What’s a Popplet?

3x3 blog pic popplet

It sounds like a cute Saturday morning cartoon character or a yummy pastry, but Popplet is actually an interactive graphic organizer app! It’s available on itunes but I am lucky enough to have it as part of my Office 365 suite on my school computer!  This app is described on their  website : “In the classroom and at home, students use Popplet for learning. Used as a mind-map, Popplet helps students think and learn visually. Students can capture facts, thoughts, and images and learn to create relationships between them.”  My students, especially my students with social language impairments, ADD and/or executive function impairments, are definitely visual learners! I am too, so here is a link to a youtube video that shows how to build a Popplet organizer.  Here is a link to a fabulous education blog that outlines multiple uses for Popplet in school with a great step by step tutorial.   One of my SLPeeps (thanks Joy!) introduced me to this in a presentation recently and my mind jumped right to social language concepts (I know, it’s an obsession)!

popplet screen shot

How cool would this be to use for social mapping?  You could add a picture of the problem scenario in the middle (or even have the students role play problems and take actual pictures of them to use with the app).  Then, use the organizer to build out expected/unexpected pathways (you can color code them too) and tease out how their choices impact how others think and feel.  If your students have tablets in your school system as ours do, you can push out the Popplet to them individually and they have an immediate visual social map to refer to.

What about our friends who have difficulty with group work?  Building a Popplet together might be more enticing to my students who love technology and sneak in some collaborative learning skills at the same time in the therapy setting or in the classroom!  I can see this being used to work on expanding social language concepts such as perspective taking using a graphic organizer, connecting the concepts of think/say/feel and even linking shades of emotions using Popplet.  I want to try it out and have my kids look at a picture in the middle, then identify and connect the clues they see in order to make a smart guess!   It would be fantastic to be able to print a screenshot and blow it up to poster size to refer to in your therapy room or classroom too.

I am excited to try out this new therapy tool and see how it goes.  Have you used Popplet? Please share your thoughts here.  If not, how would you use it for social language therapy?

What were you thinking?!

Group of five children thinking

My 9th grader had to write an article on the government and differing points of view on who was responsible for the fiscal cliff issues.  For most adults, this would be a difficult task to sort out, particularly because most of us would write with a bias towards our belief in who was at fault!!  He struggled to get started and asked for a little help, so I sat down with him and puzzled out the players and their roles using a graphic organizer.  It really helped him sort and clarify ideas and relationships before he started writing.  I love using visuals, especially graphic organizers, and mentioned using them in last week’s blog related to history.

Here’s an example of the  graphic organizer I completed with another high school student I worked with and here’s a link to a FREE blank template in my TPT store (customize away!).

I have used this technique with many students with social language weakness as perspective taking does not come easy.  We would take newspaper articles, current events in the community or clips from TV shows and movies (check out www.wingclips.com ) to practice.  You can use this same idea when discussing historical events or in literature using a whiteboard or smartboard for whole class participation.

  • Our first step is to identify the main issue ( examples: soldiers in Afghanistan, ice storms in Atlanta, the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets).
  • Then we identify all the people who could be involved in this issue.
  • Next we talk through how the people are related to the issue and what their point of view/perspective might be.  This is tricky and it might be helpful to limit the number of points of view (pov) to three when you begin, or with younger students.
  • Last, we connect each of the povs to the main idea. I then ask the student to tell me what their perspective on the issue is, based on what we talked about. There is no right or wrong answer, and letting them know this ahead of time reduces anxiety.
  • I try to include visuals or ask the student to get a picture in their head to help them take another person’s pov.  I list character traits and emotions for the students to refer to with this activity.  Sometimes when we ask kids to brainstorm, the retrieval process gets in the way of the ideas, so make it as easy as possible!
  • This is a great gateway activity to start working on the concepts of opinion/beliefs, the persuasive writing process and learning to listen to and accept ideas that differ from your own.  It also opens up discussion on which topics may be more volatile and why they upset people.  example: religion, money, voting .

Share your great ideas on how to develop perspective taking in the classroom!!  I would love to know what YOU are thinking 🙂

No big deal or is it?

problem solution

*graphic courtesy of  www.mycutegraphics.com

My task this week has been to develop a problem solution page for students with social language impairments. As I tried to boil down what was necessary and what was just clutter, an image began to form in my mind. What is it that we want to help our kids learn when they are going from crisis to melt down throughout the day? This cycle exhausts parents, teachers and the little (and not so little) people involved, leaving everyone tired, frustrated and a bit cranky. If we are constantly in fight or flight mode, we aren’t really available for learning anything new.

I thought back to the days of when one of my children was caught in this cycle. I couldn’t reason with him in the moment (tried, failed, learned), but as I started to see patterns in his behaviors, I knew I could start a conversation prior to or well after an event. While it didn’t cure the emotional outbursts, being able to identify what a problem is or isn’t was a place to start. Then we figured out who can help me with a problem. The ultimate answer to this question is the child, but this takes a lot of practice to have that awareness when the going gets tough. Next, we figured out what I can do (or what I can control). This is hard work! And the last part, which isn’t really the last part, is figuring out a solution.

To this practical experience, I added a visual thermometer to help kids decide if the problem is BIG, medium or small. It was also important to add some emotional language to talk about how the child feels, both before and after a problem. Giving language to feelings is a powerful tool for all of us! Is it going to be like magic pixie dust and work the first time? Nope. But to quote the wonderful Dory, “Just keep swimming.” Repetition is our friend!

Click here for the  link to my problem/solution forms on TPT

Now you don’t have to use my format, get creative and make something that works for you!!  Beyond using these for individual students, here are some other suggestions:

  • making a problem/solution cookbook for a classroom to collaborate on problem solving/solutions with their peers. It helps to know that everyone has problems they struggle with and sharing this information might spark some great solutions for everyone!
  • You can also connect the idea of problem solving to the world around us. An example would be to use it for Martin Luther King Jr. Day next week to talk about what problems he experienced and what his solutions were.
  • You can also extend this form to talk about characters in literature and how they handled problems/solutions (think CORE!!).