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!

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!

 

Gotta catch em all!

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If you have seen people walking around staring at their phones more than usual, it might be because of Pokemon Go.  This new app makes you a virtual Pokemon trainer able to “catch” all kinds of Pokemon in your own neighborhood using your phone’s GPS ( with the bonus of getting kids off of the couch and walking around outdoors)!  When they were little, my boys collected all the cards and forced invited me to watch Ash Ketchum and friends wrangle Pokemon.  But this app isn’t just popular with  kids, even adults are using it!

My brain started thinking about how to use this fun app with a social twist. If you are using this in a social language group, you can map out a whole month’s worth of therapy lessons using Pokemon Go! There are rules to playing the virtual game, both spoken and hidden, so that’s a great place to start.  Safety is a big one with this app- you wouldn’t believe how many people walk into the street or get injured from falling or walking into things in their pursuit of a prized Pokemon!   This is a great opportunity to talk about expected and unexpected behaviors too. I have heard news reports about people trying to play the game in places like the Holocaust memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.  Boundaries anyone?

Once your group discusses the rules, then you can divide and conquer into teams.  There are three teams (you can read about their descriptions HERE) that are part of the game, Team Mystic, Team Instinct and Team Valor, but you could let the kids pick their own names.  This is an opportunity to work on the goal of negotiating with others when working in groups.  Once you pick the team, no changes are allowed, so be prepared to be flexible!

Self regulation is a big skill set in this game, as it’s easy to get overly excited or super frustrated when that elusive Charizard (or any of the 151 Pokemon characters in the game) escapes your grasp.  Working in a group or with a partner on your team requires a LOT of self-control, executive function and future thinking (planning what you are going to do ahead of time).  One of the social language lessons could include deciding what strategies you can use in the moment for keeping your cool ( Zones of Regulation GO!).  You might even want to align each color of the Zones with a specific Pokemon to help you remember your strategies (for example:  Blaziken would be a great icon for the Red Zone).  To extend this idea further, have your kids make up their own Pokemon characters  or trainer names that would describe themselves, including their strengths and skills sets.  This can lead to a discussion about how we want others to see us and both positive and negative character traits.

The game also tailors which Pokemon you can find by the time of day and where you are looking for them.  For example, if you are out in the evening, you will find more ghost or fairy Pokemon. If you are near the beach, you will find more water Pokemon.  This is a fun way to work on inferencing, categorizing and compare/contrast skills with your kids!

Have you played Pokemon Go yet (be honest)?  How could you use it in social language therapy? Share here!

 

 

 

 

 

Shark Bites.

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With two boys of my own, Shark Week has always been a big hit around my house.  It’s coming around again this month for 2016 and we will be sure to watch!  I have seen some really cute craftivities on sharks that I will be using with my summer kiddos including these great ideas from Sunflower Storytime  and their free shark mouth template PDF !

 

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I was thinking about how to apply Shark Week fun to social language concepts using the shark mouth pdf, and I came up with this:

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I printed the shark outline on cardstock and laminated it to make it more durable.  Next, I put stick on velcro dots along the edge of the mouth (you could use tape, glue or even lay it flat and just put the teeth along the edges.  I used Word and copied as many triangles onto the page as I could since the pdf only had one tooth that I used for sizing.  Then I printed the teeth out on card stock and cut them out before the activity.  This activity is appropriate for late elementary ages on up but could be simplified for younger kids too.

Before making our shark mouths, we talked about how “sharp” words can be (just like shark teeth).  They can cut and wound people when we are being mean or not using our social filters (think it vs. say it).  I asked the kids to share some words that would be hurtful to them or the people that they care about, and we called them shark bites. We brainstormed on a white board first to talk it through. I like to have a visual model (Sarah Ward’s executive function workshop opened my eyes to beginning with the end visually for our kids), but I don’t want them to copy exactly what I have written.  BTW, I always have that one kid who tells me, “I don’t care what people say about me”, so we talk about it from a cartoon character’s perspective instead (Sponge Bob and Squidward are great examples).  This is a little easier for some of my students with ASD, to talk about difficult subjects or feelings from someone else’s experience, not their own.

We also practice sorting out teeth that I have written on prior to the lesson, onto thought bubbles and talking bubbles.   This is a great companion activity to work on the concept of not saying everything that we are thinking, because it can be hurtful.  I extend this concept to include the idea that just because something is “true” doesn’t mean that it is okay to say it, if it hurts someone.

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That’s how we are diving in deep during social skills shark week!  How are you incorporating sharks into your themed therapy (social skills or otherwise)? Share here!

 

 

 

Puppies, Prediction and Cars…

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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!

Gobble, Gobble, Gross!

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The holidays are just around the corner, although if you have been in the stores lately, you would assume it’s Christmas right now!  I have always loved this time of year, but all the change and excitement can be a little rough on our friends with social language impairments.  Travel, being out of routine and the constant flow of conversation with different people can overstimulate even the most calm of kids.  As a mom, I know I was guilty at times of setting a pretty high bar of behavior over the holidays for my boys, and then being surprised when someone melted down!

The holiday dinner table, either at Grandma’s house or a fancy restaurant for a family gathering, can be fraught with social peril!  Maybe I overstated that just a bit, but it is a setting that has a lot of moving pieces when it comes to predictable and unpredictable behaviors. I created a game “Gobble, Gobble, Gross!” to work on these behaviors at the holiday table including choosing appropriate topics for discussion and making appropriate choices such as using a napkin (not your sleeve) and chewing with your mouth closed.   The game also addresses identifying and avoiding unexpected behaviors such as nose picking, burping, or taking food off of other people’s plates.  There’s a blank template included for your students to brainstorm their own set of predictable and unpredictable behaviors at the holiday table too and a set of blank cards to add your own specific scenarios to the game!GGG picture

The goal of the game is to collect as many turkeys as you can for identifying expected holiday behaviors, but look out for the GROSS cards!  If someone can identify the unexpected behavior and change it to an expected behavior, they can take your turkeys!  It’s all in good fun (and a lesson in winning, losing and playing games with peers is automatically embedded).

How do you work on these holiday skills with your students?  Share here!

Spooky Speech Treats

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The Holiday roller coaster is just about to start with Halloween later this week.  Luckily, it falls on a Saturday, so we get to avoid the sugar craziness and crashes this year.  I have a fun social story product about a pair of siblings, SID (socially inappropriate dude) and SIS (socially inappropriate sister), to talk about expected and unexpected behaviors on Halloween.  You can find it in my TPT store, SmartmouthSLP.   As a treat, I also found a few fun FREEBIES for speech this week on TeachersPayTeachers and wanted to share them with you!

Halloween vocab cardsThese cute vocabulary cards from Teaching Talking can be used in games and therapy this week to address prepositions, following directions, expressive language, and more!

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I LOVE this adorable paper bag puppet idea to work on spooky speech from Table Top Tales

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Want a cute way to work on Yes/No questions with visual support? Check out this freebie from Speech Time Fun !

candy corn challenge

Looking for a yummy way to get 100 target responses in artic?  Try this tasty challenge from Peachie Speechie !

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Last, but not least, I really like these Halloween themed “ticket out the door” to reinforce what we work on in therapy from Creative Speech Lab.

Happy Halloween friends!   If you have other spooktacular freebies for speech, please share your links here!