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

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

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