Celebrating MLK Day with a social language craftivity!

give-someone-a-hand-blog

The life and words of Martin Luther King Jr. are embedded throughout the city of Atlanta (and beyond), where I live.  I love the idea of volunteering to honor his lifelong work by helping others on MLK Jr. Day.   The social challenges that sparked this Pastor’s passion for peace are complex and difficult for some of my students to understand.   With my younger students, I like to focus on the concept of why we should help others.  It fits beautifully into a social thinking framework of taking someone else’s perspective, thinking about how our actions and words make someone else feel and the value of doing something kind for another person, without expecting anything in return.

At first glance, these are pretty big social concepts, right?  However, when you look at Dr. King’s vision and the words of his sermons, you will see the essence of his message is to love and accept other people.  A big part of being able to do this is to be able to think about how other people might feel and think, in relationships to our words and actions.  In order to talk about this concept, we break big picture ideas into scaffolded steps,  like this helping hand wreath.

helping-hand-wreath

I found these great free clip art hands  from Teacher’s Clipart on TPT.   I printed them, cut out the shapes, and then let my kids pick a hand.  Your students can also trace their hands on construction paper and cut them out too for an ink saving version with a fine motor bonus.  Add to the lesson with Readworks , a free website that has many articles at different comprehension levels/grades that help us talk about MLK in the context of history and social change like this second grade passage with great pictures.  It is important to talk about why we honor someone, what that looks like and how helping other people can do this.

Next, I ask the kids to think of a way they can help someone and we talk about the idiom “give someone a hand”.  They can then write or draw how they can help someone on their paper hand.   It doesn’t have to be formal volunteering, it can be as simple as bringing the garbage can in for an elderly neighbor, holding the door open for someone or picking up your room without your mom asking you to do it. The object is for their actions or words to help someone  (and in turn that person will have good thoughts and feelings about them)!  It can even be a “secret mission” as the point is not recognition for a good deed or even telling others what you did, but that doing for others makes us feel good too.  They often come back and share how it went and it is a great time to connect how their actions and words made other people feel.  I hope this activity lights a tiny flame of altruism that they carry throughout their lives and effects positive social change for them too.

How do you teach the bigger concepts of kindness and service?  Share here…

 

Ugly Sweaters and Inferences.

blog-pic-ugly-sweater

Earlier this year, I posted about using T-shirt slogans for inferences.  Tis the season for ugly sweater parties, so why not extend this concept to the holidays too? I found this great freebie on TPT from LittleRed when you follow her store (you will get a pass code to download the clipart) with a variety of clip art holiday sweaters like the one in the picture above!. You can make your own slogan/picture activities for your late elementary through high school students to figure out the meaning  or guess who might wear these holiday sweaters.  If you don’t want to make your own, the internet is FULL of great examples. Preview first my friends, preview first, I saw a LOT of inappropriate sweaters (don’t use them, but they are sure to give you a laugh). On a related note, I also found a cool website, Stereotype Design, that gives a few sentences on a T shirt and you have to guess the movie ( well, hello figuring out the big picture from details!).

You can create a whole Pinterest board of ugly holiday sweaters/t-shirts to work on these skills as well (or just click for my board here; it’s a growing work in progress, just like me).  Walk them through a few examples to practice together, then see how they do!

The questions you can pose with the ugly sweaters could include:

What do you think the message or picture means (intent)?  

Is this literal or sarcastic?   If it’s humorous, what makes it funny?

Who might wear this?  Who would NEVER wear this?

What do you think other people might think or feel when they see this sweater?  

Where would it be okay to wear this sweater?  Where would it NOT be okay to wear this sweater? 

What first impression do you have of someone wearing this sweater?  

What background knowledge might you need to understand the slogan or picture?

Would you wear this sweater?  Why or why not?

If you disagree or are upset with a sweater picture or slogan, should you say something?  Why or why not?

*Ask your students to take pictures of any other interesting holiday sweaters that they see to extend this activity.  You can call it “operation sweater sleuth”! I would clearly state the rule that the slogan/pictures can’t have any profanity or inappropriate content, especially with your middle schoolers on up.

Any good, kid friendly holiday sweater slogans or pictures that you have seen recently?  Share here!

 

It’s the #Novslpmusthave sale!

8x8-cover-point-of-view-bundle

Hi speech peeps, it’s the seventh of the month on Monday, and you know what that means?  The #slpmusthave sale is back!   On the seventh of each month, a bunch (a gaggle, a flock, a vox?) of SLPs pick one item to discount 50% off for that day only.  You can search teacherspayteachers using the hashtag #Novslpmusthave , to see the list of the items.  It’s a great way to snap up some fun products to get you through the craziness of November, right through Thanksgiving break!

My  Point of View Bundle is my pick for this month and is half off at only $4.00 for 75 pages of activities for your early learners.  These packets have a Thanksgiving, Christmas and Winter theme and target the social language concepts of point of view, perspective taking, visualizing vocabulary, making a smart guess, context clues and listening comprehension.

 

 

Social Language and Literacy (part 2)

books-series-cover-2

Last week, we talked about using books for social language concepts with younger students in part one of this series.  This week, I want to talk about using literature to work on these concepts with your middle and high school students.  I had the opportunity to be invited to at TPT brunch recently in Atlanta.   (Side note: if the TeachersPayTeachers brunch rolls through your area, grab an invite and GO!  There were so many great ideas shared and it was fun to connect with TPT people in real life!) One of the speakers was a fabulous local TPT teacher, Heather LeBlanc of Brainy Apples .  She shared about how she uses literacy across the curriculum with her students.  Our conversation sparked some ideas on how to use literature with my upper grade students with social language impairments.

Heather explained how she used The Diary of Anne Frank  as part of the difficult unit on the Holocaust in her social studies class.  In addition to the novel, she found some amazing resources in our local community through Kennesaw State University including the library lending actual materials (Traveling Trunks) from that period of history and providing connections to survivors of the Holocaust to come speak to students.  How amazing to hear the story of someone who was witness to these historical events! From a social perspective, connecting a personal experience to our thoughts and feelings in deeper and more meaningful ways to words in a book is a powerful teaching tool.

Her great ideas caused me to think more about the literature  that is used in our upper grades.  The stories are often complex and require a lot of background knowledge to understand the stated themes as well as the more subtle ones that are woven through the books.  For example, my own high schooler is reading A Raisin in the Sun.  This story contains themes about dreams, hopes, racism, poverty, pride, family and suffering. These are concepts that often pose a challenge to our students with social language impairments, and frankly can be difficult for even our neurotypical students to understand. We often ask our readers to take the perspective of other people or experiences that our students haven’t had.  Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes is hard work socially!

Breaking down these bigger concepts into the basics of what the characters (and we as people) feel, think and say, can help us understand the character’s actions, motivations and point of view more accurately.  Cause and effect (walking through this step by step), identifying problems and possible solutions and discussing how a character’s actions impact other characters in the story all have a social language basis. Graphic organizers are an effective tool to pull apart these social pieces for your students and there is a great set for free from The Curriculum Corner HERE .  While this set is for 4th and 5th grade students, I use them with my older students with social language impairments as they are clear and organized well for the concepts.  Take a look at the Common Core to see how much is already embedded in the classroom ELA standards for our beginning middle school students!

I love using the resources from Sparknotes and Schmoop  to help my older students understand the themes and social meaning of stories.  Schmoop even has a video summary (Schmoop tube), in a three-minute condensed version using student friendly language, of many of the literature units for middle and high schoolers.  As I was Googling A Raisin in the Sun materials, I happened to stumble across this class assignment for students to develop a play list of music that would align with the themes of the story. What a great way to demonstrate understanding of these themes!  You can get pretty creative in working on these skills but don’t reinvent the wheel, look around for lots of great ideas that are already available.  Great SLPs (and teachers) work smarter not harder, right?

What are some ways you work on social language concepts with the upper grades ELA curriculum?  Share here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social language and Literacy (part 1)

books-series-cover-1

I love to read.  My  perfect day would be spending it in a library filled to the 3rd floor with real books, comfy reading nooks, unlimited coffee, tea, and hot cocoa,  and with a librarian that looks like George Clooney…ahhh.  So it is no surprise that I use books often in speech therapy, particularly social language therapy with my kids.  There are many options for younger students, such as picture books ,Cynthia Rylant’s Henry and Mudge series,  or any of Peter Brown’s books  (You Will Be My Friend is one of my favorites) that align beautifully with social language concepts!  I have a Pinterest board for stories HERE that you are welcome to peruse.

The social language concepts of prediction, inferencing, point of view and emotions are embedded in stories.  What does this look like?  Let’s start with the covers.  Having our students make what Michelle Garcia Winner refers to as a “smart guess” based on a title or picture, is the first step.   Helping our kids look for clues in pictures or words, “think with their eyes”, and then making a leap to guess what the story might be about is hard work for those with social language impairments.  Don’t gloss over this step, remember our students are not incidental learners!

The next step is to read through the story together, stopping to make a guess about what might happen next.  Prediction and listening comprehension go hand in hand.  If there is novel vocabulary, pause the story and talk about what they think those words might mean (hello context clues!).  You might ask your older students keep a personal dictionary, like this freebie from Natalie Snyders,  as we read to help them in discussions along the way. Your younger students can use a composition notebook to journal pictures of story vocabulary if they are not yet strong writers.

I laminate a large heart, thought bubble and word bubble to use with our story too.  We use these templates to talk about what a character might be thinking, feeling or saying in the story. With my older elementary students, you can compare and contrast character’s emotions and expand the conversation into point of view. Venn Diagrams are great for this!  We talk about identifying the problem and possible solutions in the story (there might be more than one), and can extend this skill to explaining which one would be the best solution.These skills are embedded in the Common Core curriculum from K on up, by the way (take a look at the ELA standards for literacy).

With my younger students, we draw pictures to sequence and re-tell the story.  They love to act out the stories and what a great opportunity this is for learning to work in a group, negotiating, sharing personal space and turn taking!  We also brainstorm after we read the story, and talk about what expected or unexpected situations occurred.  Did the characters act in predictable or unpredictable ways in response to these situations?  This provides an opportunity to talk about expected/unexpected behaviors and help our students connect their personal experiences to the characters.

This is not a one time lesson.  I use stories over several sessions, and can extend the social language concepts over a month of speech.  These are great lessons to use during push in groups or whole class lessons as well. Pre-teaching these skills before you take them into a whole class will give your students the vocabulary and practice to participate in whole group instruction more successfully too.  I created a packet of ten templates that you can use with any story to work on these concepts HERE in my TPT store.

What stories or author’s do you love to use in therapy?  Share here!

Fits to a T

T shirt blog template

With the Presidential election around the corner, I have noticed quite a few slogans on T shirts that make me laugh out loud or cringe in embarrassment.  Whoever you are voting for, there is sure to be a T shirt to make a statement!  This got me thinking about T shirt slogans and the thoughts we have about the people wearing them (well, at least I do!).  What a fun way to talk about the social language concepts of inferences, conversation topics and being politically correct in today’s world (and the hidden rules that go along with this)!

I found this great freebie on TPT from Cara’s Creative Playground with a variety of clip art baseball style T shirts. You can make your own slogan activities for your late elementary through high school students to figure out the meaning of the slogan or guess who might wear these shirts.  If you don’t want to make your own, the internet is FULL of great examples (preview first my friends, preview first). On a related note, I also found a cool website, Stereotype Design, that gives a few sentences on a T shirt and you have to guess the movie ( well, hello figuring out the big picture from details!).

You can create a whole Pinterest board of t shirt slogans to work on these skills as well (or just click for my board here; it’s a growing work in progress, just like me).  Walk them through a few examples to practice together, then see how they do!

The questions you can pose with the slogans could include:

What do you think the message means/intent?  

Is this literal or sarcastic? 

Who might wear this shirt?  Who would NEVER wear this shirt?

What do you think other people might think or feel when they see this shirt?  

Where would it be okay to wear this shirt?  Where would it NOT be okay to wear this shirt? 

What first impression do you have of someone wearing this t shirt?  

What background knowledge might you need to understand the slogan?

Would you wear this t shirt?  Why or why not?

If you disagree or are upset with a t shirt slogan, should you say something?  Why or why not?

*Ask your students to take pictures of any other interesting t shirts they see to extend this activity.  You can call it “operation slogan sleuth”! I would clearly state the rule that the slogan can’t have any profanity, especially with your middle schoolers on up.

Any good slogan t shirts that you have seen recently?  Share here!

Social skills and hard conversations

hard conversations blog

This summer has been a difficult one as the news has been full of upsetting images happening across our country.  I was visiting family in Dallas, Texas the week of the police shootings and like the rest of the country after an extraordinarily violent week, I was stunned.  I watched the peaceful protests in Atlanta on the local news when I got home the following week.  I had to turn off the TV for a while to process all I was thinking about, away from the rhetoric of social media. While I am not a mother to a police officer or an African American son,  I am a mom. My heart broke for these families and broke for us as a country. How can we begin to discuss these big issues-racism, trust, personal safety- in our homes, schools and places of worship, if we cannot begin to take the perspective of someone else?

To be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is hard.  It’s even harder when we define ourselves by how we are not the same, rather than what we have in common.  In social language therapy, helping my kids shift their point of view to at least try and consider what someone else might be thinking or feeling, is challenging.  All the lessons that we address in a social language framework , as Michelle Garcia Winner states, are life skills to help us work and live with others successfully.  Pause and consider this for just a minute. Understanding basic Theory of Mind, that my thoughts can be different from your thoughts based on our experiences and what we know, is a foundation to getting along with others.  Even the basic social rules we learn on the playground still apply in the grown up world; take turns, help someone if they get hurt, include others and play fair. Why is it so difficult for us to apply these lessons as we grow up?

It is critical that we teach the concepts of thinking about others and trying to consider another person’s point of view (even when you don’t agree with it) to all kids, not just students with social language impairments. It is equally as important as academics, in my opinion.  Self-control and emotional regulation are also necessary social skills that we need to teach, to get along with others in this world. Bullying people into listening to your point of view and screaming that you are right and they are wrong, are not going to solve anything, whether you are five or fifty. Like I tell my own boys, you have the right to your own thoughts and feelings, but you do not have the right to use them to purposefully hurt others.

I realize that this is simplifying a very complicated series of problems. I don’t have the answers, although I sure wish I did.  What I do believe, is that in a very “me” centered culture, we need to shift hard to thinking about other people, starting in our homes and in our schools.  We need to listen to and talk with people who think like us and those who don’t. These opportunities for difficult conversations are going to continue to present themselves to you and me, so how are we going to handle them moving forward?  I can take a step in the right direction by teaching children that I work with the life skills and social language concepts needed to think about other people, and practicing this myself.

Share your thoughts here.