Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Drowning in an Ocean of Words----Does everything need to be "Higher-Order" thinking?

By definition, children on my caseload with language impairments struggle with language-based classroom content.  Though they are certainly capable of learning, often the concepts need to be pre-taught, presented with a simpler language or visual format, and then re-taught. Long verbal explanations will often overwhelm a child who has language difficulties.

By contrast, typical elementary classrooms today are awash in language.  Lots of it!  Written charts and word walls adorn the walls, teachers are asking complex questions, kids have to use written paragraphs to 'explain their thinking', and vocabulary knowledge is often assumed. 

Today for me was a wake up call.  An eye-opener to what children (who don't process well) DON'T learn when they are bathed in language all day.

  • After three weeks of practicing editing children's own sentences, a 10 year old girl (regular 4th grade)was asked to look at capitalization errors for the one below (a sentence she had written the previous lesson):

            She did manage to find the capital 'L', but then stopped short.  "I don't know how to make a lower case L." she pleaded.  I guess she didn't see the second correct L she made in the word 'little' already, or maybe when she prints, she is relying on motor memory for common words more than processing upper and lower case letters.  In any case, there's a gap in her learning---Basic skills and  prior knowledge that should be there are missing. (Upper and lower case letters are kindergarten skills.)

  • Here's another example of a long-standing learning gap.  A different child (4th grade) didn't realize that the first person pronoun "I" needed to be capitalized.  There are a few other problems with this sentence, but that lack of basic concept mastery jumped out at me.  (Capitalizing first person pronouns is a kindergarten skill.)

I want to say that the teachers in our classrooms are wonderful, hard-working people.  The curriculum however, doesn't allow much room for cycling back to basic concepts and re-teaching if necessary. Instead, the expectations are for rigor: Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, and each is supported so he or she can learn at high level, and each student demonstrates learning at high level. The school system is demanding this--80% of the kids can do it.

 Rigor is fantastic, but filling in the gaps for our more fragile learners is often needed too, in every subject.  Otherwise, we get fourth graders who combine want with won't to get wan't. ('Want' is a kindergarten sight word.)

When I started as a school speech pathologist in 1986, schools were all abuzz with teaching 'basic skills'. One standardized test to measure student performance was the ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills) which my school did use.

I am certainly not advocating a return to 'basic skills' (That fad didn't fix education) but unless time is allotted for direct teaching of skills which may not actually be a part of 'higher order thinking', the children on my caseload will continue to sit in an ocean of words without taking much in.   In all honesty, the backlash some states are witnessing now against the Common Core may be due in part to parents witnessing this conundrum.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Butterfly Bingo---printable and free

Contrary to the blog title, this is actually butterflies and ladybugs bingo.  It's very simple, but I also added sentence strips.  I've found that my kids have learned to label the pictures just fine, but processing and comprehending the written sentence describing the same picture is challenging.  Use it like you want, it's all free. 

Happy Memorial Day!     We had school---the only district in our area to do so.  My school had over 100 kids absent.

There are three different Bingo cards, and one card to make the calling pictures.

If you want to work on reading comprehension, use sentence strips.    I found some kids struggled with this even though they could read every word.

Sentence strip Bingo

Click here to download this in Boardmaker

Click here to download this in pdf

picture description bingo

Saturday, May 24, 2014

"If doubt were to be a disease, it's cure would be confidence." --Parker Mantell

This young man won't let a fluency disorder stop him.  Listen to him speak and be amazed! 

Graduation--Indonesian Style (Peace Corps update)

In early June, Andorra will have been overseas in the Peace Corps for 14 months.  Wow!  It seems like yesterday that she left.  David and I have a big trip planned to see her in August (tickets are bought!).  Another Wow!

She teaches English at a high school in Madiun, East Java.  The school just recently held their graduation, and younger classmates performed for the graduating students.  Here's a few photos that Andorra sent.

I wasn't there, of course, so don't have the actual program.  Nor do I have pictures of the graduates, but I'm sure they are not wearing the American style cap and gown!    I'm just amazed by the clothing of the girls especially!

The guys get a turn!
My personal favorite!!

The guys don't seem to get as dressed up. I guess that's an understatement.

More pictures will come at some point.
I'm grateful that Andorra posted these, as they give a tiny glimpse into her Peace Corps experience.

We continue to be in awe of our daughter.



Thursday, May 22, 2014

Is the Pizza Partitioned? Musings about a state Common Core assessment

First Grade NC DPI math assessment

 I have written before about Common Core vocabulary.  For my children with language challenges, the vocabulary needs to be directly taught and I've developed a few simple assessments for this purpose.  You can look at kindergarten vocabulary HERE, and first grade vocabulary HERE.

Today, I read aloud a required state math assessment to a first grader and was a bit surprised (shocked).
Someone at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction who developed this assessment has never actually spoken to a first grader.  I'm not against Common Core, but just because the Common Core standards are written in adult language doesn't mean that the same language needs to be used for a child's assessment.   Naturally, in this case, I deviated from the text given me and reduced the language a bit. 

Delaware already wrote their same assessment in slightly more child-friendly language, as shown below.  I guess someone in their department knows kids.

From Delaware DOE

 When you are at a party, is the pizza divided or partitioned?  Let's encourage state education departments to think about real world language a little bit with 6-year-olds, especially when just writing test directions.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

What Lives in the Ocean?--Spanish version (includes activities and communication board)

Here is the latest from Dr. Lindsey Leacox, a bilingual SLP in Chicagoland!   She is quickly becoming a good friend through blogging, and has translated a number of my books to Spanish.  Her latest is perfect for the summer and perfect for those of you who need Spanish early literacy materials.  This particular creation not only has a nice book, but has a craft and ocean animal sorting activity to accompany it--all with a Spanish emphasis. Even if, as a therapist, you don't speak Spanish, you can send this home so Latino parents can read with their kids.

 If you don't need Spanish at all, click here for English.

Click here to download the complete packet-
24 pages; great for Spanish speakers

Quick update here!  Lily is growing up fast!



Saturday, May 10, 2014

Friends Book---Introducing conjunctions

It's hard to talk about friends if you don't use the word  AND.

 I feel the concept of friendship is a nice place to also systematically introduce our language-challenged children to use this very important conjunction.  I went to the tried and true website, Tarheel Reader, and created a 'Friends' book.  The pictures on that site are delightful, and I then downloaded the book and added a page of icons along with a sentence strip.  I don't know about your students, but mine, with the help of my books, are clearly developing one-to-one correspondence with speech and written words.  Yea!!!!! This growth in literacy skills is wonderful to see!    I think adding a compound subject is a logical way to expand their simple sentences!


I just created this book, and haven't tried it out yet on the little guy I have in mind, but I can't wait!

I'll post a picture or two here when I do.


You can expand this concept by having the kids make their own 'friends' book--use digital photos of classmate pairs.   Who does your child want to pose with?

Click here to download this book.

Happy Mother's Day to everyone!  I'm blessed to have a wonderful family with mothers all around, young and old.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Where are the Butterflies? Printable book and icons

Here's a quick book I threw together on Tarheel Reader.  I also downloaded it, added icons, and then uploaded it to Google Drive.  The link is below. 


Download the book here.  Enjoy!

 I've also added a simple worksheet at the end of this.  I'm thinking this will begin to be something that will happen----adding some type of activity at the end for the kids to work on early academics or language skills.  Today, it's counting butterflies.