Sunday, January 29, 2012

Creature Riddle Book to download

 I like to use simple "What am I?" games and books with the kids.  It's an early type of inference question, and my kids really like it.  I have a few kids who can read words, and have no comprehension skills, so this is a nice way to teach them to look at each clue, put the clues together and you have the answer.  If a child needs help, you can create a simple visual answer word bank of the choices. I made an creature riddle book last spring and used it successfully,   I added a couple of pages for the students to draw their own animal, and then write or dictate their own riddle. I would have called this an 'animal riddle book', except I had a spider in it (I'm not sure is a spider is actually an animal---so this became a creature riddle collection!)  I don't want to confuse the kids!
Kids ultimately draw their own animal and write/dictate a riddle.

screenshot of the entire book--11 pages

Hope you enjoy it! I also have an animal riddle bingo game to upload and share in a future post.
 Link to Creature Riddle Book in Boardmaker

Link to Creature Riddle book in pdf


Friday, January 27, 2012

Air Display---Turn your iPad into a mini-smartboard (and more!)

Right: Laptop Smartboard software     Left: iPad receiving same program from laptop through Wifi

  • For all of you out there who do not have a Smartboard in your room (like me)....
  • For all of you out there who would like children to have touch screen access to a children's computer program but don't have a touch screen......
  • For all of you out there who would like a child to use interactive Smartboard software without disrupting a whole class......

One app that might help is Air Display!  You need to have Wifi, an iPad, and a laptop.  Once you install the app, your iPad display screen turns into your laptop display.   You can then control your laptop with the iPad through its touch window.  No need for a mouse!   In this example, I launched Notebook (Smartboard) and turned my iPad into a Smartboard.   (I had difficulty taking pictures of the kids using this----it was too difficult to manage the computer and iPad, and take a picture or video at the same time!  For now, a video of me doing this at home will have to suffice.)  I think this app is unbelievable!

In a day or so, I'll publish a tutorial for loading this app on your iPad, and loading the software on your laptop.   You might also need to change the display settings, and have to make sure Wifi is running correctly on both.  It took me a day or so to do this---more complicated than the usual app, but worth the time. 

The app is $9.99---a little expensive for an app, but when you think a Smartboard is several thousand dollars, this seems cheap.  You can find Air Display here!

Have a nice Friday night!

Here's a movie recommendation, by the way.  A bit off topic:

   Refrigerator Mothers (this is the link to watching it online, free)
Snag films write: "It is America of the 1950s and 1960s, when a woman's most important contribution to society is generally considered to be her ability to raise happy, well-adjusted children. But for the mother whose child is diagnosed with autism, her life's purpose will soon become a twisted nightmare. Looking for help and support, she encounters instead a medical establishment that pins the blame for her child's bizarre behaviors on her supposedly frigid and detached mothering. Along with a heartbreaking label for her child, she receives a devastating label of her own. She is a "refrigerator mother"."

screenshot from Snag Films---check it out!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Danger of Becoming Desensitized on the Job

Kids come and go

I work in a school setting--a great school setting with small caseloads, cute kids, lots of resources, two university medical schools close by all in a wonderful town.  I've worked here a long time, and have seen oodles of kids come and go--a virtual revolving door of children with various handicapping conditions from autism to deafness to Down Syndrome to rare genetic conditions.  

The reality of my job is that I see many children with severe handicapping conditions, all day, every day. Often my schedule runs in 30 minute increments for quite a long time---a couple of children with articulation disorders, followed by a nonverbal child with autism, followed by work with a child in a 'push-in' regular education setting, followed by a social skills group.....hopefully lunch somewhere, followed by more children.  Meetings are thrown in sporadically.  Sometimes, after a busy day, the previous six hours are a bit of a blur.

     I realize that a parent with a child with a disability is often working very hard to cope with the grief, the loss of a dream, the anger, and the struggles of day to day life. Rather than feeling numb,  parents often have heightened sensitivity to their child's struggles, and are acutely aware of their child's problems and treatments.

Me?  When I stare at my caseload list, I have to fight the dangers of becoming desensitized to the trauma all around me.  It's very easy to reflect on caseloads in terms of numbers, age level, functioning level, and forget that they all come from loving families and each child has a unique set of needs.
    I realize that for my own mental health and to maintain roles in the school, I can not take on all the child's problems, nor can I bond with each parent, become best friends, provide for their child's daily needs and otherwise overstep.   Remaining sensitive still means there are boundaries to who I am, and my role in the family's life.  My overarching role is as the child's speech pathologist and this role has to stay professional.

It helps me to keep the following in mind, though, as I do my job.
I try to step out of myself and reflect--
  • When a new child moves in, am I proactive in finding out his current health diagnosis and problems, present level of performance, and other relevant history? (Or am I assuming that if I need to know things, people will tell me--he is just one more kid to schedule.)
  • Am I a compassionate listener? (Or do I assume an 'us' against 'them' attitude and shut out all pain.)
  • Am I trying to prevent outbursts from children and provide them with more productive ways to handle frustration? (Or do I simply react to sometimes a constant  aggressive barrage that I can complain about.)
  • Am I flexible in scheduling and working with the kids? (Or do I spew out speech guidelines and educational lingo resulting in rigidity and anxiety.)
  • Do I problem-solve collaboratively?  (Or blame single mindedly)
Staying on the positive course helps me in my profession and my life.  Treating each child as an individual and continuing to be an advocate for the child will hopefully counteract becoming numb on the job.  I can only try!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Slow Cooker Tandoori Chicken; the Case Against Red Food Coloring

I haven't blogged for a while about gluten-free recipes; I just haven't been cooking elaborately lately. Today, however, I knew I was going to be a home for most of the day, and tried out another crockpot recipe from 365 Days of Slow Cooking.  This time it was Crockpot Tandoori Chicken.

The first thing I learned when reading the recipe was that most Tandoori chicken cooked in the US is red because of food coloring.  That doesn't work for me--I don't exactly eat organic all the time, but if I can avoid unnatural substances in my food, that's what I'll do.  I made my chicken in its natural color, so it doesn't look like the red Tandoori chicken that we know.

Chicken and rice are all in one serving dish
My chicken didn't come out looking "Tandoori-like" but it tasted good.  I cut up some boneless breasts, and then cooked it all according to recipe.   You may want to use bone-in chicken for more authentic Tandoori appearance--your decision.  It's easy to make in a Crockpot!

Notice the flowers?   Here it is mid-January, and David picked camilias and daffodils growing in the yard.  Will it ever snow here again?

Love Bug (Smartboard plus link to low tech version)

When I was growing up, The Love Bug was a popular movie.  (That's not what this post is about.)

Fast Forward to 2012.......
I'm  still looking forward to  Valentine's Day and thought I would create a Smartboard activity to go with a low tech lesson that I found at Teaching Heart Blog.  (You would think I spend all of my time reading blogs, but actually Pinterest has cut corners.  I found the link on a fellow pinner's page---easy! If you are a teacher, get on Pinterest.)

The directions and image on Teaching Heart Blog are as follows:
"It’s a Roll and Draw a Love Bug Game.  All you need is the free printable and some dice.  The object of the game is to roll the dice and day all the parts to your love bug.  First player to have all six parts on the love bug wins. "
     Simple enough but I usually don't even talk about who 'wins'.  It's over when it's over.  Everyone wins!

   Go to Teaching Heart Blog page here for this printable.  The author lets you download it for free in a nice pdf format.  The image is here so you can see what it is, but if you want to print it, please go to her website linked above.

The difficulty that my children have on my caseload is that often their fine motor skills and attention skills aren't well developed enough for them to draw the 'Love Bug', roll the dice, or attend to a game.  That's where an engaging Smartboard activity based on the same activity comes into play!

The same activity above is now recreated for the Smartboard.  CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE DOWNLOAD. A cute video is linked to page 3.  We'll see how this goes! The child has to touch the dice to get a number---count the dots, and move the corresponding body part to the Love Bug.  The body parts are set to 'infinite cloner'. A group of children around a Smartboard will take turns---great for social skills!  If the number is already used, touch the dice again!

It might take a couple of times for some of the kids to get the hang of this but most will enjoy adding faces and body parts to the Love Bug. The dice rolling will be an engaging factor!  They could also have a low tech drawing activity (adding faces, antenna, arms and legs) to hearts to do at another time during the day which would be a very easy activity to set up.

Here's a trailer to the original Love Bug if you are young, and have no clue.   I was in the 6th grade.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hearts Everywhere (Download an interactive book for the kids)

I love Boardmaker Share, and there are always cute ideas for every event.  With Valentine's Day coming up, I found a very simple book---"Hearts Everywhere" ---which is perfect for children functioning at an early language level.  I downloaded it and fixed it up a bit ---aligned the symbols better, exchange a few icons for other better ones, and fixed a couple of glaring mistakes.  (With free stuff, there is always some fixing to do. I'm sure you will fix my free things.)

"Hearts Everywhere" is simple---hearts are on the table, on the wall, on the floor, on the mailbox, and so on.  Each page has hearts somewhere different---and there is rhyme to the book. I asked the kids to point to the wall, window, floor, and table in my room after reading the corresponding page.  The only preposition is "ON", and there is a simple sentence strip where the child can change out the object.  If you want, you can laminate the book, use velcro, and make things more permanent.  I didn't want to use up my laminating supplies, so paper sufficed for me this time. 

Once the kids read this, you can play a game with hearts in your classroom or home, and have them put a paper heart somewhere and then tell where it is.  ("Heart on Mommy!")   Take pictures and the kids can make their own book!

Click Here for the Boardmaker version of Hearts Everywhere
  Lucky for you--you can add pages, change out prepositions, or fix any little mistakes I made.

Click Here for the pdf version of Hearts Everywhere
    You are stuck with it--no changes possible.  Oh well!   Happy Valentine's Day!


Monday, January 16, 2012

"No Child"

Last night, Alana and I attended a wonderful one-person play entitled "No Child".   The star was Nilaja Sun, who also wrote this play which was rooted in her own experiences as a teacher in New York City.  It was fantastic! I'd love to see it again, and again; each time, I'd gain new insights and capture additional moments.  The play is about everything I believe about students, teaching, and learning----connecting with students, finding motivations,  challenging them,  establishing expectations, and  embracing the type of learner the student is.  Most often, it's not about paper and pencil!   This play is about great teaching!

Alana loved the play for its humor.   As she gets older, I'm sure she will appreciate the deeper discussions that this play can facilitate; for now, though, just the theatrics of the different students that Nilaja Sun performed were sufficient to captivate and entertain a middle schooler.

I loved the play on multiple levels---Nilaja Sun's ability to act out 16 characters seamlessly, the story line, the humor, and the connections she made between this play and American education.  I hope she comes back to this area some day!!!  

For those of you who want to see her performance, expert Google searches may yield where she will be next!   This play is worth a trip somewhere!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Valentine Toast ---Recipe book, communication board to share

Valentine's Day will be here before we know it which is a time that lends itself to activities for the kids I see in speech. We anticipate this day for a month!  I'll be posting several Valentine's Day activities and ideas (the simpler, the better!), but I thought I would start you with Valentine Toast.  This is a great activity for following directions, and then talking about remote events. I always take pictures of the students engaged in this activity, and sometimes (depending on the child's level) print out either wordless powerpoint books for them to write or dictate the directions.  For others, I write part of the book  and ask them to complete it. Others simply have to answer my oral questions. The task is dependent on the IEP goals of the students (as all of you know already!)

      For some kids (like most of the children I work with now), the goal is basic requesting, and simple commenting while engaged in a task.  The activity is reinforcing, and there is a yummy treat at the end.  My kids have consistently enjoyed this for years, so I hope your students do to!  Do this in speech, and then send the recipe book home to parents.  Repetition is good!

 This link is to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  For a modest price, you can get this recipe, sequence activity at the end, comprehension questions, a Valentine Bingo game, and an interactive book.

Link to Valentine Toast How-To Book

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Counting Snowman Buttons---Low Tech and High Tech

Will it snow in Chapel Hill this winter?  The outlook seems dim.  The azaleas are blooming, onion grass is growing, and kids continue to wear shorts to school.

Go to Creating and Teaching for this activity
Regardless of no snow here, I saw a cute snowman activity on a blog: Creating and Teaching.  The author has posted a free low-tech activity for counting buttons---10 snowmen are printed, and the number of buttons put on the snowman has to match the number on the hat.  Simple idea, but for many of my kids simple is good!

I thought this would make for a nice Smartboard activity to go along with the low tech idea above, so I created just that, and loaded it here----you can download for your classroom needs. Here are screenshots of my high tech version of Snowman Buttons.  The buttons, by the way, are set to 'infinite cloner' meaning they replicate when grabbed.  That way, a child could use all of one color if he or she wants.
Title page

Child drags choices of buttons over to snowman to match the number.

Reinforcing activity at the end.

Buttons are set to 'infinite cloner' --Smartboard users should know that term.
I think using both the high tech and low tech versions in the same classroom would be reinforcing for each other.

If a child has some language difficulties, a simple communication board can be made, or a device programmed for button colors, along with more functional words such as 'help', 'my turn', 'all done', and 'next page'.   For those of you who know how to edit an existing Smartboard activity, you can easily change the numbers on the hats.  I found the buttons pictures online using Google images, so different colors could be swapped out.   Have fun!!!  I know the class I work with will!

Please let it snow!   Soon!!!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Who knew a flag ceremony could be so fun?

 This is short and sweet---the 6th graders in Girl Scout Troop 1033 did the flag ceremony at the UNC Women's Basketball game!    Two of the four girls are Blue Ribbon mentees (Alana and Paulina); two of the Girl Scout leaders are mentors (Ruth and Diane)!  We had a great time, so check out the photos and videos!  I also have a new basketball hero---Chay Shegog.

The ones there (except for me)--Diane, Paulina, Madisyn, Mary Carmen, Alana, and Meg (a leader).

Looking poised!

Video with Pablo Vega singing

Poor Tar Heels---good game, though.  Went into overtime.

Friday, January 6, 2012

First Grade Goal Setting--What is Important to a 6 Year Old?

 From time to time, I like to post what I see on the wall outside of my speech room.  Today, Ms. Capps and Ms. Alston displayed their kids' New Year's Resolutions.  The children each wrote a goal for home and a goal for school, and what I loved about the goals was that they were specific and achievable. We should all follow their examples!  Read for yourself!  I love the cute little illustrations too! 
For those of you not from Ephesus, "road runners" are tickets for good behavior,
Ephesus kids are Roadrunners.  The "home" picture and goal on the left is cute.
School goal is left, home is right.  This ESL student is still learning English.

She must spend a lot of time now at the water fountain! 
"I will stop whining."  "I will not turn around at lunch."

"My goal is to write neatly."  "Hanging my clothes up."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Never Taught, but Learned

There are no cute little printables with this posting. Sorry!    I love making materials, and trying them out with children.  Most of my days are spent teaching children, and getting them excited about learning and life.  I wish everything was rosy and fun, all the time.

Unfortunately, children are sometimes stressed.  Whether the anger is internal, or environmental; whether it's caused by a communication barrier or not; whether anger is caused by a misguided adult or confused child --all are variables with the same result.  Lashing out by a child (sometimes a strong child) can lead to upset adults, and psychological and physical trauma on both sides.

With some children, this is a frequent, sometimes violent occurrence.  I can tell you, that in my undergraduate years, and in my graduate school, there was no mention of aggression and certainly no tips on how to deal with this.   I was unprepared, totally.  In my first job at a residential school, I witnessed a parent beating his teenaged deaf child in my classroom, and a few extreme violent acts of students towards teachers (resulting literally in amputation of body parts).  My next job was no better, but then, I witnessed the reverse--retaliation of staff towards students (this time resulting in fired teachers.)   Of course, this was a while ago, and I hoped that preparation in college education programs would have changed; however, judging from reactions of graduate students that work with me when witnessing aggression, I'm not quite sure that such programs are willing to address this issue adequately. I feel personally responsible, then, to impart my experiential knowledge to young future speech pathologists who choose to have practicum placements with me. 

I've developed a few coping mechanisms for dealing with student aggression:

1.  For a student who is excessively anxious or stressed, I work with the child exclusively in his everyday classroom.  There are more people around, it's his or her natural environment, and it is a more natural setting.

2.  I do not restrain children unless the child is harming himself.  I physically back off when issues arise. I deflect blows or bites; I don't confront them.  

3. I try to "read" children---often the behavior the child is exhibiting is communicative. 

4.  I teach alternative means to escape from an activity---it might be as simple as pointing to a toy, touching a 'finished' icon, or saying 'all done'.

5.  I use a picture schedule for all speech therapy sessions--whether it's in the classroom, in a group, or in my speech room.  The student can see that there is an end to the time with me.

6.  The last item on my picture schedule is a very preferred activity.

7.  For the most anxious children, there may only be 2 activities on the schedule.  ("First, Then")

8.  With my graduate interns, although I try not to put them in the position where they have to deal with aggression, I do talk about this openly.  The tips I presented above, I provide to them.  I teach and model; hopefully, they will carry these lessons to their next setting.

It's too bad this was never taught to me prior to teaching.  I've seen a few teachers 'let go' due to an inability to deal with students. Were those teachers properly instructed in their college programs?  I know that I wasn't!

Do any of you have helpful tips?  Please post.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I Spy a new favorite book! (Download icons to go with it)

Today was the first day after a break--usually a dreary day but if you read my last post, you would know that I was determined it should be a happy day full of optimism and enthusiasm in working with my kids.  I think it worked; I was a bit tired when I got home, but hubby cooked a good supper and now I'm cozied on the couch writing about a new book I used today in language activities. 

     The name of the book is I Spy with My Little Eye, written by Edward Gibbs.  Amazon website reports: "Have you ever played the I-spy game? Debut artist Edward Gibbs takes the game to a whole new level in this picture book with spy holes. Peeking through the pages, children will be able to spot a different colored animal every time, and guess what it is using a simple, factual clue. Bold illustrations and die-cut holes will absorb young readers as they learn about colors and animal names."
     My kids (a group of 5 very language impaired kids) loved it.  I made a simple topic board to go with this book, mainly for allowing the children to make logical guesses at what the animal is for each page.  I did not use color when selecting icons for the board --my kids are at the point now where they need to listen to the riddle and not merely match color.  If you have younger children, then add colors to the animal icons.  You can also cut up the board to lend the activity more manipulative in nature, but I didn't need that aspect with these kids.  Here is a link to the board with animal icons (pdf).

     The following are some snapshots of some of the pages.  We had great fun with the book, and the riddles can be adapted to fit the level of the child. 

Turn the page for the answer!
The book riddle and my topic board with answer choices

The answer!

Last page--I had the kids look through and tell me what they spied.
 Our next step with a couple of the children is for them to think of some simple I Spy riddles for objects around the room.  I'll keep you posted!

Monday, January 2, 2012


About a year and a half ago, I interviewed a very nice speech pathologist and ended up working with her at Ephesus for the 2010-2011 school year.  She glowed, all the time ---always smiling and pleasant.  You could almost see the sunshine radiating from her office. (Our rooms have no windows and horrible lighting, so this really was a miracle!)

Working with her was such a pleasure, and I was really sad when she found a place to work down in Atlanta after her husband changed jobs.  I bet they all love here there too!

I think she had to work at being happy as it's not always a natural state for people, and was inspired by someone who actually wrote books about the subject.  My friend also had a blog, and found small moments during her days to be happy about.  You can check out her blog here.  It's called "The Gladdest Thing Under the Sun".  At first, I couldn't believe anyone could write such a thing, but as I read it more and more, I started to try to alter my own outlook on my life from cycisism and a bit of resentment to trying to see life more as a gift.

Our church is offering a short class based on the Happiness Project book, so I signed up with the first class starting Thursday night.  I'm looking forward to it, and I'm sure you'll hear about what we talk about in future blog entries!

In the meantime, check out this video.  The title is gratitude, but as you listen to it, it's also about happiness---being grateful for each day.   The photography is amazing, by the way!  

Click here to watch the video
There is also a very cute Vimeo video here which I found from the blog, Film English, which is using this particular film to discuss optimism with upper grade students. This little girl wouldn't be deterred from her own happy outlook and expression in spite of the dour photographer.

I guess this is sort of my New Year's Resolution---to carry around a half full glass, to smile, and to consider each day a gift.  I think this outlook helps my family too.   Happy New Year!