I’ve had my head down reviewing so many fantastic new products submitted for the PAL Award this spring and now I need to catch up and share them with you–my fellow professionals who work with kids AND parents and grandparents looking for great gifts for their kids.
Puppets just open up the world of communication, especially for that hard to reach kid or one that might be a little shy. I took my 4 new Folkmanis puppets in my therapy bag to share with kids last week and they lit up. The 4 PAL Award winners, “Sea Serpent,” “Frilled Lizard,” “Dragon in Turret” and “Winged Dragon” appealed to different kids for different reasons but all sparked conversation and storytelling which reinforces language, reading and writing skills. Kids loved discovering “extra” places to insert their hands or fingers to make the puppets come to life. The Sea Serpent slithered around with the help of a second hand in his tail to wiggle through the mist, the “Frilled Lizard” took a quirky stance as he stood up and puffed up his pleated collar, moving it forward and back, the Dragon popped out of the Turret and the “Winged Dragon” flapped his wings. Folk tales are included with the imaginary characters while interesting facts are included with the “Frilled Lizard” to support a story and explain when and why he flaps his collar.
After playing with each puppet, kids asked if they could keep it. I think that is a good endorsement of the fun these puppets provide while encouraging imaginations, pretend play and dialogue.
For my full reviews click here.
As I am working with several elementary aged kids, I am planning my lessons around their poetry units associated with National Poetry Month. When I visited our public library yesterday I came upon several “pockets” throughout the building, stuffed with poems to share. One could easily adapt this to the classroom as kids choose their favorite poem, make copies and take home to share them with their families.
My students have enjoyed Jeff Foxworthy’s books, “Dirt on my Shirt” and “Silly Street.” I have used the poems to illustrate poetry vocabulary– personification, onomatopoeia, metaphor and simile– as well as inference. What is the main idea or theme of the poem?
Also, I found helpful sites for age appropriate definitions and examples of the above terms:
Great Books for Teaching Similies
This week we used a student’s Easter card for some fun carryover as my student is working on overall precision, “moving his mouth” as well as slowing down his rate. Kids love finding what’s silly in a picture (and I do too) so he would point to something and then have to describe what is silly, “Ice cream cones for flowers in the flower box,” a whistle for a doorknob” or “balloon for the car wheel.”
Often I pick up good ideas for therapy activities from workbooks or toys at a child’s home. It keeps me fresh as to what is entertaining for a certain age. This is the same house where the little boy asked me if we could do “Hidden Pictures” and we spent the whole hour finding and coloring in hidden objects as reinforcements for correct productions.
Here are some free “What’s Wrong?” activities from Highlights where kids have to follow the clues and find as many odd, weird, or wacky things as you can. Since I work with so many 5-7 year-old boys this is right up their alley.
Everyone has challenging preschoolers to work with who go through your therapy bag of activities quickly and you scratch your head trying to find what will hold their interest.
This week I was with a just 3 year-old who loved to assemble my Playdoh animals as we rolled the ball for the body and added “tail, eyes, nose, and ears” as we worked on beginning consonants and vowels. We had completed Ravensburger’s “Counting Animals” puzzle first and it took up most of our table since she wouldn’t let me put it away. Next thing I realized she was matching her Playdoh animals and placing them on the corresponding animals pictured in the puzzle. The elephant joined the pictured animals that were playing water polo and the giraffe stood with the giraffe riding a bicycle! I sat back and fed her words to repeat as she enjoyed the puzzle as the backdrop for her play.
I love to pick up ideas from families that I work with. This week I was doing therapy at a kitchen table when the little boy looked with interest at the paper napkin holder and asked what it said. Mom had put sticky notes on all 4 sides with a few sight words on them for practice. It seems to be the season of report cards and parents’ heightened interest in helping their kids’ reading skills. I have had inquiries on how to help improve reading comprehension and build letter-sound recognition and remember sight words. I thought I would give you some suggestions that I share with parents:
Zingo Sight Words by ThinkFun is a favorite with kids as they love the “Zinger” mechanism which reveals 2 tiles with sight words on them and they work to fill their Bingo-like cards.
uKloo Treasure Hunt Game is a wonderful early reading game designed by a mom whose child was struggling with learning to read. I have played it countless times with my grandchildren and they never tire of going on their treasure hunt, and using the chart to decipher words.
Write sight words on plastic eggs (may include a little treat for getting the right answer), plastic cups to stack, or tongue depressors to name as you choose one.
Write sight words on sticky notes and put them on spaces of a favorite game like Twister’s circles, Go Fish cards or Jenga‘s pieces. Have your child say the word as they touch or place the piece.
Here are some fun ideas from I Can Teach My Child which include Sight Word Bingo, using Fruit Loops as markers on your homemade cards, “Snowy Sight Words” where you write your word in glue and decorate it, and “Sight Word Smash” where you bake cotton balls (yes, there is a recipe included) , write a word on the balls in permanent marker and give your child a chance to name it, rewarding him with smashing it with a kid-friendly mallet!
Simple, but effective is to post a list of sight words where your child looks often like his bulletin board in his room or the napkin holder on the kitchen table!
As a parents and educators, we are always looking for ways to make learning the ABC’s fun. Add in a Ravensburger puzzle and kids are learning while engrossed in their search for the right piece. I used their new puzzle for carryover in speech therapy as my 6 year-old friend discussed what piece he was searching for, making sure he was using his /s/ sound while he was at it.
A good puzzle can be used for a variety of language lessons and in this case the alphabet theme is cleverly woven throughout the puzzle to give location clues for pieces based on letters, matching objects and people, and the printed word corresponding to images. Kids get a literacy work-out as they search for pieces based on the associated sound and letter, making critical links leading to reading.
Here is my full review of Ravensburger’s new ABC Puzzle.
I hope everyone had a wonder Easter and Passover this past weekend! We were excited to have one of our sons and his wife and twin 2 year-olds and 4 month-old to help us celebrate. As I was up early to dye Easter eggs all alone, shrink wrap (with the use of my hair dryer) some eggs and bake a bunny cake, I thought “Only for my grandkids!!” AND that was besides making the meal.
It was all worth it to go on a hunt through the front yard. My favorite hiding spot was under a small branch of leaves every few feet. The hiders were quite clever this year. The bunny cake took on a new look with the two spatulas and jar of icing we left in the kids’ hands. He actually looked furry with the upturn of frosting all over him. Then we chose our pig, cow, or chick sprinkles to finish him off. By the way, the eggs with fish and cheese crackers were much more popular than the real hard-boiled eggs. It was fun to see them “shake” them all.
Over the years I have gathered several plush book characters to introduce when reading some of my favorite picture books with kids. They naturally extend the language lesson as kids become endeared with The Pout Pout Fish, Max and Ruby, Fancy Nancy or Maisy. The simplest step past the book is to re-tell and enact the story using the plush character. Kids can take on the role of their character and “talk” for her, practicing dialogue and conversation within the plot that has now become familiar.
I love when kids take off in a new story direction with their plush as the leading character. After setting out a Lego Duplo grocery store set, I watched my two little friends take on their Max and Ruby characters and suddenly one said, “Phone call,” to which Ruby put her Play-Doh phone up to her ear, and Max used a rounded brick for his. What creativity! We were working on talking for our character so they had a chance to practice their conversation. Max arrived at the grocery store manned by Ruby and made some selections before being jammed into the Lego car to drive home. Eventually he just rode on top which was much easier to manage!
Finally, Max headed home to get a good night’s sleep. The flat green Lego piece had been a
“bumpy road” but now became his bed softened by his Play-Doh pillow and blanket. These beloved characters have literally cracked the language of a little boy I have been working with who is on the autism spectrum. He loved the books, especially “Max Cleans Up” and “Max’s Chocolate Chicken” as well as the short videos which have just enough plot, lots of silliness, and the right mix of Max getting in trouble to make them appealing. He has taken off in his story re-telling and generation of new plots with the books’ characters–just what we want him to do as he builds his language skills and enjoys typical play with his peers.
Speaking of snow, I had a great time yesterday working with a 4 year-old child on the autism spectrum on generating novel descriptions and dialogue in pretend play. We had our Fisher Price little people out with a slide, some beds, a table and chairs and car. We started out going to the “playground” and he asked for a coat and gloves for his hands. I got out the Playdoh and he wrapped it around their shoulders and pinched a little bit on each hand. We added some hats and were ready to go outside and stay warm.
I simply added some props (a table and chairs) and suggested they come inside for a snack. He repeated some of my dialogue but entered in with “Let’s go inside,” as he took off their coats, hats and mittens. Now the green Playdoh was available for rolling hot dogs and making hamburgers. I set down some plastic cups and he offered his figure a drink of lemonade. After we finished our snack the bus arrived to take the kids home. We shortened our day as I set out 2 beds and the boy and girl got ready for bed, pulling up a blanket of… you guessed it, Playdoh.
Once again, I started my therapy session and it took off in a new direction. I had been to the grocery story before work and passed a grocery cart full of St. Patrick’s Day cling ons for free. I grabbed a few, hoping my afternoon clients had some Irish in them. Lucky me, the first house was spot on. My little friend had such fun decorating the window as we named the objects, big and little, placed them high and low, and identified their colors. Then we closed the shutters to surprise older brother when he got home! Mom was a good sport as we put our fingerprints all over the window, decorating to our delight.