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My Speech Universe: December 2017

29 December 2017

Speech and Language Homework Calendars

Are you looking for an easy way to send home activities for your speech and language students to practice their skills?  I have been using these calendars for years now, and have had great responses from my students and their parents!  I have a set of articulation calendars and a set of language calendars.  Both sets are updated every calendar year as well as at back to school time.  There are color versions of the calendars as well as black and white for a low ink option.  If you have access to color printing at your school, I suggest using the color versions- they are bright and fun!  The black and white versions are fun too, and students can color the pages themselves.


In the articulation calendars, students are asked to find a variety words that start with their sound and use their sound in connected speech in a variety of activities.  Here are some examples of daily activities included on the articulation calendars:

Each day on the calendar has a small icon in the corner that students can color in when they complete the task.


In the language calendars, students are asked to answer questions that focus on categorization, describing, story telling, analogies, idioms, synonyms, antonyms, plural nouns, past tense verbs, auditory comprehension for sentences, auditory memory, calendar vocabulary (yesterday, today, tomorrow, etc.).  Here are some examples of activities in the language calendars:
In each set of calendars, there is also a parent letter and communication log that can be sent home.  The parent letter describes how to use the calendars.  The communication log gives parents a chance to let you know what went well and what the student needed help with.

These calendars are available at my TpT store in a BUNDLE or you can purchase the articulation or language calendars separately.

11 November 2017

Organizing Your Speech and Language Caseload Files

Organizing speech and language files

Now that you are all settled into your new speech and language room, you'll have to find out who you are supposed to be seeing with all of those well-organized materials.

The first thing you'll need to do is either print off a caseload list from whatever your caseload manager/IEP program is on your computer or maybe your special services department will print one for you.  Either way, you need to get your hands on this information.  Once you have your list, you are ready to go!

Here are the steps for organizing those students:

1.  Find their files.  The previous SLP should have left you all of the files for your students.  This should contain at least the latest IEP.  It may contain previous testing and testing protocols as well as notes on the student.  I like to organize these files using recycled pieces of paper from the teacher workroom.  I fold the paper in half so that the white side is facing out.  Then, I place the reports/IEPs/other information into that folded half-sheet.  On the folded edge of the paper, I write the information about what is contained in that section.

2.  Make a hanging file for each student.  I love to use those sticky file tabs from Post-It. Use your caseload checklist to make sure you have every student's file accounted for.  Place your student files into each slot.  This drawer will be so organized that you will want to show it off!

3.  Make a working file for each student.  This file is completely separate from your file with all of the IEPs and testing.  This is what you will use on a daily basis with your students.  In my daily file folders, I like to keep a copy of the goal sheet and a data sheet.  The goal sheet on the left makes it super easy to reference goals while I am working with students to make sure we are on the right track during sessions.  I write the name of the student on the file tab in pencil so I can easily change it if I find out that the student goes by a different name than their legal name (ie., Nick instead of Nicholas).  I also use this space to indicate which day (or days) of the week I see the student.  I write this in pencil with a simple M T W Th F next to the student's name.  I use pencil so that I can easily use this file for a couple years and just change the day of the week each year.

4.  Make a separate hanging file holder to store your daily working files.  I like to have a hanging file for each day of the week.  Then, after my schedule is made, I place the daily folder into the hanging file for the day of the week that I see the student (don't worry, you'll get to your scheduling soon).

Now you are ready to schedule those students. Hope you can use some of my tips for organizing those files!

01 November 2017

Describing the Composition of Items: What is it Made Of?

I love working on describing with my language students.  It is a great way to help organize their language.  My go-to for working on describing is the Expanding Expression Tool (EET).  It is an awesome visual representation to use with my students.  One of the parts of this tool that my students always get stuck on though is composition- what is it made of.  This just doesn't seem to be something that is in their prior knowledge.  I wanted to make a little activity to help my students with this, and came up with a sorting and describing activity.

This packet contains 8 different materials mats with 24 clipart items and 24 real photograph items to sort.  
8 different material mats

Clipart items

Real photograph items 
One thing that my students who are working on describing have is formulating a complete sentence to describe items.  I created a sentence starter mat to help formulate these sentences.  You can use the item cards from the mats to create the sentences.

I always like to have a little something to send home to students, so I also created four worksheets to go along with this describing activity.  There are two materials sorting pages and two sentence creation pages.

You can get What is it Made Of? HERE.

I have had some good results with my students using this activity.  They are able to see that there are many different materials that an item could be made of.  I hope you and your students will enjoy this activity too!

14 October 2017

Auditory Halloween- Sentences, Stories, and Riddles!

I am always looking for fun auditory activities for my students.  I love it when a theme can be fit into it too.  Halloween is a perfect theme to target auditory activities!  My students love anything Halloween related.
I created this packet well over two years ago but never wrote about it.  I want to share more about it with you now.  This has been a hit with my language students and I hope yours will love the activities too!

There are five activities included in this packet:

Auditory Memory for Sentences:  In this activity, students are asked to repeat a sentence exactly as it is read to them.  Sentences are 10-14 syllables long.  If the students get the sentence correct, they can move a game piece on the game board provided.

Haunted House Riddles: In this activity, you read the clues out loud, and the students guess what the Halloween item is.  If they get it correct, they can put their card in their "haunted house."  My students love guessing the items and then getting to hold onto the cards.

Auditory Memory for Halloween Stories:  There are 12 stories included in this packet.  Each story is 2-3 sentences in length.  There are three comprehension questions following each story.  There is also a simple picture for each story.

Halloween Story Retelling:  In this activity, a short story is read to students and they are asked to retell the story.  There are no picture cues for these stories, they are purely auditory.  There is a rubric provided for scoring the story retell.

03 September 2017

Organizing Materials in a School Speech and Language Room

Organizing your SLP materials

So, now you have found your new room at your new school.  It may look like this:

Ok, so maybe you won't have 20 boxes of items sitting around, but you may have 20 boxes of things to go through in your cupboards! Depending on who was in your room before you, there may be a treasure trove of items to find. I inherited my first speech room from an SLP who was there for over 30 years.  At the same school. 30 years! Needless to say, she had a LOT of materials that she didn't take with her when she retired. Some of these items were great, while some left something to be desired. I didn't really need a set of dittos (you know, the purple looking mimeographed papers) from 1975. I'm not saying that something from that time frame might not be useable, but the pictures are sometimes really hard to decipher for my students, and sometimes inappropriate too.

So, what do you do?

1) Sort materials.  Go through your cabinets, bookshelves, boxes, etc. and make piles of items.  I like to organize by topic.  Put all of your articulation items in a pile.  WH question materials in another pile.  Vocabulary items in another pile.  You get the picture.  It will take some time, but trust me, you will appreciate it later.  This will not only organize you, but you will get a better picture of what is actually in your new speech room.

2) Purge. (a bit) What I mean by this is go through and throw away those old dittos that you know you will never use.  As a new SLP, I wouldn't throw away all materials though.  Just because it is old doesn't mean it may not be of use to you.  If you question whether you may use something.  Keep it.  Next year you can do this again and get rid of anything you truly never touched.

3) Make a donate box. Sometimes when I am going through my items I find duplicates of things that I either already have or things that there are just duplicates of.  I put these items in a box to share with my fellow SLPs in my department.  You could also try to share with any SLP groups you are a part of.  Make sure you have permission from your district if you are trying to sell any materials.  If you sell the items you could use the money to purchase new therapy materials.  Again, just make sure you have permission to do this, it may be district property.

4) Organize materials on your shelves.  Now you are at a place where you can take all of those lovely piles of therapy materials and place them on your shelves, in cabinets, drawers, or pretty much wherever you can find a spot.  I like to label my cabinets with my trusty label maker when I move to a new place just so I can find everything easily.

I organize my shelves by topic.  Now that I have organized my items on the tables, all I have to do is place them on the shelves and label the category.

I like to keep all of my games handy.  This year I used the top of a file cabinet next to my kidney shaped table to house all of my games.  This makes them easy to reach when I am pulling materials.

I also like to keep all of my articulation cards close at hand.  Unfortunately, when I moved in, I wasn't really left with a lot of those.  I left all of my old cards at my last office because they were purchased for that particular school.  I loved those cards, and I'll have to replace them soon.

Now you should have all of your materials in place, and you can move on to figuring out your caseload. You can check out this post about how to organize your student files with some tips to get you started.

18 August 2017

Navigating a New School as an SLP- What to do First

Are you starting as an SLP at a new school? You may be a seasoned SLP or a brand new grad, either way, you are embarking on a new journey.  At least it feels like that!  I have left the comfort of a school that I was a part of for ten years and moved on to other schools and assignments in my same district. With this change comes some anxiety.  You have to meet new staff and get to know all new students. You also have to figure out the culture of the school.  But first, you have to find your room!

This is the first of a series that chronicles how to navigate a new school and caseload.  This will be helpful for new grads venturing into their first job and seasoned veterans who may be switching things up a bit.

So, what are the steps you need to take first?  Here is a list of things to do before you even see your new room.
1.  Make Contact- The first thing you can do is contact your new principal to introduce yourself by email.  You can leave your cell phone number in the email, and let them know you would be excited to talk with them before the school year starts.  
Make contact by sending an email
2.  Find the New School- This may seem like a no-brainer, but figure out where your new school is so that you know where you are going!  You'll want to look at the traffic patterns in the morning so you can know exactly how long it will typically take you to get there. Best to not be late when you set up a time to meet with your new principal or other staff.
Find your new school

3.  Set Up a Time to Meet- It is a good idea to contact your new principal to set up a time to meet them and get a tour of the school.  This is a great opportunity to meet the secretaries or other office staff as well as possibly some other teachers setting up their rooms and the very important custodians. All of these people will be instrumental in helping you to feel comfortable in your new space.
Plan a meeting time

4.  Shop For Supplies- Ok, so this one isn't really necessary at this point, but who can resist the great sales before the school year starts? 50 cents for a 24 pack of Crayolas?  That's awesome!  I like to grab all of my basic speech room supplies before they get too picked over.  I always grab crayons, markers, glue sticks, pencils, pens, sharpies, and colored folders before the school year begins. These staples always seem to go up in price after the school year starts. Plus, if you are a crayon/materials snob like me (hello, Crayola!!) you can grab the brands and colors that you like and not have to rely on your school for these items. 

These four items should get you started, and then you can move on to organizing your materials in your new room! If you are moving into a preschool speech and language position, you may also be interested in learning about how to structure your preschool speech and language space.

25 July 2017

6 Ways to use Paper Bags in Speech and Language Therapy

Looking for a cheap, easy to use therapy material?  How about paper bags?  I love using paper bags for a variety of activities.  Here are some simple ways I have incorporated paper bags into my therapy sessions.

1.  Puppets
My students love to use puppets to "eat" their articulation cards or other target cards.  They also love to use them to tell stories.  Making puppets from paper bags is a great, inexpensive way to engage your students in a variety of activities!  You can easily make a puppet to match any book or story that you are using.  Be creative- your kids will love it!

I made these monster puppets with my son this week.  They were so easy to make!  We used a little paint, glue, and card stock with our paper bags.

I found the idea for these cute monsters from this pin:
Paper Bag Monster Puppets

2. Describe It To Me
This activity is also super easy.  I throw a bunch of items into a bag.  My students reach in and grab something (no peeking!) to describe.  The students remove the object and then describe it using a variety of descriptors.  This is a great way to incorporate your Expanding Expression Tool (EET) with describing real objects.  Sometimes I will even get really small, cheap objects that the students can keep if they give me a description using all of the beads on the EET.

3. What is in the bag?
This is a great activity to work on a student's deductive reasoning skills.  I put an object into the bag (students do not see- again, no peeking).  Students need to ask questions about my object.  This is similar to the game Headbanz.

4. Categories
Place pictures of categories on the bag and collect items or pictures to place in each category.  I used pictures from my Category Sorting activity.  I like to put a piece of Velcro on each bag so that I can interchange the categories without having to get a new bag each time.

5. Collect in a bag
Put any kind of card into the bag.  My students love to decorate a bag and then collect their cards.

6. Paper bag books
You can use two paper bags to make a book that will have two pockets.  Simply fold two bags in half and then put the two openings touching each other to make two pockets for a book.  Staple together, and done!  You have a paper bag book that you can use to target a variety of goals.  I used this one to put some of my new sequencing cards in for a student to take home.

I have also made these Articulation Paper Bag Books.  These are so fun to make with students and send home!

Here is a link to a freebie that contains blank frames to use on your paper bags, as well as labels for What is in the bag? and Describe It To Me.

Have fun using your paper bags!

26 May 2017

A letter to...ME as a new SLP

Dear Jen,
I am writing this letter from 17 years in the future!  I want to let you know about the great experiences you will have, and how you will learn and grow along the way.

Just starting out, you will be so eager!  Fresh out of grad school, you will be both excited and scared about what is to come.  Having just moved from the super relaxed town of Flagstaff, Arizona, you will be a little shell shocked with moving back to a faster paced town.  Life won't be that laid back for a while for you.
So young and eager to learn.
Look at that hair!!!!
Looking for a job will be tough, but with your skills, you will quickly be hired by a skilled nursing facility.  This may not be exactly what you thought you wanted to do, but it will be a great place to practice and hone your skills.  You will get great opportunities to work with people with dysphagia, as well as aphasia and cognitive disorders.    You will learn how to build relationships with patients, families, and staff.  These are skills that you will be able to take with you wherever you are.  After working in the skilled nursing home for almost two years, you will realize that this is not truly the population you wish to work with anymore.  You will have given so much of yourself, and seen too many of your patients pass on.  This will be a little too much for you to bear.  You will decide that working in the schools may be more for you.  Luckily right around that time, some laws in your state will change, making it possible for you to work in the schools without a teaching certificate.  Because of the professional relationships you have built, an opportunity will fly open for you in the public school system.

Starting out in the schools will be a little scary!  You will be at an elementary school, taking over for an SLP who was there for over 30 years!  That's a little intimidating, no?  Don't worry, your skills you have learned by working with patients, families, and staff will definitely carry over to this new setting.  You will have to be open to learn and grow working with this new population.  Good thing you held onto all of those language acquisition books!  You will use them!  You will work in a really small district and school.  This will be a great opportunity for you to learn how to schedule, work with teachers and other staff, as well as learn more about the variety of disorders that you will come across in the schools.

After two years in your first district, you will move over to a much larger district and start working with the students who will make the biggest impact on your career.  These are students with Austism Spectrum Disorders.  For the next 13 years, you will be working in schools that have self-contained ASD rooms.  The learning curve will be huge, but you will go to some great in-services, and have a lot of support from your colleagues.  You will gain a passion for creating activities, and then will start sharing all of your resources with other SLPs around the country (and world)!

I guess my biggest advice for you is to keep building relationships.  This is one of the biggest keys in making progress with your students. Build strong relationships with your students first.  They need to trust you and know that you have their best interest at heart.  Next, you need to build strong relationships with families.  These parents are trusting you to help.  Make sure you are updating them and letting them know how their child is doing.  The more communication you have with family members, the more they are willing to carryover activities at home.  This helps so much in your students making progress.  Last, you need to build relationships with staff.  The people you work with closely can become great friends.  They will support you when things are tough.  Your work friends totally get you.  They will know what is going on and completely understand and support you.

Now, you might be wondering what you look like now.  Well, here it is:

Gotta love school pictures!

It's been 17 years (yikes), but you will still be as eager to learn and help people as ever.  Enjoy the ride!