.

  • Provide a framework
    Most of my students reach frustration without always knowing why. Was it really that I asked them to complete a task or was it something else that happened before they even walked into speech? I give them the frame “I feel ____ because ______.” This requires them to think about what is causing the emotion. Sometimes it’s something simple, like, “I need a fidget to focus.” Sometimes it’s “I need to go to the office and call home because I left my library book in my room, and it’s due today.”
  • Provide the student with choices.
    If the student is frustrated, I give them choices for navigating the moment. Do you want to work, or do you want to take a two minute break? If the student says they need a break, then by all means, please take it. If they’re ready to work, I ask them if there is something that will help them complete the task, and provide it as appropriate.
  • Ask them what they need.
    Sometimes, my students will point-blank tell me they’re frustrated or that something just isn’t working. My response is “Okay. What do you need?” This response varies from situation to situation, as well as by student. Sometimes it’s a hug, sometimes it’s taking deep breaths, sometimes it’s a fidget toy. It can be just about anything, but by identifying the need, they can identify a potential solution which leads me to my next strategy….
  • Problem solving diagrams
    These are simple and easy to make. I usually use a dry-erase board and ask the student to tell me the problem. I then give them the time and space to dictate to me potential solutions to the problem. This gives us the opportunity to walk through all of our options and arrive at what the student will do to solve the problem. We can discuss how to react in the future, and the varying “sizes” of the problem. We can give it a scale and brainstorm when it’s appropriate to take which action. This allows the student to feel empowered and truly own their actions and reactions.
  • Change the activity.
    I will usually move back to a task the student feels confident completing as we work through the moment of frustration, or take a break. This break can be silent or it can be to discuss the issue at hand. The alternative to this is ask the student what they’d like to do for the last 5-10 minutes of the session and have them work towards that reward. Mad Libs and Bingo are always a hit with my students.
  • Follow their lead.
    If the student doesn’t want to talk to you about the issue, don’t force it. Do they want to talk to the counselor? A teacher? Let them. Do they just need a break? Allow them to take it. Adults don’t like to work while frustrated either, and allegedly, we’re better at emotional regulation. Does the student want to throw the lesson out the window and talk to you? Listen. Listening makes a world of difference. If you can get back to your lesson, great. If not, there’s always next time.

Working well under pressure isn’t for everyone, and my students are still learning how to regulate their emotions. If they’re visual learners, I will break out the “How Is Your Engine Running?” or Zones of Regulation tools I have at my disposal. These frameworks allow their feelings to become more concrete to them so they can better express themselves. As adults, we forget how much is expected of a student throughout the day–transitions, multiple subjects, homework, independent work, social interaction, assessments–add any pull-out service to that, and of course it’s stressful. My challenge this week is that we observe and listen to the feelings of others and see if we can come up with additional strategies, or identify what strategies work for you and your students.

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