Egg-cellent Social Language Ideas!

egg blog cover pic

picture by Eric Britz

We are in the midst of Spring break (yay) and Easter is right around the corner.  I have been seeing lots of posts about targeting articulation and language using plastic eggs, so I thought I would add my two cents on ways to work on social language!   The colored eggs are perfect to work on Zones of Regulation ® with my students too.  The red(pink), yellow, blue and green eggs align to each zone, but just as there are no wrong emotions, there are no wrong colors either, so if you have a few orange, teal or white eggs, no worries. Ask your students to come up with what emotions they think might align with these colors. Don’t be surprised at how creative and insightful they can be!

We also prep by reviewing books or videos as a refresher to what each zone might look like.   I made an interactive book, Calm Down, that I use with my younger elementary friends as part of this prep.  We can then brainstorm ways to calm ourselves down when we are in the red, yellow or even blue zones.   My students can dictate or write down these strategies on pieces of paper and put them into the corresponding colored eggs.

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You can put different strategies in any colored egg and have your students choose one, read the strategy and then match it to the zone.   For your students who are comfortable and accurate with these concepts, you can extend this into a “good egg/bad egg” game and have the kids decide if the strategy in the egg is a good solution/expected one or an unexpected strategy.  For example, if you are in a red zone (angry, furious, out of control) and the strategy says to go take a walk and calm down, that’s an expected solution. However, if the strategy says to scream in someone’s face until you feel better, that’s definitely an unexpected solution.  How fun would it be to put the “good eggs” in a basket, and the “bad eggs” in a little trashcan? You can further tease out the social language concepts of consequences and how other people might feel or think about us when we have unexpected reactions.

Have you seen those cute emoji eggs in the dollar stores?  Me too, but if you can’t find them, just make your own with a sharpie!  You can draw different mouths on both sides of the bottom of the shell, different eye and eyebrows on the top of the shell and rotate to get more choices per egg.  You can give your students the chance to draw their own egg emojis and have their peers guess which emotion they drew and identify the clues they used to make those guesses.  Hello non-verbals!  If you give them an emotion, ask your students to identify scenarios that might elicit that emotion (write or draw a picture) and stuff them in the eggs.

You can also fill the eggs with tiny objects or picture clues that all relate to one concept or idea.  For example, a tiny cake, a candle, a ribbon, a deflated balloon=birthday party! This is a fun way to work on gestalt thinking and help our kids connect the details to the big picture ideas.  The quicker or the less clues they need to make a smart guess, the more “points” they earn (it doesn’t have to be a tangible reinforcer, my kids are competitive enough to just want to beat the previous number of guesses)!  I don’t deduct points for a wrong guess, but we do stop and talk about what made them make that guess, and it gives me insight to where the breakdown might be.

Lastly, you can use the eggs and a basket to work on conversation skills.  Each person gets two of the same colored eggs (one gets blue, one gets green, etc..).  I write a CC (connecting comment) or a ? (ask a question) on all of the eggs indicating what the student needs to add, and I tape a picture of the topic on a basket.  We go around the table until all the eggs are in the basket and we have maintained the topic so that everyone has asked a related question and made a connecting comment.  I’ll play too and throw in an off topic comment or ask a totally unrelated question to see if my kids catch me!

I hope you found some egg-cellent ideas to work on social language concepts with your students this Spring!  What are some other ways you use plastic eggs?

The Masks We Wear

mask blog template

My school has a self contained program for students with significant autism and emotional/behavioral disorders embedded in a general education elementary school.  We are lucky enough to have fantastic adaptive p.e., art and music for our students and these teachers come up with some amazing activities for my friends!

This past spring Mr. Rob, our adaptive art teacher, started making these cool masks with our kids.  They picked a color palate of tissue paper and created the masks using forms.  These got me thinking about the figurative masks we all wear.  How do we want the world to see us ?  For my kids on the spectrum or those who struggle socially, this is a hard question.  Emotionality is often what others see first in my students, but this isn’t all of who they are, just a tiny piece of them.   I adapted this great art activity to put a social spin on it.

For my late elementary kids (on up), we talk about the characteristics that define people: personality traits, physical characteristics, etc..  We use cartoon and movie characters to walk through this process together as they are often over-exaggerated personalities, and this is an easier way to start.  You can use movie or video clips for this as well.  I have a social videos board on pinterest that you are welcome to look through for some ideas.

Next, we make our masks.  If you don’t have the forms, you can make your masks flat on paper or let your kids brainstorm ways to give their masks shape (party stores have plastic masks that you can use as well). You can even take pictures of your student’s face (with parent permission) and print them out.  We label all the positive characteristics that we want others to see in us on the mask itself- you can write on the paper along the edge of the mask, use tape, stickers, draw pictures, etc..

With my older students, we also talk about the difference between being fake and what it means to “put your best foot forward” with others. No one is happy all the time, no one has it all together and definitely, no one is perfect!  This can be a pretty difficult concept to grasp, so this may extend your prep time and therapy discussion beyond one session, but that’s okay!  This can lead into making a plan on how your students are going to help others see the best in them.  Partnering with materials from Social Thinking and the Zones of Regulation curriculum is really helpful in formulating how to do this successfully (and what to do when things don’t quite go your way), but that’s another post for another day!

What are your thoughts on talking about the masks we wear socially?

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!

 

 

 

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!

Big Game Social Skills

football blog pic

There is something going on this week, something big,  what some might call “super”. Even if you aren’t a football fan, the fun atmosphere of a big game is enough to get everyone a little bit excited, even if it’s just for the chicken wings. Much to my boys’ chagrin,  my favorite part of the festivities, hands down, is the commercials. The Dorito’s  Crash the Superbowl contest never disappoints! These commercials are gold mines of social language concepts, and I have a freebie in my TPT store to use with them HERE . You can look on Youtube for past year’s winners for a nice variety of commercials that include double meanings, figurative language, hidden rules, and lots of social thinking concepts!  The screaming goat is my all time favorite!

I also have another freebie (SCORE!!) in my store to work on the steps of conversation with a football theme:  Conversation Quarterback.

For your older students, it would be a fun discussion prompt to continue the football theme and talk about these social language concepts:

  • Sports “trash talk”-What is said versus what is meant and the hidden social rules behind this.  We need to consider the right people, place and timing for this high level social skill or it could end badly!!
  • Extend this social discussion to talk about the hidden rules of football viewing parties:  no double dipping, no talking during certain parts of the game, being a gracious winner (or loser), not standing in front of the TV, bringing food to share with others, etc..
  • Compare and contrast what players, coaches, and fans might be thinking, feeling and saying before, during and after the game.

 

No matter the outcome, I hope you enjoy the game!  Share your football themed ideas for social language here!

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Break the Ice!

lets break the ice 5x5

Winter is here in the South, even if all the plants were tricked into thinking it was Spring last month! We are bundled up and stuck inside with each other a LOT for the next few months.  Conversation is what’s on the agenda in speech right now and I wanted to share a new spin on an oldie but a goodie!!  My Don’t Break the Ice Game is sturdy, inexpensive and washable, all a plus in my line of work.  And who doesn’t enjoy smacking the ice cubes out of the frame mercilessly once the bear falls down?

For my kiddos who are learning about the concept of asking and answering questions and making comments conversationally, I love using visual cues (Example: colored construction paper on the board as a key:  yellow- initiating topic   red-question   blue-connecting comment and so on….). Michelle Garcia Winner uses a color coding idea with this Conversation Tree in her book, “Thinking About You, Thinking About Me”.  There is another great teaching tool that uses color coding for in depth teaching of all kinds of conversation skills called “Color My Conversation“.  Check it out if you have any PTA money to spend on some social skills materials! One other idea I really like is from Liz’s Speech Therapy Ideas blog on using craft sticks for conversation prompts HERE

I have been playing my Don’t Break the Ice game using these “All About You, All About Me” cards from Super Duper as prompts but you can use pictures, make a Pinterest board of conversational topics that appeal to your specific students (make it a private board and share this suggestion with the families too so they can practice at home!) or let your kids brainstorm their own conversation topics too.  We all have more conversational buy in when we get to talk about our area of interest!  Just remember we can’t always talk about what we want to talk about 🙂

We turn take and build on the conversation while playing the game.  Instead of putting the bear in the middle, I put a small velcro button on an ice cube and attach a laminated picture of the topic.  You can laminate a blank piece of tag board cut to fit the ice cube and then write topics for readers (or draw a representational picture) with dry erase markers too. Once my students get the hang of how to have a conversation, I draw a question mark on the laminated square and put it on the middle cube. Two of us playing the game know the conversational topic, but a third person has to try and guess the topic based on what they hear in the conversation.

What are some fun ways that you work on conversation in speech?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deconstructing the Franken-goal.

Franken goal coverI read a lot of IEPs during the school year as I supervise CFs and mentor new hires in my large county of almost 200 SLPs.  I support all areas of communication with my speechies, but social language is the area near and dear to my heart.  Because of this, I see a lot of goals written regarding conversation and turn taking.  Turn taking in and of itself is an important skill, both verbally and non-verbally.  We can’t function as a “me first/all about me” community…unless you have a show on the E! network.  However, I cringe a bit when I come across a goal that looks like this:

The student will participate in 4-6 turn taking cycles, maintaining the topic of conversation and appropriate body orientation, with appropriate greeting/farewell, on three trials each session with no more than one cue.”

To be fair, most of these Franken-goals come with the student from another county or state.  The poor SLP usually looks at me with terror in their eyes when they realize that they will have to take data on this goal (in addition to the many other goals that are also in the IEP).  I suspect an advocate may have been involved in the construction of this mash-up of many different goals into one.  I try to reassure the SLP that we are going to dismantle the goal piece by piece and we will build it back into more functional, measurable and understandable goals. I also include the parent in this conversation so that they are reassured that we are still going to address the areas of concern, and that they are part of our team.  Michelle Garcia Winner’s Think Social materials have a wealth of well written goal suggestions if you need some ideas.

Most of the pieces of this goal are not wrong or bad,  in fact they may be necessary for the student to progress not only socially but academically as well in class discussions. Keep in mind that for our kids with social language impairments, we are measuring their progress against themselves, not necessarily what their neurotypical peers are doing. Let’s start to deconstruct and take a look at the separate areas embedded in the goal:

4-6  conversational turn taking cycles:   Do most adults continue a topic through 4-6 turns?  Not often, but a first grader?  Nope.  Maybe 2-3 at most before the topic changes in natural conversation and definitely not 4-6 cycles, three times in a thirty minute session. We need to break down the steps to having a conversation, practice often, start small and build from there! I have a free conversation football game that includes these steps in my TPT store HERE .

Topic maintenance:  is it a topic of the student’s choosing or a random topic assigned?  I don’t know about you, but I am willing to talk a lot more about something I am interested in.  Are they able to transition to related topics or change the topic completely?  Do they only talk about one topic all the time?

Body orientation can mean a lot of things.  Is the goal to turn your body towards the person you are speaking with?  Turning your face towards the person and engaging in eye contact? Adjusting personal space with other people in the conversation? Whole body listening skills are critical to participating successfully in a conversation.

Greeting/Farewell, ugh.  I really don’t like this as a goal at all and would much rather use peer models and reinforce natural ways to walk into and out of a room.  Very few of us always say “hello” when we walk into a room of our peers and “good-bye” every time we leave.  My teens tip their chin up and give a short, “s’up?” and my fellow SLPS in the building give me a little wave as they walk by me in the halls. We tap into a lot of social skills during therapy naturally, without having to write a goal for each and every one.

Cues:  what kind of cues?  Verbal, visual, tactile?  The goal is independence, so why write in a generic “no more than one cue”?  Note how you are cueing, modeling or prompting your students in your data as you scaffold towards independence.  Don’t forget to share what works for your kids with the adults in their world for carryover.

I really think focusing on 3-5 clear goals is PLENTY, just make them understandable, measurable and functional for your student. An IEP is a fluid document, so I would rather set a few, reachable goals and then meet to add more within the year rather than try to collect data on a bunch of huge goals that may not help our students progress outside of the therapy setting.  No more Franken-goals, they are much too scary!