Shark Bites.

shark week blog

With two boys of my own, Shark Week has always been a big hit around my house.  It’s coming around again this month for 2016 and we will be sure to watch!  I have seen some really cute craftivities on sharks that I will be using with my summer kiddos including these great ideas from Sunflower Storytime  and their free shark mouth template PDF !


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I was thinking about how to apply Shark Week fun to social language concepts using the shark mouth pdf, and I came up with this:

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I printed the shark outline on cardstock and laminated it to make it more durable.  Next, I put stick on velcro dots along the edge of the mouth (you could use tape, glue or even lay it flat and just put the teeth along the edges.  I used Word and copied as many triangles onto the page as I could since the pdf only had one tooth that I used for sizing.  Then I printed the teeth out on card stock and cut them out before the activity.  This activity is appropriate for late elementary ages on up but could be simplified for younger kids too.

Before making our shark mouths, we talked about how “sharp” words can be (just like shark teeth).  They can cut and wound people when we are being mean or not using our social filters (think it vs. say it).  I asked the kids to share some words that would be hurtful to them or the people that they care about, and we called them shark bites. We brainstormed on a white board first to talk it through. I like to have a visual model (Sarah Ward’s executive function workshop opened my eyes to beginning with the end visually for our kids), but I don’t want them to copy exactly what I have written.  BTW, I always have that one kid who tells me, “I don’t care what people say about me”, so we talk about it from a cartoon character’s perspective instead (Sponge Bob and Squidward are great examples).  This is a little easier for some of my students with ASD, to talk about difficult subjects or feelings from someone else’s experience, not their own.

We also practice sorting out teeth that I have written on prior to the lesson, onto thought bubbles and talking bubbles.   This is a great companion activity to work on the concept of not saying everything that we are thinking, because it can be hurtful.  I extend this concept to include the idea that just because something is “true” doesn’t mean that it is okay to say it, if it hurts someone.

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That’s how we are diving in deep during social skills shark week!  How are you incorporating sharks into your themed therapy (social skills or otherwise)? Share here!




The Invisible Rules of School

invisible rules of school blog

I had heard about a fascinating social language teaching concept, The Curriculum of Hidden Rules, several months ago.  The authors proposed that in addition to teaching school/work rules, we also need to address the unspoken curriculum that helps us succeed socially.  For my students with ASD, ADHD or other social language and cognitive impairments, these unspoken or “invisible” rules are not learned incidentally and are often the reasons that they get into trouble!

One teacher asked me why my students didn’t seem to “get it” when all the other kids did.  I explained that neurotypical* students (* for this discussion, meaning kids who aren’t on the autism spectrum or diagnosed with social language or cognitive impairments) naturally pick up on the subtle social cues that my students often miss.  The simple answer is that my students are not incidental learners in their environments. We have to break down the skill and rules, answer questions (lots of questions!) and help our kids practice these non-intuitive social skills to help them succeed far beyond the walls of our school.

Dr. Christine Reeve, author of the fantastic Autism Classroom Resources, posted a series of blogs on teaching this curriculum with students and young adults. Her blog about the danger of the hidden curriculum in bathrooms was great and very timely!  I have an elementary student with Down Syndrome that I work with, and he got into a LOT of trouble this year by not recognizing the hidden curriculum of the bathroom.  He wasn’t being silly or purposefully trying to upset others, he just didn’t recognize the rules the other boys did in the bathroom.  It was a frustrating and upsetting experience for his family and a huge learning curve for the school (teachers all the way to the administration).

This coming school year, as part of my job in developing social language support in our county with SLPs, I want to start to integrate some of these lessons of the Curriculum of Hidden Rules (hello PBIS!).   I created a TPT product to use as a companion packet with this concept HERE  (the books for The Hidden Curriculum are not included).

Social City Sleuths: Understanding the Invisible Rules at School  includes templates for talking about the known and invisible rules in nine areas of school, a student planner for working on these rules, practice scenarios, interactive bulletin board sets for an entire school year, and extension ideas to push out these concepts school wide!  It’s made to work with students from late elementary through middle school (or those working at this cognitive level) and is perfect for social skills groups, counseling groups or PBIS lessons.

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Have you heard about the Hidden Curriculum? How are you working on the Curriculum of Hidden Rules in your school or therapy setting?  Share here!

Puppies, Prediction and Cars…

puppy blog pic

I am a dog lover, so when puppy commercials come on TV, I get drawn in immediately. Subaru has a series of car commercials airing now that just suck me in. every. single. time.  They feature a family of Golden Retrievers (The Barkleys!) and their adventures in driving. There are no words in the commercials (duh, they are dogs) BUT they convey a message in each one very clearly. For my students with social language impairments, too much language muddies the processing waters, so these are perfect!  I have downloaded the series onto my social language Youtube channel playlists HERE .

Beyond the complete cuteness overload, they are fabulous tools to work on the social language concepts of predicting and inferencing for my students!  The eight commercials convey social scenarios (for example: the mom getting her hair done) and are great to use to identify emotions, prediction, point of view and humor, all in about thirty seconds. Don’t forget about expected and unexpected concepts too (a puppy in a car seat-whaaaat?). These would be great to use with Playposit (you can read my blog post on how to create your own therapy activity by embedding questions into video clips HERE ).

Do you use commercials to teach inferences or other social language concepts?  I love using Dorito’s Super Bowl ads  and kid’s movie previews!  Please share your favorites here!

Use Your B.R.A.I.N.S!

8x8 BRAINS cover

I spent the past week at a fun crossroad; posting on the SLP Materials Club facebook page as a guest AND enjoying a hot, fun week at the beach with my family!  It was the perfect respite after a long school year and I even got to read a WHOLE BOOK with my toes in the ocean (“A Man Called Ove”, a fabulous funny/sad summer read that I highly recommend). As we were walking along the Sebastian Inlet, I saw this little piece of coquina rock that frequents the coast where I grew up:

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The words “rock brain” popped into my thought bubble immediately! Do you see why I needed a vacation?!  Anyway, as part of my SLP Materials Club week, I posted a new freebie from my TPT store.  I created it to use with my students to work on how we engage other people and show that we are thinking about them.   It includes a flip book for an interview of another person to practice the skills, teaching cards to talk about how we use our brains to think about other and a teaching poster to review the acronym B.R.A.I.N.S. (we SLPs do so love our acronyms). The poster would be perfect to enlarge and hang up in your therapy room, classroom or as part of a fun bulletin board!  What does this acronym stand for?  I’m so glad you asked!

B- Be present in the moment

R-Remain on topic

A-Actively listen

I-Interpret Accurately

N-Non-verbals are important

S-Seek information

You can download this social language freebie HERE .  I know you want to give your brain a rest too and not think about school for a bit, but go ahead and file this away for the Fall now!  Happy Summer!