We just returned from a trip to Barnes and Noble with 3 of our grandchildren and we had our usual fun outing reading new and classic picture books (we all LOVE “When the Crayons Quit” and enjoyed “The Snatchabook” and “Superworm” –more on those later). But what really interested 2 of my new readers who are in kindergarten and first grade was the display of Ninja Turtle and Lego themed early readers. I told them they could each pick out a book and they chose “Super Heros Phonics,” “Lego Movie Awesome Adventures,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Doze Control!”
I have to laugh, here I was looking for the next great picture or early reader book for the PAL Award and they all chose movie themed books to take home and read. I get it. Reading specialists have been telling me for years to just get kids reading. Kids aren’t that different from adults in that they will read more when they are interested in the topic. I know these aren’t the best written necessarily, but there is some challenging vocabulary and the phonics books are great with the vocabulary of robot, drop, flog, lock, shot, rock, stomp and stop!
With summer coming, parents are very interested in maintaining their child’s reading level and interest. I’ve heard of parents planning camps, tutoring and outings with teachers to keep up academic skills over the summer break. Reading should be a top priority for the whole family so get ready to let your kids choose their books!
Lately I have been reminded to follow the interests of the children I am working with–almost to an extreme! My little 2 year-old friend starts saying “Dough” as soon as he sees we arrive at this door and I have a running joke with his mom to see how long he will stay with a new activity I bring before he starts pointing to my bag and requesting playdoh! I think I broke a record the other day with a 10 minute start with a mini train. Of course we moved right into making a dough track and plastering playdoh on the mommy and daddy figures that he called, “Dough face!” In order to elaborate and teach more words, I have to introduce toys where dough can be implemented into the story–Fisher Price vehicles and people (make dough blankets, food, roads or hats), trains (load dough objects into the cars), boats (make a dough lake) or puzzles (stand the puzzle pieces up in the dough). Woody is a favorite character of this little guy so we made dough buttons and belt which were perfect for modeling 2-word combinations. It’s much better to give in to a child’s interests than to plan a new elaborate activity–whew. I guess I like it better that way too.
Today was one of those days when I was packing up so many items for each child I was seeing in the afternoon that I forgot my iPad or word lists for my last client. It is one of the downfalls of itinerant speech therapy (which I love by the way) in that you have to be so organized and bring enough options to keep a child engaged and happy for an hour.
My new client is working on correcting a frontal lisp and has taken off in being able to produce a correct /s/ in all positions of the word in phrases. When I realized I had forgotten my word lists I looked at the book shelf in front of us in the playroom and told him, “Pick out a few books for us.” He chose what I thought was a preschool book that would be more interesting to girls, “Little Simon Silly Cinderella” The story is told with a fill in the blank for each page as the child turns the wheel to reveal several options to complete the sentence. Cinderella’s step sisters got a very special…banana? It was so goofy that we laughed and laughed and he was motivated to continue. Of course there were many /s/ words in a Cinderella story so he got plenty of practice. Books should always be in my therapy bag because they are a terrific tool to interest little clients and provide practice for speech and language goals.
When was the last time you used a “Math” game to teach language? How about today?
I had a great time with first graders who I am pre-teaching curriculum vocabulary due to word-finding difficulties. The classroom teacher has been very cooperative in giving me a list of vocabulary words by subject, including math. I wrote the words out by operation–addition, subtraction, multiplication and division–and as our friends explained their words, they proudly put a check next to the word they used as they solved the problem for their answer. This is a great group game as you can download math facts for different levels from their website so players of different abilities can compete. The prize for the winner at the end is to pour the little spoonfulls of baking soda he collects into the mouth of the volcano that is holding vinegar. Magic happens and eyes are wide open as the volcano “erupts” for the finale of the game. Here is my full review:
Kids had a blast with “Math Explosion” by The Young Scientists Club. First we created our customized math fact cards which can be accessed from the online fact creator so players of different abilities could compete on a level playing field, set up our dormant volcano with 2 ml of vinegar in the top and placed our colored measuring cups at the start position. Players have 2 versions to choose from–a speedy game board or extended version. Players take turns listening to their math fact and attempting to get a correct answer. If right, the player moves his measuring cup ahead a space. Every few spaces a favorite spot to stop is on the picture of spooning some baking soda into your measuring cup. One little friend almost passed up a bonus card (that often offers to skip ahead spaces) because he didn’t want to miss getting some baking soda and being the first to reach the volcano, add his powder and explode the volcano. Math and science are nicely seamed together in this game of computation. Since children are increasingly required to give the “How?” and “Why?” for their answers, we played the game with some verbal narration. I gathered the math vocabulary of first graders, listed the words and listened to my players verbalize as they got their answers, using the language of math. Spillover, tens, ones, combine and grouping became integrated in the problem solving for addition and subtraction, while equal groups, altogether, each, multiply and multiplication sentence were woven into multiplication answers. Kids always benefit from strong language skills within the STEM curriculum, and certainly gain when there is a fun venue like this game for learning. “Can we play one more time?” was called out after our first round which was a nice endorsement!
STEM is hot right now as we put the spotlight on science, technology, engineering and math. What is exciting to me is that language is right in the center of STEM, as curriculums increasingly require kids to tell the “why” and “how” they came to conclusions. When they solve a math word problem, they record in their math journal what worked and what didn’t and why. Because of this new push for building STEM skills I thought I would try out some great new science products in my speech therapy sessions.
Yesterday, new PAL Award winner, “Clifford the Big Red Dog Animal Science” came along with me to a session with a 5 year-old boy who is in the carryover stage of articulation therapy. I could have just as easily worked on language goals with all the talking that evolved from using this kit. We loved talking our way through the experiments, making edible play dough to form our animal tracks and using the little animal figures to learn about what they eat. Kids learn some great vocabulary along the way that might just be coordinated with a science unit for language delayed kids. Here is my full review:
The Young Scientists Club invites children 3 and up to joining Clifford the Big Red Dog and pal Emily to perform 14 fun experiments, learning about animal science. Not only do kids learn the language of general science like lab tray, measuring and magnifying but also vocabulary specific to animal study–habitats, animal tracks, fossils, bugs, camouflage, life cycle, carnivores and more.What do you see in the habitat? Is it wet or dry? is followed by an “Explanation” section which provides parents with great topics for further discussion located at the bottom of the activity page. My little friends loved the activities which included putting reusable stickers on the window of the 6 habitats while placing associated animals in them, mixing and making edible play dough to cast an animal track, creating their own fossils, hiding cut-out animals for camouflage hide and seek, discovering the inside of an egg, making a bird feeder and habitat diorama. Most of the props and ingredients are included in the box which makes moms happy. After a few experiments, my friend declared, “I want to do more science!” Isn’t that just what we want to hear as language skills are exercised in learning new concepts and vocabulary, making predictions and observing changes through experiments?
Available at Amazon: Click here
I thought it would be fun to talk about what was in the news this past week that relates to us SLP’s. Probably the most fascinating, disturbing, confusing news was the new autism statistics: the condition is thought to affect one in every 68 8 year-olds, up from just 88 two years earlier. What is driving that huge increase, up 30% between 2008 and 2010 and more than doubled since the turn of the century, according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?
Many experts believe the increase is largely due to better awareness and diagnosis. As a practicing clinician I would agree with that to some extent. It is in the back of many new parents’ minds when they are asking about their child’s development. When I spoke to the new mothers’ groups at Greenwich Hospital (babies were about 3-12 weeks old), I could always count on a mother raising the question of how to look for autism. Parents also often call me to request an evaluation, hesitant to tell me why they REALLY called, until it comes out that they have some fears that their child might be on the spectrum.
Experts agree that we just don’t know the answer–aging parents, environmental factors–as to why there is this rise in children with autism.
What can we do about it? Ramp up research and pour ourselves into early identification and remediation which we DO know works!
Many of you know and use the fantastic apps for language learning by Mobile Education Store. I have reviewed several of them and they are a mainstay in my therapy tool bag! I’ve reviewed them on my blog and even told you a little about the founder, Kyle Tompson. Speaking to professionals and developers in the world of educational apps, I know how hard it is to stay afloat with all the requirements to do updates for free etc. We SLP’s appreciate great apps and I know support those who develop them. Here is an opportunity to support Kyle and his newest venture, “Crack the Books,” interactive non-fiction science books with adjustable reading levels. Let’s give him our support:
Mobile Education Store, a company dedicated to providing parents of elementary students with cost-effective educational tools is launching a Kickstarter campaign today to help fund its latest product, “Crack the Books,” a fully interactive, state-of-the-art series of non-fiction science books. The product is the first digital book with adjustable reading levels from a first to eighth grade. Parents and teachers can select any of five reading levels with a touch of a button.
“Crack the Books” fosters a lifelong desire for reading by featuring rich, audio-visual elements and interactive activities to help students understand difficult concepts. The series is designed to help students of all reading capabilities, from those with special needs to those with academic gifts, become better and more confident readers.
Please visit Mobile Education Store’s Kickstarter campaign and view its goals to fund the next generation of digital books. There is a short video right at the top of the campaign page that I encourage you to watch. It will give you a great sense of what these e-books are all about. Your support will ensure “Crack the Books” will be available to reach and inspire all students.
Wow I realized I was a little quiet in the blogging area last week as I was buried in reviewing new toys and games for the PAL Award. It was great fun putting new products in the hands of kids and watch them take off. I always learn so much from them. So here is the first in a series of blogs to share our new PAL Award winners that are the best products to build language and of course, to liven up a speech therapy session turning work to play:
“Say The Word” by Peaceable Kingdom is a terrific game for language learning. Players choose a “Character Card” to start the story and then take turns pulling one of 3 cards from their hand to add on to the plot. The catch is they have to repeat the story from the beginning to add on their phrase or sentence. We found that the more outrageous our add-on was, the easier it was to remember. A Zombie with a marshmallow brain or a robot wearing bunny slippers seemed to stick with us! Peaceable Kingdom gets kids and has a bank of funny, age-appropriate words in this cooperative game. Possible speech and language goals to address through play:
- Syntax goals to include verbs, articles, especially conjunctions etc.
- Association skills to choose an add-on concept that flows with the story
- Word finding
- Articulation carryover
- Auditory memory
Kids loved fast-paced “Junior Alias” by Tactic Games requiring players to explain picture cards while others guess, getting a point for each answer until the sand timer runs out. Some are easier than others–rooster (animal that wakes up the farm), ghost (wears a white sheet on Halloween) or hot dog while others made us work at it–fencer, ant hill, and ice hockey player. Explainers are penalized a point if they use any part of the word or pass on a card that is too hard. Kids loved both sides of the fun, explaining and guessing and we had lots of laughs at some of the responses and explanations like an onion whose clue was “a crying machine.” “Family Alias” includes words that are aged up to adult so you can use it with older students. I used this game effectively for:
- Description, adding detail
- Word finding
- Building vocabulary within a category
- Deductive reasoning as players learn to give the most helpful clue to narrow down the answer and hone their describing skills.
“Last Letter” by ThinkFun is just what you listen for in this fast-paced classic word game of calling out a word that begins with the last letter of the word just named. Here’s the twist. Each player is drawing from the word bank pictured in the five cards he has just drawn to begin the game. Each of the 61 cards illustrate an edgy scene with perfectly offbeat scenarios that fascinated kids–a man deserted on an island with an entire mermaid castle depicted underwater below him, an animated cheesy moon watching an astronaut leave his space module and chop away on his surface, a boxing match between robots attended by excited patrons waving money, or kids turning a city street into a swimming pool after opening up the fire hydrant. A great vocabulary builder, We did find some letters easier than others, as I heard a little groan (was that me?) when we got “e” again. Finally a friend yelled “edge” and we were off and running again! “Last Letter” forces players to think outside the box. Honestly, the picture cards are fascinating and could be used as a set to work on just about any goal:
- Processing a picture to gather words that describe it
- Coming up with nouns, verbs, adjectives, emotions, and category words.
- Phonological skills, focusing on first letters and sounds
- Articulation carryover
ThinkFun has just introduced its second toddler game, “Move and Groove” that gets kids moving with categories of instructions and builds listening and language skills. Toddlers can’t sit still in a therapy session so why not make moving fun? Here is my full review:
Get out those dancin’ shoes and move and groove with the toddler set! Roll the multi-colored cube and flip over a matching colored card. 48 pictured instruction cards call out movements in 6 color-coded categories: Let’s Pretend, Movement, Classics, Body Parts, Silliness, and Workout. My little friend rolled green for “movement” and immediately followed the direction to “Skip around the room.” Favorites in the “body parts” category were “Snap your fingers” (which is pretty funny when a 2 year-old does it since they never touch) and “Wiggle your bottom.” I got laughs for my attempts at the “Hula,” while “Do a fist pump” and “Do the funky chicken” quickly drew in older siblings to the game. Learning beginning game play rules like taking turns and waiting for a player to finish a turn are complemented with building language skills as children have to listen, follow directions, know basic vocabulary of body parts, actions, animals, and objects, and process how you would “Walk like and elephant” or “Dance like a robot.” This game is fun, funny and perfect for including your littlest family member in game time.
Available at Thinkfun: Click here
I am always trying to make therapy more fun for kids as I discover what they like as far as toys, games or arts and crafts. Some kids will work on speech goals easily if I provide some pretend play activity while others need to draw and create or love to work with a great picture book.
Yesterday I was playing “Sophia the First Magical Tea Time Game” by Wonder Forge with a 5 year-old while working on her sounds. When I arrived she was playing with a little kush ball animal and she asked if he could play the game too! So we got out a plate and teacup for her dog who took the third turn in the game and practiced his sounds (I got double the responses) when it was his turn. At one point she said, “I was doin’ the sounds for the doggie because he’s pretend.”
Once again, therapy activities were shaped by the student:)