Watch your tone!

3x3 blog pic tone of voice

Voice is an area of communication that I have really had to step up my game recently. Many of my students with autism spectrum disorders struggle with the subtleties of understanding that it’s not just the words they say, but how they say them, that convey meaning.  I love using videos to teach many social concepts and tone of voice is one of these areas, but I also needed some step by step materials to explain the why of this skill. Have you had any friends that speak like a robot or a cartoon character, or use a loud, angry tone of voice all the time (even when they weren’t mad)?  Me too!

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I ended up making what I needed after looking around for months, and voila’, Voxbots (get it?) was born and you can find it in my TPT store!  I tend to be a linear thinker and know that my kids need to understand the steps and the why before we can practice and start to change these skills.   I begin with teaching cards to describe each clue we need to consider, in order to determine the right tone of voice. These clues include matching emotion to words, reading body language and facial expressions, determining the right place, time and people, and adjusting our volume, speed and inflection.  It always amazes me when I break down a skill, how complex each one is and how neurotypical brains work effortlessly when we communicate.  It also helps me understand and empathize at how hard these skills are for my students with social language deficits!

I then have task cards for each of the clue areas to practice the skills.  After we get the instructional understanding down in therapy, I give homework using a checklist of what to look for. I ask them to observe the clues in real time at home, across people and settings.  We also use video clips to look for the clues and to see if the tone of voice matches what is going on in the movie or commercial (you can look through my Pinterest board for social video clips HERE ).  Using an ipad or iphone to record the students is another great idea to generalize the skill. My students often have the most difficult time watching themselves, so I save this practice until last.  Remember, social communication in real time is a very fast moving, complex skill for all of us.  This is not a once and done lesson.  You may scaffold the skills over several weeks and then re-visit them throughout the year in therapy to probe for generalization or to see where the kids are missing clues.  You can even create a bulletin board with their Voxbots as a visual cue in the classroom or send them home as a reminder for carryover.

How do you teach tone of voice skills in therapy?  Share here!

Will You Be My Social Valentine?

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Valentine’s Day is upon us, and I am reminded again that it is a holiday that can be quite tricky for my students with social language impairments!  There is a whole lot of indirect language, hidden rules and emotional regulation in this holiday.  I found this adorable “monster crush” mailbox at my local dollar store (score!) and started thinking of all the ways I can use it this holiday, in my social therapy.  Here are few that you might want to try too!

ESL websites are a great resource of figurative language activities that also benefit my kids with social language impairments!  Here is one from EverythingESL on idioms related to the heart.  You can write the idioms on a paper heart and the students have to take them out of the mailbox and explain what the idiom literally means.  You can extend the activity by having them draw or write the meaning on the hearts and make a fun bulletin board from them.

For my upper grade students, I have this Cupid Quandary freebie in my TPT store.

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 It has sixteen sticky social situations for your kids to talk through (you can use the mailbox with this as well for turn taking).  It includes some blank template cards to add your own scenarios too.

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I use the Superflex® curriculum from Michelle Garcia Winner, and she has created a group of characters called Unthinkables.  These characters personify some of the challenges my students may have, such as not being a flexible thinker (Rock Brain) or poor emotional regulation (Glassman).  I have seen a few other SLPs (like Speech Room News ) create Unthinkable Valentines from these characters and have the students guess who they belong to.  You could also give the student the Unthinkable and ask them to write a card from the Unthinkable’s point of view (much harder)!  Extend the activity by talking about how the person receiving that Valentine might think or feel.

You could even get a little crazy and buy 2 mailboxes to sort valentine’s cards or hearts based on things you would say vs.things you should think or expected vs.unexpected comments related to Valentine’s Day. These are also social language concepts from Social Thinking®, so check it out if you haven’t already!

Want some more budget friendly Valentine’s Day ideas?  Visit my Instagram page @SmartmouthSLP each day this week for dollar store ideas to target social language concepts!

It’s not a box of chocolates, but I hope these ideas make your Valentine’s day social language therapy a little sweeter!

It’s the #Novslpmusthave sale!

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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.

 

 

Mindfulness with a scoop of pink oatmeal.

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I love to stumble across different social language tools to use and I found this  great blog post by Maura Fox, SLP, that outlines beautifully why mindfulness aligns so well with Social Thinking concepts.  I then happened upon the TPT store, Pink Oatmeal, last week while I was looking for preschool yoga visuals, for a presentation. Beyond my intense curiosity over the name of the store, I was impressed with the variety of thematic yoga and brain break cards for littles that this school based Physical Therapist has created. Her Halloween themed yoga product below is an example and is too cute for words!

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One thing leads to another when you are researching, so down the rabbit hole I went finding even more ideas after reading these posts on Edutopia.  The concept of  teaching mindfulness and breathing aligns beautifully with the Zones of Regulation .  I know I benefit from just slowing down and taking a deep breath throughout my day.  Our kids are under a lot of stress, and anxiety has skyrocketed in the past ten years in schools. Why not look at a tool that everyone can use to help with emotional regulation throughout our day?

The school based PT behind Pink Oatmeal, Chanda, also has a Youtube Channel and fun blog that shares tons of great ideas on how to build these skills with young learners!  In my preschool professional learning day presentation, we talked a lot about teaching our students breathing techniques to help calm themselves.  I love this video from Sesame Street that teaches kids how to belly breathe through a sweet song! Feel free to look through my playlist of  sounds of nature videos  to work on calming down, breathing and even visualizing all the things we can hear. I am using these in my Sunday school special needs class, to help calm my kids as they come into the room.

School also requires our kids to sit and listen for extended lengths of time, but little bodies are wired to move!  Mindfulness and movement both have foundations in teaching the language of emotion and listening skills.  Joint attention, whole body listening and developing an internal voice versus narrating everything we are thinking about out loud, are skills embedded in these techniques. Cosmic Kids Yoga is another free Youtube channel that offers fun, thematic yoga activities for little people.  They have movie themes, animal adventures and even a video with a puppy explaining what the concept of mindfulness is all about.

I know this may feel a bit “woo-woo” to you, but just consider this a minute.  Mindfulness is easy to embed in your morning circle or starting time (or end of the day) and is a research based methodology to address attention, emotional regulation, calming and compassion.  Our schools are using PBIS to address behavioral expectations and mindfulness is a tool that address all of these skills.  Being able to learn techniques to calm our minds and bodies, focus and develop empathy towards others sounds like a win to me, so take a deep, calming breath and let’s give it a go!

Do you use mindfulness or yoga with your students?  If not, what are your concerns? Share here!

 

 

 

Social language and Literacy (part 1)

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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!

Use Your B.R.A.I.N.S!

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I spent the past week at a fun crossroad; posting on the SLP Materials Club facebook page as a guest AND enjoying a hot, fun week at the beach with my family!  It was the perfect respite after a long school year and I even got to read a WHOLE BOOK with my toes in the ocean (“A Man Called Ove”, a fabulous funny/sad summer read that I highly recommend). As we were walking along the Sebastian Inlet, I saw this little piece of coquina rock that frequents the coast where I grew up:

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The words “rock brain” popped into my thought bubble immediately! Do you see why I needed a vacation?!  Anyway, as part of my SLP Materials Club week, I posted a new freebie from my TPT store.  I created it to use with my students to work on how we engage other people and show that we are thinking about them.   It includes a flip book for an interview of another person to practice the skills, teaching cards to talk about how we use our brains to think about other and a teaching poster to review the acronym B.R.A.I.N.S. (we SLPs do so love our acronyms). The poster would be perfect to enlarge and hang up in your therapy room, classroom or as part of a fun bulletin board!  What does this acronym stand for?  I’m so glad you asked!

B- Be present in the moment

R-Remain on topic

A-Actively listen

I-Interpret Accurately

N-Non-verbals are important

S-Seek information

You can download this social language freebie HERE .  I know you want to give your brain a rest too and not think about school for a bit, but go ahead and file this away for the Fall now!  Happy Summer!

An End of the Year Treat!

 

 

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It’s almost the end of the school year and TPT is having a BIG sale as a treat May 3rd-4th!  I wanted to share a few goodies from my store as well as my wish list items that will be added to my own cart!!  Don’t forget to use the code CELEBRATE at checkout for additional savings! Happy shopping. I am linking up with SLPRunner and The Frenzied SLPs for a sale linky, so make sure you click through for more great product suggestions!

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You might want to snap up a few things from my store like my Lucky Duck! Social Skills game on winning and losing and a few for the start of the year, like my That’s Sick social skills unit on germs and hygiene (game, story, puzzles and a flip book are included).  My Social Skills Squish Bundle is seven different play doh mats, scenarios and extension ideas to practice social language concepts (and a great value)!!

Now what I am super excited to pick up from my fellow SLPeeps this week?  Take a peek …

Game Boards Clipart {Peachie Speechie Clipart}

I love to make up new games to play with my students (or have them come up with their own rules and ideas!) and this game board clipart from Peachie Speechie is perfect!  I can use these games with some of her fun activity sets  like these Social Skills Deck cards. Print and Go FUN for these crazy weeks!!

Social Skills: Social Monsters

Full disclosure:  I already own and LOVE this product!  However, it’s on my wishlist for one of my CFs (shhhhh).  Speech Paths has done it again with this engaging social language activity pack that is a fun way to work on hard social concepts with my elementary students.

No Prep Social Skills for Older Students

Speech Time Fun saves the day with a print and go social skills gold mine for my older students!  I am looking forward to trying it out this summer and then recommending it to my middle school CFs in the Fall!

Intergalactic Social Language!

Space themed AND social skills fun?  Done, done and done!  I am excited to grab this fun social language game from Jenn Alcorn.  My boys will LOVE it!

Social Language: Interruption Combustion!  Lessons & Activ

Anyone have blurters out there?   ME TOO!   I can’t wait to try this activity from Badger State Speechy to help my friends work on not interrupting using stories, activities and visual supports, SCORE!

What’s in YOUR cart???