That darn elf….


My boys are older now, but I admit I was sucked into the  Elf on the Shelf  phenomena (not to be confused with The Mensch on the Bench lol).  It was such a genius idea from a local author, Carol Aebersold , to celebrate a family tradition.  This was in the pre-Pinterest era (aka the “olden days”), thank goodness.  All that glossy, professionally lighted creativity gives me anxiety as a mama!  But soon the fun story and process of coming up with mildly naughty adventures for our elf (Elwood) became a bit daunting.  Elwood wrapped my car completely in streamers, spelled out my youngest son’s name on his bed in underwear (hilarious for a 6 year old boy, I promise) and hid in our Christmas tree at the last minute when I woke up late and had forgotten to plan the night before.  He always left a note saying good bye before heading back to the North Pole.  As my boys grew older, we passed our elf along to a younger cousin (I so owe my sister in law some good wine for that).

Looking back at those Christmas memories, it dawned on me that Elwood’s adventures would be a fun way to work on the Social Thinking concepts of Expected and Unexpected behaviors with my social skills groups.  My kids always had hilarious stories of the unpredictable situations their own elves got into (God bless their mamas!) and this can evolve into a fun lesson on what the unexpected might make us think, feel or say. You can take it a step farther and set up some predictable and unpredictable settings around your school or therapy setting with your elf. Snap some pictures on your iphone or ipad to use in therapy this month.  You can add some other characters (such as a stuffed reindeer, some older students or even your principal, if they are game) to add perspective taking skills to your pictures.  What are the others in the picture thinking, feeling or saying in the situation?  A fellow slp blogger, Activity Tailor, had posted a link to these cute headband thought bubbles that would be perfect to use in this activity too.  You could even make a tiny one to add to your elves!

You can extend the social language concepts by talking about hidden rules, identifying the right timing/people/place of being funny, and  predicting what might happen next! If you click over to the Elf on the Shelf official website HERE, they also have a school resource page with free, common core related activities and printables for your K-5 kiddos!  Easy, inexpensive and seasonal fun for your younger students?  Now that’s a gift!

How do you add holiday themed fun into your social skills groups this time of year?


Strike a Pose.


The newest viral rage is the #mannequinchallenge.  It is basically a live version of a freeze frame picture.  All kinds of videos have been uploaded by sports teams, schools, SLPs at ASHA (check out this video on PandaSpeech’s instagram page HERE) and even this dog (he is amazing)!  When my son showed them to me, I thought it was silly fun but then I started to think about how I could use these videos with my  kids working on social skills.  It combines a topic with social relevance (for the moment) that they can talk to their peers about AND the perfect tool to work on some social language concepts (most of my kids LOVE videos).

Each of the challenge videos are thematic, for example, sports, music, or school. Remember to preview first, just to make sure nothing “unexpected” pops up!  Often they have funny poses or actions included and it is incredible that almost no one moves.  Each video lasts only a minute or two, and is the perfect length of time to use in a social skills lesson. You can use these videos to work on identifying the gestalt or “big picture” idea the video represents (what’s the setting or theme of the video?) and identify the clues that helped them make a smart guess. Then you can talk about what the people in the video might be thinking or feeling and identify the related non-verbal clues that they see (there isn’t anyone speaking in the videos). The lesson can extend to include predictions about what might happen next when the frozen actions come to life.  Most of the videos end with all the people moving, laughing, or clapping to celebrate their successful completion of the challenge so pause it before that point, to make your predictions!  If your kids are up to the challenge, you can make your own video and sneak in some working in groups skills too (shhhhhh)!

Here are a few of my favorites:

Lego mannequin challenge

Disney Holiday mannequin challenge

Cleveland Cavaliers at the White House mannequin challenge

Pentatonix concert mannequin challenge

The Ohio State University Football team mannequin challenge

What are your favorite mannequin challenges that you have seen?

Say Cheese!

photo booth props blog

I was wandering through our local thrift shop this summer looking for new therapy games when a photo booth kit caught my eye.  It was a whopping $1.50, so I threw it in my cart not knowing quite what I was going to do with it, but I was absolutely sure I was going to do something with it!  By the time I got home, an idea popped into my head.  What about using these for social language concepts to figure out what someone might be thinking, saying or feeling?

I let each of the kids take turns picking a prop and standing in front of the backdrop, and imagining a feeling they wanted to convey (angry, silly, scared).  I cut thought and speech bubbles out of poster board and pinned them to the backdrop, but you could also attach them to wooden dowels and make your own props with them.  If you are printing out the pictures on paper, you can use post it notes in these shapes (how cool are these?) for your thought and speech bubbles or you could put the pictures in a clear plastic sleeve and write on the outside using a dry erase marker to make them reusable.

After I snapped a few pictures on my phone (you could prep and print them out before hand too if you are more organized than I am), I asked them to figure out what each other might be feeling, thinking or saying.  No helping from the person in the picture was allowed before we made our guesses, but their input definitely was helpful in the discussions afterwards.  We also had some silly fun to work on identifying what was unexpected or unpredictable in a picture (example:  a girl with a mustache).  You can extend this activity to make guesses about where the person might be going or even make your own photo booth props for seasonal fun!

Have you ever used photo booth props in therapy?  Share your ideas 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!

Puppies, Prediction and Cars…

puppy blog pic

I am a dog lover, so when puppy commercials come on TV, I get drawn in immediately. Subaru has a series of car commercials airing now that just suck me in. every. single. time.  They feature a family of Golden Retrievers (The Barkleys!) and their adventures in driving. There are no words in the commercials (duh, they are dogs) BUT they convey a message in each one very clearly. For my students with social language impairments, too much language muddies the processing waters, so these are perfect!  I have downloaded the series onto my social language Youtube channel playlists HERE .

Beyond the complete cuteness overload, they are fabulous tools to work on the social language concepts of predicting and inferencing for my students!  The eight commercials convey social scenarios (for example: the mom getting her hair done) and are great to use to identify emotions, prediction, point of view and humor, all in about thirty seconds. Don’t forget about expected and unexpected concepts too (a puppy in a car seat-whaaaat?). These would be great to use with Playposit (you can read my blog post on how to create your own therapy activity by embedding questions into video clips HERE ).

Do you use commercials to teach inferences or other social language concepts?  I love using Dorito’s Super Bowl ads  and kid’s movie previews!  Please share your favorites here!

Happy New Year Beasties!



Oh Christmas break, how I love you!! I had the luxury of catching up on some movies (and some sleep) that I missed this year including Maleficent, the retelling of Sleeping Beauty.  It is told from the point of view of the “evil” queen, Maleficent, who cast a curse on poor Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty or Brier-Rose).  Of course it includes the tried and true plot point of killing off the mom, but it completely flipped the Disney version I watched as a child.  It offers a great starting place to talk about point of view and perspective taking with my older students.

I would start the lesson by talking about the Grimm story and any background knowledge that my students have. If they have seen this movie, what were their thoughts?  It would offer a great opportunity to compare and contrast (hello common core) the Disney animated version or the Grimm fairy tale with Maleficent or even the different versions of the evil queen (Aurora remains fairly consistent throughout the stories).

The lesson can continue with making inferences about the characters from movie clips such as this one with this one .  I would talk about the change in mood, tone, the music, and the characters appearances as clues to make smart guesses about inferences and predictions.  You can even compare the point of view of Aurora’s character before and after she understands who Maleficent is  ( here and here ) using my free POV graphic organizer from TPT.

For older students (middle school on up), it would open up an interesting discussion on the concepts of good/evil and the motivations behind the character’s choices (for example, the king’s treatment of Maleficent).  It is often the perspective of students with ASD that people and choices are “black and white”, but this movie really looks at the gray areas well, that people can struggle with good and evil.   I might also include talking about my favorite fairy tale cliché’, that love conquers all, and how there are many different kinds of love(for example:true love’s kiss can be a prince vs. a mother’s love).

So there you go Beasties, a social language lesson plan to start the New Year!



A Turkey’s Point of View…

Scared Turkey with Sign

Thanksgiving is almost upon us and the kiddos are getting a bit squirrelly in the schools as we head into the last week before a break.  To be honest, the adults are too.  In looking at books that could align with the core and relate to the Thanksgiving (both factually and fictionally), I came across several great ones to use in speech this week including Pete the Cat The First Thanksgiving ,  Bear Says Thanksand Turkey for Dinner .     The last book, Turkey for Dinner, by D.R. Greenlaw is an older book but a fantastic story that lends itself well to perspective taking, misperceptions, double meanings and point of view, all in a beautifully illustrated story.  The publisher even has the free, readable story on their website here .

I created a complete 7 page lower and higher level lesson plan to align with the story for you to use with your students at TPT, but here is the FREE higher order question activity for the story.  Happy Thanksgiving!


Vocabulary to review prior to reading the story:  chilly, shimmering, spooky, warily, horrid, vegetarian, speechless

Look at the story using only the pictures and see if you can guess what might happen BEFORE you read (and write down your predictions to see if you are right).

Don’t forget you can use the pictures again to help you make smart guesses when you answer the questions below:

1.  Why do you think the berry bushes were safer for the turkey than an open field?

2. Turkey wasn’t paying attention to where he was going.  Why do you think he was nervous when fox talked to him?

3. What do think fox is thinking when he says, “Care to join me for dinner?”

4.  What do you think turkey was thinking?

5.  Is there more than one meaning to the statement “Wait, I want you for dinner!” ?

6.  Why did turkey tell fox to eat a cow?  How do think the cow felt?

7.  When turkey and fox ran to the top of the mountain, and were tired and cold:

a.  what was turkey thinking?

b.  what was fox thinking?

c.  Do the fox and the turkey know what the other is thinking and feeling?

8.  How did the fox and turkey clear up their misunderstanding?

9.  Why are they eating salad?

10.  What could fox have done differently to invite turkey to dinner at the beginning of the story?


Aligns to common core standards:




5th: ELACC5RL6