Thursday, October 28, 2010

Posts Elsewhere!

Hey folks, had a few posts pop up in other places that I thought I would link to here in case you hadn't seen them!

On the ASHAsphere blog, written here from Seasonal-Affective-Disorder-Central, read SLP Zen- 5 ways technology can help you reduce stress and anxiety in your work and life.

More of my musings on Google Reader, over at the ADVANCE Speech in the Schools Blog.

How Think Social Publishing's new We Can Make it Better program will teach social problem solving, align with story grammar instruction, and make your interventions Better, over on the Mindwing Blog.

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).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Circle

Pumpkin Circle is a great book for this time of year.  Kindergarteners at my school always study apples and pumpkins, learn their parts and life cycles, and do a compare-contrast project- all totally language-y stuff!  Pumpkin Circle was turned into a rather strange companion film (but kids watch, riveted) you can view on the Described and Captioned Media Program site, if you are a member.  If you don't have access to the book or movie, check out this cute video of it being read as a bedtime story:

Apples and pumpkins are great to compare-contrast using Kidspiration, Inspiration (both available as 30-day trials), or the web-based version, Webspiration (still totally free and the same as the software programs).  It's hard to share one of these files by blog, but you could recreate something like my activity here:

Using Kidspiration, Inspiration, or Webspiration, kids can click-drag ideas into groups and meaningful connections.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Garfield's Scary Scavenger Hunt

Garfield's Scary Scavenger Hunt is a exploratory activity in which kids can navigate Garfield around a haunted house to find his favorite snacks.  Though not as dense as, say Myst, it could take some time, and I didn't actually finish it.  Kids would have great fun encountering the "scares" and moving about the house, solving problems such as locked doors and other obstacles.  You can keep track of the screens on which items were located (# in upper left corner) and go back to them quickly if you were to break the task over several sessions.

Language Lens:
Spatial concepts would be a great target as you navigate; the activity is also a logical context for conditionals and the categories of snack foods, scary sights and rooms of a house.

Thanks to InTec Insights for highlighting this resource.  Also see Karen Ogen's great post on interactive Autumn games, many of them language-based.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Monster Exchange

The Monster Exchange is a very cool project connecting kids through the Internet to develop reading and writing skills. The website links classrooms who are willing to participate in the project; kids then create and describe a monster in writing and are paired with a child who reads only the description and then attempts to draw the monster (scroll down a bit for example). I would of course encourage anyone to participate formally in the project, but the website provides great examples so that you could structure a monster exchange on a smaller scale (perhaps between two groups or classrooms).

I also love doing monster description as a simple oral barrier activity. Here's a visual support I have used to help kids generate details.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Carve a Pumpkin

There are dozens of virtual pumpkin carving activities out there, but I have always favored this one at NCS-Tech. It is blessedly free of ads, and rather than a drag-drop interface, it allows students to carve a pumpkin freely. It's great for descriptive language, and also serves as a good context for a barrier game. Have students request a face with specific features as another listens/"carves"- I love to do this every year with my pragmatic groups!

Although the site does not give you a way to print or save your creations, you can always use a screenshot to do this.

What are your favorite halloween links?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Halloween on SpeechTechie! (Horror Film Fest)

It's Halloween week(s) here, and time for some resources to use around one of the kids' favorite times of year!

Every Fall, the 5th grades at my school did a study of the horror genre. Not Stephen King or Saw or anything, more like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, etc. Kids also would write a horror piece at the conclusion of the unit. Some years in, it occurred to me that it would be a great opportunity to target genre conventions and story structure, so the teachers and I planned a "Horror Film Fest." I scoured the 'net looking for short films that fit the genre but that didn't end up with someone in a bloody heap or anything graphic! We ended up holding "screenings" where a group of kids would come and view their assigned clip, and we'd analyze it using a story grammar (Marker) organizer and list horror elements that were in the clip ,using a concept map as an idea bank. The following week, the students would "present" the clip to the class with a descriptive teaser, using character-setting-kickoff and no spoilers and then explain why the clip fits in the horror genre. It was always a lot of fun, even though we'd always get a few "that wasn't scarrrrry..." annoying comments (quickly squashed).

I'm sure by now there are more clips out there, but here are some that we used:

Devil's Tramping Ground (I'd use The Banshee and Maco Lights)
Blood Syrup
The Big Bed
Hay Fever
Thriller (just the opening scene)

Enjoy, hopefully these might make a fun and motivating story structure lesson for you (oh, I mean scarrrrry!!!)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Digital Storytelling and Speech-Language Interventions

The phrase digital storytelling has become hot on the web in past years, referring to web-based or other apps that allow you to blend pictures, text, comics, video, images, sound (or any combination) to tell a story (see Kerpoof as an example). It used to be that you needed to be well-versed in (and own) applications such as iMovie to engage in digital storytelling, but now there are a wide variety of tools available on the web for free, each with its own little spin on the genre.

SLPs and storytelling are a great mix, and these motivating tools can be used to develop story grammar, expository skills, or if recorded audio is involved, any aspect of speech.

More on digital storytelling later, but for now, please click on over to the Mindwing blog to see my post about Blabberize, a tool that allows you to give any picture a talking mouth!

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).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Saved By iPad, Part 2

Last I left you, I was frazzled, having had a rather bumpy 1st group with some new kids. There were mass interruptions, some shouting, mean words. The promise of time with my iPad grounded everyone, pretty much saving the session from utter ruin. There was an incident with a tree upon exit, but we don't need to talk about that.

One of my favorite sayings, attributed to Einstein: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."  So what needed to be different with this group?  We thought about the composition of the group- one too many kids?  It's hard to make that decision and displace a client based on one group session.

Some years back, I had some success with one of Michelle Garcia Winner's brainchildren- a behavior plan called "Paper Clips and Thumbtacks" (Described in Thinking about You, Thinking about Me).  The idea is that kids can earn paperclips for behaviors that bond them to others, and are shown a tack (which can result in a paperclip removal) for unexpected behaviors, leading to a reward when a certain number of paperclips are earned.  The plan is designed for generalization outside of groups but clearly could be applied within a group setting for those who needed more structure.  What the reward would be was already worked out!

The night before our next group, I outlined the plan as simply and visually as possible, using Keynote.  I figured that the file could be sent to the Keynote app and used on the iPad as an interactive (and engaging) tracking chart.  Check out what this presentation looks like. When viewed on the iPad, the paperclips and thumbtacks can be dragged up into the chart during the session.

When this presentation was shown to the kids (we have an LCD player, but I think on a laptop it would have worked well too), they were attentive and asked thoughtful questions. From the first activity on, they were earning paperclips- it was like they were completely different kids!  To this day, four sessions later, I have only had to assign one tack, and the impact on that client was significant.  He turned his behavior around and quickly got back on track to earning the iPad activity at the end.

Because of this behavior plan, the group has really stabilized and I have been able to begin social thinking curriculum activities.  That's saying a lot, considering how our first session went. I am sure that low-tech ways to implement this plan would work too!

And the iPad? Besides being a visual tracker (handy because I can move to different areas of our therapy center and even outside), it has provided rewards to the kids of some turn-taking games at the end of sessions.  So far I am partial to Angry Birds (a tad abstractly violent), but the turn boundaries are very clear, and the kids pass the iPad after one slingshotting.  Flight Control HD has also been a hit, with the kids passing after one plane landing (this one is less easy to structure though, as it is so time-sensitive).

I am sure I will be able to incorporate the iPad for more socially themed apps, as I have in other groups.  If anyone knows some good games with clear turn boundaries, please let me know!

For now, I continue to be quite grateful to Steve Jobs.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Saved By iPad, Part 1

Fall is an interesting time in the private practice. We focus on social communication groups, and though we go to great pains to match kids well to get some good dynamics, sometimes you just don't know what is going to happen until they are all in the room together. Plus in the Fall, some kids are brand new, others had no interventions over the summer, and yet more just...change.

So it came to pass that in the 3rd week of September, I had a group that went completely differently than what I had expected. I knew two of the boys, and the two others had not come to me with any particular "be aware ofs..." One showed up late, missing the review of the agenda, and things went south from there. Words were crashing like a Comic Strip Conversation bumper-car ride that would have made Carol Gray plaintively question, in orange word balloons, "Why? Why?" Eventually, insults flew. At this point, gentle, accommodating Sean went into full stern mode, but in my barely concealed panic, I also realized I had something that could be so novel, so motivating (since, at this point, intrinsic motivation had left the building), that I may just have a way to salvage session #1.

These kids didn't know I had an iPad.

Quickly, I showed them. Silence and rapt interest ensued. I seized this likely brief opportunity to lay out expectations for the next activity: snack and a little art thingy. I kept that list of "expected behaviors" brief and terse: basically, sit, eat, talk nicely, draw something remotely related to what I asked, and clean up, and you get 5 minutes with the iPad, in a game of my choice.

Huge improvements noted, iPad deployed, group ended on a positive note.

So that was a reactive use of the iPad. I'm not exactly proud of it, but it happened. Stay tuned tomorrow for the proactive iPad plan that, though we still have our challenges, is making this group work quite well!

Thanks, Mr. Jobs.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Design" a Habitat

Check out this great interactive from Switcheroo Zoo that allows kids to not so much "design" a habitat but make choices and receive feedback on elements such as preciptation and vegetation.  The site approaches the activity with humor, as the creatures' thought bubbles let you know what they think about changes in the habitat.

Language Lens:

  • Curriculum concepts around habitat and adaptations are abstract in nature and difficult for students to grasp; this site visualizes a lot of that content and puts choices in their hands.
  • The categorical approach to the interaction (precipitation, temperature, vegetation, biome) lends itself well to developing descriptive schema about this topic, and perhaps charting results on a graphic organizer.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Google Images

Please click on over to the ADVANCE blog today to read my post about another application for SLPs of Google's free tools- Images!

Friday, October 8, 2010

FREE App Today: PictoFun!

Thanks to Moms with Apps for today's specials, including the free and totally language-based app, PictoFun!

PictoFun is a fun app featuring two games, Pictojibe, in which you match objects by association, and Pictomatch, a memory game.  Pictojibe is the perfect context for teaching the descriptive and word retrieval strategy of association (with a handy context for causals, "Yes, bacon and pig go together because bacon comes from pigs.").  If I have any constructive criticisms, the presentation of associative sets can be a bit repetitive (but that's OK, 'cause it's therapy), and I could do without the dog-hydrant association.  That said, it's a totally cute app with great animations!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Use Pinball for connecting ideas...

BBC Pinball is a new and interesting way to do some semantic mapping with your students.  It literally has a lot of bells and whistles.  Pinball allows you to choose from four different ways to "bounce ideas around" and might just be a good hook for some hard-to-engage students.  Dot Dash is basically a semantic web, used for "firing out ideas."  You can use Drop Zone to categorize ideas, and Snap Shot is basically for describing images.  I can't quite tell what you would use Wild Reels for- any guesses?  All of the activities have a "Lucky Dip" function for insertion of a random image, word or phrase, which would be useful for free association.  Pinball is overall a bit of a strange resource for the BBC to have come up with, but I definitely see it as having applications for interventions around describing, word-finding, etc.  I do wish you could save your activities, but perhaps that will come in a later version.


I think I have a thing about LEGOs, because I am talking about them again.  Reminds me of some of my students...

Anyway, the Internet gives us access to all sorts of fun stuff, and it doesn't always have to be interactive to be a context for therapy.  Check out MiniLand Zoo, a fabulously huge and detailed zoo posted on the MOCpages website, dedicated to sharing LEGO creations.  Steef de Prouw created a zoo with all the expected elements, as well as some humorously unexpected details.  There are approximately 40 photos of the zoo posted on the site; your kids will want to get busy building their own!

Language Lens:

  • I could see this site functioning almost as (or pairing well with) a picture book on zoos.  Such a context lends itself to completing a setting map, categorizing animals within a zoo, creating a story based on the pictures, or conversation work.
  • Also, check out this great article on the link between LEGO and literacy. Thanks @SLPTanya!

Thanks to Neatorama for featuring this link.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Talking Tom on iOS devices

Talking Tom is a free iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app that allows children to interact with an onscreen cat.  Speak and he will repeat what you say. Pet or poke him and he reacts. You can also serve him some milk, or bore him-resulting in yawns!  The free version has some annoyances (an ad, 3 tease buttons on the side) that you can get rid of by actually purchasing the ad for $2.99.  You can also record a short video and easily upload it to YouTube, as I did below:

Please be aware, you might want to purchase the full version if you are going to be using the app with kids on the spectrum or those who couldn't handle the fact that you can kinda punch Tom around in the free version.  The paid version allows you to "turn off violence."

Language Lens:
Talking Tom has been identified as a wonderful app for kids with autism, but I can see it having many uses, such as encouraging articulation, fluency, or sentence formulation.  It would seem to be a simple version of older, yet more expensive programs such as Talk Time with Tucker.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Good Deals TODAY on the App Store

Thanks to Moms with Apps for some great bargains today on the (US) iTunes App Store.

Story Builder for iPad provides visual and written prompts to build basic stories.  With clinician scaffolding, students can record sentences for each picture, and listen to a complete oral story at the end.  This would be a great app to use in lower grades to build complex sentences and story grammar.

Consider ArtikPix (iTouch/iPhone/iPad) instead of purchasing (or to replace) articulation cards.  This app, designed by fellow blogger Eric Sailers, provides visual stimuli for sounds in various positions, a recording capability for audio feedback, and data taking functions.  All "card" decks can be purchased in-app today only for $17.99 (reduced from $49.99).  Whatta deal!

Happy shopping on the app store!