Friday, November 26, 2021

ASHA Wrapup

ASHA Convention was different, but it happened! Thanks to all the organizers for providing a safe and very educational event. I was honored to present on Thursday to a great in-person crowd. 

The focus of the session was on "playful" activities for language and social interventions across the age levels.

A few resources I presented:


Improv games are supported in our literature and mirror the format and communicative behaviors of conversation. Be sure to teach the nuance of "yes, and..." and couple with lessons on when we say no, and that it is OK to disagree (avoid ableism and support neurodiversity)..


Books are their own therapy tool and give you great ideas for playful followups. In this case Spencer's New Pet gives lots of opportunity for nonverbal situational interpretation and narrative development. (see this post for tips on using Youtube to present picture books). Balloon Animals! app made a nice pairing for a playful post activity here, following a quick lesson to pre-load some social strategies. See my free booklet on Pairing Picture Books with Apps!


You can use game contexts (e.g. Minecraft, Pokemon) without ever actually playing those games. A recent example: I have been leveraging a student's interest in Pokemon to use Pokemon Adventure comics (available via my public library on Overdrive which exports to the Kindle app) for nonverbal and emotional interpretation, narrative retell, and identifying and working with vocabulary. The vocabulary words need not be in the text to be relevant and motivating!

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 12, 2021

Free Options for Group Games

I have previously written about the motivational and engagement value (thus promoting communication) of "room based" games. Now that we have transitioned back to in-person groups, we are incorporating some distanced card play, but this tech-mediated piece still serves a purpose (kids can use their own devices, stay far apart). Jackbox is a bit pricey and I wanted to share a few free options I have tried out. 

VXN's Mutter Nonsense and Drawn Out offer good potential for building communication skills in a fun way (including joining in a paced manner, using humor, visualization, association).  Here's a trailer for Mutter Nonsense (think Apples to Apples).


I also recently discovered that Jeopardy Labs has millions of pre-made games that you can choose from, including many related to vocabulary and social skills. Choosing and using group topical interests can also be a great way to use a resource like Jeopardy Labs. Don't fully love the content of a board? Clone it and make some changes. Do I have anything else to say about Jeopardy? Stay tuned...


Speaking of play, if you're headed to ASHA Convention, come see my session next Thursday!

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Come See me in DC!

I'll be presenting in-person at the 2021 ASHA Convention in Washington, DC! I hope that if you are attending, you'll come by for my session on Thursday, November 18. This presentation is listed in the Telepractice category, and is partly informed by my experience earlier in the pandemic when that was the only option, but I assure you has many tips, tricks and resources applicable to in-person interventions. See you there!


Play on Words: Thoughtful Uses of “Game-Based” Apps and Resources In Language-Based Interventions 

Session Description
Playful activities provide an avenue for targeting language skills, social cognition, and executive functioning across the grade levels. This session will demonstrate how technology resources across several platforms can be “gamed” via pre- and post-activities to engage clients in developing skills across the domains of listening, speaking and thinking. Apps, webtools, and Alexa skill games will be discussed along with task analyses and sample lessons developed in real-time telepractice during the COVID-19 emergency. Activities particularly target group social interaction, participation, planning, organization, time management, and self-monitoring. The session will also discuss research and resources in our literature supporting the use of play in interventions across the grade levels, and how technology can be used thoughtfully within these contexts.



Thursday, October 21, 2021

Consider This: Meaningful Current Events

I'll wrap up Consider This with an example from this week. I have a student who is a Red Sox fanatic (a husband too) and they are of course in the playoffs. This story surfaced and has a lot of nuance to it, with targets regarding story grammar, perspective taking (which is really just story grammar times 2, 3, or however many people are involved), figurative language and body language. For brevity's sake I'll let you check out the link and the couple of videos there for the context.

This is the kind of scaffolded discussion that could take place via telepractice or in person, but I happen to be working with this student online. Zoom's annotation tools are a bit clunky (easy to click off your text box and need to make another, you scroll down on a webpage and they stay in the same place), but did the trick. If this annotation drives you nuts, it's an easy shift to Google Slides to toggle between tabs and use your preferred story grammar frame. In this case we just took some notes as we discussed; it's almost always better to provide visual support, which aids in working memory, processing, and further formulation.

Not to alienate any Astros fans, we did go on to note Correa's response to the incident was pretty positive, though there may be some nuance there too.

To go from the specific to more general, using current events can:

-activate students' interests

-provide contexts for story and expository text structure (and microstructure: sentence formulation and vocabulary)

-within the former, open doors to targeting social cognition, emotional vocabulary, or Zones®

My biggest trick in this regard has been keeping up with news myself, listening to the local news radio station, NPR, or subscribing to digests from local news sources to skim. As I've mentioned before, newsela is also a great go-to. I also have a student who loves CNN 10, a video resource.

Interested in professional development for your department, school, or organization? Sean is booking in-person or remote trainings for the 2021-2022 school year

Friday, October 15, 2021

Consider This: Civics!

Consider This has mostly been an exploration of resources used a bunch of different ways, but we also can consider how different curriculum topics can be used to target many speech and language and social communication objectives (and in this case, some resources that go with this idea). Speech and language pathologists can wrap interventions in contexts; check out this recent study, one that I'd like to describe in detail at some point, on science and Tier 2 vocabulary.

I think of civics as important world and social knowledge. Though it's unlikely to fix everything, we could do worse than helping students understand how government and laws work. Within civics contexts, there's much opportunity to target narrative, expository language, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and sentence formulation.

Years ago, Social Thinking® recommended Munro Leaf's (quite old) picture book Fair Play, which in its opening pages explores social norms in terms of moving from why we don't all get to do everything we want to do to why we have government. There are also several vignettes about a character he calls JustMe who behaves without considering others's needs that Social Thinking® formulated into a concept around JustMe vs Thinking about Others. We want to handle this topic with nuance and acknowledgement that everyone has JustMe "moments" to model the concept carefully, of course. The book is hard to find, but there is a read aloud version below. Skip the weird intro, consider handling the JustMe vignettes with further nuance, e.g. what the kids could have done to help JustMe be part of the group, and avoid the latter parts which are just way too harsh! I have generally used just up to about 4:30


In a much more straightforward way, iCivics remains a very useful tool. Sign in as a teacher and you can access lesson plans, worksheets, and of course the interactive games (varying in length, so explore) which can open up great expository conversations and vocabulary development. Sign-in also allows you to save games and pick up in later sessions. Recently I used Cast Your Vote with some students to explore the local election process and vocabulary like infrastructure, juvenile, enrollment, and minimum wage


Fablevision's Civics! An American Musical (free with signup) will delight fans of Hamilton and engages students in civics topics while targeting comprehension of primary sources. The language underpinnings, however, include situational interpretation of pictures and comprehension of texts. The game contains multiple paths you can return and reroute to (e.g. making a few musicals about a few different topics, if you have a group that gets into it), and again, saves your progress.


Civics topics are also great to explore with very simple resources such as newsela!

Interested in professional development for your department, school, or organization? Sean is booking in-person or remote trainings for the 2021-2022 school year

Friday, October 1, 2021

Consider This: Classtools.net

The V in the FIVES criteria is for Visual! Visual supports are a simple Evidence Based Practice- give students something to explore with their eyes and you can tap:

-description/main idea
-vocabulary
-narrative language and complex sentence formulation
-social/situational awareness
-their interests/humor!

Classtools.net is an oldie but goodie, and has been around forever. In addition to its classroom tools such as Random Name Picker, a simple Soundboard and such, there are many visual activities you can use to create an "opener" or have students create something themselves. This may be particularly useful for older students.

Consider These:

Twister: create a "tweet" from any character, tap main idea, perspective taking, sentence formulation

Image Labelling Tool: upload an image and create text "hotspots" for part/whole thinking, abstract or advanced categories, description

Breaking News and Headline Generators: main idea of a narrative or expository topic, with humor!

Image Reveal: Gameify "Thinking with the eyes"


Interested in professional development for your department, school, or organization? Sean is booking in-person or remote trainings for the 2021-2022 school year


Friday, September 24, 2021

Consider This: Videos about Mindfulness

Mindfulness should be considered right in the SLP wheelhouse. It a) is evidence-based, b) promotes self-regulation which underlies executive function, academic performance, social communication and c) practicing and discussing mindfulness encompasses expository language and metacognition (talking about thinking). 

Through the mandated teletherapy period and beyond, I have found videos about mindfulness to be particularly useful as they are visual, prompt practice, and serve for post activities

Check out this example:


It's great. Well-paced, specific, promoting a strategy that can be used without the video at other times, and an example of an abstract, complex idea. In using this I have needed to recast my students' understanding of it: Being present helps you be in the moment to pay attention, but also regulates your emotions away from thinking/feeling about the past or future. There's much personal narrative that can come from exploring this as well as descriptions of what we notice in the moment (often a complex sentence formulation prompt as well with any cognitive verb).

In addition to other videos by the Partnership in Education, you can explore ones for various age levels from Cosmic Kids, MyLife, or Headspace.

It's a good idea to do this kind of activity with regularity (it need not take more than 10 minutes) or in a series as mindfulness is really about developing a practice.  I always think of it as a toolkit (aligning with models like Zones®), so it is also wise to find videos that promote different strategies such as presence, above, deep breathing, gratitude, etc.

Interested in professional development for your department, school, or organization? Sean is booking in-person or remote trainings for the 2021-2022 school year

Friday, September 17, 2021

Consider This: Make A Scene

Tech-based scenes, in which story grammar settings are presented and we can add characters and objects, suggest the creation of stories and other language targets. One of the simplest series of tools for this is the apps from, well-titled, make a scene (inexpensively priced at $.99 for iOS, Amazon devices and Android Tablets). These include themes that can be used to build semantics such as Dinosaurs, Jungle, Polar Adventure and Transport. The apps are simple, promoting use for many grade levels ranging down to preschool. Additionally, each app contains related scenes to choose from for a variety of stories to create.

Make A Scene: Transport. Create a traffic jam for an "initiating event!"

Consider This:
-Make A Scene apps and websites (fewer options) function like a stickerbook or (if you remember) Colorforms for very simple co-creation activities.
-The iPad remains alive as a great tool for clinicians to have on hand for its portability, ease of use, and functions such as screenshotting which allow you to revisit previous creations and the language involved with them. The iPad can also be mirrored to computer screens for use in telepractice, or connected to a projector or interactive whiteboard in a classroom.
-In addition to story creation, scene creators can be used to target microstructure aspects: vocabulary, elaborated noun and verb phrases, syntax and sentence formulation e.g. temporal and causal clauses.
-Scene creation begs for pairing of apps with picture books of similar themes to set a larger context in therapy activities. See my free booklet on this topic on Teachers Pay Teachers.
-Particularly for telepractice, to allow for interactivity it is easy to create your own scenes in Google Slides. Students can interact with the scene through remote cursor control or setting the sharing settings to allow the student to edit the Slides. 

Interested in professional development for your department, school, or organization? Sean is booking in-person or remote trainings for the 2021-2022 school year

Friday, September 10, 2021

Consider This: Visual electronic books on EPIC!

I'm sick of talking about COVID. Obvi it's still with us, but I thought I'd frame the path forward instead of backward, and 6 parts of "Lessons from COVID" was enough anyway. A new school year, so Consider This. In coming posts I will be encouraging flexible thinking, planning, and contextualizing of language interventions fostered by simple tech resources. 

I'm still a working clinician of course but have the privilege of doing consulting as well. This week I was discussing with an amazing SLP colleague a "way forward" for social learning lessons for a group of moderate to high-support high-schoolers. With delivery in their dedicated classroom, use of the board and projector is really helpful for keeping up engagement. We had at our fingertips a book she had identified, 125 True Stories of Amazing Animal Friendships, a great visual resource from National Geographic.


Interactive read-alouds, though still effective, get tougher as students get older. They no longer gather around in a circle on the carpet, do they? We thought of digitizing through Slides (easy enough, and one option), but then I thought to check EPIC! It had the book! Hopefully you know this repository of digital books offers (still!) free accounts to educators. Consider also this entire publisher's library and other visual treasures, which help us see how a resource like this can be useful beyond the primary grades.

Yes, you can zoom in...

So Consider This, in brief, and comment with other thoughts, please!
-Each entry, and there are many, can be mapped as a narrative
-The book as a whole is also an expository example and graphic organizers can be used for list, sequence, cause-effect etc.
-Our primary interest here was social "same but different" thinking. Many of these episodes can be used to extract human friendship "hidden rules" 
-Conversation building: what connections can you make in your experiences with pets?
-EPIC is very vocab-friendly. Click on a word and you get a definition.


What other ideas do you have when you Consider This?

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Lessons from COVID, part 6: (e-)Books are more useful than ever!

Picture (or other) books as an excellent therapy tool has always been one of my themes. In this post/video I demonstrate how to use Overdrive, which is one option for obtaining free e-books using your public library access. The tools here can be useful for tele-, individual, small group or classroom-based therapy. 

Check out the video here: 



Thursday, August 5, 2021

Lessons from COVID, Part 5: Just Keep Learning...

Purpose, it's that little flame, that lights a fire under your ass...
-Princeton, Avenue Q (A song I sang at karaoke recently)

I know I said I was done with anything touching on mental health, but can we really be when still navigating a pandemic? One of the best pieces of advice I picked up during this time is that purpose in our work, finding interesting lines of pursuit, and that means professional development specifically, can be helpful to avoid grinding. 

To that end, a couple of resources I have found helpful:

-Both Bright IQ and SpeechTherapyPD.com are great mailing lists to be on in order to be informed of free PD opportunities. The SLP Summit is viewable as a replay until 8/15. I also have subscribed at different points to SpeechPathology.com and Medbridge (where, disclosure, I have created a few courses).

-Read up! Your ASHA Journals are still wide-ranging, and the Evidence Maps are growing. I also really enjoy the digestible content of The Informed SLP. 

A tidbit: I was really happy to be accepted to present at ASHA Convention this year, if you can make it! 

Topic Area: Telepractice (but will be very applicable to in-person also!)

Session Number: 1113

Title: Play on Words: Thoughtful Uses of "Game-Based" Apps and Resources in Language-Based Interventions

Session Format: 1 Hour In-Person

Day: Thursday, November 18, 2021

Time: 2:30 PM-3:30 PM

Abstract: Playful activities provide an avenue for targeting language skills, social cognition, and executive functioning across the grade levels. This session will demonstrate how technology resources across several platforms can be “gamed” via pre- and post-activities to engage clients in developing skills across the domains of listening, speaking and thinking. Apps, webtools, and Alexa skill games will be discussed along with task analyses and sample lessons developed in real-time telepractice during the COVID-19 emergency. Activities particularly target group social interaction, participation, planning, organization, time management, and self-monitoring. The session will also discuss research and resources in our literature supporting the use of play in interventions across the grade levels, and how technology can be used thoughtfully within these contexts.

I have mentioned before that having a hobby promotes your own growth mindset and just breeds happy! This summer I have been taking some drawing courses on Udemy (which has a huge variety of learning topics) and got an Apple Pencil! Inspired by my trip to Provincetown in July: 


Enjoy the rest of your summer! Off to Maine next week!


Friday, July 2, 2021

Lessons from COVID, Part 4: Slide It!

In this series I have been discussing "lessons" from this difficult year: things that helped me get through but also will influence my work going forward back into "normal." One of these is the use of simple visual tools such as Google Slides. I had found Slides useful pre-pandemic as a way to lay out lesson and discussion visuals, but it became more so diving into telepractice. This "lesson" actually has some component parts, so I will letter those!

a. Keep a deck for each session or group: doing so helped with organization, review, and contextual flow. As I supervised graduate students throughout the pandemic, this also allowed for easy digital collaboration through Sharing.


b. Slide 1 is a good place for the agenda, which I always frame with the Social Thinking® concept of The Group Plan.

c) Like this overlaid Shapes>Callouts of thought balloons, Shapes are always your friend in Slides. Add any shape and it can be made colorful via the paint can, and is automatically typable (easier than text boxes) by double clicking in the shape. 

d) Shapes can also be made interactive like I did here applying a great visual about problem solving from Kristin Wiens at northstarpaths.com:


I used the shapes to put a desequenced example (from January 2021) and Remote Control in Zoom to have the students in the group put it in order. You can see that we also linked it to Story Grammar Marker® and Zones of Regulation.

e. As in the agenda above, I'll say it again, no need to type everything out in advance. Often that can be visually overwhelming anyway. I often find a title or frame sets the topic and kids are quite happy to attend and comment as you type!

f. Images are easily insertable on the go in Slides, much like the venerable Pic Collage. Insert>Image>Search the web to work on vocabulary, add a quick visual support or engaging image. Let your students decide (with help) what images go best with the language!


Speaking of images, any slide can be quickly screenshot and shared with parents or others who should know what went on in your lessons.

g. Shapes (again) make great discussion webs or make language visible to foster conversations. Anna Vagin's Conversation Paths slides really saved my life and are modifiable for many contexts. In this case my students asked my graduate student a couple questions to get to know her and the path visuals provided schema, in this case a mnemonic I made up about "people files" (FILE).



h. Lastly, each deck provided me an organizational frame for a group. I'd open a window in Chrome for the group, open the group's Slides, and then use tabs for any resources (e.g. an interactive website) I might be planning to use in the session.

I am looking forward to in-person groups being much less digital, but I am sure Slides will remain an important visual tool for me going forward!

I'll be taking a few weeks off- see you back here in late July!

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Lessons from COVID, Part 3: Get a Room

Just playing on the title of last week's post, one lesson from this experience (almost all teletherapy, all the time) is the power of resources which allow you to have group members join a space, almost like a room. I believe for me this will continue beyond the pandemic as a helpful language and social engagement tool, incorporating technology to provide visual guidance, context, motivation to participate, language practice in various forms, and fun! Here are some examples:

Backyard is a free resource; create a space by signing in with your Google account, and students can join via a shared code. I found out about Backyard from Speech Dude Chris Wegner (see his helpful video tutorial) and it helped power me through my last few months of group therapy. With Backyard you can play fun language-y games like Doodle, basically a form of Pictionary with the tech providing structure and engagement. Backyard looks to be undergoing some sort of hiatus soon, but use it until June 26 and sign up for their updates on its later form (I see with dismay after writing this paragraph, but still worth looking at to see what is to come).

Jamboard, I've sung your praises many times. This collaborative drawing and writing space from Google provides infinite opportunities for bringing students together to the same space for a defined context or task. One of my latest uses was a modification of Wacky Words by Cranium (as always, please don't request access, just click on the 3 dots and make a copy). I left the second game as one in progress so you can see how it works. The rules for the game are here (also a handy visual site) and you can use a random letter generator like this one. For any Jamboard, Share will give you a link to modify as editable, Share directly with Google accounts or in Google Classroom.




Kahoot, as always, came in handy. Quizzes generate conversation between items, so scaffold that, and you can easily create/modify quizzes related to language/social content or conduct decision-making and compromise sessions related to playing Kahoots about trivia topics. This Google Slide visual is one I used to teach about Levels of Like (compromise means picking something all are "ok" with); use shapes and change their sizes to show what the group "thinks" about the option.



Jackbox, a series of games that actually use the term "room code," provides many engaging games, especially for middle and high schoolers. Watch for sales on their website (sign up for mailing list) as these are frequent, and I buy the codes to run through Steam. Be aware that many schools may block running Steam over their network in order to stop students from gaming inappropriately; I have used my hotspot on a few occasions. This site provides a helpful list and descriptions (e.g. which games have family-friendly settings).


Friday, June 18, 2021

Lessons from COVID, Part 2: Get a Hobby

I swear this is the last post touching on my (much better) mental health, but it also has some tech tips within, so I thought it was worth sharing. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was much ado about "using this time for self-improvement" before that message had a backlash against it. Regardless, as an adult it can be difficult to feel justified trying new pastimes, though it sure helped me.

My husband and I were always karaoke people, so that piece wasn't new. We'd spend many Sunday nights singing down the "scaries" with one or two at a local place that had karaoke starting at 8pm. He's a real singer, gets paid for it at a CT church monthly; I just dabble and know some stuff to make myself sound better given the SLP training. When the shutdown happened, of course no karaoke. Singing was bad, COVID-wise. We started a habit of recording a weekly song and sharing it to friends and family via YouTube and Facebook. It was a good thing to spend time preparing for and looking forward to recording and releasing it. I learned a couple tech tricks along the way.

Karaoke Version is a great website that lets you purchase individual song tracks, and you can choose ones with no background vocals. This allowed us to turn many solo songs into duets. He taught me years ago how to change keys of songs, which greatly increases the options for any singer (e.g. I can sing a female song down one octave and up two steps to take me out of the basement, or lower a male pop song a couple steps). For this, two tools helped a lot. AirDrop (accessed on any Mac or Apple Device through the share icon) popped the song right over to my phone without need for syncing (takes forever) and into an app like AudioScrub Remix Edition ($2.99). This app allows you to change keys and even play with tempo of music, so is also good for playing with the key of original song tracks so you feel more confident singing them out there (if the place you go allows key changes, some don't). From there it was pretty easy to play any song in my car--I even drove sometimes-- and we'd set his iPhone up on a holder to record. There's truly an app for everything, and they sure can support your hobbies. 


I hope it will be enjoyable to some and not too self-indulgent to share our playlist. We sang 52 songs- every week for a pandemic year- and then have slowed it down to every couple weeks, maybe once a month. It was a lot of work. And we are back to going out and singing karaoke. The list took us through themes and some tough times...like unrest in our city ("Beautiful City" from Godspell) and when a friend passed away suddenly ("What I Did for Love" from Chorus Line, one of his favorites), but is mostly lighthearted and meant to entertain...we learned some weeks in to avoid the heavy. There's lots of Yacht Rock, and more experiments with falsetto than I should have attempted. And I have to say all the practicing and singing was also therapeutic- something about that diaphragmatic breathing. Definitely watch the 2nd version of "Happy Days/Get Happy" as it is better shot and well, happier than the first! My faves are the recent ones, like "Drive." (Click on the link above or upper right menu in the video embedded below to see the list of songs)


The other thing I've gotten into is coloring and, later, drawing. Learning about shading was another way YouTube came in handy, and I'm taking some online classes and learning about drawing with an Apple Pencil on my iPad. Surely a relaxing hobby! If anyone has any good online resources about this, please let me know!

I hope you are easing into summer and finding happy ways to spend your time!

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Lessons from COVID, Part 1: or, An Anxious Extrovert SLP Faces a Pandemic

As we close out what was frankly an annus horribilis for everyone, naturally including anyone in education or health care, I'd like to do so as positively as possible and share some lessons learned. This might be two posts or one, or six or twelve, I am really not sure. It's a topic I thought of submitting for an ASHA presentation but really didn't have the energy (I submitted a different topic), so here goes.

The beginning of the pandemic was a fear-fueled spring into action: figuring out how to become an actual telepractioner instead of a tech-informed consultant, and then sharing that information in post after post and not a few presentations. Then we settled into the long day-to-day post-fall and that energy...lagged. The days got shorter and my SAD closed in, bringing with it a lot of irrational dread that was tinged with actual threat. My husband returned to teaching HS Math (mostly AP) in an impossibly hybrid fashion, working 12 hour days to figure this out for some engaged and many indifferent students, all of whom were probably doing their best to get through this. Meanwhile, I settled into continuing teletherapy, feeling trapped in our house and isolated, except for the blessed days I got to leave and go do some in-person work at schools. Nevertheless, we both carried UVC lamps to sanitize our computers and stripped our school clothes into a dedicated hamper in our back hallway. 

Things got better. Vaccinations brought hope, mine coming undeservedly early in my case, due to my SLP license. I cheered on as my parents, my husband, family members, friend by friend (I kept track of who was on what shot mentally), then my students got their protection. Still, I languished through the late winter and spring and just now am REALLY able to see and enjoy the light, and I'm looking forward to the future.

Having started to experiment with coloring and drawing, I'm seeing the light- and am a work in progress.

I didn't get COVID. My husband didn't get COVID. I think, anyway. I certainly got tested enough. The few people I know who did had mostly manageable cases. Lucky. I kept working, another blessing; I know it's a privilege to be able to work from home. Still. It sucked, didn't it?

I'm working to put the year behind me (self talk: let go and move on) but I know I can focus on the things I learned, and share them. So let's start with mental health. It's important, and something like this can break it a little, and you can piece it back together. Some tech tools that helped me:

1. Therapists need therapists. Get help if you need it. I had my own experience with telehealth re-upping with a therapist who had helped me in the past. Doxy.me works great! In all probability, help will be more available to all in the future given the doors opened and competencies developed during this tough time. 

2. Tech-based fitness tracking facilitates exercise and mental health; the pulse goes up and so do the levels of good chemicals in your brain. Luckily, using exercise as a tool was always an inclination of mine. I enjoy it. Even without a gym to go to, I managed to keep that up, being creative about workouts and learning how to use exercise bands, which, now back to the gym regularly and comfortable maskless, I still use on some days as an alternative. I actually lost weight during COVID. I thank my Apple Watch, which I finally caved and ordered last August. The rings are a thing:


3. Tech-mediated mindfulness, breathing and coaching: Always a fan of tools like Calm, most recently I tried out Breethe, Aura and Breathwk. I ended up going with a yearly subscription to Aura because of the combination of high-quality meditations along with CBT and coaching tracks. The CBT pieces have even given me great ideas for lessons with my students, as these concepts relate so much to narrative language, social cognition and self-regulation. 

ABCDE (Antecedent Event, Beliefs, Consequence, Dispute, Effect) pretty much mirrors story grammar models. 

I also have found Sanvello useful- this app has instructional paths and meditation tracks among other features, and is available for free with some health insurance plans.

Further caving and getting AirPods has made me full-on Apple and has somehow made developing the habit of meditation more attractive. Having the voice in my head be music has also been a nice substitute at times. I should give a shout out to our network of Echo Dots about the house that has cut through the unsettling quiet, though I have listened to way too much SiriusXM The Blend (aka The Bland, aka Adele At All Times).

Breathwk is super cool and SLPs should definitely know about it, given our connection to respiration and a number of its uses (e.g. voice, fluency, self-regulation). The app presents different breathing techniques based in science, a training sequence, and all presented with great visuals and haptics (e.g. a vibration for inhalation). You can get a lot out of this app with its free options but I may spring for the annual as I am very curious to learn more. 



The above have all been great tools in helping me step forward back into "normalcy," and I hope these tips help you and yours in some way!

Friday, May 28, 2021

Driving can be a language/EF intervention context!

Having started as an elementary SLP, it's been one of my journeys to learn that with older populations, we need to keep it relevant. That whole Client Values prong of EBP can come into sharp focus when you are trying to keep students attending and engaged. 

I recently had several clients who were learning to drive. Very exciting. I recalled some hilarious blog posts I had read on Cracked some years back here and here about "Types of Drivers Nobody Complains About." The text itself is funny to read but not instructionally appropriate, but the images are great. Here's where the social cognitive concept of Hidden Curriculum and the Social Thinking® concepts of thinking with the eyes converge as a context for students to interpret these photos. This is also a good example of how Google Slides can be used to create a kind of workbook. I used this with my clients to have them interpret the photo and write (or I would write) a main idea interpretation. You could also use this to have budding drivers build self-awareness and make "notes to self" about what they can change in their own driving. You can obtain the resource here. As always with Google resources, please do not request permission for the document. To use it yourself, simply sign into your Google account and under the File menu, select Make a Copy. You can then make this an ersatz workbook by inserting a text box on any slide. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

GoReact (Update)

I wrote about Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry's GoReact app some years ago, but their porting of it to a web version is even more useful in teletherapy or if students have their own devices available. GoReact is an interactive Periodic Table of the Elements; click on any element and you will see a photo of a functional real-life use of it. Even more fun, the Featured Reactions have categories such as health and beauty aids which you are given directions to "assemble." It therefore is a great source of activities for following directions, play, and language links to curriculum.


Consider pairing this activity with Julia Dweck's GiftedTawk's Periodic Table Jamboard, which has great contexts for describing visuals and inferring as you match element "comic book superheroes" with their elements.

We also had fun sliding this into a social topic and making characters ourselves that personify elements with Plotagon Story and having them have conversations that show big, medium and small reactions!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Flowing with a Theme

I have spent a lot of time in recent presentations talking about establishing flow (the positive psychology concept) for ourselves and our students by incorporating interests. Flow can also be considered to refer to contextual flow within or across sessions which has been shown to facilitate efficacy. So, to that end, a few activities I whipped up on the theme of May the Fourth Be With You (International Star Wars Day); I realize this is past but you can always observe later, or next year!

Read and discuss Darth Vader and Son (Jeffrey Brown) or another in this series. Many of the single panel cartoons are also usable from Google Images. These cartoons are great context to do picture interpretation of what is implied in the scene, or discuss humor (hyperbole, irony).

Take a field trip to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in Google Earth (just search for the location in either Disney park). Students can take turns "driving" via cursor control or in person, make observations and comments, or look closely at the setting (enter Street View by dragging over the Peg Man...my group observed a family wearing masks and inferred the shot was taken during the pandemic). You can also look for POV videos of any of the rides on YouTube which can lead to further observation, commenting, and narrative language.

Use a post such as this one to read about Star Wars' droids (like the EET, they prompt green-group, blue-do, but also stories). My group is now sketching our own droids in Jamboard. I love that Set Background> + > Google Image Search lets you quickly set a contextual background and show students how to do so also.

This post on Instagram also had us doing some fun picture interpretation. "Oh, what do you think the artist wanted to focus on here...?" prompting discussion of characters, setting, representations (e.g. Kylo Ren in Last Jedi with no helmet on looking more human).

Finally, this clip of Yoda generated some good discussion and critical thinking about growth mindset:



Friday, April 30, 2021

Elinor Wonders Why (PBS Kids)

The PBS Kids activities corresponding with the series Elinor Wonders Why provide a number of language targets and are another example of modern web design (i.e. not flash-based). I also like activities with outdoor themes that you can couple with small "field trips" of your own if working in-person. These are now added to the PBS Kids task-analysis spreadsheet.

Curious Campout- good narrative play, like a mini "Toca Life." Click to interact with objects e.g. to set up the tents or put wood on the fire.


Hide and Seek- for one or two players (one covers eyes), hide 4 characters across a wooded area and take turns finding them. Good for spatial concepts and causals, as players are more hidden with clothes colors that camouflage them. 

Two more are added to the linked spreadsheet above!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

A Little Motivation Goes a Long Way

I have been doing social groups through teletherapy since March of last year. For absolutely everyone involved, in the context of this very looooong situation and too much online learning, it wears. So we need to keep it targeted and focused but find new ways to induce fun and flow. 

Lately I have found a double-purpose in acquiring some of the Jackbox games. If you have not used them, Jackbox's games are in the "party" genre but tap many communication skills. Players join a game via a browser tab or the browser on their mobile devices, navigating to jackbox.tv and putting in a code to join the room. The double-purpose is that the games are fun for you as a family or adult friends gathering in person or online as well.

Jackbox games are available through "Packs" of games or some individually. I generally use these through Zoom by running Steam, a free gaming platform which allows the purchase of games (Share Screen>Desktop is the best way to go in Zoom). It's also possible to purchase through your Apple TV and/or iPad and show your iPad screen to run the game. 

Some games I have found useful in teletherapy, particularly because they are satisfying enough for the group when you run just one round (10-12 min):

The Devils and the Details (Jackbox Party Pack 7): players are a family of demons who are forced to live in suburbia and complete cooperative chores toward a common goal. Great for accompanying with discussion of taking on chores at home. Here one player verbally helps another with fixing the TV:


Drawful (any version): Interpret a descriptive phrase with a sketch and then players interpret you in turn:


Quiplash (also several versions): Kind of a phrase-completion Apples to Apples, but all get to vote. Great for targeting use of humor and strategies like incongruity, randomness and irony:


Also see Patently Stupid (Jackbox 5) we rename it in the group!) which is about "inventing" items to solve problems, writing taglines (main idea) and again, voting.

A few tips:
-Besides the one above about how to show the game, you will want to go into the settings of any game before playing with a group. It is a good idea to turn on family friendly mode and lower the volume significantly so that everyone doesn't get drowned out if doing in teletherapy.
-Your district may block Steam over wifi, so while it may be on your machine, you may not be able to activate it in your building. I ran it over my phone's hotspot and that worked fine.
-The games move fast! Many have archive features so you can view and laugh again about (with time to process the language "oh, that was a great example of...") everyone's turns. You can also screenshot during the game.
-I like to use the strategy of "planning for problems" (Social Thinking®) lingo- discussing what could go wrong and what thinking strategies might help the students, which turns the game into a true lesson.


A note to all: You may have received an email re: this blog as previously you had "subscribed" using a tool called Feedburner. Google is retiring Feedburner soon so I was able to move (hopefully) all who wished to receive these posts via email and confirmed this to a new service called follow.it. If you would like to receive posts via email, the form to sign up is in the upper right corner of the full website. 


Friday, April 2, 2021

Not Going Anywhere? You can still go places!

"Virtual field trips" can generate a lot of language and conversation. From spatial concepts about the globe to descriptive setting narrative work, providing a visual of a location can be a fun contextual experience.

Google Earth is of course a great resource for all of this, but if you'd like more of a guided tour, here are a few resources for you.

CityWalks walks you through the streets of international cities. You can choose to view the city pre-COVID to be less depressing! City Sounds are available on the walk, so you truly feel like you are there.

Drive and Listen provides a driving tour of global locations. You can speed up the car to go faster and the "listen" part allows you to listen to local radio stations!



With both, you can call for some mindful listening and discussion of what everyone hears on their "tour," and pair with other resources to learn more about the city. Being easily navigable websites, both are nice options for teletherapy. I will add these to the Teletherapy Resource List!

Friday, March 26, 2021

A Google A Day and Search Literacy Lessons

I've always observed an overlap between tech literacy/digital citizenship and safety with language and social skills-- probably why I have pursued the instructional tech and SLP sides of my work. I recall materials like Google's Search Education existing at the dawn of its search engine (I also recall AltaVista), and am happy to see them again. 

Search essentially involves central coherence/main idea thinking, vocabulary selection and question formation, among other skills, and that's just the first part. What follows involves text comprehension and determining what is the best result to pursue, not to mention evaluating sources! All good language and social cognition work.

At Google's page above you can check out leveled lesson plans with wonderfully broken-down Google Slides visuals- perfect for teletherapy but also in-person learning, and also of course, modifyable- just make a copy, shorten or add and pick your path through these lessons. 


A Google A Day is available as a stand-alone activity with daily challenges but also from selectable categorical challenges on the above page. Great engaging activity for the end of sessions, perhaps. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Clifford- A Dog's Life Activity

You may have noticed that the Flashpocalypse occurred at the beginning of 2021. Flash was long fated to disappear eventually and a number of your favorite websites or interactives would have become inaccessible after December 2020 as web browsers stopped supporting Flash. This happens, and is part of the life cycle of technology. We grieve and move on. PBS Kids, however, is generally cleaned up enough that you aren't going to run into disappointments as you search for interactive activities. I have been working to update a spreadsheet developed by Waldo County General Hospital in Maine, the folks there you may know as longtime collaborators of mine and telepractice mavens! 

The original spreadsheet was presented some years ago by Nathan Curtis in a session we did that many viewed at the beginning of the COVID emergency under ASHA's free Learning Pass. As I mentioned I am working to update it but that work is in progress (some links may not work). Please do not request permission for the spreadsheet, you can make a copy or download if you wish but that would not reflect the updates I plan to make. Click here to view PBS Kids resources spreadsheet.

Let's take Clifford- A Dog's Life, a game that has 4 parts. Emily Anne greets us and asks us to take care of Clifford awhile (character, setting, initiating event...). There are four activities we can engage Clifford (and our students) with including playing fetch and washing him. Looking at the language contexts for Fetch, it's a beach setting we can observe and describe, and we can throw different objects (function talk) near or far. Sometimes something cool happens besides Clifford retrieving the object, such as a crab catching it (WH-questions). The bath activity has neighborhood helper characters and spatial concept contexts such as needing to go high/low/left/right to rinse Clifford!

I'm all about the Pairing Picture Books with Apps/Interactives thing, so see this resource from Mindwing Concepts detailing how Clifford's books can be used for story grammar!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Strategies for Using Picture Books on YouTube

As I have, for now, continued to be doing mostly teletherapy for the past YEAR (that anniversary has been painful, so apologies for the quiet blog), I have found picture books invaluable. Pssst...shhh...largely any picture book you might want has a YouTube read aloud.

One strategy I use is to evaluate what's there, as often several are available. I prefer those that look more slide-show than a person with a book, and also tend to avoid videos with too much zooming. Going full-screen with the video by clicking the lower right icon is helpful.


This facilitates the second strategy- YOU read it aloud. This allows you to pace, pause, and interact with your students (e.g. model think alouds, direct their attention toward illustrations that foster inferences, use questions...). Turn that video sound right off!

So, for example, take How to Catch a Leprechaun by Wallace and Elkerton. This duo's series about catching various creatures has given me a ton of mileage with one particular group. They are not at all game for too-structured conversation, but keep it naturalistic with rich illustrations that have "things to say" that are not described in the text, and they talk! This one may help you in the coming week. There are a number of read-alouds of this book that you can compare to the simple one by PV Storytime. Search the book on YouTube to see what I mean.


There's also the handy The Night Before St. Patrick's Day you can use to do a topic study. Jamboard would be great for constructing Leprechaun Traps, see Julia Dweck's fantastic Rube Goldberg Jam as an example of what's possible (and all her great, very useful work on her LinkTree). EDIT- Julia has just added a fantastic How to Catch a Leprechaun Jam that would be a great post activity for the above book.

Friday, February 12, 2021

i-Spy

i-Spy is a rich, simple interactive website that's like a Where's Waldo of New Zealand. You can play 5 different scenes and locate hidden animals, objects or people. I'd recommend the free play mode as the challenge mode is timed. A search icon will bring you to the general vicinity of the target with a visual cue. 

Activities like these are visually packed and not for all students, but for many can serve as "thinking with the eyes" collaborative "group plan" activities (both Social Thinking® terms) and also connect well to narrative elements of setting and action sequences. Consider researching or Google Earth-traveling to the places beforehand and filling out a setting map/graphic organizer

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Playing games with Jamboard (Whoonu)

I have been researching and using a lot of Google Jamboard recently, and realized that it provides a good "table" to play games. One of my faves ever is Cranium Whoonu, a great get-to-know-others game. In Whoonu, players have cards with activities, places, and things on them, and they make guesses about a target (rotating) player's favorite things. That player (the Whoozit) then sequences them in order from most (most points) to least favorite, and players take tokens indicating their score.

The full rules are here.


And here's a game template for you! Click to make a copy and edit to your heart's content. To use in a session, make a copy for your group, change sharing sessions to editable with the link, and share in Zoom, Google Classroom or wherever.


Saturday, January 30, 2021

A few Google Experiments for you

Google Experiments are, well, experimental websites that play with new features and aspects such as artificial intelligence (AI). These can show great use of the I- Interactive aspect of my FIVES criteria, as well as the V-Visual, and thereby be great contexts for language use. 

Check out QuickDraw, which gives you 20 seconds to draw an object. You have pause time to discuss strategy or features (think Expanding Expression Tool) with students, and this is especially fun if you can give remote cursor control. The AI will then verbally guess what you are drawing, often with funny results that are sure to get a reaction from your students!



Blob Opera is also a blast and a fun way to play and explore voice pitch with students, as well as vocabulary about it (e.g. bass, tenor).

Check out the full range of Google Experiments here.



Thursday, January 14, 2021

Multiple Meaning Commercials

Sometimes it pays to watch the commercials! GEICO has been doing a series of humorous ads for home insurance where the homeowners make a complaint that turns out not to be what we thought they meant- rather an alternate meaning of their plight. Video can be a motivating way to explore metalinguistics with your students, and each of these has a social/situational awareness element as well (e.g. why passive aggressive comments from aunts--pronounced ants--can be a problem). 

Aunt Infestation

Fencing Problem






Thursday, January 7, 2021

Jamboard Icebreakers

Happy 2021! Not the happiest week, but I am still hopeful!

If you are like me, you may have students moving in and out of groups and introduction activities can be helpful in "breaking the ice" and helping them make connections. I tried one yesterday that was very successful and I wanted to share it with you.

This activity uses Jamboard which is part of Google Workspaces/Apps and all have access to it with a Google account (just go to your "waffle" in the upper right corner of any Google app and locate Jamboard). I created an image with shapes to use as a background for the "Jam." You could choose to label each space but I instead had the students think around an acronym I like to use for "people files" (credit Social Thinking® but the acronym is mine and feel free to use) with different aspects of our social memory/sharing about ourselves prompted by the letters in the word FILE:


FILE= F (Friends, Family, Pets, Where you live) I (Interests) L (Likes/Dislikes) E (Experiences, your stories, things you've done or would like to do).

The activity is located here. To use it:

1) Make a copy of the Jam in your Google account. Please do not request access, you can make a copy and it is yours to use. The background is not editable but you can make something similar in PowerPoint, save it as an image and Set as Background.

2) Use the top central frame viewer to duplicate the blank frames for a student group. You can see that mine is in there as a model (and can delete it). 

3). I recommend making frames for the group members and placing their name someplace on the frame to avoid chaos.

4.) To use in a group, I like to model how to use the sketch (top tool), image search (use Google Image Search for quick completion), and text box features while making an "example."

5) You can have students join the Jam under Share by making it editable to anyone with the link, or sharing it within Google Classroom.

6) You can foster time management/executive function and "matching the pace" of the group by toggling what you are sharing (if teletherapy) with Online Stopwatch. I prefer to use the analog clock and mark it up with Page Marker extension to show a timeframe the group will be working in (start, middle and end points ala Sarah Ward). 

6) Encouraging students to use images as much as possible will promote more verbal description (e.g. I used this picture because...) and conversation.

Have fun! I'd love to hear about your Jamboard activities in the comments!



 
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