Monday, September 30, 2013

The Mixed-Up Chameleon (plus freebie)

I know we all love Eric Carle books, but one of my favorites to read to kids is The Mixed-Up Chameleon. When I read this book about a little chameleon who sees a zoo and wishes he could be just like the animals he sees, it always makes my students laugh.  The chameleon begins to take on different parts of each animal he sees, and I really play it up as I reveal each page to show his latest change.   In the end, when he is so mixed up he can no longer catch a fly, he realizes he likes himself best when he is a chameleon. 

So how do I use this in speech?  Well, for starters, it is a fun book that gets lots of spontaneous language flowing.  The students LOVE to describe what is new about the chameleon on each page.  It is also a good book for categorization:  name all of the zoo animals he becomes, what items of clothing do people wear in the book?  It can easily be used for comparing and contrasting:  How is the chameleon and seal alike?  How are they different?  How are the elephant and giraffe the same?  Different?
I also use a worksheet where students can use bingo dobbers to mark a fly after they say their sounds five times each or answer a question for their individual goals.  Feel free to use this worksheet by clicking here:
I like to pair this book and activity with the game Chameleon Crunch for the second session of the week.  I found mine at Tuesday Morning, but it is also available on Amazon.  Students race to feed the chameleon the most bugs, and the game is a great reinforcement to follow drill of whatever goal your students are working on. 

Have you used this book in your speech room?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Class Dojo- Free On-Line Behavior Management Tool

I am really fortunate that most of the kids on my caseload are easy-going with no real behavior issues.  However, I do have a few students who are Autistic or have trouble handling frustrations and require a special behavior management tool.  That is where the great on-line program “Class Dojo” comes in.

At a beginning of the year staff meeting, our fabulous fifth grade team shared they were piloting this program as a grade-level, so if we saw them in the hall on their cell phones, they were not texting, but instead using this program.  This, of course, piqued my curiosity and led me to check out Class Dojo.

All I can say is WOW!  This is perfect for me because I only need a specific behavior program for two of my groups, and because each of those groups has such different issues, this tool works well as it allows me to give reward points and take points away for the behaviors particular to each group.


The program is very user-friendly.  Simply name a group, add each students name and let them choose an adorable monster avatar to represent them, and then load in the behaviors you want to reward or take points away for each individual in that group. 

I open up my Class Dojo each time the students come for the group.  I like to have it on my SmartBoard and let them go to the board and give themselves a point (or take one away).  They can also do this on your iPad or phone using the Class Dojo app that can be installed for free. 

I really like that the kids give themselves the point, or remove a point.  I also like that each child can have completely different goals in their section that earn points and remove points.  One of my students complains every time he does not know the answer to a question, or if he is losing in a game, and knowing he can lose a point for complaining always motivates him to let these little disappointments go because he likes to give himself a point for good sportsmanship (which I can type in as a goal).  There is a  good selection of behaviors already preloaded, but you can also type in specific ones to meet your needs. 

So what do the kids do with their points?  One of my groups is older and they know that their parents can check how many points they earned in speech (earning five points in a session means they had a good session).  If they get fifteen points as a group, I let them choose the game we play on game day.

For my other group, second graders, I reward them at the end of each group by letting them trade in their “speech points” for a variety of treats.  The autistic student I checked this program out for in the first place loves Starbursts so that is the first treat on the speech points sheet I have hanging on the board when they come.   Now he is really working hard to sit in my red rolling teacher chair.   It has made our speech sessions so much more manageable and pleasant!

Check out the site at:  There are parent letters you can send, info on how to give passwords for parents to see how their children are doing, and even free clipart to make cute charts.  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

SLP Humor: The Brain of a Speech Language Pathologist

Years ago, I created a "Brain of a Resource Teacher" for a friend of mine to remind her how awesome she was at her very demanding job.  I decided to tweak what I had done for SLPs to help us celebrate how talented, creative, and important we are!  Enjoy!

I Like to Move It, Move It

Today I was able to participate in an in-service for Phonics Dance, a program our first and second grade teachers use to help students learn to associate sounds with letters, and therefore become better readers and writers.

Being an SLP, and having assisted one of my grad school site supervisors in teaching the program Sounds In Motion to one of our kindergarten classes, I was very curious to see the difference between the two programs. 

Sounds in Motion was created by Frances Santore, a speech language pathologist, and we use it at my school for kindergarten students.  It, like Phonics Dance, uses movement to help students associate sounds with letters.  Sounds in Motion teaches body movements that are based on the following characteristics of each speech sound: pitch; duration; tension; place of the articulators in space; and intensity.  It is a 15 week program co-taught by the speech pathologist and classroom teacher, and it helps students learn whole-body listening, articulation, phonemic awareness, and letter/sound association.   I can say from experience that my students love the program because they learn to make movements with each sound (i.e. /p/ is opening and closing your hands up in a popping motion like popcorn popping while you say the /p/ phoneme).

Phonics Dance, however, does things a little differently.  It also has an introductory component to help students in kindergarten learn to associate sounds with the letters of the alphabet.  It is taught by pairing motions with chants (do a quick Youtube search for phonic dance and you will see a plethora of videos teachers have made of their classes doing the dance/chant).   Two sounds are taught each week (just like with Sounds in Motion).  We went through all of the chants and motions using a PowerPoint that can be shown to students on a SmartBoard (or posters are also available at the Phonics Dance site).  In first grade, students also begin to “hunk and chunk” letters that are paired together throughout the English language that when combined make a new sound (i.e. /sh/, /ch/, /th/, /eigh/).  Students learn the new sound these hunk and chunks make through the daily motion and chant, as well as through daily mini-worksheets where they learn to circle the hunk and chunk and underline word endings (i.e. –at, ash) and blends (fl, gr, etc.).  This process trains their brains to begin to chunk common sounds and improve reading and writing skills using the patterns in the words instead of trying to phonetically sound each individual letter sound in the word.  This program lasts all year, and once the sounds and hunk and chunks are taught, you go through the whole chant of every thing they have learned every day. 

So how do we as SLPs fit in to these classroom-based interventions? I like both programs, and I’m grateful my district uses these programs because these are great RTI interventions that can give those students who have one or two articulation errors an intervention to assist in learning their sounds.  Both have research to support their programs, and both are fun, movement based programs that lend themselves to co-teaching opportunities and collaboration with classroom teachers.  I am curious to see how my kindergarten students will do with learning Sounds in Motion and then switching to Phonics Dance in first and second grade as each program teaches different motions.  I will also say I was impressed with some of the Extension Lessons included with Phonics Dance because I can use them with my students who have goals for plurals, past tense verbs, and possessive nouns, as the activities relate these skills with the sounds made.  I look forward to using the motions students have learned in class as one more tool in my toolkit when my sweeties come for therapy. 

Have you used either of these programs?


Friday, September 27, 2013

Fall Speech Fun

I really love the fall (cooler weather, changing leaves, FOOTBALL), and it sure lends itself to themed based speech activities!  My favorite one involves using the book The Busy Tree. 
The book is good for anytime of year, but I really like to use it in the fall when I think of a tree being the "busiest".  Students love to debate if the fall is the busiest time or not (some are adamant it is the spring.  I love when they use their language to tell me why they feel that way).  Plus, it seems like the classroom teachers have already read all of the best fall classics by the time students come to me!  The author of the book has a fantastic COMMON CORE discussion guide  you can find here at her website:  This book is a great way to ask why questions, describe objects and animals, and compare and contrast.  It also pairs nicely with one of my students’ favorite games-  The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel. 
Add in a fall-themed worksheet from Super Duper Open-Ended Seasonal Worksheets, and we have a week of therapy done.  What do you use for a fall theme in speech?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Goodwill Hunting

In my first year as an SLP, I probably spent more money then I made.  My husband was very patient with this fact, but now that I have gotten a good arsenal of therapy supplies, I have been much more frugal with my own money.  Having read lots of posts about Goodwill finds, I decided this past spring to give it a try, and here are my results, as well as some tips for good bargain shopping at thrift stores.

My first attempt at thrift store shopping was a Salvation Army store at Litchfield Beach (near Pawley’s Island).  This store was more organized than most department stores.  It had separate rooms for clothing, furniture, household items, and designer clothing.  In the middle of the store was a rack with games, and I got two great ones. 
The first one was still sealed in the box:  Rush Hour, Junior. 

The second one was an older game called “Oh, Rats” where preschool and kindergarten students can spin to add pieces to build their puzzle containing cute pictures of active rats first. 

These were nice little finds in a decent selection of well-maintained games.  I have to guess that many people take games down with them, play them, and then donate them instead of lugging them back home.  I would suggest checking out stores like Goodwill and the Salvation Army when you are vacationing in nice, resort-like areas.

However, my experience with Salvation Armys, and Goodwill stores in general, has not been as fruitful since (with the exception of a Goodwill store near my house that is located near several upper-class neighborhoods).  If you have not seen the picture Jenna Rayburn from Speech Room News posted on Instagram from her local Goodwill, then let me say, I have never seen such a selection of games, and I am green with envy!  My local stores look nothing like the one in her picture.  Mine look more like a bomb has gone off and pieces and parts of games are available, but certainly not whole, intact resources.  I have been to five different Goodwills in two different states over a span of six months, and only the one by my house has ever had anything good, and then it was because I happened to hit it at just the right moment.

One Wednesday, following a tip from a Google Search of best days to hit thrift stores, I lucked in to five games-  all in working order with all the pieces included!  Here is what I got in one pop:   Whac-A-Mole, Aggravation, Piranha Attack, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, and HyperDash:
I paid eleven dollars for five games that would have cost me over eighty dollars if I ordered them from Amazon at that time!  

So is thrift shopping worth it?  I would say yes if you enjoy the hunt!  If you are like me, and get easily frustrated when you have in mind to accomplish a goal and that goal is at the mercy of good timing and good luck, then I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way.  With two active kids and a full-time job, I just don’t have extra time.  However, it is a fun thing to do in the summer when I have the luxury of time and much more patience.

My suggestions for how to be successful with thrift store shopping is to:

1)  Don’t expect to find anything.  You will be overjoyed if you do, and okay if you don’t because you didn’t have high expectations.

2)  Go to ones near affluent neighborhoods.  They seem to get more stuff that I would use in therapy.

3)  When on vacation, check out ones near resort areas that get items people do not want to lug back home.

4)  Go on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  There is heavy traffic on the weekends so items in the stores get picked over quickly.  Plus, more donations are made over the weekend and items get sorted and then stocked on shelves at the beginning of the week.

What goodies have you found in thrift stores?  What is your advice for savvy shoppers looking for great therapy materials?


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Important Book

The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown (author of Goodnight Moon) is a great book for teaching attributes and object description.  The book takes ordinary objects:  a spoon, daisy, rain, grass, snow, apple, wind, sky, shoe, and “you”/a person and describes in rich details how these things smell, feel, taste, look, are used, etc… 


Using this book, students can begin to look at using rich vocabulary to describe the color, shape, function, category, materials and parts of many different objects.  For example, the book states that the important thing about a spoon is “that you eat with it.  It’s like a little shovel (hello, compare and contrast activity), You put it in your hand, You can put it in your mouth, It isn’t flat, It’s hollow (tier 2 vocabulary), And it spoons things up.  But the important thing about a spoon is that you eat with it.”  The words flow in a poetic stanza, giving ideas of how one could describe such an ordinary object with lots of rich, detailed descriptors.  The pictures that are paired with each item are also fantastic!  Check out more of the text and illustrations at the Amazon link:

I like to pair this activity with the EET tool, and the Describe It app from Synapse apps.  It also works well with low-tech activities like picking other objects from the pictures in the book and doing it together with the student/group on the whiteboard:  clouds, hats, bird, tree, bee, and butterfly.  I like to write on the board “The important thing about a ________ is…” and then have the kids help me fill in the rest using attributes and object description.  Here is one we did today.  We looked at the picture of the cloud on the page about the sky, and here is what we came up with:

The students added the where category because they remembered it from the EET tool.  I had to look up what clouds are made of to make sure we were correct, but what a great way to pull in the internet and do a little research!  This can also be easily turned in to a worksheet that students can complete on their own while you work one-on-one with other students during a session.  The ideas for this book are limitless.  Have you used this book in your therapy sessions?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pinspiration- Hidden Words (Freebies)

What did we do before Pinterest???  I found a really creative idea from Adventures in First Grade that someone had pinned on Pinterest, and thought it would make a great independent activity for kids to complete while I work one-on-one with a student during group time (I'm already thinking about progress report time coming up soon, and boy is it nice to give the other kids something they can do while I collect data from a student).   This could also be a great station if you run speech centers in your therapy room. The original Hidden Words activity was at this site:

Here is my speech twist-  use the Hidden Artic Words sheet I have available below, and using a white crayon, write in words that have your students sound(s) in them.  The student then colors the words using markers and then rates how he/she did on the word using a thumbs up or thumbs down.  The sheet can then go home with the student for extra speech practice.  Or, older students can write words in the boxes for one another (might want to make sure they use a list so the words are spelled correctly).   Students could even record themselves as they say the words and listen to the recording before giving themselves a thumbs up or down.

I also made one for my kids who are working on using descriptive words/attributes:

Grab these sheets here for free: 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Vocabulary Linky Party

Vocabulary Favorites

I hate to sound like a broken record, but my favorite way to teach vocabulary, just like most everyone else, is through BOOKS!  Picture books, chapter books, books on the iPads, nonfiction books, etc.  The possibilities are endless, and the book Bringing Words To Life is my go-to resource for using lots of strategies to help students acquire more Teir 2 words in to their vocabulary (a shout-out here to Jenn Alcorn for recommending this book on her blog).

I also like to use Super Duper Vocabulary Chipper Chat for teaching analogies, synonyms, antonyms, multiple meaning, etc through drills.  The card decks that come with this set are frequently pulled out each day and used with lots of other "non-speech" games.

And my new favorite activity is from Speech Corner.  Pick Your Points is a game where you get to set up categories and levels of questions using removable magnets on a whiteboard.  Read more about the game here:


Students can answer questions about: 
  • Antonyms
  • Synonyms
  • Categories
  • Multiple Meanings
  • Idioms
    In addition, there are also categories for grammar and wh- questions as well, so it is an easy tool that can be used to address multiple types of language goals (and my artic kids love to use their good sounds to answer questions as well).
    What are you using in your speech room?


    Friday, September 20, 2013

    Magical Speech


    I don't know about you, but I love magic tricks, and a great way to get kids using their language is to have fun.  I found a great book at Barnes and Noble this spring (and Amazon has it, too) called "The Magic Rabbit" (, and decided that paired with some simple magic tricks, we could make speech magical!

    This book has it all-  beautiful black and white illustrations with a pop of yellow to highlight "magical" stars, an adorable rabbit, and great opportunities to ask your students cause and effect questions ("What caused the trick to go wrong?", "What caused the rabbit to get lost?", "What was the effect of the juggler crashing in to the magician?"), make inferences, and predict what will happen next in the story. 
    I get the kids in the mood for the story by first doing a quick magic trick that I relate to speech.  I use the Magic Coloring Book I found at a local magic shop, but Amazon has the same one listed here:
    Depending on where you flip through this book, students either see blank pages, pages with black and white drawings, or pages with full colored pictures.  I tell them that when they first work on a speech goal, they are often unsure of where to start (and I flip the book to show the blank pages).  As we work together, they begin to learn ways to accomplish the goal (I flip the book to show the black and white drawings), until they are able to do the goals well on their own (final flip shows them the colorful pictures).  They love the trick, and I promise them I will show them how to do it after we read the book and they practice their speech goals!  They are all ears when they hear that!
    After the book, I also share two more tricks.  Exploding Dice is super simple-  just Google that or "Dice Bomb" to find on-line.  Toy superstores and magic shops often have this in stock.
    A giant black dice when shaken turns in to eight small white dice.  I relate this to articulation:  You don't start out knowing how to make a sound.  You have to learn each step:  where do you put your tongue?  How tense is your tongue?  You work on the sound by itself, then in syllables, words, phrases, and so on.  There are lots of steps to accomplish the goal.  I even let them take turns making this trick happen (great speech practice-  especially if you have them use a magical word with their sound-  "Alakazam" and "Abracadabra", anyone?).
    The last trick is just a fun one using a product called "Slush Powder".
    Pour a little slush powder in a styrofoam cup before your kids come to speech.  Use another empty Styrofoam cup to show them the cup and then pour in water.  Take a pencil and poke holes in the cup and have your students predict what will happen when the cup is poked ("Water will pour out").  Then ask them if they think a little magical speech phrase can keep water from coming out (They always say YESSS!).  Take the cup with the slush powder and pour water in to it at your eye level where they see water go in but don't see it turn instantly to a solid.  Have them say their magic words, and then poke the cup.  Nothing spills out, and the kids get very excited.  I let them touch the solid after I tell them the secret and it is a great way to tie in a little science terminology as well about states of matter.  Win-Win!  :-)
    This activity is great for a beginning of the year activity.  I also like to use the magic-themed game board from Kristine Lamb's Magically Predicting set available at Teachers Pay Teachers.  You can even find magician hats at toy stores that kids could pull articulation cards from (or in to) to add more speech practice in to the session.  So many fun ways to make speech magical!

    Thursday, September 19, 2013

    This blog has been created to celebrate all things speech and language-related.  I don't know about you, but I love working with kids, and the best part of my job is the chats I have with my students.  Whether they have news to share when I pick them up for speech, or the news they share about their weekend, or the birthday party they are excited for that night, something about these informal talks always makes me happy.  I think it is the cheery nature of their sharing...our bonds grow stronger and the speech and language practice we get in these chats is so valuable!  So I hope you enjoy this site-  stop by often for ideas and inspiration, and hopefully  a lot of cheerful speech chatter!