Puzzle it out.

3x3 blog pic puzzles

This time of year is the perfect storm.  IEP season is in full swing, Spring break is just around the corner (woohoo) and everyone is feeling a bit squirmy and squirrelly (including the SLP).  I like to have a variety of therapy options to keep my kids engaged, but my budget is tight right now.  I looked in my magic cabinet of therapy materials to see what I could add to my bag of tricks that wouldn’t elicit groans of “no, not that.”   I spotted a shiny metal box that contained a 30 piece Star Wars themed puzzle and knew I hit the jackpot!

Really, a puzzle?  You put it together and it’s done, boring.  Well, yes, it can be if you use it exactly like that.  How about using the puzzle pieces as a therapy activity to work on gestalt thinking with your social learners?   Show a piece at a time (without showing a picture of the final product) and have them make smart guesses as to what the puzzle might be. Have any friends that focus on the unimportant details and miss the big picture?  Me too, and this is harder for them than you would think!  Add in a little group work razzle dazzle and your students will be working together to problem solve putting the picture together (without a model).  You are embedding the Social Thinking® concepts of turn taking, sharing personal space, regulating emotions (when the pieces don’t fit quite right), thinking with your eyes and sticking with a group plan!

Working on non-verbal skills? Have your students put the puzzle together without talking. They have to watch each other, use gestures and pay attention to cues that it’s their turn to put their puzzle piece in.  For our students with impulsivity or difficulty with emotional regulation, this might be challenging!  Start with short, easy puzzles to help them feel successful and build resilience in these skills.

With younger students or students working at an early social cognitive level,  you can use wooden puzzles with several pieces.  I use the puzzle pieces as a template to cut out pictures from magazines or google images that fit a theme. For example, I might cut out pictures of candy, pumpkins, costumes, October on a calendar and a bat.  Then I ask the students to take turns removing the puzzle pieces to reveal the clues and  make a guess as to what all these pictures are talking about (Halloween).  You can scaffold the picture clues from easy to more difficult as they develop this skill.

Reinforce conversational turn taking by giving each student a few puzzle pieces, with you providing a topic of discussion.  As each student adds a comment or connected question to the conversation, they get to add a piece of the puzzle.  Start with large piece puzzles at first (8-10 pieces) and as your students get the hang of this, add more pieces and change topics within the conversation. You could also choose puzzles that are areas of high interest for your students (Star Wars, Super Mario Brothers, Legos, Dinosaurs) and use the puzzle pieces as reinforcers for maintaining topic during therapy. They earn a piece of the puzzle each time you catch them keeping their brain in the group (or whatever social concept you are working on that day).  If you can’t find a puzzle that matches an area of interest (guinea pigs, for example) just find a google image of said interest, print, laminate and cut into puzzle pieces, voila’!  Make sure you leave a few minutes at the end of the session for the student to put the puzzle together.

Do you use puzzles in social language therapy?  Share your ideas 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.