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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