Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Wrapping up 2020. Thank God!

It was some year, for sure. In short, 2020 saw many of us becoming more tech-savvy because we had no choice and were working through an emergency. Still are. But there's hope ahead.

Myself, I admit to leaning in and then leaning out a bit. 2020 saw me writing about double the posts I had written in the past five years, because I wanted to be of use in the early days of the pandemic. Like everyone else I settled into "just keep swimming" mode and I hope weekly tidbits have been helpful enough. 

So, without further ado, here are the 10 most popular posts of 2020 in terms of page views:

10. What to: Using Google Slides for simple session agendas and visuals in telepractice

9. Demonstration of one activity you could do with Pear Deck

8. GIFs- simple animations

7. Mr. Nussbaum's Learning Fun

6. Explore ideas in EdTech Blogs

5. Creating a make-a-scene in Google Slides

4. Pairing Picture Books With Apps in Teletherapy

3. Vote with your wallet

2. ASHA Presentation 2019 on Telepractice

1. What to: Sharing Screens, Giving Remote Cursor Control, Using Interactive Websites in Distance Learning and Telepractice

Happy Holidays and here's to a brighter new year in 2021!

Thursday, December 17, 2020


As SLPs, at times we need to assist our students with work that is a bit pointless. I recall that Social Thinking® had some material about this; as students we are expected to follow the "group plan" and sometimes complete tedious tasks. Memorization of lists or passages is perhaps a good example. I recently needed to assist a student with memorizing a lengthy section from a book, I won't say which one. While the requirement was maybe in that zone of "Why tho?" it still was a good opportunity to apply Ehren's concept of the "strategic/therapeutic focus" and work on:

-ensuring comprehension of the passage as a whole and its vocabulary, sentence structure
-looking for opportunities for visualization
-noting language structure such as the flow from main idea to details in the passage, also several sentences had parallel structures that could be used as a memory trick i.e. adjective-infinitive, adjective-infinitive, adjective-infinitive.

Putting the passage in Google Docs and commenting in the sidebar with these memory tricks while discussing and eliciting paraphrasing and connections from the students made for a good teletherapy activity for a high schooler!

A quick Google search also found us this gem, which was great to leave my student with so that he could work on the actual memorization independently. Memorizer.me allows you to paste a passage or ordered list, then provides strategies and prompts to help you work on memorizing the language. For example, the website manipulates your pasted text to provide first letter or beginning of line cues. 

I recall having to memorize this above passage from Henry IV, Part 1 in high school and I wish I had had this tool!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Scaffolding complex and abstract language through Google Slides: an example

I have mentioned here many times that I am often seeking to target language and social competencies through a self-regulation lens of late. An example of a context for this is the great series of videos from the Stop, Breathe and Think-Kids app, now available free in full on YouTube in this playlist, see the right sidebar for full list. 

SBT-K presents mindful activities in a playful, narrative way and so is very useful for elementary students. As SLPs we can think of mindfulness cues like these as potential narrative/expository prompts (What did you think of when it said...?), connections to metacognition and self-regulation/social strategies such as Zones of Regulation®.

For a particular client these past several weeks, I have been using this series as a "flow" and creating in-the-moment visuals in Google Slides while scaffolding complex/abstract/how-can-you-use-this kind of language. A few examples are below, and remember that screenshots/screengrabs are your friend!

The READ acronym is one that I learned from MY therapist- how lucky I am to have a super solution-focused CBT support during a pandemic, and it corresponds well actually to story grammar (icons from Story Grammar Marker®)

As I mentioned, these are visuals we formed as the student, my graduate intern and I had this conversation over teletherapy; it occurred to me in the moment that many mindfulness activities are focused on lists, which are organized expository thinking!

Friday, November 20, 2020


This is a good week to remind you of a simple resource to help you and your students. I have written about Calm before but it seems it is more important than ever. We all need to take moments each day to reset and breathe.

Calm can be used as an app on mobile devices or Apple TV but I find that the web interface offers more, and particularly like the Scenes feature which can be used for free. To do this:

-visit the website, linked above.
-login with Apple ID, Facebook or create an account with your email.
-in the left sidebar click Scenes and choose a scene. Some are more setting-based and some more ambient visuals. You can choose the volume of the audio that goes with the scene.

-click Calm in the upper left corner, then the scene itself (not the featured activities) to see it full screen.

Calm could be a great resource to help you meditate and breathe a few moments if you enjoy visuals for this kind of activity.

For students, same. Also consider a post activity for some of the more contextual visuals. What place you have visited did this scene remind you of (could then go there with Google Earth and get some more narrative/description from the students). What do you think you would experience with your 5 senses if you were actually in this location?

Saturday, November 14, 2020

ASHA Pandemic Pangs

Facebook's "Memories" feature is sometimes not so great during a pandemic. You look back with a bit of a pang, right? "I can't do that this year..." This is best channeled with some hope, particularly with good vaccine news this week, toward better days ahead. But still, seeing past ASHAs kind of hurt. I'd always be prepping to present and seeing friends and colleagues I'd only see there. One very packed room I presented to in 2013 did kind of make me go "Ew," given current contagion.

This year, I was invited by SIG 18 and was set to present "Play on Words: Thoughtful Uses of Game-Based Apps and Resources in Language-Based Interventions." That presentation doesn't really exist as of yet (maybe next year), but I thought it might be helpful to share my presentations, along with one on telepractice with Amy Reid and Nathan Curtis, from the last three years. Hopefully there might be some ideas in there that will help you in your work currently.

Here's the link.

Food for thought: a lot of what I have presented in the past has revolved around iPad apps and these have been less relevant in the emergency-telepractice era. However, Apple has just released new Macs with their own M1 Silicon chip (as opposed to previous Intel-made chips) and THEY WILL RUN IPAD APPS NATIVELY. Kind of a game-changer for teletherapy, methinks. I will be getting one soon as my Mac is circa 2013, anyway. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

A focus on gratitude

Gratitude is a Thanksgivingy theme...but actually much more than that. Much research has supported that practicing gratitude as a form of mindfulness can be self-regulating and cultivate positive neural connections. 

In addition, gratitude has a language lens as it:

-relates life experiences

-can/should be practiced as a "listing" activity

-expresses causality

-can be pushed to the abstract i.e. being grateful for intangible things.

Over this and coming weeks I will be using this and this video in discussion activities.


Both are accessible, short and visual. Videos from Headspace are very useful that way, and the second has a bit more of a near/practical hook that will help a lot of my boys access what could be perceived as a dismissible touchy feely message.

As a follow-up activity, Jamboard is a motivating visual way to have students journal, share, describe and discuss. Here's my model:

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Mindfulness "fails" for narrative and "thinking talk"

Metacognition is all wrapped up in our language, social and executive functioning. To read a great explanation of how, see this article from Singer and Bashir (1999), two of my faves in the field. 

Additionally, right now everyone, absolutely everyone, needs strategies for regulating ourselves. I have made it a focus in many of my sessions since March. 

Recently Chris Hemsworth of Thor fame, so familiar to most of your students, put out a number of humorous videos showing that mindfulness failure is all part of the process (note that there are 6 videos in the series/playlist).

These vids are useful in a number of ways in speech and language sessions:

-mindfulness exercises are a great entryway to metacognitive talk: "during that I was thinking about..."

-you can pair these with actual exercises, see MyLife, Stop, Breathe & Think Kids, Calm, Zen Den, or MindUp's Curriculum

-each video is actually a narrative snippet: character, setting, initiating event, plan, actions/attempts, conclusion, so is good for mapping

-I actually used these in some lessons about humor for a student struggling with humor use, teaching about types of humor including play (Ward/Jacobsen's "same but different" concept is related to that type of humor and these videos)

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Google Earth's Spooky Spots Quiz

You know I am a Google Earth Geek. Always have been, but in this time it is nice to be able to use the context of "going someplace" to engage my students. Google Earth's quizzes (find in the Explorer captain wheel tab) provide very structured experiences with the interactive globe, posing questions, providing images that prompt observation and discussion, and popping you into an interactive window to "look around." With Halloween coming, you can use the Spooky Spots quiz through nine multiple choice questions (it doesn't matter if you or your students know the answers) bringing you to spots around the globe. The content is free of violence but mentions "The Shining" and "Rosemary's Baby" so probably best for 5th grade or above. As each question is posed, unlabeled placemarks would allow you to ask students to observe potential locations (e.g. "that one looks like its Colorado."). Once answered, you can use the interactive window on the left to navigate the space (oooh an abandoned amusement park near Chernobyl) and work on description and conversation. You may be interested in asking group members to get more information on one of the topics and report back to the group (Wikipedia is fine for general knowledge!). 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Genius and the metalinguistics of popular songs

Genius is a great website for looking more deeply at any song, and most you can think of are covered on the website. Just locate the song, and highlighted sections of it are annotated in the right sidebar. Songs are motivating "texts" (provided you find ones appropriate enough AND motivating) for higher-level language skills (e.g. identifying sentence structures, vocabulary, figurative language, multiple meaning, and narrative, particularly for older students).

I thought to feature Genius because, anecdotally, I do some consulting for a suburban high school (currently remotely AND in person, Thank God I get to leave my house sometimes) and a particular student who wants nothing to do with me nonetheless needs a consult. I heard that his small ELA class is tackling Hamilton, so I insinuated myself into this situation and offered his teacher some content in Google Slides. I was thinking of facial expression work from the Disney+ recording, but ended up starting to package this more as metalinguistic discussions (he needs that)! I first discovered Genius because of its Hamilton lyrics analysis, so I also talked to his teacher, who was thankfully very open, about the site. Yay for language underpinnings! You can view what I came up with so far below or here. As always, please don't request permission for this Google Apps item; if you want to save or edit it, File>Make a Copy.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Therapeutic Gaming Can Be Messy...

 ...and that's ok. Particularly in social intervention contexts, it's important to facilitate natural situations. That includes trying and failing with games- either because the group doesn't like the game and wants to try something else, the game itself sucks, or for other reasons. Isn't that what friends do when they get together-- evolve "group plans" and move on when something doesn't work for the group (see Social Thinking® Group Plan concept)? I like to use games within intervention sessions as a seeming reward near the end, but in themselves they have working teachable moments and lots of opportunities for my students to practice self-regulating. In teletherapy, with or without cursor control (have the students tell you what to click on), you can try a flash game like this (seasonal!) corn maze. Flash games come in a wide range of quality but this one is not bad at all!

While accepting that games like this might not go perfectly in a group, we can prepare to facilitate success. Notice that button that says "walkthrough?" In this case it leads to a video that shows you a sped-up view of game moves. For most other games, you can find a walkthrough with a Google. This arms you with information so you can provide cues like "Oh, what do you think that quarter will be for? What might you buy in a corn maze? Oh, nice smart guess!"

Friday, October 2, 2020

Full Moon

October has two full moons, including the current one! Full Moon is a good example of the kind of game adaptable to therapy given a task analysis.

In this game you navigate a bunny through various levels to get what he wants. In the above level, to get the apple, you have to infer that you need to click on the light bulbs, discover that the middle one turns all the bulbs off, illuminate the apple (in the right tree) and click the apple to drop it to the bunny.

This game prompts:

-use of remote cursor control, or perhaps not (might be better if students have to tell you what to do)

-spacial concepts

-cause and effect reasoning

-observation, collaborating and conversation

It is untimed so you can move at any pace you wish. Plus it has thought balloons which I love in any context as a social cognitive symbol! Here's a walkthrough (always useful if you are going to use games in therapy).

Friday, September 25, 2020

Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards Website

The 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards finalists were announced recently, a development I saw on the news (you never know where you will get therapy ideas). Based on the BBC story about the awards, I found 4 or 5 photos that made for great therapy activities. For example, I used this one...

via BBC

...with a high school group in Google Slides as a way to review the concept of thinking with the eyes (Social Thinking®) but also as a review of Zones of Regulation®, starting with the Blue Zone (well, going whole-part-whole as is often recommended for teaching schemes like this). Interestingly, the order of details written here is in order of how the group members processed the picture. Again, this serves as a reminder that Google Slides makes a damn good therapy tool as a multimedia flipchart. 

Following this, I discovered that the Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards website itself is a goldmine, containing past winners and years of finalists. As you likely know a right click on any image gets you a fair-use-copyable for educational activities, but don't republish any images, especially not for commercial use. Be aware also that you will want to screenshot or save images rather than free-exploring the site itself with students. Wildlife occasionally flips the bird or engages in other inappropriate behavior.

Friday, September 18, 2020


 Sharing simple visual materials in teletherapy serves a number of purposes:

-Providing a context for conversation building

-Building descriptive skills

-Practicing observational skills necessary for situational awareness and social functioning

-Tying in with curriculum (in this case, geography)

WindowSwap is a website I stumbled across because a friend shared it on Facebook. It's very "of the now" and the idea that it is safer to be at home, and provides glimpses of shared windows by people around the world. The entries are dynamic videos and very engaging, also somewhat relaxing for self-regulation purposes. Simply share your screen and help the conversation flow within a group. I also used the tactic of placing a shrunken new browser window over the geographic location so that students needed to make "smart guesses" about the location of the window. Sound is also optional so students can track environmental sounds.

Friday, September 11, 2020

A Dark Room

A Dark Room is a simple click-to-play game that I have found to be a great social language context for a number of my groups, at different age levels. It starts with just having options to stoke a fire in a cabin, then other characters and village-building opportunities arise. The gameplay unfolds just by text on screen following your choices, so it's a good opportunity for following a narrative, "thinking with the eyes," visualizing, and having group members take turns and add thoughts. It is also one of those games, like Little Alchemy, that engages students even if you don't/can't give cursor control in a teletherapy situation. 

The plotline of the game (I haven't gotten that far with groups) is a bit dark, which makes it suitable more for middle school/high school than elementary. If you would like to play A Dark Room with multiple groups, it remembers your progress in browser, so I am using Safari with one group and Chrome with another.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

A Mental Health Moment for Me (and Apple Watch)

I tried to take most of August to chill and recharge. Life didn't totally let me have that, but whattayagonnado, we're all dealing. I got to the Cape (my own state) and with a COVID test satisfied Maine's requirements to venture there. The test was not relaxing, but Maine was. I hiked the Beehive at Acadia, something I said I'd never do due to a rather debilitating fear of heights, not a great thing for a hiker to have. Good growth mindset lesson I shared with all my students, though!

Somewhere in between those I cashed in a bunch of Bitcoin that had been languishing, going up and down. It was close to my original investment and I was sick of looking at it, and thought it would justify my splurging on an Apple Watch.

I had avoided buying an Apple Watch, mostly due to thinking it was going to be all about Notifications. I dislike Notifications; they are the enemy of mindfulness. But a few friends and some research convinced me (an Apple Guy at heart, anyway) that it was helpful for exercise motivation and tracking and that it might help with mindfulness and stress reduction "during this difficult time" (sigh).

Exercise has truly kept me sane since March. But the Apple Watch is providing even more motivation. I added a friend who shares his workout activity and I enjoy comparing (competing). I kept social media notifications shut off on the iPhone and those mirror on the watch, so the only extra pings I get are those reminding me to be active, which is helpful.

Apple Watch kind of gameifies activity with the use of rings. 

My Rings now...

Red is Move, based on a calorie target you set, Green is Exercise, based on being in your target heart rate (measured by the Watch) for 30 min daily, and Blue is Stand, standing for a minute or two 12 hrs of the day. I am annoyed by the tyranny of Stand, and it's causing me to put my laptop on a shoebox during telepractice sessions. But the others I am getting used to, and I know now what kind of workouts fill the ring, etc. And for me, a workout always fills my brain with good chemicals and makes me feel calm.

I'll let you know about some other good apps for self-regulation (like Breathe) the next time, but let me know in the comments if you have faves. Talk to you after Labor Day, I'm squeezing some more summer next week (after therapy sessions and an all-day presentation). I hope all are doing well and weathering the uncertainties of opening school so far. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

"Personality Quiz" Activities

National Geographic Kids has a great page of personality quizzes i.e. what ____ are you? (ice cream flavor, planet, dinosaur). Each has just a few questions and provides an opportunity for expressing opinions, describing oneself, thinking figuratively, interpreting photo scenes, and developing vocabulary. 

Great for group work! I'll be adding National Geographic Kids to the Teletherapy Resource List. Thank you to my colleague Danielle Stalen for this cool idea.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Another example of pairing picture books and apps in teletherapy

I have previously mentioned I am a big fan of the Scaredy Squirrel (Melanie Watt) series that is helpfully available on EPIC! Books. Over a number of weeks I had my students in one group come to a decision on the order of reviewing and discussing the books in the series, which was good practice in expressing opinions and compromise. They find the books hilarious, so they are motivating (see the above link for some social cognitive analysis as well). I wanted to share a post-activity we conducted with the original book. Hoggan and Strong describe how narrative teaching activities can include "art" activities, which was what this was in essence. 

In the book, Squirrel is described as having constructed an emergency kit for all the unlikely things he is afraid of. So, as a group we created and shared emergency kits.

Here are the steps I followed:
1. Create a Google Slides presentation (and blank slide)

2. Use Insert>Image>Search the web to locate a "bag" for the kit, position and enlarge on slide.

3. Duplicate that slide for all in group (secondary click/right click on slide and select Duplicate). I put a text initial on each slide for each group member. Also click Share and make the presentation editable for anyone with the link.

4. Create a model (always), with same steps but using PNG in the search term which gives you transparent images (will look like they are over the bag, but this step is not necessary).

5. Present the activity and model and strong causals: I need iced coffee in the kit because I get Blue Zone in the afternoon. Also model how to insert an image or PNG (This provides good opportunity for following directions)

6. Copy the link and provide to group members in chat for the session (Zoom or Meet). Again, following directions. 

Here was one of the students' productions:

7. Have all work independently while chatting and then share. This is a good opportunity to use a clock, Sarah Ward/Kristen Jacobsen style, for time management.

Overall the activity provides great self-description opportunities, building of "people files" (Social Thinking®) and conversation.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Adapting Social Thinking®'s Levels of Independence for Teletherapy

I have previously discussed here how visual supports and displaying visual materials provide an important layer and level within the Continuum of Technology Integration (developed with Nathan Curtis of Waldo Country General) in both in-person and teletherapy sessions.

This Displaying/Discussing Visual Materials can support and scaffold: conversations, strategies, action plans related to communication.

One great visual and paradigm we have been using in teen groups is Social Thinking®'s 10 Levels to Living Independently, which with the right group just makes sense. Trust me, my message is not "YOU NEED TO DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO IMPROVE YOURSELF DURING THIS RIDICULOUS TIME." But, fact is these kids are spending more time alone, bored, and developing independence in managing themselves would sure be great for them and their parents.

So we have been using this model in a sequential manner along with other resources and discussion webs. Here's an example to check out, easily co-created during a conversation with Google Slides screen-shared. This model allows a lot of opportunities for parent communication and use of videos and other resources.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Dispatches from BU's graduate clinic: creative ideas from graduate students who can help YOU.

In my last post I described the ongoing/current problem about obtaining clinical placements for graduate students and highlighted reasons we should be prioritizing supporting graduate programs and taking supervision opportunities at this time. Comments on the post via Facebook and Twitter confirmed from other clinical coordinators at universities that this is indeed a problem.

In this post through a collaboration with Boston University (my alma mater) we are offering some great examples of activities graduate students created recently...help them and they will help you! Thanks again to Meghan Graham at BU for providing this material.

Book reading along with visual supports in Google Slides to discuss/contrast character thoughts and perspectives (icons from Story Grammar Marker®)

A description of using GIFs (my post on how here) in creative ways for linguistic targets.

Sorry if you don't like snakes! Kids do...

Here is an example of using Google Slides as a visual support for a camping theme- visuals that put students in the scene for discussion, narrative and procedural language, and another on using a picture book and categorical/descriptive targets (credit graduate student Francynne Pompedora)

Finally, simple images and sketching over them were used to scaffold post-book dramatic play and language within it: Little Critter: Me and My Grandma and riding on a train theme.

Again, please consider if you have the opportunity or can seek out the opportunity to support a graduate student placement this coming fall. Despite the uncertainty we all face, we can do this better together. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Support the Future of the Professions- Supervise a Graduate Student this Fall

I am hearing from some of my colleagues and friends at the graduate school level that they are finding it hard to secure placements for graduate students needing clinical practicum experiences this summer and fall. For many of us, what fall will look like is uncertain, everyone understands that. But I'd like to advance an idea: whatever it will look like, a graduate student will HELP YOU.

-graduate students can help shoulder your clinical work (ASHA is recommending 25% supervision)
-freeing you for other aspects of your workload
-and likely bringing a comfort and creativity with technology you may not have, for whatever degree of teletherapy you may be doing
-while being willing to physically distance within or outside of your physical space
-and providing you with a collaborative relationship where this may not be as "happening" given whatever your work situation is
-last and, and giving you a sense that you are helping in a situation that needs an unprecedented amount of helping.

Think you'll either be at home OR at school and only one of those situations involves teletherapy? Take a look at this article (Boisvert & Hall, 2019) while it is free on ASHAWire and think more about workload management...and how a graduate student intern might fit into that.

I had a graduate student finishing up her Winter semester when COVID-19 hit Massachusetts. Continuing to have her "on" was immensely valuable for all of the above reasons. Summer semester rolled around and I took on another, and ditto.

Over the next several posts I'd like to share some examples of work graduate students have done during this crisis, with the goal of convincing you:
-to please reconsider if you said "no" to a graduate student for the upcoming semester
-to reach out to your local college and grad programs to see if you can be of help in providing clinical experiences
Otherwise all this stalls. And with efforts to increase diversity within our field ongoing, we all need to be part of that solution, too.

Kevin Buonanni, in his last semester at Emerson College in Boston, has done an excellent job co-running my social cognition groups (on Zoom) with me from May-June. Kevin brought a gaming expertise that I don't have, and has suggested many resources and approaches. I have a group that has had an Indiana Jones/archaeology/digging/earth/mindfulness theme and have long wanted to modify some Role-Playing Game (RPG) type activities with them but didn't know quite how. I recalled having some Indy RPG materials as a kid myself, though, and found this resource of out-of-print games on The Trove. As Kevin was progressing in his placement from duplicating activities he had seen me do to more independent planning, I asked him if he could take a look at those materials and plan an activity. I am SO glad I was not my usual control freak self and didn't say "Do ___." because what he came up with was so much better than what I envisioned. 

Kevin used Jamboard to make sketches that amounted to a storyboard of one of the scenes from the RPG, he then verbally communicated some narrative to the group members, offered choices for the way the story could go, and provided opportunities for them to contribute dialogue (conversation building) and sketches (collaborative play), for a great series of activities that will continue when the group reconvenes next week. 

In the second case, placing a maze on the Jam slide and asking the boys to each "imagine" what would be at the center of the maze.

Please check out this flyer--and share-- on what a graduate student can do for you this Fall (created by Meghan Graham, Clinical Assistant Professor at Boston University).

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

GIFs- simple animations

In a terrific recent PD I watched, Rachel Madel made a great point: why use static photos or drawings to demonstrate verbs, when we have GIFs. GIFs (arguably pronounced with a soft "g" or like the peanut butter) are a format that shows photos or cartoons as a short looping video. Like this:

The weather today in Boston got me like...

As Rachel said, GIFs can be great for verbs but also:
-basic narratives
-sentence formulation
-connection to curriculum
-figurative language
-are simple stimuli that don't require much sustained attention
-and not least of all, are cool.

GIFs live best in Google Slides, which would give you a place to put them in a flow of context, and you can place them next to typeable space for formulating and visually supporting language.

GIPHY is a great place to get GIFs. To put one in Slides, search for what you would like, select it and click through to it. Click Copy Link and copy the FULL link. Back in Google Slides Insert>Image> By URL. Click to select the image and click INSERT.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Juneteenth: a sequence and settings

Every context has language underpinnings. Why not use contexts that promote anti-racism?

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, the day that commemorates word of the Emancipation Proclamation reaching Texas, two and a half years after it was issued. It's history that isn't taught enough in schools.

So, sequence of events is critical to understand here. A number of books on EPIC! about Juneteenth are on point.

Using Google Street View is a great way to have students observe, describe, "think with their eyes," or complete a setting-based graphic organizer. A number of VA slave dwellings are rendered in Google Street View listed here and given more context here. Be sure to click through to View on Google Maps for the best visual/interactive experience.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020


Myvocabulary.com is a great source of contextual vocabulary lists. I found it recently when looking for lists like those contained in the terrific WWP-Vocabulary app. Working with vocabulary is a great way to aim for contextual therapy. From MyVocabulary, I have been using an A-Z list related to travel, an area of interest for my student. Go to the general interest area on this page to find similar thematic lists.

Research suggests that vocabulary depth, or ability to make connections between words and concepts in context, can be targeted with multiple exposures, providing explicit meanings, practice forming categories/taxonomies, as well as book reading and “playful” activities (Hadley, Dickinson, Hirsch-Pasek, & Golinkoff, 2018). Bringing Words To Life breaks these techniques down with many engaging activities that are great for verbal exchanges in teletherapy. These can include:

-Word Associations: which word goes with far? Abroad or Aquatic? Why?
-Have you ever? Describe a time when you went somewhere aquatic.
-Applause, Applause! How much would you like to have an adventure? To stay in lodging that has atmosphere?
Which would…?/Examples: Which would be abroad: Disney World or Spain?
Making Choices: If any of the things I say might be examples of affordable, say “affordable”- if not, don’t say anything
Relating words in sentences: How does a host show hospitality?

It's very easy to support these activities visually as-you-go with Google Slides (Insert-Image-From the Web).

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Vote with your wallet...

Super Duper Publications, a leading producer of speech-language materials, has refused to make any kind of statement on racial inequality despite being asked many, many times and while continuing to use images of Black people in posts about their products and handouts. You can see some of the interactions around this on @themindfulslpodcast account. It's WRONG.

Some who would prefer me not to be political might have noticed that ship has sailed in the past few days. I once was left a note "NO POLITICS" when I mentioned in a presentation the PBS Kids wonderful website was in danger of losing funding. My platform, my podium, my right to say what I think here just as yes, it's Super Duper's right to say nothing, and your right to walk on by. BUT as a gay person (first time saying that here but I have mentioned my husband in presentations, Happy Pride 2020) I have always voted with my wallet and I encourage our profession to do so in this case. 

So, and to continue my angle of being practical, with some ongoing assistance from valued colleagues in a Facebook group I belong to, I'd like to offer as many alternatives as possible to using or purchasing Super Duper Materials (feel free to add in the comments).

1. Use context. I have never been a fan of SD in the first place for their production of almost exclusively decontextualized materials. Read Gillam (et al implied here), Ukrainetz, Wallach, Ehren.

2. Aim at discourse and narrative. Helping our students tell their stories is more critical than ever. You know I am an SGM® person but make your own graphic organizers with research-based story elements in Google Slides, use Somebody Wanted But So, whatever approach works for you to scaffold.

3. Read and discuss, plan post activities with books. Doing teletherapy, you can use an inexpensive document camera, Epic!, Vooks, YouTube or many other sources.

4. Use interactive websites and apps to build categories in context instead of category cards.

5. Create "magnet" activities with Google Slides. You could also do this to fill up an array of dots with stickers. Smart Notebook interactive pages also offer options.

6. Create products as a language and narrative process. Book Creator, Pixton, Toontastic offer options.

7. Make vocabulary cards, synonyms/antonyms as a selection process by the student. "What picture do you like?" (in Google Slides, Insert> Image> Search the Web). Be creative and search for examples/nonexamples.

8. Use E-text sources for "auditory memory" (whatever that is)

9. Teach conversational structure in real time instead of using topic cards.

10. Find relevant and currently used idioms by topic and make Pic Collages about them (made this one in 30 seconds)

11. (Tanya Coyle) Lessonpix allows for all different skin tones and editing to change skin tones of any pictures that lack that option automatically (fewer and fewer over the last several years). They have a ton of therapy materials you can create or already created.

12. (Laura Staley) I just bring a couple of books and some bubbles.

13. (Jen DW) I love using animated short films in therapy! Hair Love, MVP, Dia de los Muertos are on Youtube and feature POC characters. Disney+ has some great short films featuring diverse characters, too! Out (about a gay man coming out to his parents), Loop (about an autistic girl who doesn't talk), Float (about a baby that can fly), and Bao (about a Chinese mom whose dumpling comes to life) all feature POC characters. These are usually wordless or have few words, relying on the art to tell the story, so they are great for describing, sentence formulation, story retelling, inferring, predicting, interpreting emotions, etc.

I look forward to growing this list, and bypassing the pile of bags at ASHA Convention 202_ if it is even there. #dumpsuperduper. Using less stuff is good for the environment anyway. 

Monday, June 8, 2020


Shortcut by Donald Crews has always been one of my favorites to use in therapy. It's a personal narrative, so good for teaching story elements, with some suspense. This story has an important message about evaluating dangers- a family of kids had been told not to take the shortcut (railroad tracks) and is surprised by a freight train running off schedule. Suspense is built as the situation unfolds but the children escape safely- reporting at the end that they never talk about the event again, but also clearly have thought/felt about it because they never take the shortcut either (more landscape of consciousness).

Shortcut is also a good representation of black characters in a different time.

As I reported to the parents of group members this week, the book also points to a bigger picture/main idea relevant to our current time (here represented with Story Grammar Marker® icons, Note: Author has a contractual consultative relationship with Mindwing Concepts for provision of blog and presentation content, but receives not royalties should you buy their products).

Note: your use of story mapping need not always be super-pretty, this was in an email.

I found this book on YouTube and planned to turn off the sound and read it aloud. Working with a terrific graduate student in telepractice sessions, I prepped him to do the follow-up activity. I had always had my students make a map of the story, because the setting is so integral here. I sent my student a quick Jamboard sketch (remember, Jamboard available in your Google tools) of what his target might look like, guiding him that he could ask questions like: where did they start? where were they going? where did the road run? where did the tracks run (must make a "shortcut")? other setting elements so it could end up looking something like this?

As activities often show, the students had their own vision when engaging in collaborative drawing, and did more of a micro-setting look at the story. It ended up being more of a mood-board than our original vision. But especially now, it's important to let our students express themselves how they choose, and reinforce their cooperation, inclusion of narrative elements, sharing imagination and following a group plan (terms from Social Thinking®).

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Another week...

One of my students in a group session this week shared as his "low" that he is upset by all that is going on with racism and injustice in America and that "it's another layer on top of the layers the country has been dealing with." A wise way to put it.

I'm working on what I can do in my own community, but I wanted to work to elevate black voices in my sessions this week, in ways that might help my students process current events and also be goal-oriented. A conversation about race is about many things, but partly thoughts and perspectives and experiences, all wrapped up in narrative language. Experiences start with the landscape of action (Bruner, 1986) or ability to describe actions in the story as well as character and setting, but relate to the higher level landscape of consciousness/theory of mind ability to describe thoughts, feelings, plans and perspectives related to these events. Cognitive verbs such as think, know, remember, realize, guess also often form complex sentences as in I thought I should do something to help.

For a group of 4th-5th graders this week I read from Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes And Friendship available on Epic! Books, reviewed here by Kirkus Reviews. The poems have a white and black student each reflect on planned topics for a poetry project, in the process sharing stories and embedded "thoughts" that often require some inferencing. I read the book in part and then made it available in the students' free remote access library available through Epic! As a post-activity we completed a discussion web of sorts with the students' contributing their understanding of some of the characters' thoughts as extracted from the narratives. The thought bubble visual is from Story Grammar Marker® and available in their downloadable icon products. (Note: Author has a contractual consultative relationship with Mindwing Concepts for provision of blog and presentation content, but receives no royalties should you buy their products) Typable thought bubbles as always are available through Google Slides in the shapes>callouts menu.

I was happy to see that this book was included in Epic!'s Start a Conversation about Race collection- if you are looking for material over this time.

And to make it absolutely clear, #blacklivesmatter, this week and every week.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Fallen London

If working with older students in language or social groups, Fallen London is one option of a very simple (technically) game you may find useful in teletherapy. This role playing game starts with creating a character and escaping a jail, and can be used for targets such as:
-visualization: the game runs more as a textual choose your own adventure, so you can encourage students to read and visualize, or visualize as you read.
-observation and commenting within the images provided.
-vocabulary and figurative language: the game starts with reference to a dirigible and all of my groups needed to google to figure out what that was, you also choose paths such as watchful, dangerous or shadowy so predicting what those might mean can be part of your discussion.
-agreeing on moves- we have just used one google login for a group and have them play as a single character.

You can read more about the background of the game here. I always follow the process, not product rule and am unsure how long my students will want to play. Abandoning group endeavors is OK, it's part of being in a group (and play).

Monday, June 1, 2020

Mr. Nussbaum's Learning Fun

Mr. Nussbaum's Learning + Fun is a collection of interactives that could be used to develop many language underpinnings (e.g. descriptive skills with the EET). For example this section of science games offers many opportunities. Some require a subscription (offered currently at a discount) but many are offered for free. Check it out- I'm adding to the Teletherapy Resources List.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Some metaliguistics for you

I went to grammar school. I mean it was intense diagramming-sentences kind of grammar back then. I learned what the subjunctive mood was. Actually my mother taught my eighth grade ELA class, but that's another trauma to not talk about for now.

Anyway, for this reason as an SLP I've always had a lens on syntax, at least in its functional capactity of comprehending and producing complex sentences. This involves building some syntactic awareness of parts of speech and the functions of words. There is evidence that knowledge of parts of speech and how they go together impacts language and reading comprehension. Approaches like sentence combining are research supported and require this kind of awareness in students.

For these reasons, interactives around parts of speech can be considered on-point in our therapy. Check out Sheppard Software (overall) and their specific ELA interactives. Their Parts of Speech tutorial is adorbs and a fun visual way to explore the functions of nouns, adjectives, and verbs (note also that adjective+noun equals elaborated noun phrase which we can be measuring as microstructure in narrative).

The sparkly cloud

The sparkly cloud is hiding

Finding an interactive website of this type is helpful as you can follow the activities in a sequence, which helps with session flow. I have added this website to the Teletherapy Resources List.

As a child of this era also I loved Schoolhouse Rock and have used their engaging grammar videos in therapy to build awareness of parts of speech.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Pairing Picture Books With Apps in Teletherapy

I've long been a fan of the contextual approach described by Hoggan & Strong in their influential article The Magic of Once Upon A Time-- that of pairing a picture book with pre- during- and post- narrative/language teaching opportunties. I have been presenting about this with many iterations for years, and last year published a pamphlet about it (free) on Teachers Pay Teachers.

We can consider "apps" in this context as including websites and webtools. Last week I used a picture book via it's YouTube read-aloud. There are usually several versions available for any picture book, I like to make choices around the style of reading and a slide-show look. I mentioned I have been picking lots of picture books with emotional vocabulary or self-regulation themes. In this case, I liked this version of Good News, Bad News (Jeff Mack) also because the visuals were a little quick. It provided the opportunity for many stopping points targeting situational observation and use of association and causals:

"Now he has an umbrella, so that's good news. What do you think the bad news will be?"
"Hmm that went by kinda fast, what did you see as the good news there?"

One post activity suggested by Hoggan & Strong is an "art" activity! I set up a collaborative art activity with the group using Jamboard- an interactive/collab whiteboard that is part of the Google Suite (find it in your little "matrix" of Google Apps- upper right corner of Gmail, Drive etc). In cases where I have used Jamboard, I have just clicked on Share and made it editable to anyone with the link, then put that link in the chat of Zoom or Meet, and students navigated to it easily. In this case, I thought we could do a good news-bad news cause effect chain in a different setting- my students chose a supermarket, I started them off and it played out like this:

Here's the resulting Jam. It owes something to Nancy Tarshis, Ryan Hendrix, and Kari Palmer who presented a verbal play activity I once saw called "Yay! Oh No!" Our activity with some coaching involved:
-Student 1: The lights go out at the supermarket!
-Student 2: But good news- the rabbit has a flashlight
-Student 1: But then bad news, dinosaurs invade the supermarket.
-Me: But good news, they are herbivores and just wanted lettuce
-Student 2: Bad news- they have no money.
-Student 1: Good news- there's a cash machine
-Student 2: But it's broken!
-Student 1: a repairman comes (but we should make him an animal to fit the story)
And we all decided everyone gets money to shop!

The boys did well with this playful narrative activity!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A Model Lesson About Re-openings

I recorded this for a client who can not attend a makeup session offered for the holiday Monday, but thought it was also worth sharing here. As I watched our governor in MA announce the four phase reopening plan last week, I thought how it might be some important information to discuss in my social groups for a number of reasons:
-all students will need to utilize strong situational awareness in the community as we go forward, being aware of the restrictions and visual markers for social distancing etc.
-This plan is essentially a Five Point Scale and involves a lot of nuances, understanding why one phase is same but different (vocabulary from Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen)  from the previous and future phase etc, as well as many IF/THENs
-Any lesson about time is also an executive function lesson.
-and so on...

I did discuss this plan with parents beforehand, emphasizing that:
-I am encouraging students to initiate conversations with them about the pandemic and what restrictions mean within their family.
-Just because something is open or now "allowed" does not necessarily mean every family is going to go forward with that- also a lesson in perspective taking.

And naturally, I did not present this activity as in the video below, there has been a lot more "stop and discuss" e.g. before moving to the next category having students predict what falls in each phase.

Resources shown in this video/following up:
-Fair Play read aloud (skip the odd opening first 50 seconds)- this book was recommended by Michelle Garcia Winner in her book Thinking About You, Thinking About Me for the lesson about JustMe thinking, but is also a great establisher of the main idea connections between government and social cognition
-Reopening Massachusetts visuals (if you're in MA, or you can do a same but different lesson)
-A Kahoot for students to play with what they learned. Again, you can make a same but different one if not in MA.

Video model lesson