Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Building Your Students' Vocabulary {Part 2 in a Series}

To be completely transparent, for more than half of my career, I was torn about exactly how to attack vocabulary- about providing instruction that would actually have an impact past my therapy room. I confess... I used many of the questionable methods that I discussed in Part 1 of this series. I often taught words in the moment; I taught strategies for context clues and words related to a book or theme. I felt confident about teaching Tier 1 words with my little ones, but academic vocabulary was a challenge for both me and my students.  

The fact of the matter was that even though I was in my students' classrooms twice a week, I knew it wasn't enough to make a substantial difference on something as big and all encompassing as vocabulary.  One thing I knew for sure was this...

This was especially true with regard to my 4th and 5th graders who were struggling with the rigor of the curriculum. I know, I know... our schedules shouldn't dictate services, but haven't we all been there? We can only cram so much into a work week.  

I became determined- bordering on obsessed - with the fact that I had to increase their vocabulary and I knew enough to know that they needed to use their new words daily. Their vocabulary deficits were making every single passage they had to read (and comprehend) seem like an impossible feat. Their vocabulary, or lack thereof, and subsequent inability to comprehend sooooo many words in text, was becoming their downfall in every.  single.  subject.   

How would I improve their vocabularies (and thus their background knowledge and comprehension skills) if I wasn't with them to make it happen? Besides, they had plenty of IEP goals that had nothing to do with vocabulary.  

I decided to post a Word of the Week outside of my therapy room door. My room was situated such that every student passed it several times a day- to go to the cafeteria, to go to P.E., to go to and from the busses and so on. 

I posted the word of the week with the definition and a funny sentence related to our school (that would make it stick in their memory for sure!).  It was soon clear that no one read my little word of the week. It was a massive failure; it was equivalent to expecting students to learn words by osmosis. I went back to the proverbial drawing board. 

I knew the key was to get kids using the word of the week - not just reading it or defining it. That was a tall order since, although I think words are fascinating and learning new words is exciting, my students certainly did not. For them, learning a new word... reading...anything language related....was about as exciting to them as watching grass grow. For some it was downright torture. Many were victims of the word poverty I described in Part 1. 

I moved my word of the week into my inclusion classes.  I sold my ELA co-teachers on it - mostly by promising them that I would do all the work and all they had to do was play along.  For a year I implemented word of the week in two 4th grade ELA classes. On Mondays, I introduced our new word to the classes; I choose them from the novels we were reading (admittedly a complete shot in the dark).  I knew I wanted it to be a challenging word but one that they could actually use at school. I posted the word in the classroom, and we discussed the word ad nauseam

Here is one of our words of the week- flexible.  I posted just the word with the part of speech and a very kid-friendly definition. 

We said it.
We guessed what it meant. 
We told what we knew about that word. 
We discussed the meaning. 
We made sentences with it. 
We acted it out. 
When possible, we looked at it, listened to it, touched it, smelled it and/or tasted it. 
We talked about mental flexibility and physical flexibility

We looked at bunches of pictures that I prepared ahead of time- some that were related to "flexible" as well as some non-examples.  

I put them in small groups and had them decide which pictures would be glued to the word of the week- based on whether or not they thought it represented "flexible." 

That particular week I was an overachiever and had cooked frozen French fries the night before. Half of the fries were cooked until hard and crispy while the others were slightly undercooked (soggy fries- my personal favorite). Each student got a fry and got to touch, smell and even taste it if they wished. 
They decided if it was flexible (able to bend easily without breaking) or not. 

I invited students to demonstrate to the class how flexible they were. 
The teacher and I demonstrated how inflexible we were. 
Finally the class decided who was the most flexible. 

We really chewed on the word. 

At the end of the lesson, we ended up with this...


and this was how they would record who used the word...

 Feel free to download this document HERE.  

I explained that the goal was to use it as much as possible (either in discussion or writing) all week long. When they did, they got to write their name on this designated sheet of paper (the teacher had to approve it first). Believe me, most weeks they used it incorrectly much more than they used it correctly. 

At the end of the week, the student whose name was written the most times won a prize from my prize box. I know that many educators don't believe in rewards like this, but I do. I believe in the power of positive reinforcement. Like I mentioned before, trying to use a new word would not be easy nor tempting to my students; they needed a little incentive. I quickly saw that my students with language deficits were not the ones getting their names on the sheet (no surprise there).  To up the ante, I took them aside and asked each child what he or she would like to see in my prize box.  Hot Fries and Dr. Pepper were the most requested so I made a point to have those ready just in case they won the competition. It worked, and more of my students started to win. In fact, they became obsessed with winning! They knew there was good stuff in my stash! If this sounds familiar it's because this later evolved into Idiom of the Week which used the same premise and I blogged about it HERE. 

Remember, I introduced flexible on Monday. The challenge that week was to use it (verbally or in writing) as many times as possible.  Again, I wouldn't be in class again for a few days so it was up to the teacher to decide when students "got credit" for correct use.  

I would go back to class on Thursday to focus on novel study or ELA skill and then pop on on Friday to give the winner their prize. 

Sometimes I chose multiple meaning words; tart is one I remember vividly. It was the perfect opportunity for a multi-sensory learning experience. 

Looking back, I think the kids could have handled more than one word of the week, but I'm not sure the teachers could have. It did take some policing to monitor who was writing their name down and to keep the cheaters at bay.  All I knew was that I was doing this on a wing and a prayer and it WAS getting kids to use new words and use them often. They were using the words even when I wasn't there to pester and prod them! 

My vocabulary instruction wasn't perfect, but come to find out, it wasn't half bad because it was very much in line with Robert Marzano (teacher/genius) and his methods for teaching new words. We all learned about Marzano in college, but it wasn't until many years after grad school that I went back to look at his teachings and this method in particular...

His 6 steps make up a research based strategy for teaching vocabulary (Marzano, 2004). It involves the following: 
1.  Provide a description, explanation or example of the new term. 
2.  Ask students to restate the description, explanation or example in their own words.
3.  Ask students to construct a picture, pictograph or symbolic representation of the term.
4.  Engage students periodically in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the term in their vocabulary notebooks, such as games that enable them to play with terms.         

You'll find some examples of how to do these steps in the handout at THIS LINK

Check out this beautiful example of Marzano's strategies at work in a classroom.  You'll notice that the teacher has chosen a Tier 2 word...

His students said the word, spoke about the word (both to the teacher and peers), drew a picture and played a game that incorporated movement.  He even included some American Sign Language in the instruction!  He teaches 1-2 words per week and puts them on a word wall. I love that he said they "spent some quality time" with the word.  I just love this video.  I would almost declare this guy an honorary SLP!

  • It works at every grade level from K through high school.
  • When used in 24 classrooms - with one group using it and one not- the groups using it showed an average effect of 24 percentile points. That's amazing!!
  • It works best when the students using a description from their own lives- not when the teacher tells them one or they copy someone’s.
  • Drawing the picture may be the most crucial part of the process but no parts should be skipped. Achievement was less when parts of the process were skipped.
  • Games proved to be an important part and played a powerful part for recall.

In short, if you commit to Marzano's tried and true strategy, there's no picking and choosing; it's important that all parts are carried out. Many of my fellow SLPs in our district are "anti-games." If you are familiar with me and my products, you'll know I am PRO-game, and now I feel like I am in good company with Marzano. Games create moments of fun that are somewhat rare in school - now more than ever - and those associations made during games stick with kids. Not to mention it's instant and natural positive reinforcement for correct answers.

Recently while eating dinner at a local seafood restaurant, a server came to my table and gave me a hug. I had her in therapy from about first through third grade. She was the only student to whom I ever had to teach the /ʒ/sound (among other sounds). She's a brilliant girl in college now - on her way to be an engineer- and she told me that some of her best childhood memories included playing games with me in therapy. She said it made learning fun and she always asked Santa for the games we played. In fact, she said she still had a few.  Games make an impression- they make a moment and a memory. 

Marzano's 6 Steps to Better Vocabulary Instruction is just one of the strategies I have to share with you for teaching vocabulary.  I'll pick up next time with 2 more that you can easily add to your language arsenal.  

If you haven't yet grabbed my Tier 2 vocabulary lists, lead back to Part 1 in this series, grab the freebie, and check out all of the lists. 

I hope all of you who celebrated Easter had a blessed one :) 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Building Your Students' Vocabulary {Part 1 in a Series}

With vocabulary now identified as "an area of weakness" across my school district this year (based on standardized testing), I've been delving deeper into how we as SLPs and educators in general can improve our students' vocabulary.  It was past time I learned more about this gigantic piece of language that is so critical to literacy. Now that I have, I've been providing professional development to SLPs and special education staff throughout our parish. Why not blog about it, too? This is the first installment of a series about how we can build our students' vocabulary (and why we must!) I hope you find it informative. 

As speech-language pathologists, here are some things we know for certain about vocabulary...
  • There is a strong connection between a student’s vocabulary and his or her reading ability. The same is true for a student’s ability to listen, speak, and write.
  • Each person actually has 4 vocabularies, one each for reading, listening, speaking, and writing (listed here from largest to smallest in typical learners)
  • There is much overlap within the 4 vocabularies but students will always be able to recognize more words than they can produce. (Judy K. Montgomery, 2007)

This is knowledge we know and possibly take for granted. Did you ever notice that not everyone in education knows this?  I find myself explaining this time and again across my district. In these current times of, "Let's give him an accommodation for that," I find myself explaining that when a child cannot listen and comprehend, reading and comprehending will be equally or more difficult.  In fact, vocabulary experts agree that adequate reading comprehension depends on a person already knowing between 90 and 95 percent of the words in a text (Hirsch, 2003). Therefore, to fix the root of reading comprehension issue, we must address vocabulary. As a side note, we must not just provide accommodations for it. Accommodations are, in my opinion, often just a band-aid we stick on a problem when we should, in fact, be getting down and dirty fixing the root of problem. 

Likewise, when a child cannot express himself orally, formulating written language will be a humongous challenge (in 99% of cases with some rare exceptions).  Language is the prerequisite for understanding all subjects (ELA, math, science, social studies) and for expressing and showing one's knowledge of the subject matter.  While we all know that Common Core has those ever crucial Listening and Speaking Standards, (bravo to whomever wrote those and muscled them into CCSS), I find myself frustrated - on the verge of infuriated - that those seem to be there as a suggestion while the reading and math standards reign as king. 

Schools seem to have tunnel vision with their eyes focused only on the old classics: reading, writing and arithmetic.  Language - even in preschool and kinder - seems to be something schools expect children to arrive with so that they can get on with the business of reading and writing.  Thank goodness WE are there in the trenches in those schools ready and even expecting children to arrive without it, and we are there to deliver the message that some children to arrive without the language they need for school (or for life). In my mind, it's also our job to educate others (admin, teachers, paraprofessionals, pupil appraisal personnel) that these students are also at risk for literacy/academic, and social problems because language is tightly intertwined with everything else they'll be expected to learn and do. 

I hear this all the time, "he/she has no background knowledge." That is because he/she arrived on campus already behind the eight ball - likely due to a lack of vocabulary.  Here is some food for thought:

  • There is much overlap within the 4 vocabularies mentioned above but students will always be able to recognize more words than they can produce.
  • Students’ word knowledge is linked strongly to academic success because students who have large vocabularies can understand new ideas and concepts more quickly than students with limited vocabularies.
  • All students arrive at school with a lexicon. That lexicon is dependent on how many words he/she has heard in the home environment.
  • Children from middle class families hear about 48,000 novel words by the time they get to school. Children of professionals hear even more. 
  • Children of poverty hear about 13,000 novel words.  (If you want to read on this topic, check out the 30 million word gap by Betty Hart and Todd Risley
  • Children inherit their vocabularies from their parents so educational status of the parents plays a huge part in a child's vocabulary. Hart and Risley explain in the article mentioned above that eighty-six to 98% of words recorded in a child's vocabulary also exist in their parents' vocabulary.

THIS GAP IS WORD POVERTY, and this deficiency in vocabulary due to lack of exposure trickles down to reading and writing. This is where the lack of background knowledge stems from. 

Interesting facts:
1) Research shows that IQ is directly related to the number of words a child hears between birth and age 4.

2) In first-grade, high-performing students know about twice as many words as low-performing students, but that differential gets magnified each year, resulting in high-performing 12th grade students knowing about four times as many words as the low performing 12th graders (Hart & Risley, 1995).

Considering how far reaching and important vocabulary is, isn't it a little puzzling that there is so little class time devoted to vocabulary instruction?

I'll be very honest, while I certainly model new vocabulary in every single session of language therapy and use language therapy to "frontload" essential vocabulary students need to participate in novel studies or themed units,  I've never written an IEP goal centered around vocabulary.  I dabble in vocabulary and taught it as part of themed lessons, but I've never really tackled it head on or made it my main focus. Why?  It's just so big.  It's just too big of a bite to swallow. It seems endless, and that overwhelms me. Where do I even start? What words do I even choose? 

Let's talk about the most common ways educators teach vocabulary- at least based on what I've observed in my 22 years in the school system and a few I've tried myself...

  • Dictionary Use (define words) 
  • Teaching strategies for contextual clues (I actually love doing this at students' reading level and scaffolding up from there)
  • Teaching prefixes and suffixes
  • Teaching antonyms, synonyms, categorization
  • Teaching vocabulary related to a book, theme, etc.
  • Reading to or with students and discussing unknown words
  • Teachable moments (when students stumble up on a words they don't know)

DID YOU KNOW... most of these don't actually work (especially in isolation)?

  • Dictionary use doesn't work. Why? Because students need multiple exposures to words in multiple contexts before they can understand, remember and apply new words. (Nagy, 2005) Plus, this task is impossible for nonreaders. 
  • The odds of accurately predicting a word’s meaning from context clues is very low—ranging from 5 to 15% for both native English speakers and students who are English language learners (Beck et al., 2002) The exceptions are very skilled readers in high school.
  • Robert Marzano (vocab guru extraordinaire) explains that learning prefixes and suffixes can be helpful but the traditional way of giving students long lists of suffixes and prefixes is overwhelming and nonproductive; if this strategy is used, he recommends focusing on a handful of high frequency prefixes (un-, re-, in- and dis-).
  • Adams (1990) explains that teaching word parts (prefixes, suffixes) is worthwhile with older readers but teaching beginning or less skilled readers about them may be a mistake.
  • Struggling readers and students with language and learning disabilities in particular are often lacking in word analysis skills and the meta cognitive skills needed to apply strategies that involve recognizing and applying prefixes, suffixes, antonyms and synonyms to glean a word's meaning. (Joan Sedita, 2005) 
  • While teaching thematic vocabulary as well as reading to students and discussing unknown words are great ways to expose students to new words, direct vocabulary instruction should accompany those methods because exposure in multiple contexts is needed to truly move new words from a students' listening lexicon to their speaking and writing lexicon. 
So what about my dilemma of choosing which words to teach? Surely I'm not the only one who struggles with that. Well, researchers agree that vocabulary instruction should include Tier 2 words to get the most impact on speaking and writing across all settings (and across the curriculum).
I like to compare the tiers of vocabulary to a tiered cake...just because...
well, cake makes everything lovely and everyone happy.

So with our new talkers, of course we have to teach tier 1 words. Tier 1 includes foundational language and common, basic words. Tier 1 words are mostly concrete and rarely have multiple meanings. Most children learn these words easily. Tier 3 (the little top tier) are low frequency words that are very specific to a subject. These include all that pesky math vocabulary I detested in school. Since I'm now an SLP, those yucky math tier 3 words are irrelevant to me because I have very little need for math (except figuring out sale prices); they are low frequency in my life. While teaching Tier 3 words are worthwhile in a class such as science or civics, it's the Tier 2 words that are most useful to students. Tier 2 words are academic words that students will see throughout their schooling all across content areas.

Tier 2 words are:
  • words students will encounter in all subjects, on tests, and in rich conversations words that important for comprehension
  • words that may have multiple meanings
  • words that help students sound like mature language users when writing and speaking
After reading countless Tier 2 words lists that are all vastly different, I developed a list for the SLPs in my district to refer to. Basically, I included the words most widely accepted as crucial Tier 2 words, removed a bunch that I thought were ridiculous, and arranged them according to grade level (from prek through 12th grade).

You can download the Tier 2 vocabulary lists for 2nd and 3rd grades HERE and find all of the lists for K through 12th grade HERE

Please check back for my next blog post that will pick up exactly where I left off today.
Until then I'll leave you with this...

“Vocabulary is the glue that holds stories, ideas and content together… making comprehension accessible for children.” (Rupley, Logan & Nichols, 1998/99).

Sunday, March 26, 2017

It's Spring ~ Fresh Ideas for Speech Therapy

I waited and waited for winter, and it came and visited for 2 days then left us with just months of BLAH. This week, however, it is certainly clear that SPRING has sprung!

The day lillies are flourishing, and our roses are in full force! 

My hubby has been working away in the gardens. I don't really touch dirt, but I do cheer for him from my reading chair.  Even the Black-Eyed Susans are raring to do (a little early this year). 

I'm throwing this next pic in just for the purposes of joy. 
New Orleans shutters and porches just make me happy.  I love Spring! 
It's one of the few times in South Louisiana that we don't sweat buckets everyday. 

Everywhere I went this week, Spring was looking right at me. 
Hello, cookies, you're beautiful but bad for me. 

Check out this adorable bulletin board I spied at a school this week. 

Yes, we are still in school; we haven't even had our Spring Break yet.  Have you? 
RIGHT NOW is - hands down - the busiest time of year for SLPs - at least in our district. 
This is how my fellow SLPs and I are feeling....

No, I'm not even exaggerating a little bit. :( 

To get you through Spring, the Frenzied SLPs are here to offer some fresh ideas for therapy...

There are so many spring themed books, that it's not hard to find some that are stories perfect for Spring. I always like to bring in props for my little ones to manipulate when using storybooks. I scored these Eric Carle goodies years ago when they were offered in Happy Meals, but any bug toy or plush will do the trick. Check out my favorite springtime book and activities HERE

Feeding the caterpillar both articulation cards AND basic concepts are both a staple (and a crowd pleaser) in my therapy. 

^^^^Somehow they never bore of it ^^^^

Another staple is Roll and Cover (for articulation drill!), 

and I use these springtime foam beads for so many things- lacing making necklaces, roll and cover, and for hiding items in (like for my Spring quick drill game below). You get 1,000 of these little boogers for just a few bucks at Oriental Trading. 

If you don't have anything to hide the cards in, that's totally fine. Kids like quick drill even just facedown on a table.  It's strangely addictive, and they love seeing which cards they will pick. 

One of my go-to games for spring therapy is Jumping Jack! Think "pop up pirate" except with a bunny! It's super reinforcing for any skill, because after they've performed a skill just the way I like, they get to pull a carrot from Jack's bunny hill. With my little ones - whoever makes Jack jump wins the game. With my older ones, you lose if you make Jack jump (yes, I get to make the rules :). 

I also use it with this little dollar store bunny tower game I picked up years ago for a buck... (I still see it every year at Target or Walmart so keep your eyes peeled). 

Kids can dot/daub or color the carrots after saying the target X times. This awesome packet has language targets, too, but I happened to use it with the articulation ones yesterday. It's my new favorite, and it was a hit with one little client in particular.  I'll be using it with my little ones well through Easter - and probably pull it out anytime I'm in a time crunch. 

Something else I whip out in a time crunch is a good old cut and paste activity.  For groups, it gives everyone something to do while waiting their turn to drill.  Best of all? These Spring cut, color and paste pages require absolutely no prep - Just print & use (for the days you are feeling frenzied). 

Another favorite game of mine is Hoppy Floppy's Happy Hunt Game by Educational Insights. I bought this for my preschoolers, but even the big kids love it. Be the first to collect the colored carrots you need for your basket to win the game (or the MOST carrots- again I make the rules)! Like most games by this company, there is also a fine motor component, but if it's too hard for my kids, I just let them grab the carrots with their fingers.  

As you can see, sometimes kids need TWO baskets which is fine with me because the game lasts longer!

When I only have one client, I get to play against them :) 

It's under 10 bucks at Amazon and, nope, I don't get paid to hustle it; I just love it. 

Of course, speech homework is a must. I use these (and more) pages from my Spring Fun Pack

For me, artic dot art is also a must to get ton of repetitions in with zero moaning and groaning. 
It makes for great homework, too.  Win-win.  

It's also just a great follow up activity after reading that classic caterpillar story.  

Speaking of dot art, if you're into craftivities, this one is another great follow up activity to the Very Hungry Caterpillar... Coffee Filter Butterflies! I have my students paint the coffee filters with dot paint/bingo daubers (like the one pictures above) to minimize the mess.  I purchased the butterfly bodies years ago at a craft store, but a colored or painted clothespin does the trick, too. Then we use pipe cleaners to make the antennas.  Super cute, huh? 

Lately, I've been using the heck out of my new interactive book for Spring
It's hands-on and lots of fun. Sure, it takes a little time to make, but now I'll be able to use it forever... 

...with both verbal and non-verbals kids. 

The velcro and visual answer choices make it easier for kids with autism to respond and the hands-on factor keeps all my "babies" engaged. They even ask to do it again and again. For the older students who can read but need practice answer questions, I use the question cards that are more removed from the book and the questions are posed after the whole book has been read.  

I just love little hands engaging with a book. 

Today I'm trying out Spring Cariboo with a little guy for the first time (before it hits my TpT store tonight or tomorrow). Do you have Cariboo?? Honestly, you can use this with or without Cariboo, but it's definitely more fun with the Cariboo game.  

I hope this post inspires you to get your Spring themed therapy on :)  
Check out all of the Frenzied SLPs posts below to get even more fresh ideas.  
Happy Spring to you! 
Please feel free to link up with us and share what YOU are doing in your speech room these days!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Therapy is Always Magical!

Call me crazy, but Christmas is not my favorite holiday. It always makes for great family memories but also comes with lots of pressure and chaos.  I love holidays that are just ALL about fun- easy, breezy fun times.  That's why I always look forward to Halloween, Mardi Gras, Cinco de Mayo, and St. Patrick's Day! It's fun being a school SLP for St. Patrick's Day.  All the kids try to wear something green (without violating the dress code) and worry about getting pinched. I stayed equipped with green stickers to ward off meanie pinchers. With my after school clients, it's just as fun.
 I LOVE St. Patrick's Day therapy! 
I It's weird and wacky and kind of pointless, and I can't get enough of it. I start on March 1 and don't stop the "leprechaun magic" (and everything GREEN and rainbows) until March 17. 

Since I was lucky enough to be given a Cariboo game (thanks to a parent of a former student with autism), we definitely get our Cariboo on!! This year, we actually played outside in the yard because Spring seems to have come early! 

This little guy happens to need to work on wh- questions (so many of our kids do!) Isn't is just CRAZY how motivating this game is?  Just to get the treasure chest to slowly open (and they they want to do it all over again which is FINE with me!) 
See this game HERE. 

Of course, dot art is a staple in my articulation therapy, and who doesn't love rainbows? So we have definitely been going some St. Patty's dot art. 

I love dot art (for any skills but mostly artic) because you can sneak tons of practice in and the kids just think they're painting. *win-win.

I love it even more because you can send it home for "speech homework" and kids get even more practice that way (if their parents are on board). 

See all those little pictures? That means kids don't need to be able to read to know what word to practice. I use this the most with non-readers - especially preschoolers. Getting to "dot" a word after saying it (once, twice, three times) is immediately rewarding. 

Of course, it also dresses up the therapy room with St. Patty's masterpieces, too, which is always a plus. You can find this dot art HERE. It's absolutely no prep- just print and use- and has a page for all of these phonemes.../p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/, /f/, /v/, /h/, /j/, /w/, /m/, /n/, "sh," "ch," " j," /l/, /l/ blends, /s/, /z/, /s/ blends, /r/, vocalic r, variations of vocalic r, and /r/ blends 

I probably sound like a broken record always blabbing about quick drill, too, but it's a MUST for also getting tons of artic repetitions in therapy! If you've used these, you know exactly what I mean. 

If you haven't you should try it! They're the simplest low prep games that kids BEG for - which is crazy because they're super simple - because they're sort of addictive. 

I like putting the quick drill cards in a themed "container" sometimes just to shake things up. This little treasure chest full of gold coins was just perfect. If you want to check out quick drill, there are tons right HERE and this one is called Lucky Dog.

Of course, we all have students or clients working on listening and/or following directions. To keep their little hands busy (to fool them into thinking they're not working), I like to use "color" or "cut" while working on this skill.  Here is a "listen and color" activity.

Of course, before practicing a skill, we should always "teach" it (or a strategy) first. Practicing without teaching is just constant assessment and we don't want to fall into that trap. 
I really like visuals to teach strategies for skills I target with my little guys. 

Now I've blogged about this DIY game before BUT I have to mention it again, because it's a student favorite as well as one of my favorites for so many skills. If you follow the link to that blog post (the highlighted words, there's a freebie you can grab). 

I call it "Make a Rainbow" game, and it is great for assessing articulation carryover, perfect for basic reading comprehension, super for problem solving/reasoning, and just surprisingly challenging for all kids. The object of the game is to collect sticks that form the colors of a rainbow - which is why I love it for March but I use it year 'round. It's definitely worth the time and effort to put it together with a little paint and craft sticks.

You can grab the {free} cards in my store HERE

Another "staple" for articulation therapy (or any skill drill really) is roll and cover. We use the ever-popular magnetic tokens which kids love to clean up with a magic wand after. These are just one page in a big pack of speech and language activities for St. Patrick's Day

Here's another from that packet that is a "go-to" to send home for articulation homework around St. Patty's Day! 

Sooooo I am addicted to the foam beads that you can buy in bulk for every holiday and season (I happen to buy mine from Oriental Trading). Making a necklace out of these is always a BIG hit for each season. I attach yarn to a large plastic "needle." After little ones practice a skill or perform a task (or 2 or 3)  that I need them to do, they get to pick a foam beads to thread. It's simple and they love it. They can have as many beads as they earn (a cheap bag of these has around 1,000 beads so I let them have at it!!) Isn't this cute? They're a hit with the kids and the moms. 

I also love these St. Patrick sticker scenes from Oriental Trading. I use sticker scenes of all themes for my littlest ones. Again, they're great for busy hands and putting a sticker is immediately positive reinforcement of whatever skill we are working on. 

I can't forget the big kids. I LOVE doing language therapy with kids in 3rd-5th grades. Therapists at a primary school recently asked me to come help them with that population. Instead of going to advise, I asked to model therapy with a group of very unmotivated 4th graders. I knew I had to bring this packet of passages. 

The students started off with a "bad attitude;" one guy kept his head on the table. I just carried on and ignored that.  A couple of girls in the group got interested. Within 5 minutes even the two disconnected tough guys were fully engaged. I SWEAR.  NO KIDDING. 

When the session was over, they 2 SLPs were amazed. I explained to them that it WAS NOT ME. 
It was the content that pulled them in.  Our language kids HATE TO READ.  First, I did not make them read. I only had them listen and speak. Listening comprehension and speaking are the pre-requisites to reading comprehension and writing. When we build listening comp and speaking, we are building reading comp and writing, too. Secondly, I brought weird stuff for them to read.  
I firmly believe that if we have intriguing - and slightly wacky- content for reading and discussion, we reel these kids in.  Have you seen what they read in class?  It's often a snooze-fest. 

The secret is irresistible content. I swear by it. Engaged, interested students can learn.
These passages includes questions of all types including those that target inferencing, using evidence from the text to support answers, using context clues, comparing and contrasting, telling main idea, etc. The packet includes art and writing activities, too.
After reading each passage I reall like watching videos pertaining them when I can find them. That also helps boost engagement and spurs discussion.  
Find lots of high-interest, non-fiction reading HERE...

and this (strange but fun) packet of non-fiction passages all about lucky charms HERE

Lastly, I love love love a good open-ended game. Why? 
They're perfect for any skill and are life-savers for mixed groups.

This new addition to my St. Patty's therapy is an open-ended game called St. Patty's Cakes

Each child gets a card of the cupcakes he needs to throw his/her St. Patrick's Day party and has to pick cupcakes cards to find the one he/she needs. Like in all of my open ended games, there are wild cards that shake up the game!  The first person to collect all 5 cupcakes (or the most cupcakes if you run out of time) WINS! 

Friendly competition just makes this more fun and motivating, and of course, everyone loves cupcakes. This is what I'll be using this coming week! 

I hope you're walking away with some fun ideas for therapy during the month of March! 
If you want more you can read about more St. Patty's therapy HERE AND HERE (this one has a freebie!)

Thanks for stopping by and Happy St. Patrick's Day. Don't forget to wear your green! 

Jasper Roberts Consulting - Widget