Monday, June 23, 2014

Fireworks Everywhere! Printable book

Fireworks Arcade app
This is a repost from last year.  I have loved my "Fireworks Everywhere" book, and kids seem to like to too.  I pair it with a fireworks app (free) found HERE. Image from the app is to the right. It's a simple cause and effect app complete with shooting fireworks and sound effects.

After reading my book, check out the Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle.
 There are fireworks in that book too! 

-------------------------(blog entry from last year is below) --------------------

I'm been a little slow with blogging lately, but ESY started this week and so I'm back to making materials.  I'm finding most of my kids this summer need simple, so I made a simple book, which follows the pattern of my other books.  Pictures and links below. 

I print out these books, laminate, and use velcro so the kids can match the pictures.  There's also a sentence strip so kids that are able will read the sentence for each page.  

After the book reading, a fourth of July craft is appropriate.  Check the PediaStaff Pinterest board!  Oodles of activities!

Click here to download Fireworks Everywhere in Boardmaker.

Click here to download Fireworks Everywhere in pdf.
I've switched the pdf to Smarty Symbols for copyright purposes. I do pay for these symbols, so this link will take you to a modestly priced link. The Boardmaker link is free, but you do need the Boardmaker software.

Icons for matching


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Garlic Shrimp in Tomato Sauce --Easy Gluten Free Recipe

I've started watching Top Chef.  It's sort of like Survivor, only in the kitchen.  The food judges are amazing, and the dishes some of the contestants can whip up instantly are totally inspired.  Food and Wine magazine seems to be a major sponsor of this show, so I checked out their website and found a delicious gluten-free easy dish to try.

The recipe also called for black olives which I didn't have, but I put in a few extra capers.  The fresh rosemary was from our yard---David ran outside and grabbed a sprig.  He liked this dish a lot--it was just spicy enough. You can play around with the garlic and pepper flakes if you want more kick.  Some people serve this over pasta--I chose rice. 

Here's the original recipe with the link:

Obviously, they have a superb professional food photographer. This looks very rustic.

Here's the link.  It only takes 20 minutes to prepare once you peel the shrimp.

Happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there!!!!


Friday, June 13, 2014

ChatAble---A Wonderful Versatile App

I occasionally review apps--though not many.  I blog about the ones I find useful to me with my kids.  That's a small fractions of the apps out there.  So, when I write about a useful app for an iPad, I really mean what I say.  The best apps are versatile, high quality, and enable the children to grow their communication skills over time. 

Recently, the makers of ChatAble 1.2 offered to let me review their app.  Just to be up front about this---it was given free to me.  Often, when people ask me to review something, I decline, but after looking at the website, I thought this showed promise with my kidos, so here we are!

ChatAble is primarily an app for augmentative communication.  Here is a description from the company website, Therapy Box:

 "Create and use symbol based grids... or use photos to make visual scene displays. Or, take both and create a hybrid page! ChatAble is unique and will help to change people’s lives. Easy to set up, people of all ages and abilities can use ChatAble to communicate at home, school or with their friends! The possibilities are endless with ChatAble!"

 At $159.99, this is not an inexpensive app.  Why would you encourage your school, or your assistive technology team to make this purchase?  Here are a few reasons.

1. ChatAble turns an iPad into a dynamic display communication device.  There are thousands of symbols available at your fingertips, programming pages is easy, and multi-levels can be created. Features are listed here and I love how links to music, videos, and webpages can be integrated into the device
2. Not only is this an AAC app, there is also an ability to create visual scene displays with hotspots. Hybrid boards can be created with both icons or pictures for communication, and a scene.

example of hotspot in a scene on the right, with cells on the left.

3. This app is versatile.  The best apps can be used in many different ways.  Once I studied how to program pages, take pictures, setup a visual scene, and add hotspots, I was then able to think about my actual lesson plan for a speech/OT group.  The app then became a tool to teach commenting and labeling with sentences. Literacy instruction also was included.

Examples of use during a speech/OT group with the theme of friendship
Using my own creation, Friends book, I created a communication board in this app so the children could label each picture with a few words.  They enjoyed the voice output, and the teachers really liked how engaged they were. The goal was to use two nouns along with 'and' to match the pictures in the book.
Conjunction in blue, and the link in the lower right is to a visual scene I created.
Once we finished the book, I had each them chose a friend in the visual scene.  The 'hot spots' (blue boxes) activated short spoken sentences. 

A couple of the kids can actually type, so taking it a step further, the typing feature was then used.  I liked how symbols automatically appeared.

A couple of the kids can also write.  This was an interesting feature---write with your finger, and it's recognized! This may work with a stylus too.

Below is an introductory video from the developers.  Go to their website to find out more. There are multiple settings for countless features which can be tried.  I've only scratched the surface.  I'm grateful that I was given this and appreciate the opportunity to share my experience with all of you.

 The best apps and programs I've had allow me to mull over uses, expand my thinking, and get me excited about integrating technology into teaching.  ChatAble does all of this, and probably more.  I've only begun to explore the possibilities.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pre-K Spanish Phrases ---handy little cheat sheet

Two days left!   Wow, this year has gone by fast!

Of course, ESY (Extended School Year) begins next week, so no break for me.  My big vacation comes July 23rd when David and I head to Indonesia to see our wayward daughter. 

I have a quick free download for all of you.  My colleague worked with a graduate intern, Maggie Fitch, from UNC who put together a list of common words or phrases a teacher or SLP might need to tell a preschooler in Spanish. For easy use, there is also a guide to pronunciation!   For me, next year, this may need to be tattooed on my hands and arms for easy access.  I love graduate interns!!!!  They can be totally helpful!

partial screenshot

Click here to download the list! Share with teachers.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

You can make the difference in the life of a child!

Everyone needs help sometime.  I'm writing today on behalf of New Voices, a nonprofit whose mission is to improve educational opportunities for children with severe communication and mobility disabilities.

New Voices accomplishes this by helping school professionals--offering training, setting up a model assessment classroom, providing scholarships to teachers, and recognizing individuals who exemplify outstanding work with children with severe disabilities.  I recently reviewed a movie they were involved with--Certain Proof in which special challenges these children experience were clearly illustrated, sometimes in stark detail.  New Voices is a beacon of hope for the kids, parents, and professionals---the organization operates frugally with very little overhead costs but needs funding to continue to provide services and support to staff and children in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. 

Sandy McMillan, a co-founder and board chair has outlined the needs and written an eloquent appeal below.   After reading the letter, you may wish to make a donation here.

Dear Supporter,

     New Voices is making a difference because of YOU.  With your help, we are improving the lives of families of children who cannot speak and struggle to move.  Through our programs, we are changing the perceptions and expectations for these underestimated children by providing the specialized training needed for those working with them and recognizing excellence across the region. As one of our Lara Jane Parker winners said, we are “Changing the mindset….kids shouldn’t have to “earn” inclusion.” 

     Here are some specific examples of what we have accomplished over the past year:

  • Funded a model assessment classroom in a Durham elementary school. 
  • Provided scholarships to school professionals to attend trainings and conferences. 
  • Recognized nine school professionals for excellence at the Lara Jane Parker Award ceremonies. 
  • Participated in an assistive technology resource fair in Durham County.
  • Raised awareness through viewings of the documentary, Certain Proof, to future doctors from UNC Medical School and Orange County Public Schools staff. 
  • Participated in the Wake County Special Education Advisory Council.

I met a speech language pathologist at the Lara Jane Parker awards ceremony and we struck up a conversation about training opportunities.  She told me that there was a summer training being held in Michigan that she had been trying to attend for years.  Although it’s out-of-state, it would only cost the registration fee because she would combine it with her vacation and stay with family.  I wish all of you could have seen the look on her face when I told her that New Voices would pay the registration fee for her to attend provided she shared what she learned with her colleagues.  Thank you for enabling New Voices to help her learn the latest techniques for working with students who can’t tell you what they know. 

     At New Voices, we are passionate about what we do and want you to share our passion.  What we do, we do well, but there is so much more to do! 

     Please consider making a tax deductible gift to NewVoices.  There are so many kids waiting for their time to speak.  Let’s give them a voice. 


Sandy McMillan
New Voices Board Chair

 You can make a donation by clicking on this link 

or sending a check of any amount to:

New Voices Foundation
68 T.W.  Alexander Drive
PO Box 12343
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2343

 Thank you for making a difference in the lives of children.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Certain Proof: A Question of Worth (Changing the mindset---Kids shouldn't have to 'earn' inclusion)

Over the weekend, I watched a wonderful movie, Certain Proof: A Question of Worth.
I watched it, cried, and then watched it again the next day. This was an awesome experience--the best movies are those that make you dwell on lines, scenes, people the next days and weeks.  This was one!

Rather than writing up my own synopsis, I found one online from IMDb:   

 "Certain Proof: A Question of Worth" is a feature documentary about three children living with significant communication and physical disabilities, who struggle against the public schools in an emotional battle to prove their worth.
     Over the course of two and a half years, "Certain Proof" follows the lives of Josh, Colin and Kay, three children with cerebral palsy. Despite multiple disabilities, they fight to prove that they are able to learn and deserve to be taught. Colin finds "No Child Left Behind" has exceptions; Kay combats harsh stereotypes inside middle school; and Josh faces continual doubt that he can learn at all. They and their families dare to hope in a striking testament to the complexity of the human spirit." 

The purpose of this blog entry is to encourage any of you who work with children with severe physical disabilities to purchase or rent this movie and watch it.  Unfortunately, it's not available on Netflix, but I bought it through iTunes.

   The movie is about hope and determination--on the part of the kids and parents.  Watching this forced me to see life through their eyes--and then think about what I need to change in myself (my thoughts, expectations, practice) when working with children with significant communication difficulties.

Here are links to purchase:

From the Certain Proof website 

From iTunes (this is what I did)
     You can rent or buy

One of the stars, Kay, offers poignant insights about her thoughts, dreams, and life as a teen with a disability.  

Another child, Josh, visits Karen Erikson and through her motivating toys, books, manner, and fun shows his mom that he possesses wit, charm, and a desire to communicate that is hidden from his teachers at school

The movie has clips such as this---in the adult's desire for success, hand-over-hand activities.  The question becomes who is actually communicating here?

 Which picture works for you?
The one on the right of Kay and her friends in class?

or the one below in a more restricted setting?.

I loved this movie---it helped me view life both from the eyes of the parents, and from a child's perspective (especially Kay who was more articulate than the other two children).

  I also loved it from the point of view of a speech pathologist---I constantly asked myself how I could make the children's communication systems more effective.  Auditory scanning? Word prediction? Eye gaze?  These all crossed my mind. It's hard to second guess the professionals here in the movie, but there were examples of different systems to watch, and then ponder.

So if you love your job like I do, head over to iTunes or the Certain Proof website and make a purchase. You won't be disappointed.