Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"It" has feelings, too!

I know we all love our pets, and treat them like people, but in the pronoun world, it's totally acceptable for an animal to be an 'It', especially if the animal is not your very own pet and you don't know if it's a boy or a girl.  Sorry cat and dog lovers of the world!  I'm not a cruel person, and in my house, my cat is a 'she'.  Once your child masters 'it', then you can take pronoun use a step further, and explain that the animals you know and love are also 'he' and 'she'.  English is hard sometimes!

pages from the book

icons---two per page, a pronoun and a feeling
It is happy too!
So, for the lesson here, I found a book, again, on Tarheel Reader. I downloaded it as powerpoint, and then developed icons to go with it.  I also added a page at the end with a set of choices for the children to tell how they were feeling.  I like this book because it has two concepts to work on---pronouns and feelings.  As an extra, you can also talk about the animal pictures.  Some are quite good! 

Click HERE to download the book.

Click HERE to download the book icons.

I blogged previously about another pronouns book with HE, SHE, and THEY.  Go here to see that!

Remember the quote:  It's a bird!  It's a plane!  It's Superman!  

Pronouns are everywhere!  Pronouns are not always consistent in English!  Since when is Superman an 'It'?


Sunday, February 26, 2012

He said, She said---Learning Pronouns

  Here in Chapel Hill, we've had an influx of Burmese refugees from camps in Thailand.  The kids are totally delightful!  For them, however, the language and cultural differences make learning in American schools a bit difficult. A small percentage of the children also have exhibited developmental delays, so I work with one of these children on my caseload.  She has a long history of numerous health issues, along with a conductive hearing loss (better now due to tubes, but still a problem).  The health problems are ongoing and I'm not going to report on her entire history here.
    My role was to speed up her development of functional communication skills in English (after a few years in school here, she was still speaking in strings of single word messages with wonderful and complex intent--just no syntax to speak of, before I met her).   She and I have reached the point where she has learned how to use simple sentences, but still confuses pronouns---even the basics of 'he' and 'she'.  Maybe the Burmese language doesn't differentiate gender pronouns (? not sure really about this), but English does, so we took on this task of learning them--starting with He, She, and They.

 One tool I used was Tarheel Reader, where a very nice speech pathologist named AnnaSLP (that's as much as I know) created a pronoun book.  The book focused on He, She, and They, and, other than a few minor edits, was perfect for my student. I downloaded it, printed it, and she learned to read it and answer some questions about it.   To the left are sample pages.

 I was also able to make a copy of the book without most of the written words. I did leave some sentences on the initial pages, and a couple of pages with blanks where the pronoun would go.  We have worked on dictating and then writing the sentences to go with most of the pages using a present progressive sentence, and the correct pronoun.  The next step will be better generalization to conversation, but I feel my student now grasps the understanding of the three pronouns.  When given structured teaching and visuals, she was quick learner!

Writing the sentences

To get the pronoun book with words, go here.

To get the pronoun book without most of the  words,
go here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Old Horses; Young Students

They look a little like they have already been put out to pasture!  Very cute!

I love kids' art, so to go along with my Counting Horses book, and the 'What do Horses Do' smartboard activity, I found a cute horse project ( 'Foot Print Horse' by Busy Bee Kids Craft).  Essentially, the kids trace their shoe on brown paper, cut it out, embellish it with eyes, ears, nose, and mane, and Presto!  You have a horse.

Tracing shoe--notice iPad with Pictello running.
I made a communication board to go with this (the kids, although they could talk, needed visual cues to ask for essentials such as glue).  I also used an iPad app called Pictello for sequencing directions.  Although it has text to speech, I turned the volume off for them to read the directions or verbally describe the sequence pictures.

Here is a link to the sequenced picture directions in pdf format.  These are photos and written directions taken straight from Pictello.  If you have an iPad, consider purchasing this app.  I've loved it!

I love the sparseness of the mane. 
So just to rehash---I have three items in the 'Horse Unit' as mentioned in the first paragraph---a book, a Smartboard activity, and a craft.  I know most of the world seems to be into Dr Seuss at the moment, but for spring, this might be a nice diversion!  This craft was great for requesting materials, following sequenced directions, and reviewing horse actions (We watched the Smartboard horse action videos afterwards--although I don't have a Smartboard in my room. We just watched them on my laptop.)

My twins always wanted a pony for our backyard!  That thought just randomly popped into my head.
Good night everyone!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Self Regulation Scale

I have a confession---when I see something good, I take it and use it.  I don't like to recreate the wheel, and I'm really not all that creative.      I also work with people that are very hard-working and creative, so when I stepped into my co-worker's office (Heather Petrusa, SLP) and saw this homemade self-regulation scale, I grabbed it (with her permission) and told her that this was worth using and sharing with all of my blogging friends!    She said that our mutual friend, an autism itinerant teacher, Leah Wilson, was actually the one who created it, and she (Heather) just tweaked it.  I'm sure Leah won't mind sharing, so here it is!

Anyone who works with children with autism knows the difficulties in regulating emotions.  Within an hour, a child can go from 'sleepy' to 'boiling' and not have strategies to get to the 'green' area.

 I liked this scale that Heather and Leah developed because it integrated elements from the 'How does your engine run?' program with emotional states and specific strategies (worded with 1st person statements encouraging more independence with handling regulation in the classroom.)

A therapist and teacher can use this scale to first teach emotions, strategies, and self-reflection, and then teach the child to apply these in the classroom.  So---thanks Heather and Leah!    I'm so happy to work with you!  I'm sure your kids are too!

To download in Boardmaker, click here!
    (You can then edit to fit your child's particular needs)
To download in pdf, click here!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weather Excitement, Chapel Hill style

I grew up in northeast Ohio. During the month of January, it would sometimes snow every day.  Once, in college at Kent State, the high temperature was -5 degrees (we still went to our college classes).  Rarely was anything cancelled. 

So, now I've moved south and I get totally amused here by the excitement that even the thought of snow generates in Chapel Hill.  A few times at school in the past years, kids have been sent home early because of impending snow (usually didn't happen).  Sometimes, it snowed and melted by 9:00 am, and the entire school day was cancelled.  On a snow day, businesses close, accidents happen, grocery stores run out of bread and milk over nothing!  The best Girl Scout cookie booth I ever ran was in front of a grocery store when snow was in the forecast.  Gotta stock up on the essentials!

We should have had a cookie booth today!   If you look at the above weather map, it's raining in the area, but school is now on a two hour delay.   It's actually the workday that's delayed---all the better.  We haven't had one flake of snow all winter, so the news stations are loving this!

(I spoke too soon. As I peek outside my window now at 8:30 pm, the flakes are starting to stick to the grass, so this truly is exciting!)

How much snow do you see in the picture to the left?
This made the WRAL headlines.

Part of me wishes for this!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Editing YouTube videos

I was at the North Carolina Augmentative Communication Association Conference today in Durham.  For those of you who don't know what this is, AAC provides people who have difficulty speaking ways to communicate from sophisticated communication devices, to lower tech simple communication boards and pictures.  I love technology and communication, so I always look forward to this.

Today's keynote speaker was a tad dry and the information was very basic which made for a long morning!  I then went to a short, more informative and practical session, during which that terrific speaker (Anna W. Smith, SLP from Charlotte) demonstrated how to convert, download, and edit YouTube videos.  There are YouTube videos for everything! I use them all the time, but sometimes, they are too long, and if you want to insert key parts of one into a Powerpoint or Smartboard lesson, it's hard, unless you edit. Now I know how! You can also get creative, and add symbols and sound effects to the videos during your editing process.  Check it out below!

Below is a short video tutorial on how to convert, and then import YouTube videos into iMovie.  (I have a mac).  Similar methods apply for a PC. 
       As an example of a use for an edited video, I recently uploaded a "Counting Horses" book which showed pictures of horses doing several actions in still shots.  If I also wanted to create a SmartBoard lesson with videos of horse actions, but didn't want the full length videos of the YouTube clips, I would go to  The following YouTube video explains how to convert and download videos---and after that you can edit in a movie making application such as iMovie.

 To try this out, I took the  horse video below, converted it to a .mov file (for iMovie), shortened it, added a sound effect and boardmaker icons, and then shared it at the end.  If I decided to use it in a Smartboard lesson on horse actions, I'll be all set!  There are many horse action videos all over YouTube just ready for me to edit!

                                                      Original video from YouTube before editing

                                                 My edited version, ready for SmartBoard or Powerpoint

There are millions of possibilities here!   I have always enjoyed videography and movie editing, so this will be fun!  Let me know if you need video editing tutorials too!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Counting Horses + Verbs---latest in the series!

Here is the latest in my animal + verb series.  Now that Valentine's Day is over, I'm trying to get away from holiday themes, and focus on sentence structure and vocabulary a bit.  My first two books in this series were:   What can Cats Do?   and What can Dogs do?  Free download links for those books are in the respective blog postings along with photos.

This book is about horses and verbs, along with a bit of counting.  I found the basic book here at Tarheel Reader. Tarheel Reader is very nice in that you can download the books as a powerpoint and then change them as you see fit.  In this case, I added 'is/are' to the sentences, and changed a little of the vocabulary.  The last two pages of this book also have all of the icons you need.  You will notice that 'running' and 'galloping' have the same icon---a perfect moment to teach synonyms!!!!  (Or at least introduce synonyms---I doubt that a child will learn that from one picture.)
    The link to download this book is here.  

Go Here for a Smartboard lesson about Horses and Verbs

Have fun with it!   Maybe you can find some 'My Little Pony' toys at a yard sale this spring.  Kids would love it.

Go HERE for a fun footprint horse craft!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Adventures of a Cardboard Box---applications for speech therapy

My blog so far has concentrated on early elementary children who are still developing functional communication.  I do teach a few 3rd through 5th graders, though, who have higher level language skills both verbally and with academics.  Showing these kids a short book, or even a story on a 1st to 2nd grade level, however, can cause some anxiety, and the act of reading or listening to the words becomes an exercise in decoding frustration and inattention.  That's where this movie becomes a nice springboard into developing some higher level thinking skills.

I want to use some of the ideas from this website, Film-English, and show my kids the movie, The Adventures of a Cardboard Box (8 min).  This film (which has no dialog but lots of action) and potential for developing higher level thinking can be used with an entire classroom of children, with some modifications for those who need our services, for those of you who provide 'push in' or collaborative services in regular education. 

Bloom's Taxonomy has been around for a long time (I learned about it in 1986).  Personally, I think The Adventures of a Cardboard Box is great for every level of questioning and critical thinking.  Most often, I focus on 'knowledge' and 'comprehension'  but I really need to go deeper, and learn to develop my students' higher level thinking.  Using this movie, such thinking can be expanded using this visual, nonverbal format. The kids don't first have to read a book---applying higher level questions to books can come next.

I looked at a Bloom's Taxonomy website, and generated a list of questions which hopefully touch on each level.  I'm not a Bloom's Taxonomy expert, however.  You might develop better questions yourself!

  • Knowledge:    Make a list of main events.   
                       What uses of the box can you remember?
                      Who are the characters in the story?

  • Comprehension:  What do you think was the main idea of the story?
                           Retell this story.

  • Application:   What was a time when you used something creatively?  (not for its intended purpose)
                     If you were given (object), what's a creative use for it?

  • Analysis:  If the box had never arrived, what else would the boy do with his time?
               What is the underlying message or theme of this movie?

  • Synthesis:  Create a commercial for a box such as the one above.  (group project)
                 Create a commercial for another item but not for its intended purpose. 
                             (also group project)

  • Evaluation:   Write a paragraph as to why creativity is important?
                   Compare and contrast this type of play to that of playing video games.  
                              Which one do you feel is better for children?  Support your answers.
My children who happen to be in an EC classroom will most likely work on the first three question categories---knowledge, comprehension, and application.  I'll touch on the other three, and model appropriate answers, provide sentence starters, or multiple choices if they can't provide them spontaneously.    I just love the movie and think it will be great to start some conversation, thinking skills, and application to their own lives.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Quick as a Cricket visuals to download

Child finds the ending, then reads the sentence.

 One of my favorite books is Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood.  It's all about self-confidence and parts of a child's personality.  Here's the review on Amazon---

"I'm as quick as a cricket, I'm as slow as a snail. I'm as small as an ant, I'm as large as a whale." Parents and teachers choose this big square book for the message of self-confidence. Toddlers love it for the singsong phrases and Don Wood's large, silly, endearing illustrations, which feature a boy mimicking different kinds of animals. At one point, he is pictured sipping tea formally with a fancy poodle ("I'm as tame as a poodle") and on the very next page he is swinging through trees ("I'm as wild as a chimp"). Whether brave or shy, strong or weak, in the end the young boy celebrates all different, apparently contradictory parts of himself. With a confident grin, he lifts his arms up and declares, "Put it all together and you've got ME!"

 The repetitive line is great for my kids, but I always try to add visuals.  Some of the vocabulary is new, and good icons help with comprehension.  I've made some of my own boards in the past, but on Boardmaker Share, I found this great set, complete with a real Basset hound picture, and a poodle.   I rearranged the symbols a bit so that the child can manipulate the symbols to make a new sentence following the same pattern for every page.

Here's a link to download the Boardmaker verson--With this, you can change things even more!

Here's a link to download the pdf version---you can't change the board, but it's still good!

I do appreciate the person who put this up on Boardmaker Share to begin with.
Thanks, kind person!

The most fun part of this book is having the children identify their own personality traits and feelings. It's a bit of self reflection, and some can reflect better than others.  Basically, I print out a lot of feelings/character trait icons and allow the kids to each pick four.  Those that can, explain why they chose them.  I take a picture, print, assemble, and presto!  Here's an example of the result.  With this girl, if you look carefully, you can see where I penciled in her reasons for choosing the attribute on each icon. She said she was "fast in gym, pretty when I wear glasses, smart when I read, lazy when I watch TV, and nice to Ms. Kelley."  
  (This picture is actually about 8 years old--the girl is now in high school!)

So, that's my share of the day!    This is a great book and if you have additional thoughts or ideas about it, please share!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Visual Supports for Partner Reading

           At our school, a new reading activity has been added called "Partner Reading".  I'm not an expert in reading and can't provide the research basis for this but I can describe minimally that students get together with a partner who reads at their level. They share their favorite parts, read to each other, and read together.You can see it in the video below.                                     

I'm sure partner reading is great in the classroom for most of the kids.  My language impaired children, however, have a bit of difficulty.   First of all, to listen to a child read in a noisy environment can be challenging, and then comprehending the text well enough to ask and answer questions about it with a partner who may not adapt language to the other child's level is sometimes beyond reach.  My two children in one second grade classroom were basically sitting, taking turns reading, and daydreaming.......that is until, their wonderful teacher stepped in and made a very clever visual aid.

     I apologize for the slightly blurry photo, but this picture is a color-coded script for the 'listener' and 'reader'.   The teacher elaborately took pictures, making it crystal clear who was to read, talk, listen and when they should take turns.  She is planning on changing the comments and questions from time to time depending on the minilesson (you will note that these are all velcroed---nothing glued, so it's more of a dynamic process rather than learning only one script).  After some time, the need for this visual aid will diminish as the kids learn what their respective roles are and what they should say. 

Originally, I had given her ideas from this website (Independence in Learning), but the teacher took the idea of a sentence starter, and then expanded it to meet the children's needs in her classroom.  Thanks Patti!!! 


Good, Better, Best
Never Let it Rest,
Until the Good is Better,
And the Better is Best!!!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Just Funny

Sorry, no creative genius ideas today!  Not even anything about the wonders of speech therapy.

I do have a very funny, very short movie for you to watch (Two minutes to be exact).

I sent it to a couple of OT friends who rolled on the floor laughing.  You see, we all have to interject humor into our work--everyone does.
A little humor = liking job.  Liking job = good therapist. 

Back to humor----
  I think this movie explains why some kids really don't like fine motor activities!

  Hopefully, you will laugh---we ALL need to laugh now and then! This film got about 25 awards, by the way.  Apparently lots of folks appreciated humor!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Small Talk----Way beyond "I want cookie"!

Happy Saturday night everyone!   I'm actually alone for most of the weekend.  David (husband) went to Brevard to visit his parents, and the kids are living elsewhere doing what they need to do.  Andorra came home for a few days for her interview for the Peace Corps!   I'm so excited about that---wish it were me signing up!  Anyway, she left today to go back to UNC Asheville, so I'm busy cleaning the house and looking for pins (Pinterest).

While I was internet surfing, I came across this wonderful video here.  The website where I found this explains:
"Video shows 4 year old triplets interacting with each other during mealtime using an AAC device. Without knowing it, two of the siblings are modeling AAC use and communication skills for their brother."

I watched this, and burst out laughing.  Every kid deserves a chance to be silly, and the siblings definitely showed the brother how to use words to make people laugh.  This is what true AAC should be all about---beyond "I want cookie".  Kids need to use language to request, comment, get attention, and be funny.  

Potty talk, as shown here, is part of child humor when you are four.  Those of you who have kids know what I'm talking about. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

What can Dogs Do? A printable adapted book

A while back, I posted about a printable book--"What Can Cats Do?"    This has been very popular, but someone left a comment that they wished the book was about dogs.  I guess I take requests!  I looked on Tarheel Reader, and rewrote one of the dog books  so the sentences were present progressive, and I then added a question to each page.  I also included a page of Boardmaker icons for adapting this, and....... Presto!  That reader's wish has been granted!  I hope she reads this---it's my 'random act of kindness' for the week.

This book, like the cats book, is great for verbs, and the icons can be used to add different subjects---"dog swing", "boy swing".  The language is simple and patterned, and the pictures are great.  Sample activities--
  • Act out each page with stuffed animals
  • Print the book without the text--ask the kids to tell you what's happening
  • Have the kids add a new page. They can draw (or act out with a stuffed animal) a different action.  Take a picture and add it!
  • Compare and contrast the cat book with the dog book.  What's the same? What's different?
  • Artic---lots of simple consonants here that repeat themselves!
  • AAC---these words can all be programmed into a static cell AAC device along with some comments
I'm sure there's a lot more, but it's Friday night.  My brain is tired : /

I want this dog.

Title Page

Here is a link to a free download of this book and the icons from Google Docs. Google is miracle!

Have a nice weekend!  

P.S.  I now have a "Counting Horses" verb book here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Friendship Hearts (Yummy simple treat--download the recipe booklet)

We are counting down to Valentine's Day!      We are all on a tight budget at my school, so this little treat works--it's cheap, simple, and tasty!  Last year, a creative UNC graduate student, Erica Miller, worked with me.  She developed this picture recipe for her sessions, and I'm sure she won't mind me sharing it.  Recipes are great for facilitating communication skills and I found a blog  that spells out many reasons why cooking and recipes are great with our kids. Check it out!

  The following pictures are excerpts from the recipe for Friendship Hearts. As you can see, it's simple--powdered sugar, graham cracker, paper, scissors, marker.....

Feel free to download the book (in powerpoint) here.

A simple communication board for this activity is here in Boardmaker

Happy Valentine's Day!