Have you Shmooped?


No, it’s not the latest dating site or an ill-timed bodily function, so what exactly is it?  According to their website,  “Shmoop is a digital publishing company with “a point of view.” We seek to empower and broaden the range and depth of choices students have in life. Our teaching method revolves around the basic notion that learning is often too hard, so we carry gallons of academic WD-40 that we squirt on the tracks whenever we can.” Who doesn’t love academic WD-40????  Shmoop is also a website that is chock full of fabulous curriculum related materials that have social language application!  There is a free version of the site, as well as a paid version, and it has separate offerings for teachers and students. Take a few minutes/hours/days to wander through the site and check out all the resources available to you (click on the picture below to be taken to the magical land of Shmoop….)


I love the video section ( over 5,000 videos on Shmooptube, of course) that include PBIS and life skills themes, like this one on cheating or this one on balancing interests with friendships.  These are about 2 minutes long and are great opening videos to use in social groups, counseling or speech therapy for middle school on up!

The summary units, like this one for Shakespeare’s  As You Like It,  are also great to use to help my students visualize an overview of the story. I love these “In a Nutshell” video summaries to teach the big picture concepts prior to reading the books.  From historical novels to the deeper meaning of Dr. Seuss books (including this 3 week online unit lovingly called Dr. Shmeuss, ha!), you can find tons of resources to support your students!

Within each unit’s text , you might find little orange-colored pins labeled WTFWhy’s This Funny? (not what you thought, be honest!).  Click on the pin and it explains why a statement is humorous based on context, background knowledge or word play.  For my literal thinkers, this is AWESOME!!  It also defines idioms, great for ELL students and for my literal friends, BONUS!

Along the side of the page, there are tabs for character descriptions, theme discussions, summaries, questions, pictures, flash cards, writing prompts and more!  My own high schooler has used this site often to help break down the often confusing or nebulous themes and vocabulary within literature and has found it extremely helpful.  The students that I work with, who have ASD or language processing impairments, often struggle with the indirect and figurative language concepts in novels.  Shmoop helps to make these concepts clear and direct, with visual supports that help them participate in class discussions more successfully, and better yet, understand the material!  If that’s not academic WD-40, I don’t know what is.

What are some other materials or websites that help your older students understand literature?   Share here!


On the Road Again….

on the road again

I like taking road trips in the summer, especially if it’s somewhere I haven’t been before. Small towns and rolling hills are the essence of Americana to me.  I have an appreciation for road signs and billboards with a sense of humor too.  It’s pretty impressive to make a point in less than 5 seconds among a sea of information along the highways.  One of my favorites I saw this week was a billboard looking for an advertiser that said simply, ” Tall, outdoorsy type seeks a relationship”.  Clever!!

Many of these signs use cultural references, double meanings or inferences to communicate a catchy message.  It got me thinking that for my students with language weakness, specifically my kids with ASD who are very literal, this might be quite tricky. What is intrinsic for typical language learners, needs to be broken down into steps and repeated to build understanding.

My speechie brain is always in gear, so I sat down to create my own billboard activity.  What would the kids need to know?  So I decided to create some billboards as a speech activity in my TPT store HERE .   

clip art from: anniethingspossible.com

clip art from:

This activity includes a model billboard page, 10 billboards to decode and a blank option to create your own. The student has to identify the main idea, what clues led them to that conclusion, the emotions it evokes and who the target audience is.  It’s a great carryover activity for kids to practice while they are on vacation this summer too.  They’ll be on the road to understanding figurative language and inferences on the highway in no time.

What other language ideas do you have for summer time travel for your students?  Share here!

It’s an Ice Cream Social!

ice cream social

In my neighborhood, we used to have an ice cream social for all the kids when they got off the bus the last day of school (we also drenched them with Super soakers, but that’s a topic for another day)!   These fun memories led me to create my new TPT social skills packet, “Ice Cream Social”.    I made this packet with elementary students in mind, however, there are several templates that would allow you to modify and add questions/scenarios for older students too.  I like to laminate the answer templates so I can write on them with erasable markers and use them in flexible ways with different ages/abilities. With Earth Day approaching, this is also a good way to save paper and trees!

What does this packet include?  Over 25 pages of print and go materials to address:

-matching tone of voice to words/emotions
-identifying expected/unexpected behaviors
-ice cream themed books to extend expected/unexpected
-comparing good/better/best solutions
-Brain Freeze, a game for questions, comments and topic maintenance (is your brain in    the group?*)
-identifying the size of a problem
-fact vs. opinion

As the end of the school year starts to approach, this is a tasty theme to explore social language skills and concepts with your students!  It has some figurative language sprinkled in (hint:  look at the titles of each activity), and can be used as a fun way to look for generalization of the skills your student is working on outside of your therapy room.

How could you generalize this? You could  extend the activities in this packet and collaborate with your general education teachers and families. Print and laminate pieces of an ice cream cone or sundae and have the teachers (or parents) give your student a piece when they “catch” them using the targeted skills in class or at home. It’s a good way to open up a dialogue about what social skills you are working on with the kids and how they can help carryover these skills.  When your students collect all the pieces, you can have a ‘Popsicle party’ or ‘sundae fun day’ to celebrate!!  Your classroom teachers may even decide to generalize the social language skills with ALL of their students!  Now THAT would really be the cherry on top 🙂

* “Keeping your brain in the group” is a concept from Think Social materials by Michelle Garcia Winner.

Let It Snow? Please, NOOOOOOOO….


winter idioms

I am not complaining about a few “snow days” off this week (neither of which actually involved snow), but I am tired of the cold, dreary weather.  My oldest used to describe these gray days as “gooey” when he was a toddler, and I agree that Winter can get a bit gloomy for this Florida girl.  The upsides of this week included being able to wear jammies for a good part of the day and spending time with my own children.  One other bonus of a little time off is that this time of year got me thinking (I know, a dangerous thing) about winter idioms.   I created a FREE winter idiom worksheet on TPT, click HERE

It’s so interesting to me when talking to families that speak languages other than English, the fascination with idioms and how to use them accurately.  It is a particularly tricky skill that my students with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) also struggle with using in conversation.  When we work on these figurative language concepts, I try to tackle it from multiple directions. For example:

1.  Talk about the literal meanings and the figurative meanings  

2.  Draw pictures of literal and non-literal for a visual dictionary, as this is helpful too for younger students or students with writing difficulties

3.  Give them the definition and see if they can give me the idiom

4.  Use the idiom in a sentence to provide accurate meaning

5.  Try to come up with other concept related idioms (for example: winter)

6.  Listen to me using the idiom and giving me a thumbs up (correct) or thumbs down (incorrect) to indicate comprehension

7.  Embed these idioms into a writing activity

8.  Bonus challenge:  try to use at least one idiom at home with family each night this week (give mom and dad a heads up prior to the week so they know what’ s going on and can reinforce the accurate use and fuss over them appropriately!)

I also came across some great Youtube videos on idioms (not winter ones, but chock FULL of clever references for your kids to tackle).  This one was created by Ringling Art school and is fantastic for older students:

Stay warm friends…..