Monday, September 28, 2015

Middle School: Materials and Motivators

My first job as an SLP in 1983 was in a high school. I was 22 years old and my students were 18 years old! Believe me when I say I felt in over my head. That became very apparent as I drove my 1973 "three on the tree" Pontiac Ventura into the faculty lot and was reprimanded and told to park in the student lot. Of course I indignantly responded that I was the Speech-Language Pathologist! Ohhhh, to be asked for a hall pass today!

I knew in that first year that I needed to engage those students or I was sunk. Many of the techniques I utilized then I still use today. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Kids love real games. I love real games. Now please don't misunderstand. I don't modify my goals to fit a game, I modify a game to fit my goals (Thank you Dr. Lissa Power-deFur for the words to highlight that distinction). Games are a means to an end and a motivator. The last thing we need is an eighth grader boldly announcing he played a game in speech! One of my past middle school students referred to my modified games as "Doyle-ified!" I now have a folder on my computer containing all my Doyle-ified games.  Favorite games include: Boggle, Battleship, Jenga, Yahtzee, Uno, Bananagrams, and Connect Four. Pam Dahm of Small Talk Speech has created the perfect compliment to Bananagrams. It can be found here.

Years ago I purchased boggle cubes and scrabble letters in bulk on eBay. My students really enjoy using these to create vocabulary crosswords around a theme. This past Martin Luther King, Jr. Day we used these to learn civil rights vocabulary.

I love the Expanding Expression Tool, but find the materials in the book a little young for my older set. In order to utilize this amazing program I often create motivating materials that "expand" the Expanding Expression Tool. Pictured below are two Uno games and some St. Valentine's Day hearts.

Sometimes it's the simple things that motivate students. Things like buzzers and bells that capitalize on a tween's competitive side. I found these game show buzzers from Learning Resources and they add just the right amount of fun to any activity. They can be found online here. Tossing objects into cups, bowls, cans, trash bins as reinforcement is also loads of fun.
While they can be labor intensive to prepare, craftivities and cooking generally appeal to middle school students. My line of questioning when using craftivities or recipes often follows Bloom's Revised Taxonomy. These activities target vocabulary, sequencing, executive functioning, higher order thinking, auditory comprehension, verbal expression and more. A creative SLP can target any goal with a craftivity or recipe. 
Find this free craftivity here.

Sometimes just doing something that a student thinks is verboten can be motivating. That's when we write on the table with dry erase markers or pop balloons or throw task cards on the floor or play vocabulary kick ball.
Expanding Sentences
I always save the best for last. Every year during the last week of school the youngest to the oldest students on my caseload play Wheel. Of. Fortune. I find all the music and sound effects used, online, and we target multiple meanings, figurative language, vocabulary, synonyms, antonyms, categorization, articulation and on and on. My students anticipate a fun-filled week and it is a wonderful way to wrap up the school year.

Motivating middle school students can be a daunting task, but I do love working with this age. They appreciate humor and when motivated can be a breath of fresh air. They can also be exasperating. I find I have to always be mindful of what is happening in their lives, socially, physically, emotionally, economically, and intellectually. Those kids, like us, entered this world whole, and their experiences, like ours, cause them to behave in the ways they behave. When working with a challenging student I remember always, "this child is a child of God."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A New Year, a New System

You know what I love about being an SLP? I never do anything the same way twice! Imagine if I was in a classroom proper and I was bound by the same curriculum year in and year out!

Each year I find myself taking stock of what worked, what didn't, and what might with a little tweaking. This reevaluation keeps things fresh for both me and my students.

At the beginning of this school year I was thinking about how to modify my room and my positive behavior system, at the same time as I was unpacking my materials. I was also thinking about how I could encourage my students to be more invested in their speech program and to have more autonomy. As I was unpacking my materials and my thoughts I came upon the new Test of Word Finding-3. I typically remove my tests from the boxes because they take up less space. Now understand, I have a difficult time discarding things and garbage is no exception (check out this post). The TWF-3 box was just awesome and I wondered how I could use it.
This is what ensued. I first painted and decorated the box to match my owl-y room decor.
I then added "poly-pocketed" dividers. Using washi tape I indicated the grades on each tab, K-8. I can then keep any relevant grade level materials in the pocket.

Last year I gave each student a library pocket to store their speech bucks. The speech bucks were made by The Dabbling Speechie, but unfortunately, I cannot find the link to purchase them. I had them taped to a cabinet door, but they kept getting ripped and the speech bucks fell out. I gave each student a file folder and taped each library pocket on the inside. The pocket also has a name tag that is placed on a clip chart for behavior management. Initially, each student personalized their folder and was given an explanation as to how we would be using them this year. 
Personalized Folder by a kindergarten student :)
When students enter the speech room, they grab their folders. Inside I placed everything we might need for speech.  

I add two months worth of homework. The students can select the page they would like for the week. This gives them autonomy and I am not scrambling for homework every day.

Having students keep track of their own data helps with carryover and ownership.

Each student with articulation goals has a copy of Mia McDaniel's "steps to good speech" in their folder. I also placed a copy of my letter of introduction in each folder for the first week of school (thanks to Natalie Snyders).

Each folder contains a graph where students can plot how they are progressing in a particular goal area. This a great motivator and provides them with some accountability.
I keep several copies of Teach Speech 365's ISIP sheets to send home with students. This is a great way to communicate with parents about what you have worked on as well as letting them know that their child has received their services that day.

I am loving this new system and so are my students. They are so cute when they walk in and grab their folders, look to see if there is anything new in there and place their name tag on a clothespin! They are particularly excited about choosing their own homework. I have one student who faithfully NEVER completed homework. Since being able to choose his own he has completed EVERY one!

I wonder; am I the only SLP that changes things every year? Comment below and share some of your reinventions.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ahoy! Talk Like a Pirate Day is Upon Us!!

Back to school has absolutely capsized me! While I was actually looking forward to a calm return, it just didn't pan out that way. I came back to reevaluations, referrals, IEPs, and the bane of the school SLPs existence; the dreaded schedule!! Alas, my social media fun was stowed like cargo and I was out to sea without a paddle.

Fortunately for me, there are creative SLPs in this big blogging ocean to help keep me afloat with material, so I am linking up with Tracy of Gold Country Speech for some pirate fun.

I love capitalizing on a theme. It makes my therapy planning easy, engaging, and productive. International Talk Like a Pirate Day is no exception. In fact, I like this one so much and I have so many materials, I stretch it out over two weeks.

I am not a prolific TpT author (future blog post topic). On the contrary I think I'm a pretty lame TpT author, however I am a pretty good SLP. I have a few clever ideas and I know how to utilize the clever ideas of others. This post doesn't contain products, just a couple of ideas that my students love.

First of all, I LOVE to dress up! It just adds a little bit of spunk to things. (I like this picture...I look thin!) Then I inject an accent here and there throughout my speech, I "talk like a pirate." Yes, for two weeks ;) I will admit I love accents. I am fairly good at them, too, except Russian. That /l/ eludes me. I have been watching some YouTube videos on how to perfect my accent.

My pirate book booty is only four books large. If I know myself, it will expand!

I found a mini Pop-Up Pirate game on Amazon last year. It was very inexpensive. Yay! Not really, it stopped popping pirates this year! Boo!

My son loved(s) his Play Mobile toys. He would spend hours creating a "set up." When he spied me bringing this to school, he got a little nervous. I had to assure him that I wasn't plundering his collection. He's 15.

I have a subscription to Vocabulary A-Z and I love it! I created data sheets (if you would like the data sheet, comment with your email address and I will "ship" it off) for intermediate and middle school students and pair the vocabulary with articles from Wonderopolis and Newsela. My middle school students have been reading the Wonderopolis article, which I pasted into Google Read and Write, watched the corresponding video and then designed their own pirate flag. After creating the flag they wrote a "biography" of their pirate using the Expanding Expression Tool. I suppose now you understand why this takes two weeks!!

Of course, I use the myriad of materials I have amassed from the SLP fleet of amazing and talented folks in addition to the aforementioned. Here are a few of the items that are part of my pirate arsenal: Jenn Alcorn , Sparklle SLP, Speech Snacks

Well, It's time for me to lift anchor and set sail and I promise, no more pirate puns!

Friday, September 4, 2015

R.I.P. Pen and Paper

As the controversy over whether students should be taught cursive rages on, I thought I would celebrate what is quickly becoming a lost art, putting pen to paper. I have previously mused on the benefits to heart, mind and soul from writing (Writing Heals) and my predilection to collecting (The Ties That Bind). Among my hoards of "stuff" I possess varied writing journals that serve varied purposes! I have my vocabulary journal, my verse mapping journal, my childhood journals, my journal of positive thoughts, and on and on. It is remarkable to reread entries. It's my autobiography! I have wept when I read about my sadnesses. I have laughed at the comedy that has been my life. I have looked at my foibles with eyes crossed and wondered at what a doofus I have been. I imagine my future as an old lady and dream of contentment.

Today I decided to feature a guest blogger, writer. Grampa Joe, my dear friend's father, is determined to keep letter writing alive, so encourages his grandchildren to write him letters. He occasionally writes to our son. Mack is always excited to receive a handwritten letter, although it is not easy for him to read the cursive. I also am excited! What follows is a recent snail mail treat.

Dear Mister Mack,
The use of pen and paper is becoming a vestigial skill among your generation, as most have now evolved into thumb twitchers, screen strokers and keyboard tappers. For years G.A.S.F. (Grampa's Augmented Stimulus Program) has provided an incentive to grandsons and others to learn and retain this skill- not unlike the ability to send a cedar shaft with turkey wing feather fletching on target with a wooden bow as opposed to the carbon fiber, plastic fletched arrows released by a mechanical wrist gizmo from an engineered pulley bow. Your reward is enclosed.

It's good to hear that you and Deadeye Dad will wear your bobcat bones this season and look forward to learning how things work out. My cervid [NOTE: this word is now in my vocabulary journal!] population is sparse and mostly nocturnal but apple trees heavy with fruit this year and clear trails through the yet un-mowed pastures are welcome signs. I plan to place tree stands this week.

Thank Annie Doyle for her note as well. It prompted me to visit her blog with _______'s help on her computer. You are fortunate to have parents with useful skills to share with you. Be well.

It is so enjoyable to hold paper in my hands and slowly read and reread. What is the cost to our fast past texts and emails? As pen and paper goes the way of bag phones, Spencerian Script, and disco so does spelling and proofreading! Society has two seconds to fire off a text or an email with little time to thoughtfully proofread for typos OR content or to even write cleverly.
A birthday present for our daughter! They"abe" cool!

Really? Needs no caption!
Grampa Joe is clever! After a weekend away with his friends and their family, Mack returned home with an artifact. He had "won" it for figuring out the riddle pictured here. Do you know what this picture represents? The first person to comment with the answer to this riddle can choose any item in my TpT store. My store is not the best, I will admit, but free is free, right? Have fun and good luck!