Friday, May 28, 2010

On "Handouts"

I love the recent developments on easily sharable handouts and documentation using resources such as Google Docs, Scribd, and Issuu. I know that some people prefer traditional printed handouts, but paper all over my life really ruins my sense of feng shui. I still have a large lavender tote bag (not my color) full of handouts from the last two ASHA conventions in my car. I prefer to save such resources in my delicious and diigo libraries. If you'd rather have paper, all of the above options allow you to print to your heart's desire.

My blogging compadre Eric Sailers has recently published his handouts that support his presentations at the FLASHA convention. I really appreciate his promotion of SpeechTechie in his great work! You can see his post about the convention here, as well as handouts on apps and Web 2.0 in our field.

Have a great long weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

High 5 Etiquette

This is a wonderfully humorous (especially for a target audience of teenage boys) look at that boisterous greeting technique known as the high 5. As tongue-in-cheek as the video is, it could prompt some helpful role plays and discussions of this and other ways to use nonverbal communication during greetings.

Thanks to Neatorama for featuring this video.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

2 Simple (Free) Apps for Animal Sounds

My nephew-in-law (is that what you call your brother-in-law's nephew?) who is just learning to talk is very interested in animals. I looked for a few free animal-related apps on my iPhone, and was impressed with both Pet the Animals and Vocal Zoo (note: both links likely will open a web page, then the iTunes Store, but will not download the app unless you authorize it). Pet the Animals features a variety of full-screen animals, that, when petted, will make a sound and "purr" (the phone will vibrate). Vocal Zoo features a grid of animals that will make their sounds when touched. Both kept little Ryan very amused- he kept running away from the phone and coming back giggling, while attempting to imitate a lot of the sounds.

Language Lens
  • Animal Sounds are clearly a great way to elicit speech sounds.
  • Cause-effect relationships (and a good point, for OTs) can be a great target for both of these activities.
  • With older students, apps such as Vocal Zoo could be a good context for barrier/ "I Spy" description activities.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Time for Bikes?

The Urban Outfitters website has a nifty bike designer that could serve to develop some advanced descriptive vocabulary around bikes. The interactive design tool is intended to be a launchpad for an actual bike purchase, but you can change different attributes of the bike and see their names without buying anything. Kids would enjoy designing their own bike and searching for the changing attributes as they click (e.g. grips). Using this site would be a good context for a descriptive writing task, especially with the goal of combining details into a sentence, as in "My bike has a blue frame with a brown leather saddle."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sports Trading Cards

For an activity that would be very motivating to kids interested in sports, check out the Kids World Sports Trading Card creator. Kids World Sports is a documentary series on PBS geared toward tweens- though the card creator can skew younger- featuring kids striving toward excellence in particular sports. If you are interested in further exploration, other areas of the site showcase some sporty kids' stories.

Language Lens:
  • The activity targets the skill of association, as backgrounds, animations, pictures, words and sounds can be pieced together to create a trading card. Kids can be asked why they are selecting elements in order to elicit causal connections.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Simple Machines, Complex Language

Cross-posted on Mindwing Concepts' blog:  Please click over to see my post that describes an awesome interactive website from Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.  The site places the abstract curriculum content around simple machines in the context of an engaging and problem-based task that also taps narrative and expository structure.  Plus, the site is so beautiful, you would think Pixar created it!

According to the FTC guidelines, I will disclose with each of these cross-posts (and in other references to Mindwing products) that I have a contractual relationship with Mindwing as a guest writer. In no other instances am I compensated to review or endorse products or technology resources (i.e. websites).

Friday, May 21, 2010

FREE TODAY- Recommend this one to parents

Today is App Friday on Moms with Apps, and cool app A Family Matters is free today. The app is an engaging series of conversational/activity/game prompts that target all sorts of language skills- background knowledge, vocabulary, comprehension, phonemic awareness. It presents tasks that can be completed with topics relevant to various settings, such as an airport or restaurant. Think of all the parents who ask, "What can I do at home?" This app will provide some structure (and models for the future) of how to engage their child in language-enhancing conversations.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


WordWorld is a cool resource from PBS, who have of late done quite a bit of web development to catch up with the BBC's excellent interactives. WordWorld is a pretty open-ended, exploratory site, so you would want to allow for a child-centered approach, but along the way, you will find some excellent reinforcement of letter identification, rhyming, and sound-letter connections. The concept behind the site, a companion to a PBS show, is the use of "WordThings," items which are composed of the letters of their words, with the letters being oriented, colored and textured to resemble the actual word. This would lead to a lot of great descriptive discussion about what the words/items look like, and perhaps an extension project (for older kids, perhaps) of creating your own WordThings.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Movie Poster Maker

The Movie Poster Maker from Big Huge Labs could be used for a variety of purposes in language intervention. The tool allows you to upload a picture and add the text that would normally appear on a movie poster (tag lines, stars, rating, etc). It's a pretty simple interface, but you unfortunately don't get much of a preview.  It would be a good idea to be structured when creating the posters with a student (so you don't waste time). When completed, you can save the photo as a jpeg on your computer, print, or share in other ways.

Here's one I whipped up in 10 min!

Language Lens
This tool could be used for self-description, say, in a pragmatics group, or to connect with curriculum content. Maybe make a movie poster about a book, with taglines requiring a persuasive reason to see the film. Taglines could also serve to convey a main idea about a curriculum topic that wouldn't normally be the subject of a blockbuster, like Gases: Without them you'd be breathless. I just made that up. Ha.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Can You Find It? App

How often have you administered the dreadful CELF-4 Concepts and Directions subtest (especially when they are like, 7 years old) to a kid who bombed it, and wondered how exactly you are going to address those issues without dying from boredom?  Give Can You Find It? a try.  This app, costing $.99 at the iTunes Store (at the time of this review), is a riddle-style game targeting key spatial and temporal concepts in a fun task. I greatly enjoyed playing it myself!

The app allows you to pan to bring other items into view, and double-tap to make a guess to "find it!"

Thank you to The iPhone Mom for mentioning this app.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Weboword- Nice Vocabulary Cartoons

Weboword-Vocabulary Visually looks like a great resource for SLPs. I am not at all a fan of SLPs selecting vocabulary to teach in an isolated manner. Where do you start? How are they supposed to learn these words within our limited service delivery models? Sometimes it's the best you can do, but I much favor the "Robust" and contextual vocabulary instruction advanced by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan in the book Bringing Words to Life, and subsequent commercial products such as Scholastic's Text Talk. Some years ago at my school, we implemented this approach thanks to a wonderfully supportive literacy specialist (Deana Lew, a SpeechTechie visitor) and principal. It was great for me, because I knew I had done something to build kids' vocabulary without trying to do so in a futile manner in my once- or twice-a-week sessions. I could then work with the body of vocabulary that was being taught in the classrooms, or the trade books used to introduce them contextually.

Thus ends my vocabulary rant. Back to Weboword. This website features terrific cartoons that illustrate specific vocab words. It would be a great model of visualization strategies for vocabulary studies, if one were to pick a few examples, then have students sketch the vocabulary words they are studying right now.

Again, if you haven't already, I strongly recommend reading Beck, et. al.-- these strategies are now widely embedded in balanced literacy programs. You can read a selection from the book at Google Books.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Free App TODAY: My Pictures Talk

The iPhone/iPod Touch app My Pictures Talk from husband/wife team Grembe Inc. is available free today from the iTunes store.  View a full description of the app at Moms with Apps.  This app allows you to record sounds to go with a photo on your device, and would be a great and motivating opportunity for kids to practice speech and language skills. You can use your camera or Safari (push the home and sleep/wake button at the top of the device simultaneously to save a screenshot in your Photos app) to get the images you need. 

The Game of Life

It's really the mission statement of this blog-- often things that are not designed for language therapy can elicit some wonderful communication with your scaffolding.  Recently I used the iPhone app version of The Game of Life, currently $1.99 at the iTunes store, with a group of teens I see in a social communication group.  At first, I got some grumbling (shocker!) that we weren't using the board game version (that I didn't have), and got even more when I insisted that each turn-taker needed to report what happened on his turn.  This ultimately led to a lot more interaction- speaking, listening and nonverbal- between the players than if we had the board game, because really only one person at a time could see what was happening in the game.  After the initial resistance, the kids really enjoyed it and worked well together; I had been recently quite surprised to see how much difficulty this particular group had with the task of sharing/passing a laptop to complete a task together.

Language Lens
In addition to the communication targets listed above (sharing an object, taking turns, aspects of game play such as being a good sport, avoiding bragging), The Game of Life can also be used as a context for building schema about life events. Although kids may leave the game thinking it's appropriate to sue people quite often...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Using PowerPoint to create cue cards

Previously, I wrote about using PowerPoint as a simple design tool to create graphic organizers; it allows for much more flexible use of images, shapes and text than say, Word. Here is an example of how PowerPoint can be used to make cue cards to use in structured conversation in social skill work. These are based on several other concepts, namely Michelle Garcia Winner's discussion of questions as "wondering," comments as "add-a-thoughts," and pieces from Carol Gray's Comic Strip Conversations. The small cards can be handed out at the beginning of the activity; kids hand them back to you as they initiate a comment or question. Conversation really is kind of a game anyway, isn't it?

To view the cards below, click on the preview. Hover your mouse above the pages to get the print menu.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Say it with feeling...

Start With Speech (strange title) is a cute activity designed ostensibly for an interactive whiteboard, but which plays well in any browser. The activity allows you to construct a dialogue between two or more characters, selecting different ways of "saying" something through verbs and adverbs. Language Lens
  • This activity targets feelings and expression in ways that would be helpful to students with social cognitive deficits--character facial expressions change as you select different verb and adverb groups.
  • Apply topic restrictions (the activity is totally open-ended) to work on topic maintenance and relevance.
  • A dialogue could be created using a book as a context (what characters would say in a certain situation) in order to touch on narrative skills.
  • Try this with students who are beginning to incorporate dialogue in their writing and need practice with punctuation and using words other than "said."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Build your own Caterpillar!

Scholastic's Build your own Caterpillar activity is more than just a dress-the-animal for fun type of interactive.  You are asked to choose the caterpillar's color, spines, and "extras" for caterpillars in 3 different settings, and are provided guidance about your choices, as well as feedback on whether they are likely to result in the caterpillar's survival.  There is an (I'm sure) engaging gross-out factor as you get to add things like vomit to scare away prey.  Students can write a rationale for their choices and why they think their caterpillar would survive.

Language Lens

  • This time of year, many classrooms are taking care of caterpillars who will soon become butterflies.  This site offers a great visual, interactive, and language-based experience related to what is going on in those classrooms.  
  • The descriptive, categorical (e.g. locations), and cause-effect opportunities are great here.  If the activity is to be repeated, this would be a good context to use a graphic organizer as a tracking sheet with headings such as: Setting-Color-Spines-Extras-Results.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Joshua Littman, a 12-year-old boy with Asperger's, recorded a Q&A with his mom as part of NPR's StoryCorps project. StoryCorps animated it, and the results follow.

Here's to all the moms who support and unconditionally love their children who have communication challenges.

Thanks to Neatorama for this link.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Doodle Scheduler

It's that time of year when SLPs in public schools everywhere are stuck in IEP meeting (scheduling) hell. One of my absolute least favorite things in life is attempting to synch people's schedules in order to schedule a meeting. In general, I hate calling people on the phone (hmmm, is that surprising for a techie?), and endless email volleys in which people often mistake by email 25 what someone said their availability was in email 3...maddening! Doodle scheduler offers a fresh, visual, streamlined approach to this horrible process. Once you have an account in Doodle, you set up a "poll" for your event with possible dates and times. You send the link to the meeting participants, and receive emails when they respond. All that is left to do is look at the overlapping times when everyone is available (hopefully) and send a confirmation email!

Doodle has a great tutorial on their site. This video is a bit hammy but nicely shows how to set up a scheduling poll and respond to one.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Using Kerpoof, Part 2

Cross-posting on Mindwing Concepts' blog today. Please click over to see my post that goes deeper into how to use Kerpoof to develop narrative skills using Story Grammar Marker. I made a little booklet using PowerPoint and publishing to issuu (a great site that makes your doucuments look like a glossy magazine) and it details a project I did with a 3rd grade classroom using these tools. Check it out!

You need to click through to the Mindwing Blog to see the booklet:

According to the FTC guidelines, I will disclose with each of these cross-posts (and in other references to Mindwing products) that I have a contractual relationship with Mindwing as a guest writer. In no other instances am I compensated to review or endorse products or technology resources (i.e. websites).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

To appreciate Mom!

Quick and simple ways to create, publish and share on the web absolutely abound these days...and this means opportunity for our students to use language in a functional way and connect with an audience- even if it's just their moms.  Animoto is a great resource to make brief videos that combine music, images, text and animation.  They often offer "greeting cards" around specific holidays, including one for Mother's Day.  We used this tool in lieu of traditional snail-mail holiday cards this past year!

Click through to the link above and select make a 30-second greeting for free. You will need to register for a free account, but will then be able to make multiple greeting cards and share via email.

The Animoto tool is quite easy to use, and it prompts you to add imagery, select music, and finalize.

I would recommend keeping it really simple and using imagery from Animoto's collection, opting for music besides the recommended selection only if there is time, etc. If you don't have multiple laptops at your disposal, or are worried that you wouldn't be able to divide your attention across kids at multiple laptops, it would also be a good idea to do a group "To our Moms" card.  The product is so novel and cool, I doubt they would mind! Once the movie is complete, you will receive an email and can forward to the appropriate mom.

Language Lens
  • You can use Animoto with any language target you choose- listing reasons to appreciate mom, using causals, adjectives to describe mom, feeling words, etc.  A student of mine today produced this example, after we discussed the word character, used a bank of character traits to make a list appropriate to describe his mom, chose pictures and associated them to the traits.  The whole thing took 20 min!
  • Activities such as these are always good opportunities to develop perspective taking skills; what does Mom do that you should be thankful for?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo!

Old El Paso's El Tacodor game is designed to bring families together around a table of tacos.  Looking, at the game tasks, however, it is also revealed to be a fun language-based game in which kids practice describing, observing, guessing, interacting, and storytelling.  This is a low-tech entry that really only requires you to print out the gameboards you would like to use (there are a bunch of "packs" in PDF format for you to choose from.  Whether you incorporate actual tacos--that's also your choice!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Using GarageBand to record your speech/language samples or narrative activities

Here is a screencast I created using Screencast-O-Matic, showing the steps to using GarageBand software to record and save audio for evaluation or therapy activities on a Mac. It's quite easy to use, just click and see! I will try to do another soon for Audacity, a similar program for PC.

Language Lens
  • Kids love using programs such as GarageBand to record and listen to their voice, whether during an evaluation or activity such as narrative practice.
  • Digitizing this process helps you organize and efficiently save and review your audio files (and not have to have a tape recorder handy to write your reports).