Recess Rules!!!

recess rules blog

I don’t know about you, but with two weeks of school left, we are all a bit squirrelly!  You can feel the end is near and it’s making everyone a bit crazy and cranky, kids and adults alike.  Recess is a saving grace and the promise of EXTRA recess will motivate even the most active kids to focus and work a little harder.  I sit in a LOT of IEP meetings throughout the year, and recess comes up often for my friends with social language issues.  Unstructured times, like recess, are often the wild west of hidden rules for these kiddos.  You will either see them walking the perimeter of the playground on their own or trying to join in, but in unexpected and unwelcome ways.

I found several videos on Youtube that explain the rules of recess, from the teacher and student point of view.  You can find them on my Youtube channel under social play modeling  or on my social videos Pinterest board.  Many schools have adopted PBIS  (positive behavior intervention and supports) to address the “rules of the schools”.  PBIS often addresses recess and playground behavior specifically, so how great would it be to make your own school video or school posters to talk about the rules of recess?  You could brainstorm with your students about the rules (both spoken and hidden rules) of recess and then have them teach their peers through a video.  Talk with your administration and media specialist about sharing the videos at school; we have morning announcements that show on TVs in all the classrooms.  Bonus:  it’s a great way to work on tone of voice, volume, orienting your body towards to camera, thinking with your eyes and more social concepts that your student may be working on, as you film them!  Don’t forget to get parent permission first!

To further this concept, what about making videos to show how to join into games, ask other kids to play or even how to play certain games, like rock, paper, scissors ? Remember, our kids are not incidental learners, so breaking down the steps to play may seem too basic, but it’s often where we need to start!  We also know there are students that could benefit from this visual support that don’t have IEPs , but still struggle socially at recess.  I bet you could get a LOT of buy in from your counselor, other special education teachers and therapists in your school for a great project!  Think about tapping into Donor’s Choose to apply for funds for a great video camera and editing software too.

How do you support your students at recess?  Share here!

Stop Playing Games!!

stop playing games

What?!  Did I just actually say don’t play games in speech? Not quite, but please let me explain.  As I travel around speech rooms supervising new therapists and working with my own private speech kiddos, I have noticed a trend.  In the quest to make therapy engaging and fun for our kids, we search high and low for the perfect game to gain “buy in” from our students. The holy grail appears to be ‘Cariboo’ based on facebook posts, but I am sure there are many other favorites across speech rooms.  As a young therapist, I didn’t want to necessarily share my student’s new favorite game in speech with the parents. I feared they would run right out to buy it, thus removing the magic bullet that I had ‘discovered’.

I have since learned that there is no magic bullet or game that will work each time with every kid. In fact, you can have the most amazing lesson plan for therapy EVER in the history of speech and it won’t connect with the student that day, for whatever reason. Don’t take it personally.  Being flexible is one of the secret weapons in our SLP arsenal and learning to adjust the session based on the student’s response, is an acquired skill. Don’t let yourself believe that finding a different “greatest game in the world” each and every week will guarantee success.  It won’t, but it might burn you out and make you broke.

I DO want speech to be fun, and there is nothing more boring to me than sitting around a worksheet doing the same old same old.  So where is the sweet spot for therapy balance? Combining a variety of goal focused activities, including games, that target core vocabulary (both academic and community based language), social language skills, and time to pause and learn in the moment is the recipe for a successful therapy session. Add a little movement, a sense of humor and the opportunity to connect the therapy room skills to the rest of their world, and you have a winning combination for your kids!

What are your thoughts on using games in therapy?

Go ahead, you can say the “A” word…


What exactly is the “A” word?   August, of course (what were you thinking?!).  I know, I know, it isn’t even officially summer yet and here I am blabbering on about August!! Take your fingers out of your ears and stop yelling “lalalala!”. Summer is no small luxury; it’s a time of restoration after a crazy year of IEPs, meetings, paperwork, etc. that help SLPs keep our collective sanity.  However, August (or September for my friends up North) doesn’t have to be a bad word!

I used to dread it too, but then I had a shift in perspective.  If I spend a little time (very little) prepping over the summer months, then I can roll into my room with a few cute, color coded file folders and a plan.  That way, when a new IEP magically appears on my desk after I have finished my schedule, no problem.  I have learned the hard way to always start my paper schedule in pencil and when I transition to my computer, add the date on any revisions to keep me sane!  A last-minute, pre-planning advocate meeting on my one free day to set up my physical space?  No tears, just go with the flow.   I try to have a rough idea of what I want on the bulletin board before I leave in May, and since I packed my room up, I have a clean slate to start with.  My theme this year is minimalism…anything pre-2000 is gone (kidding…kind of).

A general idea of themes, if you work in younger grades, works well to plan out the year and themes lend themselves to all kinds of therapy areas.  For older students, getting a feel for the common core in literature and language arts will go a long way in supporting your students. Don’t forget science and social studies, and heck even the language of math can be incorporated into therapy!  My friend Meredith over at Peachie Speechie and Speech Blogs has complied an amazing list of SLP blogs HERE , jam packed with great therapy ideas to align with themes and the core !  If you start thinking of these goals and themes this summer, you can plan what you need for a back to school sale on TPT !

Take a little time to organize games and replace missing pieces. Buy a bunch of plastic sleeves to protect your TPT fabulous finds and store them in labeled binders (by theme, season, type of therapy, alphabetically, whatever makes sense to YOU). Get rid of the unnecessary clutter; if it’s out of date, toss it.  Don’t use it anymore? Donate it to a new SLP (they will be thrilled).  Organize a speechie share and swap for materials and games.  Looking for new(er) games?  Check out thrift stores as you can find gently used or even brand new games (Cariboo anyone?).

So breathe, enjoy the summer ahead and stick your toes in the sand somewhere warm.  August will be here soon enough!   What’s your best summer tip to set you up for success in the next school year?