Friday, May 13, 2022

Dino Tracker

Dino Tracker is a fictionalized interactive website that has been released as a promotion for Jurassic World Dominion, an upcoming film in the series. The premise of this film is that dinosaurs are no longer confined to Isla Nublar but living (and hunting) alongside humans. The purpose of the site is ostensibly to provide information to the public about "sightings" of various dinosaurs- the therapeutic potential in the site is scaffolding language around the locations (through a clickable Google-like map), the "descriptions" of the dinosaurs and cause-effect language of "Dos" and "Do Nots."

I was recently discussing with a colleague how high school students often have remaining difficulty with the geographic literacy aspects of continent-country-state or other division and how this connects to situational awareness and the ability to digest information about the world and current events. Browsing the world map provided could be an exciting (MS and HS students who can understand the artifice of the content) opportunity to review continents and some of the spatial strategies for recalling them, then moving down to more micro areas. The videos provided are a form of narrative and the "field report" expository text that can be mapped with graphic organizers, or used as a model to tell "same but different" creative item e.g. a report from another location.  Overall Dino Tracker represents how interactive websites designed for very different purposes can provide access to academic language- one strategy I like is to search for "interactive websites" and under tools set the time limit to the past month or week, you can find some gems.

Friday, May 6, 2022


LearnHip has some useful and simple activities designed for English language learners but also useful for speech and language therapy. It may be particularly useful as a warm-up or to make use of a short amount of extra time in a session. Some of the activities it includes: makers such as a scrambled sentence, reveal the picture and board game creator, conversation cards on a wide variety of themes (e.g. annoyances), and story cards and silly/engaging contexts such as describe the picture and what happens next (in the form of GIFs) "quizzes." Go Hip would be good to have in your bookmarks for classroom, group or teletherapy sessions for a variety of verbal expression objectives.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Simple visual engagement resources for youngsters

Whether doing tele- or in-person therapy, you should be aware of the cute, simple and useful resources of Dr.  Karen Fried at Oaklander training, such as the online sand tray and dollhouse interactive activities on the site (go to the tools and resources tab). There's apparently a whole approach to using these tools as psychological therapy with young children, but as a sort of stickerbook they have specific linguistic opportunities. Consider vocabulary, concepts, syntactic expansion, and storytelling!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

TinyTap Online

Tiny Tap was previously described here as a good mobile app resource for both making interactive activities and finding visual content for lessons. I recently noticed TinyTap has ported content online, so this would be playable on your laptop or in a classroom with projector or interactive whiteboard. This format for Tiny Tap makes it also a nice resource for telepractice. Sign in at TinyTap (click Connect) and you can favorite activities to create a resource list. The activities are geared toward language basics and topic exploration, many taking the form of an interactive book, and therefore are particularly good for developing vocabulary, categories, or foundational descriptive skills. This Desert-themed activity provides a good example, but see what else you can find on the site! I was able to access many activities for free, but TinyTap provides an educator sign-in.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Radio Garden

Flowing a bit from my last post (context is your friend), Google Experiment Radio Garden is worth a therapeutic visit. Your students will think it's just a chill moment, but secretly it can be a great way to practice having them call out:

-Continents and then countries
-Responses (conversation/comments) to what they hear
-Characterization of the language (nonverbal aspects such as tone etc) and type of music you may hear. Music genres are a category and can connect us with peers!

Why not pair this with looking up a current event from the country you "visit" for narrative/expository comprehension? 

Now more than ever, it's important to foster global awareness.

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day, here's my homeland:

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Globle can become a cooperative group game

I have been a longtime fan of maps as therapy tools. They promote spacial description skills, situational awareness and (literal) world knowledge, and can be used to link to narrative and expository language. 

Let's start with Wordle though. A huge fad, one this Jeopadevotee has used to shore up his skills with the anagram category that didn't appear in his game...yeah, I am still in some kind of transitional phase. Anyway, I am not sure it is such a great therapy tool unless it is paired with a visual support such as searching for words with various forms (see same but different below), but it kind of has a story. Here related in Story Grammar Marker® icons:

There have been many spin-offs of Wordle including one in IPA that SLPS would love, and Globle is one in which you guess the "country of the day." As mentioned above, for students working on building this knowledge, it's great to have a tab open for reference and research to help them make educated guesses. As I described to families of students I played with this week, "In a cooperative way we enjoyed an introduction to the game Globle, a variation on Wordle where we guess countries, get color coded clues back, and zero in on the day's target, therefore using thinking with the eyes, following the plan, and adding connected thoughts based on the info that we were receiving. The boys figured out Portugal quickly by building off each others' clues!"

Friday, February 4, 2022

Be Zen with Your Tabs

It seems as though everyone is starting to exhale and feel a bit of optimism again after a disruptive turn in the pandemic this January 2022. It seems a good time to take stock and continue to use our tools to keep ourselves productive and feeling purposeful!

One of my tricks is around windows and tabs- it's important to be mindful of how many you have open. First of all, having a huge array of applications, windows, and tabs within your browser open is overwhelming and isn't conducive to focus. Here's a great post on Zen Habits about this issue. Additionally, having all this stuff open is taxing on your computer's memory and even power, so you may find it moving more slowly. Take a few minutes a few times each day to close those tabs that are making your brain go all over the place, pulling your focus and/or causing you some anxiety. 

One strategy I like to do--it may sound counter to the above but is really an organizational/prep strategy, so, regulating-- is to set up upcoming sessions in a window or windows along with any resources I plan to use- whether it be a telepractice or in-person session, as I am currently doing both. For tele it is helpful to have the tab you will want to go to first be the active one, as in Zoom it will be the one visible for screen sharing.

For this session you can see the (1-1) student's Google Slides deck, with agenda and other activities like practice with the EET, reading comprehension practice we are doing with Into the Book, and a Newsela article we would work through with Story Grammar Marker®. Student done, close the window!

Stay Zen, folks!

Friday, January 21, 2022

At a Distance, Again

Well, besides the Jeopardescapade, this has been quite a crappy month for everyone. In Massachusetts, a huge surge in COVID infections after the holidays forced a lot of us to make changes again in how we are working with students. Schools have stayed pretty much as "new normal" here, with the exception of more testing and quicker on the draw to cancel school days for weather. Working in a private practice, we have made a shift to move as many sessions as possible into a temporary telepractice format for individuals and groups, while keeping in-person services for those that struggle to engage online (or are just over it). Of course we are taking extensive precautions: vaccine requirements, temp checks, health screens, powerful air filtration, double masking, distancing...

On that last one, I find technology to be a big help. We have an Apple TV (old ones work fine) with HDMI-ported TVs (just your basic TVs these days) in each clinic room. I have a Mac which can screen mirror to these, but if I didn't, an HDMI cable would do. The Mac just gives me more mobility. The use of a screen (like you would a board/projector in a classroom) can keep engagement up visually and can prompt session structure and communication from students in a variety of ways, while maintaining distance within the room. It can help also to reduce or eliminate shared "touched" materials, and though these really aren't the problem with an aerosol-spread virus, it's a step that can't hurt and can be reassuring to families. Here are a few examples:

-Use Jamboard activities that are game/play-like and prompt discussion and collaboration. I have mentioned Julia Dweck's collection and this week used the Traffic Jam game.

-Activities students can participate in actively via their smartphones. You can make a worksheet/thinksheet into a google form and email to them, or shorten the link with Kahoot is almost always a draw, whether you choose from topics of interest or social/language based games. Jackbox Games are worth an investment, and often on sale- these are joined by phone.

-Have a discussion and document the language in a simple Google slide like a flipchart. I guarantee they'll want to correct your typing, which means they are paying attention. Insert images! SlidesCarnival has good templates for free if you want to jazz it up visually.

-Anything visual that prompts discussion- consider infographics on topics of interest or something related to holidays or current events. With Chinese New Year coming up there are a variety of websites and graphics that describe the personality traits of the various animals/years. Great to connect to and have students self-reflect on how they might be same or different.

-Books that are visual with limited text. This week I used Jon Klassen's darkly humorous I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat on YouTube. You read 'em, sound muted, pause at will- there is plenty to discuss with some facial expression interpretation.

Saturday, January 15, 2022


Sorry I have been quiet here a few weeks, but I've been just largely managing myself in the excitement and other emotions around my Jeopardy! episode airing on January 7. I appreciate the shoutouts from people who watched and the discussions in some Facebook groups.

I'll say also from an SLP perspective, it has made a good personal narrative model to share with my clients!

I thought I would share a few photos here, and later--this blog won't become a blog about Jeopardy but one more post--an entry about how tech helped me to prepare, if I was prepared, haha. 

If you didn't see the episode and would like to, you can email me and I might be able to slide you a link...

Some notes I shared on Facebook I thought would be appropriate to share here too:

LONNNG POST. 21st Century Nonfiction, let’s call it. So I first want to thank you again all for the excitement and engagement around My Nerdy Life Event. Your positive and congratulatory messages and comments have kept me ebullient through what has been a thrilling time. 

Having been on Jeopardy is truly a gift, and I am so grateful for that too. I wish I could share my joy at first sitting down in front of that beautiful, gleaming stage, with the “stars” twinkling above it and the board. Especially after our long briefing at the dismantled, underwhelming-looking “Wheel of Fortune” stage. It was just gorgeous and I knew I would be on it soon.

I’ll confess I left that stage not feeling so great about the game, a feeling that persisted over these last long two months, having taped at the beginning of November, and which has improved greatly now that I’ve seen it and given your incredible response. It was tough, being encouraged when Matt Amodio lost and arriving and discovering Amy, someone maybe even stronger, was on a streak. Nope, we don’t get told that in advance or get the opportunity to opt out, lol. Waiting all day to play wasn’t exactly an advantage either- they say watching a winner like her win is kind of demoralizing and indeed it was. The contestant coordinator drew Patsy and me for the 5th game and I think could see it on our faces, ‘cause she took us aside and said multiple times “NO ONE IS UNBEATABLE” lol.

But I’d rather have lost to Amy Schneider than I think anyone else. She’s historic in so many ways and I’m really happy to be part of LGBTQIA and especially trans history. She’s a marvel- and I’ll add, a cool person from all our interactions across the day. Having seen the game now, I’m at peace with all of it.

My feelings at the end of the game led me to initially give a “maybe” when Terry (Thursday’s game) tried to gather us all for drinks afterward. I had a sense of the game being worse than it actually was. But I went to my rental car, called Chris, gained some perspective, and went to hang for a bit. One of the best decisions I ever made, because this formed a vital support group that has helped us all as we waited the seemingly interminable time before our games…Amy’s first appearance coming a while into that! Love to my Jeopardy! FB messenger thread, one of the great prizes given me by this experience. Glad we have been there for each other in sharing this definitely unique experience. 

And to Chris and friends and family who big time helped me through what was a bit like a K├╝bler-Ross process. I had to wait over two months between taping and airing. Acceptance- I got on, I know that’s a big thing, and I pushed through some anxiety and did my best. And hearing from so many of you that building up to it and watching it meant something to you has been hugely gratifying.

So, a couple comments on this game:

I really didn’t remember much. I appreciate so many of the comments from you all that I looked calm and collected but I really was very very nervous. Hence the moving around quite a bit. I was on a small elevated step to even out our heights and I was surprised watching it that I didn’t fall off!

Amy obviously is a machine. Patsy is a blast, and she played with great composure. I am proud to have been up there with Patsy. She has become a friend as well- she had to take off after the game and get herself back to school, but knowing my way around a school website I tracked her down afterward via email and she became part of our FB group. Yesterday when watching the game I FaceTimed her in and everyone gave her a well-deserved cheer. 

Particularly in the first Jeopardy round where I felt more comfortable with the categories, I could see watching it that I was REALLY trying to buzz in on many clues, and this was so reassuring. As many have acknowledged it’s all about the buzzer timing and Amy had 27 games to get very good at that. It seemed I got better at it by Double as I had enough firsts to get in the Daily Doubles and a few other correct responses. There were a number of clues I responded to correctly that I didn't remember at all. The "Fog of Jeopardy" is real.

The DDs I’m told were where I made the funniest faces. I actually rolled my eyes when I found the first one. I believe I was scared of the math. Went as hard as I could on the first one. Common is on my radar- mostly I remember him introducing Hamilton on the Tony’s. The clue, tho it should have cued me into him regardless with the “sense” reference, just didn’t click with me. It felt like forever before I timed out- that “beep beep beep” is added in post-production, by the way. I found the other DD shortly after and with the first one not going well, and the way the DD explodes onto the stage kind of startlingly, I actually blurted out a completely involuntary and limbic “OH S&%T.” They did a good job editing that after I alerted Jimmy Clue Crew, now a floor producer, that I said a swear word. That weird bet was entirely about avoiding going to 0 or being in the red and missing Final Jeopardy. I think I thought Final was more imminent than it actually was, haha. In any case you could see Lady Bird came in my mind quickly- thanks to a number of trips to Austin!

Sorry, my fellow gays, about Cher. I love Cher as much as the next person but I really didn’t know that song. Yes, “turn back time” should have cued me but it’s hard to process everything. I was MUCH happier watching this game and seeing that I answered more than I recalled, anyway. Picking categories was something I should have practiced more. I actually sort of stumbled over a word in the category name on one pick but I was glad my timing was brisk- I always get annoyed when contestants don’t pick quickly but I can certainly see why that happens. 

I’m glad the way the story came out in the interview. I’ll share some stuff about prep another time but I had the opportunity to pick the topic and that was an interesting enough one in which I had the chance to honor Chris (though I forgot to say his name), and be Out naturalistically and I wanted to represent, not knowing in advance that I'd be up there with another LGBTQIA

Final. People have asked me in not so many words what the hell I was thinking and the answer is: not much. Lol. I felt confident with 20th Century Nonfiction. Books and Lit are really in my wheelhouse. I just kinda thought I wanted my score to be as high as possible so I went for that, not really caring about 2nd vs 3rd place, to be honest. The money difference after taxes (1000 vs 2000) is not really a huge deal. I had never heard of Thor Heyerdahl in my life. Hemingway (many have reached out to say they guessed the same, thanks) was really the only author I associated w Europe tho pretty much off in period and genre. Hence the additional faces, which I’m glad people enjoyed. 

Obviously historic yet again with Amy passing $1M in this game. Ken screwed up something in her final response and wager reveal so we had to tape this whole sequence again! Don’t ever say I can’t act a little, I guess! Haha. 

The chat over the credit sequence is something filmed in each game. We had actually had somewhat of a long break in our game where we all chatted with the contestant coordinators (I’m not sure why) and Amy, Patsy and I talked about traveling in Scotland and Ireland. I was a little shell shocked in the final conversation haha but again, it didn’t come out too badly. Jeopardy sometimes releases these so you can hear the convo and did here:

Thanks again for all the interest and support.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Another Kind of Game...

It seems appropriate after presenting at ASHA 2021 (glad we squeezed that in, huh?) about play, playful activities and games in language and social interventions that I get to tell you about a game of my own...

Hearing "A speech and language pathologist from Dorchester, Massachusetts, Sean Sweeney" (not by Johnny Gilbert, they edit him in, thanks again COVID) is truly an exciting and maybe terrifying intro. I hope that you will watch the show on Friday, January 7, 2022, and I will have more to say about it as we go! For now I have to keep quiet on any details including whom I played. 

Have a great holiday and New Year!!