Thursday, May 30, 2013

What can we do over the summer?

As the school year winds down, activities for carryover and maintenance are a frequent request of   parents to their child's SLPs and special educators. For parents of younger ones, PBS has provided a great answer with their free app, PBS Parents Play & Learn HD (also for Android, especially nice since not all families have iOS devices, and bilingual in English/Spanish, as not all families speak English!). This app is part interactive resource, part guide to increasing linguistic interactions between parent and child in natural contexts.

This app provides a wide variety of contexts (the park, in the car, bathtime, kitchen, supermarket, etc) that kids experience with their parents each day, along with a minigame and verbal activities for each place. Minigames are interactives played on screen targeting skills like counting, association and categorization in engaging ways. The activities, scaled from baby to toddler and preschooler, but likely appropriate for primary students with language difficulty as well, are suggested verbal interactions that parents can use in context of these locations. For example, the app suggests that at the supermarket, parents have children name all the items as they go on the conveyer belt as parents model/discuss/elicit how they will be used. This is a simple idea that parents perhaps might not recognize as a "teachable moment."

The app also provides an open-ended scene creation activity, great for narrative and skills such as recognizing and talking about absurdity:

Thank you, PBS, for offering this unique and free resource.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"We Do Listen"-Animated Books about Social Cognition and Skills

The We Do Listen Foundation has produced some great books that are available both as hardcovers and free animated versions on their website.  The stories feature Harold B. Wigglebottom, who often commits a series of social errors and learns through them- thus providing a good context for teaching story grammar. In particular, "Harold B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen" is a helpful additional context for teaching Whole Body Listening (a term originally created by Suzanne Truesdale and also discussed in Nita Everly's Can You Listen With Your Eyes and Kristen Wilson and Elizabeth Sautter's Whole Body Listening Larry books), and I like that the story provides an opportunity to discuss perspective taking as others notice and are affected by Harold's difficulties in listening. To further explore these concepts, see the work of Michelle Garcia Winner at Social Thinking®. The site's playable animated books and displayable/printable posters are also iPad-friendly.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wikiweb Shows Connections Between Topics

While Wikipedia is far from the gold standard of research sources, it does give a good general overview of topics and in my experience is quite well-written. It therefore is a helpful resource for developing reading comprehension, background knowledge and use of strategies for vocabulary and breaking down expository text.

I discovered Wikiweb, which displays articles as semantic web connections between ideas, because it was free at Starbucks, but at $2.99 I think it's still fairly priced. It's got a beautiful look and feel and the added feature of displaying visual connections between topics is potentially very useful for therapy. The articles as displayed can be selected in order to activate Speak Selection, so they can be read aloud as well.

This video from Wikiweb is a bit strange, and makes it seem like you should use the app just so you don't become Claire Danes in Homeland, but it gives you more of an idea how the app works.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Explore Nature with Pepi Tree

Pepi Tree (free Lite version available, full version $1.99) is a fun little app presenting "mini-games" at different levels of a tree, all illustrating in some way the life and "work" of animals in the forest. Mini-games are an interesting concept for therapy, as they can be used as different contexts for concepts, language structure and vocabulary development within the same app. For example, within this app, the caterpillar mini-game can be used to target sequential words (the caterpillar eats a leaf, then goes into a cocoon, and finally becomes a butterfly) as well as some/all (he needs to eat all of the leaf before going into the cocoon). There is also a fox-feeding activity that can be used to address negative words (the foxes don't like all the food) and one emphasizing the curriculum concepts around what plants need to grow. It's definitely worth grabbing the Lite version for your young students and deciding if you'd like all the games in the full version.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Enjoy Warmer Weather with Ice Cream Truck

Apps that go beyond a simple screen and involve people around a play space have great potential for interactivity and "speechieness," or using language in the context of the app.  Ice Cream Truck ($1.99) is one of those apps- it's somewhat in the vein of Toca Store but it has additional contexts. With Ice Cream Truck, your young students can "drive" the iPad around a space (incorporating augmented reality through the camera) and decide where to park for their customers, using the horn and music to signal it's time to buy ice cream!

There are several modes that interact with each other, almost like spaces within the truck- stack ice cream scoops on one screen, mix yogurt on another, and bring it all to the cash register screen. Overall, a great context for descriptive language, requesting, and all sorts of language structures, as well as building play skills.

Common Core Connection:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.4 Describe familiar people, places, things, and events and, with prompting and support, provide additional detail.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Summer Gigs

Although it is nice to be slowing down a bit as the school year winds down, I am looking forward to some summer events I would like to mention. Hope to see some of you at one of these!

July 12-13, 2013- Long Beach, CA: ASHA Schools Conference- Presenting two sessions, "One Digital Story at a Time: Apps to Target Narrative and Expository Language" and "'Out of the Box': Apps through a Language Lens." I will also be facilitating a roundtable discussion during Friday's event.
Click for More Information

July 22, 2013- Boston MA: EdCamp BLC at Building Learning Communities- I am helping to organize this free unconference in which the agenda is built and executed by participants. Now a veteran of 7 Edcamps, I will say again that I learn more at these events than I do from traditional PD!
Click for More Information and Registration- now open!

8/19/13- Fredricton, New Brunswick, CA: Exploring the iPad for Language-Based Teaching and Interventions-In this day-long workshop, participants will learn "top tech tricks" for utilizing the iPad as a teaching and learning tool, including accessing photo/video production and organizational strategies, accessibility functions, and other native apps. A wide variety of apps in various categories that support students with language difficulties and other learning needs will be demonstrated, along with an evaluation framework for choosing apps for intervention and special education. Attendees will also choose from a selection of free apps to create a project to use with students, and access a variety of information resources to continue learning about technology integration.
Click for Registration

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Celebrate Speech with a "Silent Film"

Another way to promote the awareness of the importance of speech during Better Speech and Hearing Month (or other times) is to explore the idea of silent film. Many kids are unaware that there ever were films that have no sound, and any language-neutral visual can be a great context for having kids generate language. I found this treasure, "Unspoken Content: Silent Film in the ESL Classroom" just in a quick search about this topic.  The article describes how "The Painted Lady," available, like many films, on YouTube (or using PlayTube to cache if YouTube is blocked), can be used to target narrative and metalinguistic awareness.

I mention all this primarily because Google has recently unveiled a cool new resource: The Peanut Gallery. This website (you cannot access this on iPad, and it only works in Google Chrome) allows you to dictate language that will appear as "silent film" titles over any of a selection of over 12 old movie clips. The site uses Google's "Web Speech API" and is remarkably accurate. Just speak, and it will convert your speech to text within titles over the movie clip, which is then saved and shareable.

You can see one of my attempts at it here.

The Language Lens on this site, then, is that it provides you with many contexts to have students analyze situations (characters, settings, ongoing events) and generate narration related to this, which employs the interpretation of body language and emotions, as well as, potentially, metalinguistics such as sarcasm and understatement. 

You will need to insert test dialogue (e.g. "Action" or "Oh no!") just to make the film proceed at first, so that kids get the context and can plan dialogue for a second or third try (or more), as improvising may be too difficult without your scaffolding.  

Common Core Connection
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Open Better Speech and Hearing Month with Sound Uncovered

Sound Uncovered is a gorgeous free app for iPad that you can use as a context to introduce Better Speech and Hearing Month to your students. The app explores the science of sound through a variety of interactives that you can use to bridge discussions about hearing conservation. In addition, the app itself provides a lot of content that you can use for mapping expository text, as it presents much information about how sound works. This is also a key curriculum area in "energy, light and sound" type units of science.

A sampling of the activities:
Which Car Would You Buy- Presents sounds produced by cars and car parts and links these to purchasing decisions.
What's Making This Sound? and Sounds Like?- Have you listen to sounds or people's descriptions of a sound in order to guess what they are talking about (inferences!).
Eyes vs. Ears- talk about "listening with your eyes" while exploring how visual input helps us understand sounds .
Stop Me If You've Heard This One- demonstrates that you can't talk and listen at the same time! I have a lot of students that can benefit from that one...

That's where I heard it, and the age is right!

Ultimately, Sound Uncovered is probably best for older (upper elementary, MS/HS) and high-functioning students, but the interactives could be adapted for young students. Exploratorium, the interactive museum of science, art and perception in San Francisco, offers a similar open-ended app called Color Uncovered, which also looks to be a good context for eliciting language and description.

Common Core Connection:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.1d Review the key ideas expressed and demonstrate understanding of multiple perspectives through reflection and paraphrasing.