Thursday, February 21, 2013

App Review: Social Skill Builder

Over the past month I've had the opportunity to use Social Skill Builder's App!  Both the Full and Lite versions are compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad (iOS 4.3 or later).  I had previously used the Lite version but was provided the Full version for the purpose of this review.

According to Social Skill Builder, this app was designed by SLPs.  It utilizes real life video interactions to promote social learning for kids with Autism spectrum disorders and other learning or language deficits.  The App is based on Social Skill Builder’s award-winning educational software series that teach social skills in pre-school to middle and high school settings, as well as the community.  The Social Skill Builder App is $12.99 and the Social Skill Builder Lite is $2.99 plus additional modules available for purchase at $1.99 each.

(Some of my students working with the app in a therapy setting) 

The Full App features over 100 videos for the student to view and react to by answering multiple choice questions. Video scenarios are real interactions in preschool, elementary, middle and high school and community settings. Within these settings, children and young adults demonstrate common social interactions with their peers and other adults. The included modules are: 
  • 2 Modules in the title Preschool Playtime (Preschool and Playground)
  • 4 Modules in the title My School Day (Laughing, Table Talk, Classroom, Jungle Gym)
  • 2 Modules in the title My Community (Friend’s House, Restaurant)
  • 2 Modules in the title School Rules! (Hanging Out, Classroom Assignments)

The Social Skill Builder Lite App includes over 40 videos (one module of each title), with additional modules available for in-app purchase at $1.99 each. This allows the user to target specific areas, and save money by not purchasing modules they do not need. (e.g. if you are working with a preschooler, you would not need the modules that target middle school or high school students.)

  • 1 Module in the title Preschool Playtime (Playground)
  • 1 Module in the title My School Day (Laughing)
  • 1 Module in the title My Community (Friend's House)
  • 1 Module in the title School Rules! (Hanging Out)
Overall, I must say that we enjoy using this app.  There are so many videos for students to view and work from.  Typically, when working on social skills, we use verbal situations/scenarios.  Using videos is a great way to promote understanding of nonverbal and situational clues.  Facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, and more are not something you can include in a given verbal situation/scenario.
Here are examples of the videos: 

So, let's break it down, list-style:

Pros of Social Skills Builder App:
  • Use with several types of clients: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury, Down Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, Other Learning and Language Deficits
  • Videos - Far exceed cartoon or verbal situations for many social skills.
  • Questions - Each video/photo includes wh-questions that follow.  Many of these have multiple answers that must be selected to continue.
  • Audio - Most videos include spoken lines.  Also, ALL questions and answer choices are read.  This is great for non-readers.
  • Areas covered: Social Thinking, Language, Behavior critical to everyday social situations., Friendship/Life Skills, Understanding Emotions, Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Perspective taking
  • Reinforcer - Short animated cartoons/graphics follows each correct answer set.  These were my students' favorite part.  They often imitated the movement of the animal/person!
  • Pause after Question - The app does not continue automatically after the correct/incorrect response.  This allows for follow-up instruction, discussion, etc.
  • Seemingly unlimited amount of players that can be added.
  • Simple, uncomplicated platform and method of use.  The screen is uncluttered and straightforward.
  • Uses the common terminology of "expected/unexpected behaviors".
  • The app states the amount correct at the end of each module for easy tracking.

Improvements that could be made to Social Skills Builder App:
  • Videos - Some are a bit outdated or have elements/situations that may not apply to ALL schools.
  • I would like to see the ability to make a "group" from separate players.  I added groups by adding a new "player" with the group name and the students took turns.
  • I would like to see improvements to the audio from the questions and overall app appearance.
  • I would like to see the ability to store the scores from sessions for students/groups.  As it is now, you cannot see which modules you have completed or the scores from those.  It would be VERY helpful to have this data within the app.
  • I found the preschool modules to be basic and only asked the child to identify the "expected" behavior.  No other types of questions were included for that age.
  • I would like to see some more social relationship modules.  This area is included in the modules but I would love some peer relationship only modules.
  • More modules - Although there are several modules per area, I would like to see modules added to this app for more practice.  Particularly in the community and upper elementary/middle school areas.  

Overall, as I've said, I see a lot of value in this app.  The videos, questions, targeted goals, and overall use of this app are very applicable to the therapy setting.  If you have a large caseload or classroom of students working on these skills, I would recommend looking into this app to see if it is right for you.  If you work with a specific age group, the Lite version may be more appropriate than the Full version.
Free demos of the Social Skill Builder App and all of the software titles are available on their website.

2 of you will have the opportunity to have these apps for FREE by entering the drawing below.  Also up for grabs are 20% off coupons for Social Skill Builder software titles.  These 7 prizes will be drawn on March 1st!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tangled Tuesday: Pizza Pizzaz

We've been cooking up great language skills this month with Major Speech Pathology Fun by a Minor Girl's Pizza Pizzaz Activity.  It targets so many goals and is very motivating to the kiddos.

You will need to cut out the "ingredients" and pizza doughs.  Spending a little extra time cutting out the ingredients will make for a more realistic looking pizza!  Each student receives a pizza dough and begins to assemble it, ingredient by ingredient, until they have each ingredient on their pizza.  This led to many "Italian"-ish accents from the kids.

The included targets in this 48 page, 160+ card set are:
~Compare/Contrast with realistic clipart pictures
This activity is great for those students that are in the beginning stages of this skill and require picture references to be successful.  It is also a great visual to have on hand if you are still in the instructional phase.

~Inferencing/Making Predictions
This is one of my favorite parts of this activity.  It's GREAT for my kiddos working on Pragmatic Language skills and problem solving.  The topics covered are realistic and some are new to students which requires even more inferencing.

~Describing Events
Another great one for Pragmatics, expressive language, etc.  For those students working on "feelings" and point of view this is a great portion.

~Telling why situations should not occur
This activity has many situations that should not occur and provides great practice for social language. It is great for reasoning, expressive language, and more.

~Quick Question Characteristics with Realistic clipart pictures
This is a great beginner task.  The visuals included really help lower students to answer the "wh" questions by referring to the pictures.  I like to expand the activity to asking a similar question about the picture that was not chosen (e.g. the above picture "The racquet does have strings.  What does the taxi have?"

~Quick Question Characteristics - Open-ended
The best part of this activity is that there are multiple answers for most, if not every, card.  To expand, I ask the student to tell me two things that could be answers to each question.

~ Choose the Correct Response with Multiple Choices
Another great beginner task for those working on Social Language skills!  It's also good for taking the point of view of others by saying "How would that person feel if you said _____" by using the wrong option.

We had a great time making pizzas:

I loved the variety of targets and the flexibility of the activities.  Most of them were easily expanded upon.

I was able to use this activity for SEVERAL groups and all ages of elementary students.  Even my 4th graders had a great time making "pizza pizza".

Overall, this activity is a great addition to any speech room.  You will be able to target several different skills with this material.  The pizza reinforcers alone can be used with any other activity/task!  Head over to the item on TeachersPayTeachers to find out more and purchase for $7.00.

Major Speech Pathology Fun by a Minor Girl can be found on her blog and Facebook!  

Amy reviewed my Reacting Robots activity as part of our Tangled Tuesday.  Check it out on her blog, grab Reacting Robots in my TpT store and.... grab this FREE Reacting Robots Matching Game as a thank you for checking out this post!  ENJOY!

Thanks to Amy for getting TANGLED with Sublime Speech today!  Such a blast!  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Freebie: Hedgehog Grammar Unit

This weekend I spent some time on the couch with a wicked cold.  So, I multi-tasked and finished up a Hedgehog Grammar Unit that I have been working on.  It's a VERY extensive pack with 447 content cards, 31 special cards, 13 worksheets, 1 set of blank cards, 10 game play mats, 1 open-ended board game, and instruction sheets.  The full pack contains multiple activities targeting Pronouns, Regular Plural Nouns, Irregular Plural Nouns, Regular Past Tense Verbs, and Irregular Past Tense Verbs.  The board game included can be used with any activity! 

I wanted to offer a portion of that unit for free as part of the Speechie Freebies collaborative blog!  What you will receive in this freebie is part of the Regular Past Tense Verbs section.  There are 28 content cards, 2 special cards (that can be duplicated), 1 worksheet, and instruction card.

So, head on over to my TpT Store and grab this freebie!  Feel free to check out the big ol' pack too!

Thanks for following Sublime Speech!  Make sure you follow on Facebook as well for updates on sales, FREEBIES, contests, activities, blog posts, and more!

Have a GREAT week!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Swap-N-Blog: Live Love Speech's Articulation and Attributes Superheros

TGIF!  The long weekend is finally here!  It's been a super-long week of conferences and WILD sugared-up children.  Having great go-to activities during those weeks is always a must!

Speaking of "Super" ... I have had the great opportunity to try out Live Love Speech's Articulation and Attributes Superheros for /th/ and /s/ this week (she also offers a /r/ set that I do not have yet).  
It has quickly become the favorite activity of my lower elementary students.

In this game, students draw an articulation card from a pile (48-96 cards included in the sets) as well as a shield card that has a number on it.  They then name the specified number of attributes for their artic word according to the number on the card they chose.  You can also choose to include the "wild" cards which include extra turns and lost cards. You can challenge students by having them formulate sentences using the targeted word and at least one of the attributes they named.

I found this activity to be excellent for my younger elementary students.  We busted it out with some of my 2nd grade /th/ and /s/ students.  The first time we used it, we stayed specific to one sound.  The second time... we got all sorts of crazy and MIXED the decks.  Now, if you have any kids that have difficulties with BOTH /s/ and /th/ you know that carry-over is very hard for them because they get the two sounds confused after therapy.  So, mixing the two decks provides amazing carry-over practice.  

Here are some shots of my speech room during /th/ deck day:
We loved having the handy "Attributes" cards to remind us of what attributes we could list.

 Listing attributes is great language therapy, even for speech-only students!

Adorable graphics and a plethora of expansions and challenges possible.

Some great pros to this activity are:
* Easy to use activities with optional expansions.
*Familiar target words.
*Perfect for carry-over because students will use the target word multiple times while describing attributes.
*Allows language therapy during articulation therapy for students qualifying for both services... or for students that did not qualify for language but may need some additional language support.
* Wild cards add a competitive aspect to the game that we loved.
*Adorable and exciting clip art.

Some other activities that are possible with this deck:
Go Fish or Matching - Trying to match the clipart characters in a game of go fish or a matching game.
ANY board game with spinner or dice - Take a card and roll the dice/spin the spinner for your turn.  State that number of attributes from the spin/die and continue play.

The only thing I'd love to have with this would be wild cards that match the size of the shield # cards so they can be mixed into the deck or spread out on the table for game play.  However the included wild cards can be cut down to this size if you'd like to have that option.

My kids all LOVED this activity and request it specifically   I found that all students enjoyed it but that my K-2nd graders were the most impressed by it!  One student even said, "Superheros make everything more super-er".  Now, if that isn't a positive review, I don't know what is!

This product is one of many products by one of my absolute favorite SLP bloggin' buddies, Kristine.  Kristine is an elementary school-based SLP.  This material can be found on her TpT store.  
Also, check out her Facebook page and blog!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

SLPs & Common Core State Standards: Fitting it All Together

Across the country, states are adopting the Common Core State Standards and Speech-Language Pathologists are trying to find where they fit in and what their role will be in implementing the CCSS.  It can be a very confusing journey with information still sporadic and resources being even harder to find.  We are often left with unanswered questions.

Missouri, the state that I currently work and live in, only recently adopted the CCSS (called Missouri Core Academic Standards) and we are beginning to see what changes it will bring.  Now, to be fair, there are individuals on both sides of the argument about the appropriateness of the CCSS, and other issues.  This post is not intended to be for or against the CCSS, but rather to inform SLPs of the impact it may have on their practice and some current resources available to them.

ASHA has been on top of this issue and has published several ASHA Leader Articles that provide several good pieces of information.  "Core Commitment", published in April 2012, details what CCSS are and how they impact students with disabilities.  Some key pieces of information from this article were:
  • The domain of English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical subjects is particularly reliant on a student's communication competence - the main focus of SLPs' work.
  • The CCSS are intended to serve as academic content standards for all students, including those with IEPs.
  • It is the primary responsibility of the teacher, not the SLP, to teach the standards.  But a critical role of the SLP with CCSS is supporting curriculum mastery and areas that CCSS implementation directly relates to their expertise in Language.
  • Clinicians can help students develop, access, or use skills and strategies necessary to learn the curriculum.
  • CCSS are designed to be implemented by general education teachers but the CCSS also recognize that attainment of the standards requires shared responsibility among educators.
  • No single model is recommended universally for collaborative partnerships; the most effective partnerships are generally those that are "locally grown" by teachers and SLPs.
A second article from ASHA, "Integrating the Core", published in August 2012, goes more in depth with specific roles of the SLP with CCSS.  A few key points were:
  • Educators and School Administrators may not recognize that the CCSS, academic outcomes, statewide achievement test scores, and annual yearly progress scores relate directly to school speech-language service delivery which may result in the perception that SLPs focus only on "correcting" speech and language skills that are impaired.
  • There is no better time than now to help educators, parents, and others understand the foundational underpinnings of language and literacy and the value SLPs can bring through intervention and collaboration with teachers (regular and special education).
  • One step SLPs can take is to obtain a summary of the progression of expectations for the content areas from grade to grade, and then determine the communication skills that would be required for meeting that expectation.
  • SLPs use either a standards-referenced approach (SLP and team develop the goals and then identify the standard that best matches that goal) or a standards-based approach (the standard serves as the starting point for generating the goals and objectives) to develop relevant goals and activities.
  • For students with severe disabilities, it is suggested that teams establish differentiated responses to enable students to meet curricular goals during standards-based learning activities.
  • Newly aligned assessments will be implemented in the next several years and are being developed to provide instructional, curricular, and assessment guidance and support.
  • 6 Principals can guide SLPs' efforts to integrate the CCSS in school-based programs:
    • Focus on Student Outcomes
    • Ensure Educational Relevance - the CCSS are interrelated and should not be taught in isolation.
    • Establish Distinct but Complementary Roles - work collaboratively to provide multiple types and levels of supports to students.  Focus on supporting the success of students and preparing them to access the curriculum, communicate to learn, and achieve academic goals.
    • Tools - use grade-level indicators to serve as checkpoints and help monitor progress.  You may use standards of a lower grade to ensure access to academic instruction at their level.
    • Address the Continuum of Need - The amount and type of services, as well as the location and provider of those services, should be matched to each student's ability and disability.
    • Focus on Academic Standards Does Not Preclude Functional Skill Instruction - students with severe disabilities should have access to standards-based curriculum and continue to receive support with functional skill instruction.
I encourage you to take a little time to read the articles in their entirety.  The have case studies and practical information that can be used/adapted in your schools.

After you have a bit of information about the CCSS and SLPs, it will most likely be time to figure out what that looks like in your school/districts.  Some districts are deciding what this will look like for their SLPs and others are allowing each SLP to use the CCSS as they see fit.  There are a few easy steps you can take to begin adapting your therapy and paperwork to more closely align with the CCSS.

Choosing Goals
  • When writing goals, state within/below the goal which standard(s) it supports.
  • Look to the standards for which areas of language a student will need as a foundational skill to access the standards-based curriculum.  A great SLP resource for this is Speech Peeps' (Nicole Allison) Common Core Standards Supporting IEP Goals for English Language Arts resource.  I have utilized this document for all of my IEPs since purchasing it!  It is available in K-5 as well as 6-12.
  •   Collaborating with staff can be a great way to support student success with the CCSS.  Each school is different but some ideas for collaboration are:
    • Providing small group assistance within the classroom.
    • Teaching a foundational skill lesson prior to the teaching of the main lesson.
    • Work with teachers to identify a student's strengths and weaknesses using work samples.  Suggest interventions if appropriate.
  • Collaborating with SLPs across your district can provide a great way to streamline CCSS paperwork, expectations, etc.  Consider meeting with your fellow SLPs to look at how you would like to see your district implement the CCSS in the area of speech and language.
  • Collaborating with your administrators can help facilitate communication and a clearer understanding of the expertise you bring to the table.  Consider sitting down with your administrator(s) and discussing your role within your school and standards-based curriculum.  This is also a good time to discuss any current RtI structures in place that would be impacted by language.
  • Assessments in the area of speech and language do not currently align with the CCSS.  To compensate for this, SLPs across the country have begun creating documents to better assess a student's abilities on meeting standards and accessing curriculum: 
    • Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has published and shared their Rating Scales for Oral Language Skills across grade levels.  This resource is a great starting point for creating a document for your school/district.
    • CoreStand has a lot of great resources and information (much of it for free) that can be used in developing assessments and progress monitoring.
    • Dr. Susan Floyd has been developing assessments and screeners aligned to the CCSS for communication.  According to the website, they are set to launch some of these this year.  A free handout is available which can also be used to tailor your own school documents.
Other resources available for creation of therapy materials, assessments, progress monitoring, etc:

I'd love to hear what your school/district is asking you to do to align to the CCSS.  Have you come across any additional resources that have been helpful to you in this endeavor?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Games" and Speech/Language Therapy

“Man, it must be such a blast to be a Speech Teacher.  I mean, all you do is play games all day right?”

How often have you resisted the urge to “school” somebody who says something this misinformed?  We’ve been having our annual observations by administrators and I’m constantly concerned that they might observe a session where I utilize a mainstream game (aka non-therapy product) to target IEP goals.  You see, by the time they reach upper elementary most kids have played the “therapy games” 153 times and are positively SICK of them!  And, to be honest, I’m sick of them too!

I began compiling games for therapy when I took my current position.  Prior to this, I worked with nonverbal students, Early Childhood, etc.  I get most of my games for SUPER cheap at thrift stores.  I frequent those on Saturdays while I run errands.  Some of my games were even the ones I had as a child… free is best right?  I’ve found that sometimes teachers who have kids will have some of the games I’m on the hunt for and don’t have any problem loaning/donating them to your room.

I wanted to share with you some of the games I use and what I use them to target:

Oodles of Doodles – In this game students are given a category in which there are objects/people/events, etc.  When it is their turn, they draw the items on their card on a board with dry erase markers.  Their team/partner attempts to guess what they are drawing.  This game targets expressive language in a different way.  Instead of naming shapes, colors, sizes, function, etc. of an object… they must draw it to get the partner to accurately guess it.  It also reinforces categorization skills and expressive language task of naming objects/events.  Sometimes I allow them to use different color dry erase markers to reinforce color attributes.  Keep in mind that you may need to adjust which cards are available to draw from because some are too difficult for younger children.

Blurt – This game targets the expressive task of naming vocabulary and word-retrieval.  This is one of my favorite games for 3rd grade and above.  Each card has a “riddle” of sorts on it which describes an object, etc.  I am usually the reader and give this clue.  The first kid to “blurt” the answer moves ahead.  There are several ways to vary this game for differing levels.  Again, keep in mind that you may need to “throw out” harder cards.  There are differing levels for this game and it would be appropriate for middle/high school as well!

Headbanz– A speech room classic.  If you don’t have this in your speech room please go get in your car, drive to the nearest Target/Wal-Mart and purchase it!  This is my go-to for younger (well, even older kids love it) students to work on ASKING questions.  I give them prompts and help them as needed.  This also works on students who need work on answering questions.  Students place a card on their head without looking at it and begin asking WH questions to narrow down what they might be (What color am I? Where would you find me?).  The only con is that sometimes the illustration keeps kids from accurately answering certain questions (color, etc.).  A simple “Yes, that’s the color of it on the picture but what can it be in REAL life” helps to change that!  Pro is that this is EXTREMELY motivating… they find it hilarious!

TriBond Kids/Jr. – Occasionally we will pull out this game with my older students as it is pretty challenging.  Students are given 3 things/names/places and asked what they have in common.  It’s great for students working on categorization and vocabulary skills but again, can be pretty difficult.  Be prepared to modify the game to your needs.

Taboo Junior/For Kids – This is one of my favorite games for therapy.  It works on SO many things!  If you’ve played the adult Taboo… this is just the junior version.  Students draw a card with a word at the top that they must get their team to guess… without using the words listed below!  It’s very tough for expressive language kiddos to do this without prompting at first.  Here are some things we’ve discovered Taboo works on: Synonyms, antonyms, functions, shape, size, color, location, vocabulary, and so much more!  For receptive vocabulary it can also be great for identifying the word given through the clues.  There is very little I have to do to adapt this for therapy.  You do need to have readers but typically this game is successful with my 3rd graders and above.

Outburst Junior – Another great one for naming things within a category.  Students are given a category and race against the clock to name as many things in that category as they can.  Their opponents can steal unsaid things at the end!  While the most recent version of this game would be best, I have a 1989 version that is nearly 25 years old.  I have to throw out some cards that are no longer relevant to my kids but other categories never change!

Cariboo– When I found this at a thrift store for 75 cents I nearly died!  It can go for so much more than that on Amazon/Ebay!  I usually use it for a simple reinforcer game but it can be used for identifying colors, numbers, and shapes for Early Childhood kiddos.  You can also easily adapt the cards on it with artic/language cards.  Kids unlock squares to find hidden bouncy balls which are placed in a chute to open the treasure box. (Cariboo Island is a little easier to find and has a similar game structure)

Password Jr. – This game is one I typically use with expressive language kiddos.  It can also be used for artic carry-over etc.  Students try to get their teammate to say the “password” by describing it in only a few words. (Baby: A small human)  I also created a “Secret Word” game that is very similar to Password and will work with the decoders provided in the game (I’ve put it on sale for only $1 until 2/8/13!).  It targets CCSS vocabulary.  Pros – great for describing terms.  Cons – students need to be readers unless you can whisper the word quietly enough which is surprisingly hard to do!

Jenga/Jumbling Towers/Tumbling Towers – This is my most-requested game.  I mainly use it for articulation as seen in this post.  I write artic words on both sides of the blocks and when students pull that block they say the word or put it in a sentence before placing it at the top.  Great for groups, speech centers, RtI, etc!  You can typically get 50+ words/blocks before it falls.  You can increase words said by having them say the words that are on each side of the block on each turn.  I also have them say all of the words on the blocks as we put them back in the box.  This gives me another 50+ words at the end of a session.  Sometimes it’s difficult for my lower kids to understand that they can’t pull certain blocks or the whole thing will fall on the 3rd turn of the game so you may need to prompt them.  I’ve also thought about putting CCSS vocabulary on the blocks for each grade…

Many SLPs have made companions to some of the other games I have.  I use my companion Sorry Synonyms & Apologetic Antonyms with my SORRY! game.  Several SLPs have cards for artic that can be used with Cariboo, Candyland, etc.  But, some of my games (Trouble, Connect 4, Blokus, etc.) are for reinforcement/reward only.  They are games that kids can take turns independently with while I work with the other student in the room.

So the next time somebody says, “Man, it must be such a blast to be a Speech Teacher.  I mean, all you do is play games all day right?” You can say, “Actually the kids think they are playing games but they are really increasing their overall language and articulation skills.  But, yes, it IS such a blast to be a Speech-Language Pathologist!”!

So, what “mainstream” games are in your speech rooms and how do you use them?
(I will pick a random comment to win 1 free item from my TpT Store!)