Saturday, December 17, 2022

Exploring Emotional Vocabulary

Check out Hume AI's website for a number of maps of various types of nonverbals that may be useful to you in therapy activities, particularly with teens, young adults or adults. I say that because some of the content on the website-- particularly the expressive language map-- is more mature. 

I'd suggest starting with the facial expression "galaxy" as I labeled it with students. Click within a cluster and explore nearby facial expression to discuss, for example, what makes surprised look surprised, in terms of what the face is doing.

We used this as a preparatory set with students before checking out videos with some kind of prevailing emotion. Anna Vagin has a great list on her site (and you'll really benefit from her email newsletters) and you can also check out resources such as this one from A Fresh Breath on TpT.

Scroll down on the main site and you'll see other datasets such as Emotional Speech, "Recordings of sentences being spoken in dozens of emotional intonations around the world"

Thursday, November 17, 2022

You Are The Historian- First Thanksgiving

Museums appealing to children are often a great source of interactive websites. I liked this website years ago (see the blast from the past) and the now Plimoth-Pawtuxet Museum has redesigned it with a modern look and perspective. Pre-and a little post-Thanksgiving, you could bring some groups through this "adventure," the conceit being you are a teenage reporter investigating some Wampanoag and Pilgrim sites. I might be biased as a Massachusetts guy, but it's a nice site for students to practice discussing what they see in pictures, processing information, and there are some sequencing and word-fill interactives. There is a lot of content here and seemingly no way to save progress, but you could just visit a few of the sites or keep tabs open if you want to continue. 

Friday, November 11, 2022

Book Creator Templates (including Thanksgiving!)

Book Creator has long been a stellar app/webtool and recently I discovered that they have templates to "remix." You can add templates to your app and do a collaborative work on your iPad among students, or if in a Chromebook environment your free account will allow you to share with students' Google accounts easily. This is an attractive option because, well, they are attractive and you don't have to design the book yourself. Richard Byrne describes the magic ink and autodraw features here.

These "activity books" are filled with language underpinnings like storytelling opportunities, semantic knowledge and vocabulary. You can easily copy and modify any page to cater to your students before starting the activity. For example, on this page below, you can zoom in on a map and have kids in the group find out where others live (generally) for spatial/academic/biographical knowledge of others. Additionally, with this template, gratitude is literally good for your brain to practice all year long.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

New Course Available!

Hi everyone! In July I was honored to present at the SLP Summit. I’ve expanded on that content and have a new 1.5 hr on-demand course available for you to earn more CEUs! We know one hour isn’t always enough so this is a chance to dive deeper into some fun, new content. 

Check it out now at

See what others said about my last course:

 “Amazing & inspiring!! I came away with tons of ideas to use in therapy that my kids will love! Thank you!!”

 “EXCELLENT COURSE! Jam packed! Thank you!!”

 “Excellent presenter! Terrific demonstration of the different tech tools available for narration, not just providing links, but describing their use and demo'ing how to use them.”

 “Loved all the practical ideas given. Even though I have used some of these tools, I still learned so many new things and features.”

And that’s not all! Need more CEUs? The course below is also now available for free!

Friday, October 28, 2022

Monday Halloween?

Looking for an engaging activity this Monday? Check out this fun one from Control-Alt-Achieve (also a great resource in general). In this you use Google Docs as a visual creator to make a Halloween "Rebus" story. I have mentioned before the principal that typing into a white space is a visual support for language formulation and (many of) your students will be engaged by it- tech integration need not always be super interactive or fancy! This activity integrates the use of emoji and don't miss the way expanded context provided by going to what is now available as Insert>Emoji. How fun! I did this activity with several middle school groups this week and they were super-engaged. In addition to targeting some story grammar, complex sentences or vocabulary, I integrated the work described in this ASHA article to make this an improv game focusing on conversation building and flexibility. Note: I always accompany some encouragement of "yes, and" with neurodiversity- and human-affirming takes on "it's also ok to say no."

It doesn't have to make total sense, haha. In another group, a kiddo told me he hated this font, lol. So we changed it, easy enough! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Engaging Animal Sounds!

Try this Google Earth "quiz" on animal sounds from NPR's Science Friday to engage your students! I have mentioned before and on the Talking with Tech podcast that quiz-like activities can be a great way to build semantic knowledge and structure a conversation. In addition to prompting attentive listening, this one will let you play animal sounds, sometimes hilarious, and discuss:

-descriptive attributes from the photos

-animal groups and families

-geographic locations and descriptions of settings!

It is a great way to tie in with a classroom unit on the continents, habitats, or other geography or science content.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Talking with Tech Podcast Appearance(s)

Back in May, I had the wonderful fortune of recording with Chris Bugaj and Rachel Madel for their terrific podcast, Talking with Tech. They split the conversation over two episodes which came out in the past few weeks!

I have been lucky to know Chris and Rachel personally over the past years, seeing them IRL most recently at ASHA Convention in Washington, DC. It was great talking with them and the conversation flowed very freely. Rachel and Chris centered the convo around my Jeopardy! appearance but had many brilliant tie-ins to issues of accessibility and generally about language, so it will be fun to listen to even if you are tired of hearing about [that game show]. They also include their own segments with some great discussion of AAC topics, and we go into my FIVES criteria for evaluating technology resources as potential SLP tools as well. I hope you'll listen and keep listening to Rachel and Chris--also be sure to see them present if you ever get the chance! 

The episodes are available below via Spotify but you can also listen wherever you like to hear podcasts (Apple Podcasts, etc)

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Another example: Pic Collage for Mobility, Ease and Versatility

In my session on creating "stories" for SLP Summit last week (recording available free until August 15, Register here), I focused on thinking about features of resources that might make a clinician pick one over another. You may pick Pic Collage if you like using your iPad, doing a pass-and-add playlike activity (I learned from the authors of We Thinkers that add-a-thought=play=conversation), or want the versatility of being able to quickly cut around any image. You may have seen in my recent post on Google Slides/Jamboard that this is not always QUITE as easy there. So always be thinking FEATURES.

Pic Collage, free, available for iPad, Android, and runnable on new Macs (M1 chip) allows for the creation of a visual as-you-go, so that student contributions to the context can be instantly reinforceable, and it is easy enough for them to use themselves. The menu allows you to add photos from your library, search the web for photos (a school-clean version of BING), and also add text or doodles (powerful because you can sketch things that may be hard to find photos of, or sketch over a photo)

As I showed in the session, you can start with a setting (story element teaching) and add elements of the setting (descriptive sequence level of narration) or introduce an initiating event, such as the bear! Double tap on any picture you add to be able to "trim" around it.

We also talked briefly about expository vs. story language (a good resource is here) and adding to LISTs-one key informational macrostructure- can also be a playful or academically important task. This was made with Pic Collage with/for a student who was learning about the topic/list of "different ways to pay" during a consumer science class. 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Another Example: 10+ Stories to "Tell" with Toca World

Continuing here to post some companion pieces to my session this week at the SLP Summit (available in its recorded form with others until August 15, register here). One of the app resources I discussed were those available through Toca Boca's Toca Life apps. These are available individually, for example, Toca Life: Vacation which I will discuss here, or the Toca Life: World (also playable on newer Macs w M1 chips) has a way of pulling together your previously purchased apps. 

The Toca Life apps are just filled with real-world contexts and therefore can be used to model, co-create, and play out stories in very structured ways or loosely. Make a scene, involve lots of movement onscreen, or record whatever you do as a story through the screen recording feature. This can be done individually or with a group taking turns, or as explicitly or implicitly as you see fit (e.g. with story grammar cues or not). See my recent post on Mindwing's blog about models of learning and instruction.

Taking Toca Life: Vacation, let's consider how the context can lead us to scaffold a bunch of different stories with students.

Airport: Besides the process of arriving, checking in, going through security, waiting at the gate, and taking off in the plane, what if...

1. You need to buy a ticket (use the ATM etc)?

2. Your flight is not listed on the board of funny-sounding destinations and you need to ask for help?

3. You left something at home (if you have Vacation and City added in Toca World, you can move characters in and out of the panel at the bottom and change locations)?

4. A parent surprises you at school with a vacation (same, start at School and move the characters to the airport in Vacation)?

5. Your flight is delayed (good vocab word)?

6. A dog flies the plane and you don't end up where you planned?

This or other parts of the app could be used in conjunction with Google Earth to "fly" to a location and see some landmarks in 3D!

Hotel: Besides checking in, taking the elevator to your room and doing hotel stuff (bathing, sleeping, changing from your luggage, etc), what if...

7. You win a shopping spree at the gift shop?

8. You eat EVERYTHING at the buffet?

9. You make a mess of your room and need help or equipment from housekeeping?

Beach: Besides all sorts of watersports and maybe a wedding (?), what if...

10. Someone gets trapped on the island?

11. The fish get silly and decide to live on land? 

And don't miss the treasure chest out on the island...

As I mentioned in the session, check out short videos like this that can show you lots of potential stories you wouldn't even know were there!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Another example: Storytelling with Google Slides or Jamboard

I had great experience presenting live for SLP Summit yesterday! The people and responses were wonderful. My session will be available in its recorded form as will the other excellent presenters' until August 15. Register here, the conference is presenting more live sessions practically as we speak; CEUs for live/recorded sessions are available for a small fee. To thank the many who attended and (I noticed!) subscribed to this blog as a result of the conference, I thought I'd elaborate on the content with some additional examples over the coming weeks. 

In the session I started by describing how Google Slides and Jamboard can be used to create, interact with and retell stories through activities like making a scene or story mapping. I had previously posted a video on this you can check out. Another example is making a visually supported story retelling activity, in which you can think of Slides or Jamboard as sort of like the old Colorforms- images you insert can be like your stickers!

You can do this with most any context or story, but this past spring I really enjoyed reading We Found A Hat (Jon Klassen) with some groups. There are others in this series but they are a bit darker in ending. The author uses exaggerated eye illustrations (and not much else) to signal thoughts and intentions. Use the book or a video like this one!

For a playful way to work on retelling, make this book a scene. You can do this in either Slides or Jamboard. Slides would offer you more ways to play with formatting; Jamboard would allow easier collaboration (and if you wanted to sketch to change/highlight eye gaze you could do it more easily here). The basics as I show below would be the same.

Start with a blank slide- (either remove any text boxes and such or insert a new blank slide). If you have nothing selected on the slide you should see Background on the bottommost menu. Click that, Choose Image and the Google Image Search choice usually does a good job for any kind of background. 

For your mobile (to click and drag about) turtles and hat you can try Insert>Image>Search the Web. This worked well for a hat. Remember to use the term PNG to try to get images without backgrounds. 

Sometimes you may have trouble getting images that actually are PNGs. I just go over to Google Image Search (open a new tab and search on Google, again using PNG). From here you can right click and copy images to your creation.

A word about this- be aware of copyright, don't republish or attempt to sell something you have created using Google Images unless you have searched for images that are ok for reuse. This goes for all digital storytelling creations. 

Here I copied and pasted the turtle and clicked on Format Options to flip one of them.

From here, use your imagination! 
-move the elements to model a story retell and then have students do the same (a SmartBoard might be fun here)
-You can make Google Slides look less cluttered by collapsing menus or hiding elements under View.
-Add text boxes or shapes for dialogue.
-Make a "same but different story" where the turtles find something else besides a hat. Would they make a different decision? Why?
-Talk about cool things you've "found" (bridge to personal narrative)

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

5 Reasons the iPad is Still Relevant to SLPs

When the iPad came out in 2010, I was skeptical. It seemed like a big iPhone and I wasn't sure it would take off. Showing how much I know, it soon became an educational sensation and took off, particularly in the field of speech-language pathology. Before you knew it, there was a surge of interest in my blog, SLP app lists, and professional development sessions on using it as an assessment and therapy tool. The App Store filled with apps designed for SLPs (still relevant also) and schools invested in carts and equipping all their staff with an iPad.

Apple still pumps out new iPads but there is much less talk about them. First of all Chromebooks made accessing the web and Google productivity apps cheap and easy for schools. Secondly, a pandemic pushed everyone into an environment where iPads were less useful (between skittishness about touching shared objects and confusion/limitations about using it in remote teaching), and I believe everyone also got a bit tired of technology, after it became non-optional for so long. In 2022, I think the iPad is still useful as a tool, however, and here are a few reasons why.

1. Lower screens to the table. Raised screens laptop-style promotes faces-in-screens. It's much easier to have a conversation over an iPad or with the use of an Apple TV and reinforce those face to face interactions.

2. Pass-and-play. A form of play and conversation is adding thoughts to a context. This is supremely easy to do with an iPad (and hand sanitizer) and not so much with a laptop. Consider an activity like adding contextual items to a collage (or trimming around them to create a gestalt) with Pic Collage.

3. Price. The newest iPads are relatively inexpensive at $329. There are also still many free and low-cost apps available.

4. Little Hands. Let's face it- it's still not easy for K-3 students at least to log into a Chromebook and handle a mouse. Feeling successful with a tap is more engaging than frustrating clicks and drags.

5. Interactivity and No-BS access. There are few rivals on the web to assets such as Toca Boca and their younger kiddo company, Sago Mini, the apps of which bring visuals and interactivity to countless world contexts, therefore opening the door to speech and language targets. Similarly, many web resources charge subscription fees for full access. By and large when you download an app (avoiding the ones with many in-app purchases), it's yours without more haggling. The integration of camera/photos and drawing/text tools in apps like Book Creator, among other easier-to-use creation tools, is also less seamless on a laptop.

In conclusion, I currently favor having the option of both a full web browser (e.g. laptop) and the iPad at my disposal! If you are interested in hearing about some more examples, be sure to register for SLP Summit (free) where I am presenting alongside some amazing people next week!

If you have more reasons the iPad is still relevant to you (or not), please let us know in the comments!

Monday, July 18, 2022

Presenting for SLP Summit Next Week (FREE!)

It is an honor to participate as a presenter for the SLP Summit this summer! Save the dates and join me for my live course on July 25! 

SLP Summit is a 4-day virtual event with 8 presentations from speakers who are in the trenches. We know you’re busy and need practical tips and strategies that you can implement the next day in therapy. Over the 4 days, we’ll be bringing you amazing SLPs who will be sharing their best tips and tricks covering highly requested topics! 

My session description: Narrative language comprehension and expressive skills have implications for academic and social success, and are particularly relevant to school-based practice. This workshop will model the targeting of comprehension and expression of stories through easy-to-use and engaging interactive technology resources. Interactive activities and the use of creation tools incorporating images, book creation, and animation can be aligned with research-based methodologies such as story grammar teaching and use of text structures. This session will review a selection of tech resources which can complement instruction in aspects of social communication such as conversational storytelling.

The best part? SLP Summit is a free event! Register now so you don’t miss out on these .8 CEUs. Register at

*Courses are free but there is an administrative fee of $24.99 if you would like Bright Ideas Media to submit the courses to ASHA on your behalf.

Trust us, you don’t want to miss out! But, you don’t have to take our word for it:


“The amount of work you and your teams do behind the scenes is unbelievable. For free???? It’s a testimony to your spirit and love for the profession.” - Nina


“Another great summit! Thank you, ladies!” - Shelley


“The best one [Summit] yet” - Sharon


“So much thanks to all involved in this SLP Summit, it made me so proud of our profession!” - Jill

Friday, June 24, 2022

Getting started with Minecraft

I described in a recent post coming to find some good uses for Minecraft with interested clients and groups. This previous post was about using Education Edition which not all have access to, so I wanted to make sure I described some applications for regular Minecraft. I first of all recommend getting started with the iPad edition, previously called Pocket Edition (there is also an Android tablet edition, both around $7 but then giving you everything you need). There is a lot to Minecraft that I don't even yet fathom but when you think of it as a digital LEGO set, that is a great place to start. Additionally one might add that there is evidence that involving LEGO in therapy improves communication and play skills, and these ideas can translate to Minecraft (I like good old LEGOs too). 

In this post I will briefly describe creating a world and getting started. This has been a great context in groups in the past weeks of simply deciding something to build, using visual supports to preview a "future picture" (see Sarah Ward/Kristen Jacobsen's work and just look up "make a simple ___ in Minecraft" on YouTube, e.g. a swimming pool). In the process group members work on fulfilling a group plan, adding thoughts and play moves in the app, and of course, flexibility and conversation. You can also use Minecraft in straightforward language stimulation activities as it could be used to foster description, concepts and following directions skills (you can even add signs in the world with text on them).

I keep it simple and do a play and pass situation with one iPad, but your kids could tell you there are ways to have people join a world from multiple devices. In our situation, mirroring the iPad to an Apple TV keeps everyone engaged when it isn't their turn. 

To get started, open the app and tap Play, and in the Worlds tab tap Create New. Name the world and change the game mode to Creative. Your students may balk and ask for Survival but I don't want them killing each other or being killed in the game. I wouldn't worry about all the settings but definitely scroll down and turn on Always Day so the screen doesn't maddeningly dim on you when it becomes "night" in your world. I learned that one the hard way. 

The arrows in the lower left allow you to move. Tap and drag your finger to "look around" and change your viewpoint. First step can be finding an open space to build something.

The diamond control on the right allows you to "fly" up or down as another navigation option. Note the bottom squares are your inventory of materials, and start out as empty. Tap the three dots to edit your inventory. 

Items with a + are actually a category of materials. Tap to expand e.g. the blocks. Find something you would like to add to the inventory, tap it, then a square at the bottom to add it.

From here, build! Change your view so you can see a target spot, tap to place a block. Make a mistake, long tap and that breaks (removes the block). It just takes a little practice. Maybe make yourself a summer retreat to start! 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

My appearance on Telepractice Today podcast

Some weeks ago, I had the terrific opportunity to talk with Kim Dutro Allen and K.Todd Houston at their excellent Telepractice Today podcast. Each week they bring in someone from the field to discuss telepractice and therapy in general with different themes and always some terrific tips. For example from the most recent episode, I learned from Kim an easy way to show YouTube videos full screen with no ads or suggested videos:

-Go to YouTube and locate/cue up the video you want to watch

-in the URL/address bar at the top of the browser, click between the t and the u of and insert a dash or hyphen as in and hit Return to go to that URL. 

A simple, amazing hack!

In my episode, we talk my history with technology and telepractice, chiefly about becoming an "emergency telepractioner" with the pandemic. It was a fun, entertaining conversation and I hope there are some good tips in there for you too. 

The episode can be found at the above link or wherever you find podcasts (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc)

Friday, June 10, 2022

SLAM Card resources for narrative language assessment

While supervising this semester at Boston University, I was informed about the resources available through the Leaders Project at Columbia University for narrative language sampling. The School Age Language Assessment Measures (SLAM) materials are a series of story cards and questions with rubrics that are all FREE. We used them for baseline assessments and I recently used them in an evaluation, and found they gathered helpful data in all cases. The page linked above provides links to all sets (in some cases just a 1-card resource) and guidelines for use. 

A few tech-related spins:

-Also linked above are BOOM! cards for each set which can be used in teletherapy or perhaps in person. 

-I have at times modified visual assessments such as these for a tech format, either for teletherapy or to reduce the amount of materials I am toting around. For example, I screenshot the Lost Cellphone cards and placed them onto a Keynote (can do the same with PowerPoint or Google Slides) slide to have a student click-drag to sequence and interact with the cards.

Friday, May 27, 2022


Nine years ago I had the opportunity to visit Sandy Hook and work with some educators along with Pamela Ely, the director of the Ely Center, LLC where I work, and Sheila and Maryellen Moreau of Mindwing Concepts. We talked for the day about supports in the area of social interaction and narrative language that might be helpful for the students trying to move on with their lives in the face of unspeakable events. I hoped that day that we might never have to grapple with such a horrible situation again, but here we are, and somewhat more depleted given the past few years.

Like you, I am sure, for me it is hard to find much to offer this week, but we can find strength in helping others.

A few ideas:

-Email someone offering a resource. This post, a PDF you have that has helped you, a journal article, whatever. Reaching out and helping is a tool.

-The Happiness Lab has a great episode on Languishing. I picked up a few ideas from it and this week taught a lesson based on one of the concepts discussed. You can listen to The Happiness Lab on Spotify or Apple/Google Podcasts.

-Newsela has a small kit related to the events in Uvalde. I used the piece on "Ways to stay calm when you're feeling stressed" with a group this week. 

-NYT has a robust resource list for talking and teaching about these events.

-Here's my self-care toolkit from this past winter.

Take care, folks.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Minecraft Education Edition

I have previously written about using contexts like Minecraft without getting into the thing itself. I've come around on this a bit and next time I'll talk about some simple uses of Minecraft (creative mode, I am still not interested in having kids kill each other in a game), but recently I discovered I CAN USE MINECRAFT EDU!

I had heard about Minecraft EDU for years but, not having an .edu email address, couldn't access it. I have been supervising at Boston University this semester and discovered my email address (plus having a Microsoft account at BU, so you need this too) was the key, as it probably is for many school-based clinicians reading this blog. MC EDU has many created "worlds" that are structured and relate to school topics, so are a nice place to start. 

So, if you have a .edu email, head first to MC EDU and sign in to create an account. From there, I find Minecraft most navigable on an iPad- simplified controls and such. For the EDU activities you'll need the free iPad app. Explore the worlds and see what you might like to use. They are not all amazing, but I highly recommend the very well-done world called The Mindful Knight. Through this activity I grabbed the attention of a student who I have struggled to help with practicing self-regulation strategies, and through several of the "quests" learned about the value of deep breaths and presence (e.g. Five Senses noting of things in the environment).

The deep breathing exercise is practiced by navigating the Knight to an elevator, with great visuals.

I apologize that this is still somewhat of a complicated resource to reach, with the necessity of the .edu address and MS account, but there's a work-around. Look on YouTube for "Mindful Knight Minecraft" and you'll find gameplay vids like this one that can make for good lessons, too!

Friday, May 13, 2022

Dino Tracker

Dino Tracker is a fictionalized interactive website that has been released as a promotion for Jurassic World Dominion, an upcoming film in the series. The premise of this film is that dinosaurs are no longer confined to Isla Nublar but living (and hunting) alongside humans. The purpose of the site is ostensibly to provide information to the public about "sightings" of various dinosaurs- the therapeutic potential in the site is scaffolding language around the locations (through a clickable Google-like map), the "descriptions" of the dinosaurs and cause-effect language of "Dos" and "Do Nots."

I was recently discussing with a colleague how high school students often have remaining difficulty with the geographic literacy aspects of continent-country-state or other division and how this connects to situational awareness and the ability to digest information about the world and current events. Browsing the world map provided could be an exciting (MS and HS students who can understand the artifice of the content) opportunity to review continents and some of the spatial strategies for recalling them, then moving down to more micro areas. The videos provided are a form of narrative and the "field report" expository text that can be mapped with graphic organizers, or used as a model to tell "same but different" creative item e.g. a report from another location.  Overall Dino Tracker represents how interactive websites designed for very different purposes can provide access to academic language- one strategy I like is to search for "interactive websites" and under tools set the time limit to the past month or week, you can find some gems.

Friday, May 6, 2022


LearnHip has some useful and simple activities designed for English language learners but also useful for speech and language therapy. It may be particularly useful as a warm-up or to make use of a short amount of extra time in a session. Some of the activities it includes: makers such as a scrambled sentence, reveal the picture and board game creator, conversation cards on a wide variety of themes (e.g. annoyances), and story cards and silly/engaging contexts such as describe the picture and what happens next (in the form of GIFs) "quizzes." Go Hip would be good to have in your bookmarks for classroom, group or teletherapy sessions for a variety of verbal expression objectives.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Simple visual engagement resources for youngsters

Whether doing tele- or in-person therapy, you should be aware of the cute, simple and useful resources of Dr.  Karen Fried at Oaklander training, such as the online sand tray and dollhouse interactive activities on the site (go to the tools and resources tab). There's apparently a whole approach to using these tools as psychological therapy with young children, but as a sort of stickerbook they have specific linguistic opportunities. Consider vocabulary, concepts, syntactic expansion, and storytelling!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

TinyTap Online

Tiny Tap was previously described here as a good mobile app resource for both making interactive activities and finding visual content for lessons. I recently noticed TinyTap has ported content online, so this would be playable on your laptop or in a classroom with projector or interactive whiteboard. This format for Tiny Tap makes it also a nice resource for telepractice. Sign in at TinyTap (click Connect) and you can favorite activities to create a resource list. The activities are geared toward language basics and topic exploration, many taking the form of an interactive book, and therefore are particularly good for developing vocabulary, categories, or foundational descriptive skills. This Desert-themed activity provides a good example, but see what else you can find on the site! I was able to access many activities for free, but TinyTap provides an educator sign-in.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Radio Garden

Flowing a bit from my last post (context is your friend), Google Experiment Radio Garden is worth a therapeutic visit. Your students will think it's just a chill moment, but secretly it can be a great way to practice having them call out:

-Continents and then countries
-Responses (conversation/comments) to what they hear
-Characterization of the language (nonverbal aspects such as tone etc) and type of music you may hear. Music genres are a category and can connect us with peers!

Why not pair this with looking up a current event from the country you "visit" for narrative/expository comprehension? 

Now more than ever, it's important to foster global awareness.

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day, here's my homeland:

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Globle can become a cooperative group game

I have been a longtime fan of maps as therapy tools. They promote spacial description skills, situational awareness and (literal) world knowledge, and can be used to link to narrative and expository language. 

Let's start with Wordle though. A huge fad, one this Jeopadevotee has used to shore up his skills with the anagram category that didn't appear in his game...yeah, I am still in some kind of transitional phase. Anyway, I am not sure it is such a great therapy tool unless it is paired with a visual support such as searching for words with various forms (see same but different below), but it kind of has a story. Here related in Story Grammar Marker® icons:

There have been many spin-offs of Wordle including one in IPA that SLPS would love, and Globle is one in which you guess the "country of the day." As mentioned above, for students working on building this knowledge, it's great to have a tab open for reference and research to help them make educated guesses. As I described to families of students I played with this week, "In a cooperative way we enjoyed an introduction to the game Globle, a variation on Wordle where we guess countries, get color coded clues back, and zero in on the day's target, therefore using thinking with the eyes, following the plan, and adding connected thoughts based on the info that we were receiving. The boys figured out Portugal quickly by building off each others' clues!"

Friday, February 4, 2022

Be Zen with Your Tabs

It seems as though everyone is starting to exhale and feel a bit of optimism again after a disruptive turn in the pandemic this January 2022. It seems a good time to take stock and continue to use our tools to keep ourselves productive and feeling purposeful!

One of my tricks is around windows and tabs- it's important to be mindful of how many you have open. First of all, having a huge array of applications, windows, and tabs within your browser open is overwhelming and isn't conducive to focus. Here's a great post on Zen Habits about this issue. Additionally, having all this stuff open is taxing on your computer's memory and even power, so you may find it moving more slowly. Take a few minutes a few times each day to close those tabs that are making your brain go all over the place, pulling your focus and/or causing you some anxiety. 

One strategy I like to do--it may sound counter to the above but is really an organizational/prep strategy, so, regulating-- is to set up upcoming sessions in a window or windows along with any resources I plan to use- whether it be a telepractice or in-person session, as I am currently doing both. For tele it is helpful to have the tab you will want to go to first be the active one, as in Zoom it will be the one visible for screen sharing.

For this session you can see the (1-1) student's Google Slides deck, with agenda and other activities like practice with the EET, reading comprehension practice we are doing with Into the Book, and a Newsela article we would work through with Story Grammar Marker®. Student done, close the window!

Stay Zen, folks!

Friday, January 21, 2022

At a Distance, Again

Well, besides the Jeopardescapade, this has been quite a crappy month for everyone. In Massachusetts, a huge surge in COVID infections after the holidays forced a lot of us to make changes again in how we are working with students. Schools have stayed pretty much as "new normal" here, with the exception of more testing and quicker on the draw to cancel school days for weather. Working in a private practice, we have made a shift to move as many sessions as possible into a temporary telepractice format for individuals and groups, while keeping in-person services for those that struggle to engage online (or are just over it). Of course we are taking extensive precautions: vaccine requirements, temp checks, health screens, powerful air filtration, double masking, distancing...

On that last one, I find technology to be a big help. We have an Apple TV (old ones work fine) with HDMI-ported TVs (just your basic TVs these days) in each clinic room. I have a Mac which can screen mirror to these, but if I didn't, an HDMI cable would do. The Mac just gives me more mobility. The use of a screen (like you would a board/projector in a classroom) can keep engagement up visually and can prompt session structure and communication from students in a variety of ways, while maintaining distance within the room. It can help also to reduce or eliminate shared "touched" materials, and though these really aren't the problem with an aerosol-spread virus, it's a step that can't hurt and can be reassuring to families. Here are a few examples:

-Use Jamboard activities that are game/play-like and prompt discussion and collaboration. I have mentioned Julia Dweck's collection and this week used the Traffic Jam game.

-Activities students can participate in actively via their smartphones. You can make a worksheet/thinksheet into a google form and email to them, or shorten the link with Kahoot is almost always a draw, whether you choose from topics of interest or social/language based games. Jackbox Games are worth an investment, and often on sale- these are joined by phone.

-Have a discussion and document the language in a simple Google slide like a flipchart. I guarantee they'll want to correct your typing, which means they are paying attention. Insert images! SlidesCarnival has good templates for free if you want to jazz it up visually.

-Anything visual that prompts discussion- consider infographics on topics of interest or something related to holidays or current events. With Chinese New Year coming up there are a variety of websites and graphics that describe the personality traits of the various animals/years. Great to connect to and have students self-reflect on how they might be same or different.

-Books that are visual with limited text. This week I used Jon Klassen's darkly humorous I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat on YouTube. You read 'em, sound muted, pause at will- there is plenty to discuss with some facial expression interpretation.

Saturday, January 15, 2022


Sorry I have been quiet here a few weeks, but I've been just largely managing myself in the excitement and other emotions around my Jeopardy! episode airing on January 7. I appreciate the shoutouts from people who watched and the discussions in some Facebook groups.

I'll say also from an SLP perspective, it has made a good personal narrative model to share with my clients!

I thought I would share a few photos here, and later--this blog won't become a blog about Jeopardy but one more post--an entry about how tech helped me to prepare, if I was prepared, haha. 

If you didn't see the episode and would like to, you can email me and I might be able to slide you a link...

Some notes I shared on Facebook I thought would be appropriate to share here too:

LONNNG POST. 21st Century Nonfiction, let’s call it. So I first want to thank you again all for the excitement and engagement around My Nerdy Life Event. Your positive and congratulatory messages and comments have kept me ebullient through what has been a thrilling time. 

Having been on Jeopardy is truly a gift, and I am so grateful for that too. I wish I could share my joy at first sitting down in front of that beautiful, gleaming stage, with the “stars” twinkling above it and the board. Especially after our long briefing at the dismantled, underwhelming-looking “Wheel of Fortune” stage. It was just gorgeous and I knew I would be on it soon.

I’ll confess I left that stage not feeling so great about the game, a feeling that persisted over these last long two months, having taped at the beginning of November, and which has improved greatly now that I’ve seen it and given your incredible response. It was tough, being encouraged when Matt Amodio lost and arriving and discovering Amy, someone maybe even stronger, was on a streak. Nope, we don’t get told that in advance or get the opportunity to opt out, lol. Waiting all day to play wasn’t exactly an advantage either- they say watching a winner like her win is kind of demoralizing and indeed it was. The contestant coordinator drew Patsy and me for the 5th game and I think could see it on our faces, ‘cause she took us aside and said multiple times “NO ONE IS UNBEATABLE” lol.

But I’d rather have lost to Amy Schneider than I think anyone else. She’s historic in so many ways and I’m really happy to be part of LGBTQIA and especially trans history. She’s a marvel- and I’ll add, a cool person from all our interactions across the day. Having seen the game now, I’m at peace with all of it.

My feelings at the end of the game led me to initially give a “maybe” when Terry (Thursday’s game) tried to gather us all for drinks afterward. I had a sense of the game being worse than it actually was. But I went to my rental car, called Chris, gained some perspective, and went to hang for a bit. One of the best decisions I ever made, because this formed a vital support group that has helped us all as we waited the seemingly interminable time before our games…Amy’s first appearance coming a while into that! Love to my Jeopardy! FB messenger thread, one of the great prizes given me by this experience. Glad we have been there for each other in sharing this definitely unique experience. 

And to Chris and friends and family who big time helped me through what was a bit like a K├╝bler-Ross process. I had to wait over two months between taping and airing. Acceptance- I got on, I know that’s a big thing, and I pushed through some anxiety and did my best. And hearing from so many of you that building up to it and watching it meant something to you has been hugely gratifying.

So, a couple comments on this game:

I really didn’t remember much. I appreciate so many of the comments from you all that I looked calm and collected but I really was very very nervous. Hence the moving around quite a bit. I was on a small elevated step to even out our heights and I was surprised watching it that I didn’t fall off!

Amy obviously is a machine. Patsy is a blast, and she played with great composure. I am proud to have been up there with Patsy. She has become a friend as well- she had to take off after the game and get herself back to school, but knowing my way around a school website I tracked her down afterward via email and she became part of our FB group. Yesterday when watching the game I FaceTimed her in and everyone gave her a well-deserved cheer. 

Particularly in the first Jeopardy round where I felt more comfortable with the categories, I could see watching it that I was REALLY trying to buzz in on many clues, and this was so reassuring. As many have acknowledged it’s all about the buzzer timing and Amy had 27 games to get very good at that. It seemed I got better at it by Double as I had enough firsts to get in the Daily Doubles and a few other correct responses. There were a number of clues I responded to correctly that I didn't remember at all. The "Fog of Jeopardy" is real.

The DDs I’m told were where I made the funniest faces. I actually rolled my eyes when I found the first one. I believe I was scared of the math. Went as hard as I could on the first one. Common is on my radar- mostly I remember him introducing Hamilton on the Tony’s. The clue, tho it should have cued me into him regardless with the “sense” reference, just didn’t click with me. It felt like forever before I timed out- that “beep beep beep” is added in post-production, by the way. I found the other DD shortly after and with the first one not going well, and the way the DD explodes onto the stage kind of startlingly, I actually blurted out a completely involuntary and limbic “OH S&%T.” They did a good job editing that after I alerted Jimmy Clue Crew, now a floor producer, that I said a swear word. That weird bet was entirely about avoiding going to 0 or being in the red and missing Final Jeopardy. I think I thought Final was more imminent than it actually was, haha. In any case you could see Lady Bird came in my mind quickly- thanks to a number of trips to Austin!

Sorry, my fellow gays, about Cher. I love Cher as much as the next person but I really didn’t know that song. Yes, “turn back time” should have cued me but it’s hard to process everything. I was MUCH happier watching this game and seeing that I answered more than I recalled, anyway. Picking categories was something I should have practiced more. I actually sort of stumbled over a word in the category name on one pick but I was glad my timing was brisk- I always get annoyed when contestants don’t pick quickly but I can certainly see why that happens. 

I’m glad the way the story came out in the interview. I’ll share some stuff about prep another time but I had the opportunity to pick the topic and that was an interesting enough one in which I had the chance to honor Chris (though I forgot to say his name), and be Out naturalistically and I wanted to represent, not knowing in advance that I'd be up there with another LGBTQIA

Final. People have asked me in not so many words what the hell I was thinking and the answer is: not much. Lol. I felt confident with 20th Century Nonfiction. Books and Lit are really in my wheelhouse. I just kinda thought I wanted my score to be as high as possible so I went for that, not really caring about 2nd vs 3rd place, to be honest. The money difference after taxes (1000 vs 2000) is not really a huge deal. I had never heard of Thor Heyerdahl in my life. Hemingway (many have reached out to say they guessed the same, thanks) was really the only author I associated w Europe tho pretty much off in period and genre. Hence the additional faces, which I’m glad people enjoyed. 

Obviously historic yet again with Amy passing $1M in this game. Ken screwed up something in her final response and wager reveal so we had to tape this whole sequence again! Don’t ever say I can’t act a little, I guess! Haha. 

The chat over the credit sequence is something filmed in each game. We had actually had somewhat of a long break in our game where we all chatted with the contestant coordinators (I’m not sure why) and Amy, Patsy and I talked about traveling in Scotland and Ireland. I was a little shell shocked in the final conversation haha but again, it didn’t come out too badly. Jeopardy sometimes releases these so you can hear the convo and did here:

Thanks again for all the interest and support.