Monday, December 5, 2016

Using Google Slides in Language Intervention

ASHA 2016 in Philly was a whirlwind, and given a few other busy weeks following it, I am still sort of flummoxed that it has come and gone! I enjoyed presenting with Nathan Curtis and Amy Reid of Waldo County General Hospital in Maine on resources that can be used for co-engagement and co-creation in interventions both in-person and via telepractice. One of the resources we discussed was Google Slides, which is part of your Google Apps available through personal or school accounts, and I wanted to share a video I made demonstrating some possibilities:

(email subscribers please click through to the post in order to see the video)

Some main points here:
-Google Slides is a free tool you can access from your Drive page, just click New to start a new slide series.
-The tool can be used like a Book Creator (in fact, like the Book Creator app itself) to combine pictures and text to make a "book"- think a repeated line book or any book used to convey a narratiev or expository topic.
-The Explore tool under Tools>Explore allows you to search for images and simply drag them into the presentation (these are copyright-friendly)
-One advantage of Slides particularly for telepractice is that you can share the file with anyone with a google account and they can continue working on it.
-You can create and edit Slides presentations from the iPad as well, but the Explore feature to search images is not available (you'd have to leave the app, go to Safari, search and save images to add).
-Check out this post for good ideas on how to use Google Slides in "unusual" ways!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Come See Me at ASHA 16!

I have an insanely busy few weeks...hope to see some of you at ASHA 16 in Philly!

Here's the info:

Presenter(s) (click the names to view bios and disclosures):
Sean Sweeney, The Ely Ctr, LLC/ (presenting author) |View Advance Handout

Instructional Level: Introductory Read more
Abstract Type: Professional Education Read more

Another “sequel” to this presentation with installments at ASHA 2012-2015 brings all-new pairings of picture books and inexpensive, easy-to use apps with suggestions for interventions. The presentation provides research-supported strategies for contextual language therapy, blending picture books with apps for visual, interactive, and curriculum-related post-reading activities targeting specific objectives.

Speech-Language Pathology Topic Area: Language and Learning in School-Age Children and Adolescents
Learner Outcomes:
Learner Outcome 1: Identify 3 picture books with intervention-related language structures and contexts within text and illustrations
Learner Outcome 2: Evaluate 3 apps for key features indicating applicability in language interventions

Learner Outcome 3: Describe session plans pairing books and apps based on contextual congruence

To be honest, doing a tech presentation as a poster is not ideal, but I did my best to translate this topic into a visual format. Come check it out and I will also be providing a link to the previous 4 years of book and app pairings...a trove of ideas!

Session Code: 1438
Title: Building Language & Literacy Skills in Telepractice: Combining Routines, Authentic Materials & Client Engagement
Day: Friday, November 18, 2016 Time: 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Location: Pennsylvania Convention Center Room: 105AB
Session Format: Seminar 2-hours PDH(s): 2 Hrs

Presenter(s) (click the names to view bios and disclosures):
Nathan Curtis, Waldo County General Hosp (presenting author) |No Advance Handout Uploaded
Sean Sweeney, Ely Ctr (presenting author) |No Advance Handout Uploaded
Amy Reid, Waldo County General Hosp (presenting author) |View Advance Handout

Instructional Level: Intermediate Read more
Abstract Type: Professional Education Read more

Utilizing technology to co-create contextual materials within telepractice or in-person therapies facilitates engagement and additional opportunities to practice targeted language and literacy skills. This presentation demonstrates examples of integrating routines with authentic materials for preschool to secondary students to maximize outcomes. Participants will leave with resources and ideas for implementation.

Session Chair: N/A
General Interest Topic Area: Telepractice
Learner Outcomes:
Learner Outcome 1: List three types of language and literacy routines for use in telepractice sessions
Learner Outcome 2: Describe three engagement techniques to support language and literacy activities in telepractice sessions
Learner Outcome 3: State four app and web-based resources that can support language and literacy skills within telepractice

I do in-person therapy, but as a tech specialist have had a wonderful collaboration with the experts at Waldo Country General in Maine. I loved working with Amy and Nathan on this presentation. Note that the ideas discussed and apps, websites, and clinical routines demonstrated will be applicable to in-person therapy as well...

Friday, November 4, 2016

More on mapping expository texts through tech, Part 3

In the past several posts I have been discussing resources for visually mapping expository (and by extension, narrative) topics. In the last post I outlined the use of Kidspiration's Super Grouper feature for sorting ideas into categories--it can also be used for sequencing. Kidspiration and its older brother Inspiration (again free to try, $9.99 for full app, also available for Mac or PC and even on the web) are better known for their mind-mapping or diagramming features. Like Popplet (described in this post), these apps can be used to create graphic organizers showing the connection between different ideas. Unlike Popplet, however, the text within the idea bubbles can be exported to other apps so students can see planning activities as being helpful toward actually getting their writing done.

In Kidspiration, create diagram activities by selecting Diagram from the home screen. It's fairly self explanatory to map connections between pictures and symbols using this feature. The diagram can be used to create a discussion web as displayed below. Discussion webs in language intervention are discussed in Hoggan & Strong's excellent article The Magic of Once Upon a Time: Narrative Teaching Strategies (and also this "how to"), which has served as an inspiration for my "Pairing Picture Books with Apps" presentations. A number of other narrative teaching visuals demonstrated in the article can also be created with Kidspiration and Inspiration.

Inspiration in all its versions is particularly appropriate for upper elementary through adult learners, and is often recommended as an Assistive Technology (AT) tool. Inspiration shares many of the features of Kidspiration including the picture library, ability to add photos, and helpful templates; Inspiration does not have the Super Grouper feature described in the last post.

Both Kidspiration and Inspiration allow you to create a graphic organizer with students and export the contents in outline form to a word processor, thus bringing the initial planning work to a place that it can be continued (e.g. a word processor such as Pages, Word, or Google Docs). The blank-slate nature of these apps as well as the availability of connecting bubbles and arrows make it ideal for instruction in the methodology of using expository text structures to plan writing and show the flow of ideas in a topic--making these both comprehension and expression tools. See Teresa Ukrainetz' Strategic Intervention for Expository Texts: Teaching Text Preview and Lookback (another good reason to have an ASHA SIG membership so you can access Perspectives journals) for another helpful discussion of expository text structure and other strategies.

Be sure when using Inspiration and Kidspiration to avoid creating webs unless your topic is a descriptive one. Create an organized structure by adding new detail bubbles to your topic heading shape (see above with List, tapping on the arrow button will create new connected bubbles you can drag into position). Naturally, you will want your detail bubbles to contain content related to the topic as opposed to just key words for organization. As below, switching to Outline view will then make your work result in a useful outline rather than too much hierarchy. See below, tapping the Share button will allow you to export.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

More on mapping expository texts using tech, Part 2

In a recent ASHA Leader article I discussed intervention activities centered around social studies and expository text, and am continuing to discuss expository language in part one of this series and in this post.

One of the most useful apps for categorization and other expository language activities is Kidspiration Maps (free to try, $9.99 for full app). I truly believe this app should be in every SLP's and reading specialist's library as it has so many contextual uses. Pair this app with a picture book, textbook passage, video, discussion, information from another app or website...the list goes on. Kidspiration has been around for many years as a software resource and is still available also for Mac or PC, but at a higher pricepoint than the iPad version that shares almost all of its features.

I will talk about the diagramming features of Kidspiration (and its older brother Inspiration) and expository language in the next post, but in this post I would like to highlight Kidspiration's terrific Super Grouper feature. Super Groupers allow you to create an activity where you sort words and pictures into categories. Again, I find that these activities can be created to accompany any book or topic, and students enjoy taking your "wordsplash" or "picturesplash" and putting it in order. In the process, you can ask them to verbalize categories and descriptive attributes that serve as rationales for their sorting.

To offer a contextual example, students of mine were reading Iron Thunder by Avi- this is the story of the fateful battle of the ironclad ships Merrimack and Monitor during the Civil War. As we reviewed the first chapters it was clear my students were not so solid on the concepts and associations around the North and South at this time. I constructed a simple Super Grouper activity to address this:

The Super Groupers are the large blue and gray (color coded purposefully) rectangles in this case, with ovals containing information about perspectives, characters, synonyms, geographic information, actions, and so on, to sort. The student interacts with the activity by tapping and dragging the items (which can be pictures also, see below) into the Super Groupers. Once completed, you can also switch to Outline view (tap on outline icon in upper left) to see the information in a linear fashion:

One great feature of the Inspiration Software apps is that diagrams and outlines can be exported- from Outline View tap the share button and you can export as text to other apps such as Pages or even Google Docs, where students can expand on the language.

To create a Super Grouper activity, select the Super Grouper option from the home screen. The Super Grouper menu (highlighted at top) lets you tap and drag shapes into the work area. Double tap at the top of your shape to label it. Tap to select your shape, then tap the paintbrush at the bottom menu to change the background color.

The picture library is accessed from the "frame" icon. Browse the categories to tap/drag items to be sorted; you can also search the library or add photos, making even the visual contexts of Kidspiration limitless. You can add audio support to your activity or have students record sentences as they sort by tapping any picture, then the microphone button at the bottom, which allows you to record an audio note.

To make a more text-based sorting activity, use the Shapes menu. Double tap on any shape to type in it.

A very helpful feature of Kidspiration is that activities can be duplicated, so that in the event you complete the sort with multiple groups, you don't have to keep unsorting the items! From the Open Document menu, tap Edit, then tap to select an activity, and tap the Copy icon. This menu also allows you to share your created activities with colleagues who have Kidspiration. From the Open Document menu, tap Edit, then tap to select an activity, and tap the Share icon. From there you can mail the activity, send it to Dropbox, or tap More to send to Google Drive (where you can share the file with whomever). It's a great idea for a group of colleagues to work together creating and sharing activities that would be useful to all.

Friday, October 21, 2016

More on mapping expository texts using tech, Part 1

In a column I contributed to August's ASHA Leader, I mentioned expository text structures as providing an important framework for organizing language for comprehension and expression, in this case around social studies topics.

First, to elaborate on expository text structure, this is the informational "sibling," so to speak of teaching story grammar--parts of a story and the connections of character, setting, initiating event, response, plan, events, and conclusion. Expository text structures can be located both in narratives and informational text (e.g. a news article, textbook, lecture or video) and include list, sequence, description, compare/contrast, and so on. An excellent recent tutorial article (Lundine & McCauley, 2016) provides more information and research tie-ins for these strategies; commercial products targeting the use of these structures include Mindwing Concepts' ThemeMaker®* and Thinking Maps.

Another good resource providing a venue for teaching these skills and strategies is Popplet Lite (Free, the full version of Popplet allows you to have multiple drafts), with built-in graphic organizers in a visual creation tool where students can combine photos, text, and drawings to explain an idea or topic.

With Popplet Lite, you can:
-tap to create "popples" to contain your ideas for the topic
-color code main ideas
-connect ideas in lines demonstrating text structures (e.g. list, sequence, cause-effect)
-add images (copy/paste from Safari is easiest) or drawings
-export your creation in several formats.

In several followup posts, I'll be discussing other resources for mapping narrative and expository text.

*Disclosure: Author provides blog content for Mindwing Concepts, Inc. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Amazon Prime Ads: Good context for teaching narrative structure or problem-solution

Video versions of ads can be motivating ways to target students' understanding of narrative and expository text structures. I have recently enjoyed the series from Amazon Prime in which people solve animal-related problems. Here's one featuring an adorable little horse:

As the ads are wordless, they offer an opportunity to work on student narration and also interpretation of nonverbal information.

Westby and Culatta's recently published article "Telling Tales" offers a tutorial on assessing and intervening on narrative skills (primarily personal rather than fictional), and as you know I am a big fan of (and consultant for) Story Grammar Marker® to break down and produce narrative material. I also highly recommend Dr. Anna Vagin's books (and mailing list) for terrific information on how to use video to target narrative and social cognition skills.

Here are two more in the series of ads:

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Little Alchemy- a fun game-based context for describing objects

A key feature that is required for games to be useful in speech and language intervention is an appropriate pace-- meaning a controllable and slow pace. Little Alchemy (free, available for iOS, Android and on the web) will let you pace the game with plenty of room for discussion, which would be the point of using it! The goal in Little Alchemy is to combine objects to make new objects, at first in nature but veering into weather, geographic features, engineering and inventions.

You start with earth, air, fire and water, naturally. Combining fire and water makes steam, earth and water make mud, and so on. In the process, many language targets will arise naturally or with your cueing:
-causals: Water is wet so...
-conditionals: If I combine air and fire...
-descriptors: Lava is melted rock...
-academic vocabulary: solids, liquids and gases, and so on

Little Alchemy is simple and easy to use. It could make a good reinforcement tool at the end of a lesson or serve as an interactive lesson to target language around science and chemistry. The app allows students to sign in and save progress via a google account, and you can also reset progress within the settings to use with a different group or student. So you know what combinations create what, giving you the power to control the discussion a bit more as students play, a walkthrough is available here. Hints are also available in the game.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Tap Roulette- A useful therapy tool

Whenever including games or any situation where someone has to "go first," it can be a challenge even among students who don't have social learning challenges. We don't want these decisions to eat up our precious and limited therapy time. I do find that Social Thinking® and 5 Point Scales promote useful self-talk around this:
-Play involves 3 Parts: Setup, Play, Cleanup. Who goes first is part of setup and we don't want it to use up our time playing.
-Using a 5 Point Scale of Problems, going last should be thought of as a small or tiny problem.

However, we still sometimes come to a stalemate over who goes first.

Tap Roulette offers a free, quick, and fun solution that I think superior to the human-error-prone "Rock Paper Scissors" technique. Participants in whatever it is simply place one finger on the screen, tap PICK FINGER and after a roulette-style animation, a choice is made!

Tap Roulette also provides a fun way to work on categories; have students name items in a simple or complex category and run a contest to see which one "wins."

Friday, September 23, 2016

Kahoot! Create game show style activities!

Kahoot! is a website that allows you to create quizzes that are presented in an extremely engaging fashion, for free. I had seen Kahoot! used a number of times over the past few years, and recently I decided to use it with my social cognition groups. The kids who had used Kahoot! in their classrooms had a huge, excited response when I said we were going to use it!

At you can create your free account and build quizzes, discussions and surveys- all great ways to target language and have students explain ideas. Compose questions and accompany them with pictures (great for vocabulary or social cognition), then write multiple choice responses. You also can try some featured Kahoots if you don't want to reinvent the wheel or just want to gauge your students' response to this type of activity- there are searchable pre-made quizzes on a large variety of topics.

image from

Playing a Kahoot works like this:
-From, launch a particular activity.
-On screen will appear a PIN, and students can use their own or provided devices* to navigate to and enter this pin and a nickname for play (they love that part).
-You control the pace of the game as students respond to the questions, results are displayed and you will have moments to discuss (an important aspect that makes the site good for speech and language activities)
*Kahoots are best created on a desktop or laptop as you'll need to type and possibly add pictures or video. Students can play on any device that has a web browser- I like to use "Team mode" in bigger groups to foster collaboration. Devices do not need the Kahoot! app, but this app directs you immediately to enter the PIN, so it takes the web navigation part out for the student.

As I mentioned, Kahoot! is a great resource for vocabulary review or creating quizzes where students identify expository text structure key words, subordinate clause markers, or demonstrate morphological awareness. I have also transformed a number of "Thinksheets" from the Social Thinking® resources into quiz form. This was also a great context to work on skills while playing the game (e.g. Defeating DOF- The Destroyer of Fun from Superflex®)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

4th Generation Apple TV provides additional options for clinically useful content

Many school settings have incorporated Apple TV as an option for visual displays in classrooms, and the same possibilities can be applied in clinical settings. Apple TV is not a TV set, per se, but a internet-enabled "set-top" box that can be connected to an HDTV or a classroom projector/interactive whiteboard. The previous generations of Apple TV, as I have written about, offer the opportunity to use content within the software (e.g. YouTube) and to wirelessly display ("mirror") an iPad, iPhone, or Mac screen to the TV. This can be very handy in instruction or therapy using apps as all students in the group can see the visual, while interacting with the iPad as usual.

The fourth generation Apple TV*, released last fall, retains these possibilities and the accessible price of previous releases, while adding an App Store. Note: this is not available unless you upgrade to the newer Apple TV device; it is not just a software update. The App Store, along with the upgraded multitouch remote which serves as a controller for interaction within apps, unlocks a new world of content and interaction. A few examples:

My constantly recommended EPIC! Books for Kids is also available as a free app on Apple TV, and you can of course sign in with your free educator account. This offers the ability to display a huge variety of books (some with audio) on a TV screen (email subscribers, be sure to click through to full post to see videos below).

A video posted by Sean Sweeney (@speechtechie) on

Also, look for @speechtechie on Instagram!

Though the interactive potential of Apple TV is just being tapped, apps such as those from Sago Mini (I wrote about the language and play potential of its iPad apps for Mindwing Concepts) provide great interaction through the remote control.

A video posted by Sean Sweeney (@speechtechie) on

The App Store for Apple TV has nice finds in the Education, Kids and Family, and Health and Fitness categories (particularly if you are using any mindfulness training for self-regulation or fluency).

In short, if you are in a private clinical setting or have the potential to influence purchases at school, the 4th Generation Apple TV allows you to facilitate engagement among a group by displaying all your iPad apps on the big screen, plus the opportunity to shortcut the mirroring process and engage in a different way through its developing library of apps.

*Note: you can buy an HDMI cable for $5 on Amazon.