Friday, October 15, 2021

Consider This: Civics!

Consider This has mostly been an exploration of resources used a bunch of different ways, but we also can consider how different curriculum topics can be used to target many speech and language and social communication objectives (and in this case, some resources that go with this idea). Speech and language pathologists can wrap interventions in contexts; check out this recent study, one that I'd like to describe in detail at some point, on science and Tier 2 vocabulary.

I think of civics as important world and social knowledge. Though it's unlikely to fix everything, we could do worse than helping students understand how government and laws work. Within civics contexts, there's much opportunity to target narrative, expository language, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and sentence formulation.

Years ago, Social Thinking® recommended Munro Leaf's (quite old) picture book Fair Play, which in its opening pages explores social norms in terms of moving from why we don't all get to do everything we want to do to why we have government. There are also several vignettes about a character he calls JustMe who behaves without considering others's needs that Social Thinking® formulated into a concept around JustMe vs Thinking about Others. We want to handle this topic with nuance and acknowledgement that everyone has JustMe "moments" to model the concept carefully, of course. The book is hard to find, but there is a read aloud version below. Skip the weird intro, consider handling the JustMe vignettes with further nuance, e.g. what the kids could have done to help JustMe be part of the group, and avoid the latter parts which are just way too harsh! I have generally used just up to about 4:30

In a much more straightforward way, iCivics remains a very useful tool. Sign in as a teacher and you can access lesson plans, worksheets, and of course the interactive games (varying in length, so explore) which can open up great expository conversations and vocabulary development. Sign-in also allows you to save games and pick up in later sessions. Recently I used Cast Your Vote with some students to explore the local election process and vocabulary like infrastructure, juvenile, enrollment, and minimum wage

Fablevision's Civics! An American Musical (free with signup) will delight fans of Hamilton and engages students in civics topics while targeting comprehension of primary sources. The language underpinnings, however, include situational interpretation of pictures and comprehension of texts. The game contains multiple paths you can return and reroute to (e.g. making a few musicals about a few different topics, if you have a group that gets into it), and again, saves your progress.

Civics topics are also great to explore with very simple resources such as newsela!

Interested in professional development for your department, school, or organization? Sean is booking in-person or remote trainings for the 2021-2022 school year

Friday, October 1, 2021

Consider This:

The V in the FIVES criteria is for Visual! Visual supports are a simple Evidence Based Practice- give students something to explore with their eyes and you can tap:

-description/main idea
-narrative language and complex sentence formulation
-social/situational awareness
-their interests/humor! is an oldie but goodie, and has been around forever. In addition to its classroom tools such as Random Name Picker, a simple Soundboard and such, there are many visual activities you can use to create an "opener" or have students create something themselves. This may be particularly useful for older students.

Consider These:

Twister: create a "tweet" from any character, tap main idea, perspective taking, sentence formulation

Image Labelling Tool: upload an image and create text "hotspots" for part/whole thinking, abstract or advanced categories, description

Breaking News and Headline Generators: main idea of a narrative or expository topic, with humor!

Image Reveal: Gameify "Thinking with the eyes"

Interested in professional development for your department, school, or organization? Sean is booking in-person or remote trainings for the 2021-2022 school year

Friday, September 24, 2021

Consider This: Videos about Mindfulness

Mindfulness should be considered right in the SLP wheelhouse. It a) is evidence-based, b) promotes self-regulation which underlies executive function, academic performance, social communication and c) practicing and discussing mindfulness encompasses expository language and metacognition (talking about thinking). 

Through the mandated teletherapy period and beyond, I have found videos about mindfulness to be particularly useful as they are visual, prompt practice, and serve for post activities

Check out this example:

It's great. Well-paced, specific, promoting a strategy that can be used without the video at other times, and an example of an abstract, complex idea. In using this I have needed to recast my students' understanding of it: Being present helps you be in the moment to pay attention, but also regulates your emotions away from thinking/feeling about the past or future. There's much personal narrative that can come from exploring this as well as descriptions of what we notice in the moment (often a complex sentence formulation prompt as well with any cognitive verb).

In addition to other videos by the Partnership in Education, you can explore ones for various age levels from Cosmic Kids, MyLife, or Headspace.

It's a good idea to do this kind of activity with regularity (it need not take more than 10 minutes) or in a series as mindfulness is really about developing a practice.  I always think of it as a toolkit (aligning with models like Zones®), so it is also wise to find videos that promote different strategies such as presence, above, deep breathing, gratitude, etc.

Interested in professional development for your department, school, or organization? Sean is booking in-person or remote trainings for the 2021-2022 school year

Friday, September 17, 2021

Consider This: Make A Scene

Tech-based scenes, in which story grammar settings are presented and we can add characters and objects, suggest the creation of stories and other language targets. One of the simplest series of tools for this is the apps from, well-titled, make a scene (inexpensively priced at $.99 for iOS, Amazon devices and Android Tablets). These include themes that can be used to build semantics such as Dinosaurs, Jungle, Polar Adventure and Transport. The apps are simple, promoting use for many grade levels ranging down to preschool. Additionally, each app contains related scenes to choose from for a variety of stories to create.

Make A Scene: Transport. Create a traffic jam for an "initiating event!"

Consider This:
-Make A Scene apps and websites (fewer options) function like a stickerbook or (if you remember) Colorforms for very simple co-creation activities.
-The iPad remains alive as a great tool for clinicians to have on hand for its portability, ease of use, and functions such as screenshotting which allow you to revisit previous creations and the language involved with them. The iPad can also be mirrored to computer screens for use in telepractice, or connected to a projector or interactive whiteboard in a classroom.
-In addition to story creation, scene creators can be used to target microstructure aspects: vocabulary, elaborated noun and verb phrases, syntax and sentence formulation e.g. temporal and causal clauses.
-Scene creation begs for pairing of apps with picture books of similar themes to set a larger context in therapy activities. See my free booklet on this topic on Teachers Pay Teachers.
-Particularly for telepractice, to allow for interactivity it is easy to create your own scenes in Google Slides. Students can interact with the scene through remote cursor control or setting the sharing settings to allow the student to edit the Slides. 

Interested in professional development for your department, school, or organization? Sean is booking in-person or remote trainings for the 2021-2022 school year

Friday, September 10, 2021

Consider This: Visual electronic books on EPIC!

I'm sick of talking about COVID. Obvi it's still with us, but I thought I'd frame the path forward instead of backward, and 6 parts of "Lessons from COVID" was enough anyway. A new school year, so Consider This. In coming posts I will be encouraging flexible thinking, planning, and contextualizing of language interventions fostered by simple tech resources. 

I'm still a working clinician of course but have the privilege of doing consulting as well. This week I was discussing with an amazing SLP colleague a "way forward" for social learning lessons for a group of moderate to high-support high-schoolers. With delivery in their dedicated classroom, use of the board and projector is really helpful for keeping up engagement. We had at our fingertips a book she had identified, 125 True Stories of Amazing Animal Friendships, a great visual resource from National Geographic.

Interactive read-alouds, though still effective, get tougher as students get older. They no longer gather around in a circle on the carpet, do they? We thought of digitizing through Slides (easy enough, and one option), but then I thought to check EPIC! It had the book! Hopefully you know this repository of digital books offers (still!) free accounts to educators. Consider also this entire publisher's library and other visual treasures, which help us see how a resource like this can be useful beyond the primary grades.

Yes, you can zoom in...

So Consider This, in brief, and comment with other thoughts, please!
-Each entry, and there are many, can be mapped as a narrative
-The book as a whole is also an expository example and graphic organizers can be used for list, sequence, cause-effect etc.
-Our primary interest here was social "same but different" thinking. Many of these episodes can be used to extract human friendship "hidden rules" 
-Conversation building: what connections can you make in your experiences with pets?
-EPIC is very vocab-friendly. Click on a word and you get a definition.

What other ideas do you have when you Consider This?

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Lessons from COVID, part 6: (e-)Books are more useful than ever!

Picture (or other) books as an excellent therapy tool has always been one of my themes. In this post/video I demonstrate how to use Overdrive, which is one option for obtaining free e-books using your public library access. The tools here can be useful for tele-, individual, small group or classroom-based therapy. 

Check out the video here: 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Lessons from COVID, Part 5: Just Keep Learning...

Purpose, it's that little flame, that lights a fire under your ass...
-Princeton, Avenue Q (A song I sang at karaoke recently)

I know I said I was done with anything touching on mental health, but can we really be when still navigating a pandemic? One of the best pieces of advice I picked up during this time is that purpose in our work, finding interesting lines of pursuit, and that means professional development specifically, can be helpful to avoid grinding. 

To that end, a couple of resources I have found helpful:

-Both Bright IQ and are great mailing lists to be on in order to be informed of free PD opportunities. The SLP Summit is viewable as a replay until 8/15. I also have subscribed at different points to and Medbridge (where, disclosure, I have created a few courses).

-Read up! Your ASHA Journals are still wide-ranging, and the Evidence Maps are growing. I also really enjoy the digestible content of The Informed SLP. 

A tidbit: I was really happy to be accepted to present at ASHA Convention this year, if you can make it! 

Topic Area: Telepractice (but will be very applicable to in-person also!)

Session Number: 1113

Title: Play on Words: Thoughtful Uses of "Game-Based" Apps and Resources in Language-Based Interventions

Session Format: 1 Hour In-Person

Day: Thursday, November 18, 2021

Time: 2:30 PM-3:30 PM

Abstract: Playful activities provide an avenue for targeting language skills, social cognition, and executive functioning across the grade levels. This session will demonstrate how technology resources across several platforms can be “gamed” via pre- and post-activities to engage clients in developing skills across the domains of listening, speaking and thinking. Apps, webtools, and Alexa skill games will be discussed along with task analyses and sample lessons developed in real-time telepractice during the COVID-19 emergency. Activities particularly target group social interaction, participation, planning, organization, time management, and self-monitoring. The session will also discuss research and resources in our literature supporting the use of play in interventions across the grade levels, and how technology can be used thoughtfully within these contexts.

I have mentioned before that having a hobby promotes your own growth mindset and just breeds happy! This summer I have been taking some drawing courses on Udemy (which has a huge variety of learning topics) and got an Apple Pencil! Inspired by my trip to Provincetown in July: 

Enjoy the rest of your summer! Off to Maine next week!

Friday, July 2, 2021

Lessons from COVID, Part 4: Slide It!

In this series I have been discussing "lessons" from this difficult year: things that helped me get through but also will influence my work going forward back into "normal." One of these is the use of simple visual tools such as Google Slides. I had found Slides useful pre-pandemic as a way to lay out lesson and discussion visuals, but it became more so diving into telepractice. This "lesson" actually has some component parts, so I will letter those!

a. Keep a deck for each session or group: doing so helped with organization, review, and contextual flow. As I supervised graduate students throughout the pandemic, this also allowed for easy digital collaboration through Sharing.

b. Slide 1 is a good place for the agenda, which I always frame with the Social Thinking® concept of The Group Plan.

c) Like this overlaid Shapes>Callouts of thought balloons, Shapes are always your friend in Slides. Add any shape and it can be made colorful via the paint can, and is automatically typable (easier than text boxes) by double clicking in the shape. 

d) Shapes can also be made interactive like I did here applying a great visual about problem solving from Kristin Wiens at

I used the shapes to put a desequenced example (from January 2021) and Remote Control in Zoom to have the students in the group put it in order. You can see that we also linked it to Story Grammar Marker® and Zones of Regulation.

e. As in the agenda above, I'll say it again, no need to type everything out in advance. Often that can be visually overwhelming anyway. I often find a title or frame sets the topic and kids are quite happy to attend and comment as you type!

f. Images are easily insertable on the go in Slides, much like the venerable Pic Collage. Insert>Image>Search the web to work on vocabulary, add a quick visual support or engaging image. Let your students decide (with help) what images go best with the language!

Speaking of images, any slide can be quickly screenshot and shared with parents or others who should know what went on in your lessons.

g. Shapes (again) make great discussion webs or make language visible to foster conversations. Anna Vagin's Conversation Paths slides really saved my life and are modifiable for many contexts. In this case my students asked my graduate student a couple questions to get to know her and the path visuals provided schema, in this case a mnemonic I made up about "people files" (FILE).

h. Lastly, each deck provided me an organizational frame for a group. I'd open a window in Chrome for the group, open the group's Slides, and then use tabs for any resources (e.g. an interactive website) I might be planning to use in the session.

I am looking forward to in-person groups being much less digital, but I am sure Slides will remain an important visual tool for me going forward!

I'll be taking a few weeks off- see you back here in late July!

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Lessons from COVID, Part 3: Get a Room

Just playing on the title of last week's post, one lesson from this experience (almost all teletherapy, all the time) is the power of resources which allow you to have group members join a space, almost like a room. I believe for me this will continue beyond the pandemic as a helpful language and social engagement tool, incorporating technology to provide visual guidance, context, motivation to participate, language practice in various forms, and fun! Here are some examples:

Backyard is a free resource; create a space by signing in with your Google account, and students can join via a shared code. I found out about Backyard from Speech Dude Chris Wegner (see his helpful video tutorial) and it helped power me through my last few months of group therapy. With Backyard you can play fun language-y games like Doodle, basically a form of Pictionary with the tech providing structure and engagement. Backyard looks to be undergoing some sort of hiatus soon, but use it until June 26 and sign up for their updates on its later form (I see with dismay after writing this paragraph, but still worth looking at to see what is to come).

Jamboard, I've sung your praises many times. This collaborative drawing and writing space from Google provides infinite opportunities for bringing students together to the same space for a defined context or task. One of my latest uses was a modification of Wacky Words by Cranium (as always, please don't request access, just click on the 3 dots and make a copy). I left the second game as one in progress so you can see how it works. The rules for the game are here (also a handy visual site) and you can use a random letter generator like this one. For any Jamboard, Share will give you a link to modify as editable, Share directly with Google accounts or in Google Classroom.

Kahoot, as always, came in handy. Quizzes generate conversation between items, so scaffold that, and you can easily create/modify quizzes related to language/social content or conduct decision-making and compromise sessions related to playing Kahoots about trivia topics. This Google Slide visual is one I used to teach about Levels of Like (compromise means picking something all are "ok" with); use shapes and change their sizes to show what the group "thinks" about the option.

Jackbox, a series of games that actually use the term "room code," provides many engaging games, especially for middle and high schoolers. Watch for sales on their website (sign up for mailing list) as these are frequent, and I buy the codes to run through Steam. Be aware that many schools may block running Steam over their network in order to stop students from gaming inappropriately; I have used my hotspot on a few occasions. This site provides a helpful list and descriptions (e.g. which games have family-friendly settings).

Friday, June 18, 2021

Lessons from COVID, Part 2: Get a Hobby

I swear this is the last post touching on my (much better) mental health, but it also has some tech tips within, so I thought it was worth sharing. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was much ado about "using this time for self-improvement" before that message had a backlash against it. Regardless, as an adult it can be difficult to feel justified trying new pastimes, though it sure helped me.

My husband and I were always karaoke people, so that piece wasn't new. We'd spend many Sunday nights singing down the "scaries" with one or two at a local place that had karaoke starting at 8pm. He's a real singer, gets paid for it at a CT church monthly; I just dabble and know some stuff to make myself sound better given the SLP training. When the shutdown happened, of course no karaoke. Singing was bad, COVID-wise. We started a habit of recording a weekly song and sharing it to friends and family via YouTube and Facebook. It was a good thing to spend time preparing for and looking forward to recording and releasing it. I learned a couple tech tricks along the way.

Karaoke Version is a great website that lets you purchase individual song tracks, and you can choose ones with no background vocals. This allowed us to turn many solo songs into duets. He taught me years ago how to change keys of songs, which greatly increases the options for any singer (e.g. I can sing a female song down one octave and up two steps to take me out of the basement, or lower a male pop song a couple steps). For this, two tools helped a lot. AirDrop (accessed on any Mac or Apple Device through the share icon) popped the song right over to my phone without need for syncing (takes forever) and into an app like AudioScrub Remix Edition ($2.99). This app allows you to change keys and even play with tempo of music, so is also good for playing with the key of original song tracks so you feel more confident singing them out there (if the place you go allows key changes, some don't). From there it was pretty easy to play any song in my car--I even drove sometimes-- and we'd set his iPhone up on a holder to record. There's truly an app for everything, and they sure can support your hobbies. 

I hope it will be enjoyable to some and not too self-indulgent to share our playlist. We sang 52 songs- every week for a pandemic year- and then have slowed it down to every couple weeks, maybe once a month. It was a lot of work. And we are back to going out and singing karaoke. The list took us through themes and some tough unrest in our city ("Beautiful City" from Godspell) and when a friend passed away suddenly ("What I Did for Love" from Chorus Line, one of his favorites), but is mostly lighthearted and meant to entertain...we learned some weeks in to avoid the heavy. There's lots of Yacht Rock, and more experiments with falsetto than I should have attempted. And I have to say all the practicing and singing was also therapeutic- something about that diaphragmatic breathing. Definitely watch the 2nd version of "Happy Days/Get Happy" as it is better shot and well, happier than the first! My faves are the recent ones, like "Drive." (Click on the link above or upper right menu in the video embedded below to see the list of songs)

The other thing I've gotten into is coloring and, later, drawing. Learning about shading was another way YouTube came in handy, and I'm taking some online classes and learning about drawing with an Apple Pencil on my iPad. Surely a relaxing hobby! If anyone has any good online resources about this, please let me know!

I hope you are easing into summer and finding happy ways to spend your time!