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March 26, 2018

In the Beginning was the Word

We are studying the book of James at our church. A couple of weeks ago, our pastor taught on the third chapter of the book of James, which is all about taming the tongue. I've read these verses many times, and have listened to teachers speak about the importance of keeping our words in check on more than several occasions. This time, though, our pastor used John 1:1 to illustrate the power of our words. The verse in its entirety states, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." But our pastor asked us to stop and consider just the first part, "In the beginning was the word, " to relate it to our own words. He said something to the effect that if we trace back to the origins of conflict within relationships, healing or destruction comes from the words we say after the event that caused the conflict. Were my words full of grace, encouraging or life-giving? Or were they destructive, hurtful and careless, leading to disastrous consequences?

To me, that was profound. Trace the words back to the beginning.

Being a speech-language pathologist, words have always been extremely important to me.  My students' words impact me every day. I agonize over those first, hard-to-come-by words, meticulously planning and strategizing the best way to facilitate their emergence. I rejoice along with their parents when those precious words are spoken. I provide enticing, naturalistic contexts for new words to be learned, and then help children learn to shape those words into intelligible phrases and sentences to help them become effective communicators. I teach my students to recognize the power of their words, and have watched how their lives have changed as they grow.

But after hearing that message, I began to think about how my own words may impact my students.

I want to shower my students with words of encouragement and acceptance. I want to view them as worthy of only receiving my best words, those that are spoken with kindness and patience. I want my words to be a reflection of the knowledge I have gained over the years in this wonderful field, effective and instructive. I want them to build up, not tear down. I want my words to be intentional, never careless. My words have power, too, and I want them to be used as a force for good.

In the beginning was the word.

March 29, 2017

Jumping Jack: How I Use My Favorite Spring Game

My new favorite game for spring (or anytime!) is called Jumping Jack by Goliath Games. It is a bright, appealing game similar in play style to an SLP favorite, Pop Up Pirate, that can be used with both preschoolers and elementary school students. Students take turns pulling carrots out of the base, trying (or maybe, NOT trying) to make the rabbit jump out of his hole.

I love using games like this for the following reasons:

  • High-interest: the students generally enjoy games that have some level of anticipation associated with them. They want to play them again and again.
  • Easy to play: there are very few rules to follow.
  • They promote joint attention and turn taking: players happily watch other players take turns, watching to see if the rabbit will jump.
  • Simplicity: There are very few pieces to manipulate.
  • Flexibility: I can adapt the way we play the game by adding companion materials designed to target speech and language goals.

In the photo above, students practiced their speech sounds while playing the game. Each student was given a page of stimulus pictures that contained their target sound. Students took turns choosing a target word to say, practiced it a specific number of times, and then removed a carrot from the base. If the rabbit didn't jump, the students placed the carrot on top of the picture. Play continued until the rabbit jumped, and then we played again. The picture pages featured in this photo are from my product Itty Bitty Black and White Articulation Cards and can be found in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

The more I played Jumping Jack with my students, I realized I needed more companion materials to target both speech and language skills. So I created Jack's Garden of Carrots:

This packet contains 89 black and white activity sheets that are perfect to pair with Jumping Jack, but can also be used as a stand-alone activity. It contains two separate sets of articulation pages, one with pictures (all the most frequently targeted sounds and blends) and one with words only (later developing sounds). Language targets include synonyms, antonyms, multiple meaning words, describing, categories, comparing, contrasting, answering WH- questions, and inferences. I use these sheets at the same time as the game, completing a task before each turn, and sometimes I have the students complete the worksheet before we play the game.

Sometimes I use these print and go sheets with dot paints, and other times I'll use play dough or mini erasers to cover the carrots.

Here's a photo of using an articulation sheet while we play the game...

 ...and here is one of when we completed the worksheets first. I had one student paint the tops of all the carrots and the other paint the bottoms the first time through the target word set, and then we traded paints and said all the words again. I got double the amount of reps! Score!

To push my luck even further, and get even MORE milage out of this handy dandy worksheet, I had the students say their words again before they removed carrots while playing the game. We covered the carrots with bunny erasers to keep track of the words we said.

Here's a shot of us using mini erasers to cover the carrots while we practice describing the size, shape or color of objects.

Honestly, this game is so much fun and so flexible! I love it when I can use one item to target so many different skills.

What do you think? Do you use this game or one that is similar? I'd love to know!

March 24, 2017

Sensory Bins: Adding the Unexpected

Sensory bins are all the rage with speech-language pathologists on social media, and I have enthusiastically jumped on the bandwagon. I've used them sporadically throughout my career, both in Early Intervention and with my private practice caseload with fantastic results, but after seeing so many amazing sensory bin creations on Instagram by my fellow SLPs, my interest in using sensory bins on a regular basis has soared to new heights!

My latest sensory bin creation is zoo themed, and didn't really require much creativity at all. Here's what I did:

1. I put pinto beans in a tub.
2. I added animals and props from various zoo toy sets.

That's it. Done.

Zoo in a whole new way!

But here's where it gets good: I added some things that are very unexpected, things that you wouldn't necessarily find in a zoo play set.

I added mini erasers of all different sorts! There are donuts, french fries, trucks, apples, pencils and more!

Why? Because it blasted language learning opportunities through the roof!

Children are naturally drawn to nonsensical things, like feeding donuts to elephants instead of hay, and giving a giraffe a pencil to use. They think it's hilarious! And it gives me the opportunity to target a wider variety of goals:

  • Negation: elephants don't eat donuts, a robot is not a zoo animal, a giraffe can't hold a pencil
  • Categories: this depends on the types of objects you use
  • Silly Sentence Construction: The elephant ate the truck. The lion stomped on the donut.
  • Absurdities: Do pencils swim? Do tigers play with rubber ducks?
  • Sentence formulation: I like to choose an animal and an eraser and say, "Make up a sentence about a lion and a truck." This one is SO GOOD for my little friends who are so concrete and struggle to imagine silly scenarios. 
  • Answering "why" questions: Why don't zookeepers take care of robots?
  • Prediction: The zookeeper gave the elephant an ice cream cone. What do you think will happen next?
  • Imagination!
Felice over at The Dabbling Speechie has wonderful ideas for creating and using sensory bins in treatment. She even has a tab on her homepage dedicated to sensory bins that lists her posts and offers materials to help you get started. Her printable list of categories from her "I Spy" sensory bin inspired me to make my own picture lists to accompany my zoo sensory bin.

These little lists have been so useful! So far, I've used them to target plurals, matching, final /s/ and /z/, copula verbs, vocabulary, and the pronoun "I".

They have also been helpful in helping direct the play of little ones who typically tend to only like to sift the beans through their hands, or scoop and pour. The mini erasers grab their attention, and they like to match them to the pictures.

Of course, you must used caution when adding any small object to a sensory bin. Especially if you have little ones who like to put things in their mouths as they could become a choking hazard. Be extra diligent!

So, how about you? Do you currently have a sensory bin that you're using? Try adding something that's a little unexpected. I think you'll love the results!

February 5, 2017

The Frenzied SLPs Sharing Kindness

Thanks for stopping by! You are so kind for visiting me! 

(Ha! See what I did there?)


We haven't seen much of it happening in our news these days. In fact, it seems like negativity and selfish behaviors reign supreme.

But, do you know what? Kindness is still out there. You just have to decide to look for it, and you'll see it all around you. 

That smile from the cashier at the grocery store.

That person who held the door open for you when your arms were full.

That unselfish person who let you go first at the four way intersection.

That kindergartner that ran up to you and gave you that hug on the playground.

That staff member who brought in homemade treats for the staff meeting.

That text from a friend, just because she's thinking about you.

And, do you know what happens once you start looking for it? You spot it, and it warms your heart. It gives you hope for humanity! And then, you start to become more aware of the ways you can spread kindness, too!

We learn from the examples of others.

With that in mind, I want to share my freebie with you. It's a Kindness Scavenger Hunt! Kids catch their classmates being kind to one another and write their names next to the behaviors they observe.

Once the list is full, you reward the students with a little kindness in return. You can give them one of these fun little brag tags, or a small treat. Even better, let them choose a brag tag to give to one of the people they spotted being kind!

Because I wanted to be extra kind, there are black and white versions of each of these sheets so you can save money on ink if that's a concern. You can find this freebie in my TpT store.  

"Be kind, one to another."
Ephesians 4:32

My friend, Jen at Speech Universe wants to keeping the kindness going, so click on the heart below to take you to her blog.

Or if you'd like to start at the beginning of the hop, click on this one:

August 21, 2016

Frenzied SLPs Best Year Ever Bonus Sale Linky


Did you hear that Teachers Pay Teachers is having a one-day bonus sale on August 22, 2016? I'm linking up with the Frenzied SLPs to share some great products and tips from many awesome SLPs to help you decide what you need to make this year the BEST YEAR EVER!!! A huge thank you to Jen at SLP Runner for hosting this linky!

I just added a product to my store that you can use all year long:

Click on the image to preview it in my store!

I am LOVING this product because it is so fun, flexible and easy to use! It is a set of 8 printable flip books that targets sounds at the word, phrase, carrier phrase, sentence, paragraph and carryover levels. There are 2 books for each sound position (initial, medial, final and blends), each with its own unique set of challenge activities. Challenges include racing the clock, adding silly phrases to the targets, tongue twisters and conversation. It also includes 24 "punny" brag tags to reward students for their hard work.

Check out the preview below:

Students can complete the pages at their own pace. You can do one per session, or 3! Just add the pages to each book as needed.

Another reason I love this one is that I can also use the flip book pages as task cards. I just printed them on card stock, laminated them, cut them out, grouped them and stored them in an attractive photo box. They are ready to go at a moment's notice! Here's a closer look:

The set comes with a simple data sheet for you to track your students' progress each step of the way.

That picture is upside down...but YOU get the idea, right???

Speaking of data, each card has a space for the student to track their own correct productions. They just fill in the blank below the target list. When they achieve their goal (set by you) they check the box in the bottom right corner of each page.

And...(I love this part)...there's a set of 24 brag tags to choose from!

One more of my favorite parts: The carryover pages each include a word puzzle, 4 different kinds to solve!

Here's another great reason to check out this product: It's the first part of a growing bundle. Buy it now at the introductory low price and download additional sets for free! The price will go up as more sets are added, so if you buy it now you'll be getting a FANTASTIC deal!

If you want to check out The Great R Challenge in my store, click here and for the Growing Bundle click here.

I wonder what the other Frenzied SLPs have to offer? Click on the links below to find out!

April 4, 2016

April Showers - Using Water in Speech/Language Therapy

Hello! I'm teaming up with the Frenzied SLP's to tell you how I've been using water in my speech/language sessions this past month.

It's springtime in Oregon, which means rain, rain, rain! We've had an abundance this year; I think I read somewhere that we're 14" above what is normal for this time of year. Crazy, right? So one thing we have no shortage of right now is water.

Since this is the climate that all my kiddos have grown up in, we spend a lot of time talking about the rain, and concepts and vocabulary related to rain gear and weather. And since we don't get much of an opportunity to go outside and play during the winter and early spring months, we all get a little too much build up of pent-up energy, so I try to incorporate movement into our sessions as much as possible. Here's what I did this past week to address both of those goals:

I made an indoor rain puddle!

Here's how I did it.

I bought a blue tablecloth from a dollar store and some bubble wrap (the kind with the larger bubbles).

Actually, my husband bought the bubble wrap for me...

...and he bought enough for me to make 300 puddles, but that's another story! I digress.

Back to puddle construction.

I cut three pieces of bubble wrap, approximately 3 feet long each.

I used packing tape, and taped the bubble wrap pieces together to make a big square.

Next, I cut the bubble wrap into a random "splash" pattern.

Then I stuck the "splash" onto a square I cut from the tablecloth using loops of packing tape.

And there you have it, a puddle! A puddle that kids can jump into and not get wet, but still have the thrill of making a bubble-popping splash.

So, what did I do with this puddle?

We played a version of Go Fish that we instead called Go Splash with a movement twist.

This game is played just like Go Fish, where players make matches by asking each other for specific cards. My Go Splash version features colorful rain boots and umbrellas, which were great for working on colors, vocabulary, plurals and bilabial sounds.  Mixed in with all the matching pair cards are movement cards that direct you to perform an action, like this:

The kids absolutely loved jumping in the puddle through out the game. And the loved it even more when I had to do it, too! So much fun!

This game is available in my TpT Store and it's called Go Fish, Go Splash, Go Hop! if you'd like to check it out. This product contains 6 different versions of Go Fish, each with its own unique movement twist.

I didn't just use my puddle to play Go Splash, by the way. I used it other ways, too.

I put it along side my swing and had the kids reach for the bubbles to pop them. This was great for kids who needed extra sensory input. It was also a fun way to work on the /p/ and /b/ sounds, saying "pop" and "bubbles".

I also spread out picture cards around the puddle and had kids retrieve them while laying on the swing. They said their target words and phrases as they picked them up. This was a huge hit, and was very motivating, even for those kids who usually don't enjoy practicing their target words.

My bubble puddle lasted all week and was worth the time it took to put it together. I did a little "puddle maintenance" by taping new squares of bubble wrap right on top of the "splash" throughout the week so all the kids had a chance to pop some when the puddle started to get flat. Easy peasy.

So how are YOU using water in speech/language treatment? We'd love it if you'd link up and share!

January 14, 2016

Playing in Mud Puddles: Word Games

The winters in Oregon are long, filled with damp, grey days and plenty of rain. All that rain and lack of sun can make me feel sluggish and lazy. It certainly dampens my creativity! But one thing that never fails to cheer me up and gives me some inspiration is a trip to my favorite toy store, MudPuddles Toys and Books located in Sherwood, OR.

MudPuddles is a wonderful, independent toy store filled to the brim with the latest and greatest toys and books. Kate, the owner of this fabulous place, has a knack for finding toys that are appealing, fun, durable and educational. She pours her love of learning through play into her shop and is more than happy to introduce shoppers to her latest finds. It's a fabulous place and I love to explore it!

My most recent trip to MudPuddles was inspirational. As I browsed through the store, it occurred to me that I should write a post (or posts) about my new toy/game finds and how I might use them in speech and language treatment. And so, this toy/game review series, Playing in Mud Puddles was born!

I could spend all day and night telling you about all my favorite finds, but I decided that since this will be a series of posts, I will feature a specific category of toys/games in each post. I am devoting this first post to word games, because I am, admittedly, a Word Nerd, and I love them!

First, I want to tell you about two awesome games I found from an educational game company called Think Fun.  I love this company! They make quality, entertaining games that are so appealing and addicting! Their slogan is "empowering minds through play," which is totally in line with my philosophy.

The first is called Word Around and is great for kids ages 8 and up.

Each card has three words on it, one spelled out sequentially in each ring. Players race to identify the word on the ring that matches the color on the back of the previously played card. The trick is trying to figure out where the word starts, identifying it and saying it before the other players do. Can you identify the words in the picture above?

Blue ring = bottle
Red ring = regular
Black ring = asleep

I actually purchased this game and brought it along when I went to visit my mom. She is aging and starting to experience some memory issues. She loves puzzle games like Sudoku, but I feel strongly that she should challenge herself with word games as well. I wasn't sure how she would do with this one, with the time pressure of competing with another player, but she really did well! She caught on quickly (which isn't always the case for her when learning something new) and really enjoyed it. She liked it so much that I left it there with her in Ohio to play with family and friends.

IF I had Word Around here with me in Oregon (I plan to purchase another copy on my next trip), I would use this game with my upper elementary, middle school and high school students.  I would use it to target:

  • vocabulary - specifically parts of speech. I would have the student name the part of speech after identifying the word. For example, "bottle is a noun."
  • sentence formulation - have the students use the words they identify in sentences
  • synonyms, antonyms, multiple meanings - have the student choose 5 words and have them name a synonym, antonym or tell multiple meanings
  • working memory - many of my students process information at a slower rate than what is typical. I love to use competitive games like this to target processing speed.
  • word skills - I have several students who struggle with games like anagrams (i.e. changing the letters of a word around to make other words)
  • articulation carryover - I might use this for rapid rate production of carrier phrases for /r/ or /s/. At the end of the round, I would have the student say "I can read bottle" or "I see asleep" for each of the cards in his/her pile.
  • social skills - winning/losing, good sportsmanship, turn taking

The second game I found is called Pathwords Jr.

It's a word search puzzle game where kids find the words of each puzzle and cover them with brightly colored shapes to create a pattern.

There are four different levels of play, from beginner to expert.  Some of the puzzles show a list of the words to find,

and some give picture clues or hints, making the puzzles more challenging to complete. Each puzzle has a theme and is often in the shape of an item related to the theme. For example, the puzzle pictured above has music-themed clues, and is shaped like a musical note.

I purchased this game and have been happily using it with my mid-to-upper elementary and middle school students.  I've used it target

  • categories
  • inferencing
  • vocabulary
  • verbal reasoning
  • problem solving
  • spelling
The kids love this one and so do I! 

The third word game I want to tell you about is called Xoom Cubes by a company called Baxbo, who describes this game as "a thousand word games in one." Players complete challenges by creating words from their letter dice. There are two levels of challenge cards, regular and junior.

I purchased the junior deck, and here are some of the challenges:

There are letter races, category races, timed games and potluck, which is a challenge to create as many words as you can find with your dice.

I did not purchase the complete game that included the letter dice, for two reasons: first, I am on a tight budget and already knew I was buying the other two games, and secondly, I have letter tiles from Bananagrams that I figured I could use instead. I am all about repurposing what I already have! So, I combined the Xoom Cube Jr. cards with the Bananagrams tiles and it worked just fine.

Here's how I've been using them:

I spread about half of the letter tiles on a non-slip mat in the center of the table. I positioned a bell within reach of each player. I read a challenge card to the players, who then raced to complete the challenge, ringing the bell when they finished. The first player to collect 5 challenge cards was the winner!

I used this game to target the same skills that I listed above for the Think Fun games. What I like about this one though is that students have a greater opportunity to generate the words used in the game. We've had many discussions about the words they have chosen to spell ("No, LOL is not a real word, it's an acronym, so choose a different word to spell.") and what those words mean. It gives me insight into what topics are important to them as well (Star Wars, Mine Craft, music).

Moving on...

One of my favorite sections at MudPuddles is the collection of little toys in bins at the front of the store.  Something always catches my eye, and I always come away with a small treasure.  I want to feature one of these treasures each month, too.  I'm calling them Little Droplets that Make a Big Splash! These items will be inexpensive (less than $5.00) but very useful and fun.

January's Little Droplet is one that my friend, Jenny (who just happens to work at MudPuddles) cringed at when I picked it up. It was an expandable plastic tube for $1.99. She said, "Pam, you do NOT want that! It's so LOUD and ANNOYING!" But then, I showed her that this accordion-style tube is just perfect for providing auditory feedback. You just stretch the tube, bend it into a crescent, hold it up to your mouth and ear, and then say a word.  She was amazed! She promptly showed her co-workers this new way to use this toy.  I bought several to use with my articulation kids, and they are a hit!  Not only do the kids love shaping the tube into the right size for them, they are learning to use auditory feedback to help shape their production of sounds.

So there you have it.  Didn't I come away with some great finds??? I can't wait to go play in MudPuddles again soon.

Oh, by the way, I should say that the items chosen to be reviewed for this post were completely my idea, inspired by how they might work for me in my clinical setting.  No toys or games were given to me free of charge, nor was I given a promotional fee. The opinions regarding these products are expressly my own.

A BIG thanks to Kate and Jenny at MudPuddles for so graciously allowing me to hang around in their store and showing me such cool things! If you'd like information on any of the things I featured today, shoot them an email or give them a call. I know they would be happy to help! Just click here.