Words, Pictures, Sentences, or All of the Above on Articulation Cards?

Picture of 3 cards with a picture of a coin; 1 with no label, 1 with the word "coin", and 1 with "coin" in a sentence.
I need to preface this post by saying this is completely my preference. To each his own when it comes to what we prefer in our therapy rooms! When it comes to articulation therapy, what do you prefer: words, pictures, or all of the above on your articulation cards?

A Feeling of Independence

Personally, I prefer the picture with a word. I've used Super Duper's cards for most of my career, at least since the company is been in existence. I appreciate the target sound being in red ink. I use that to talk about where in the word the target is. An added plus is that it helps the student with their reading. We will tap out the word like they learned in the classroom to determine which position their sound is. With the /r/, we look at the letter before the 'r' to determine if they should anchor their tongues for a beautiful vocalic /r/.  For homework with the older students, many times I will have them write the words they didn't produce correctly and take that home for homework. When the word is on the card they can copy it onto the homework sheet. This gives them a bit of a feeling of independence and doesn't make them feel less than adequate because I don't have to spell the word for them.

Avoiding "Robot Speech"

Once the student is on the sentence level, I don't want dependence on a written sentence. I want spontaneous responses in the student's own voice. I use Smarty Ears Articulate It! with my Quick Speech students. When they are on the sentence level I don't change the level; I want them to make up the sentence. If the student is not a fluent reader, having the written sentence under the picture may hinder the sentence being spontaneous. Likewise, if the student is a non-reader, there may also be some difficulty with being able to repeat sentences. I tell the student to say the sentence "like it's one big long word" to avoid "robot speech".

When a younger student first begins on the sentence level, I will say, "Tell me something about a _____." If the target word isn't used, then I will model their sentence and insert the target word. It usually only takes a couple of trials for the concept to be understood. Then if the word is left out of the sentence I will say, "I didn't hear _____" and the sentence is produced using the target. This is how I've done it for years and it works for me.

Where Repeating Sentences Appears

After the student is proficient at making up his own sentences I will throw in having him repeat sentences after me. This works especially well with my /r/ students. I have a book that I had to buy for undergrad that has sentences for every sound and every combination of sounds. The /r/ section includes sentences with multiple /r/ and /w/ sounds within a sentence. Once they are proficient with those I know we can almost say the sound is mastered.

I have friends who will begin the sentence level by generating the sentences for them at first; that's what works for them. Just to test this out, I had a student say his own sentences during Quick Speech. When he said his own sentences he averaged just above 90% accuracy. When I used the sentences provided by Smarty Ears, it dropped to around 75% accuracy.

As I said: To each his own! It's not that one is right and one is not right, it's what works best for us. Which is your preference: words, pictures, sentences, or all of the above on articulation cards?
Pinterest Pin with purple background & 3 articulation cards with the words "What's your preference for artic cards?" under. Title of blog post is in white on a framed green chalkboard background under the purple.
  • Get a full run-down on the steps I use during articulation therapy in this post.
  • Mommy Speech Therapy explains her process in this blog post.
  • Caroline Bowen explains Traditional Therapy in this article; she includes a slideshow for further demonstration.
  • Speech and Language Kids provides suggestions for choosing the appropriate speech therapy process here.

Decisions, Decisions: Dot Day or Pirate Day?

Pictures of the book covers

Oh, decisions, decisions. Which to concentrate on during therapy in September: Dot Day or Pirate Day? Here's the dilemma: International Dot Day is 15 September and International Talk Like a Pirate Day is 19 September. See what I'm talking about? They are only 4 days apart.

What is this "Dot Day"?

The art teacher at one of my schools brought attention to Dot Day a couple of years ago. (Dot Day started in 2009.) I made a quick game and a homework sheet and that was it. I decided to expand the activities by making a book companion to the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.  This is a sweet book about a little girl who doesn't think she can draw. A teacher encourages her by taking the paper that she jabbed the marker on and told her to sign it. When the little girl sees the paper in a frame over her desk, the little girl is determined. She makes dots; a lot of dots. At the school art show, she showcases her dots. A little boy gives her a compliment and then says he can't draw a straight line with a ruler. (That's exactly what I tell people!) She gives him a piece of paper and has him draw a line...then tells him to sign it.

This book companion consists of comprehension questions (with a choice of 2 pictures to use as cues if needed), yes/no questions, sequencing (with the option to have the child take a black-line copy home for retelling), categories (round or not round), negation, unscramble sentences, 2 sheets for describing, an open-ended game, and homework.
2 piles of cards (1 yes/no and 1 "wh"?) on a table
Comprehension questions. The yes/no questions correspond with the 'wh' questions.

Colored Mandala on paper with pictures, list of words,  and instructions
This is an example of the homework sheet for later developing sounds (although I included /k,g/ and /f/for those students who would be able to complete this sheet). There is a different set of homework sheets for early developing sounds.

 Turning "Pirate Day" into "Pirate Week"

All SLPs know about Talk Like a Pirate Day. It's been going on since 2002.  There is a lot of therapy material on TpT with a pirate theme. I bought a book during a book fair, Rufus Goes to Sea (by Kim T. Griswell), that is about a pig named Rufus who wants to be a pirate. The captain of the ship keeps telling him he can't be a pirate until he realizes Rufus has a book.

This book companion includes comprehension questions with 2 pictures to use as visual cues if needed, yes/no questions, worksheets (for what doesn't belong, negation, categorizing and using simple sentences, following directions using positional concepts, 2 sheets for describing, and regular/irregular past tense verbs), a pirate search & find for homework with a suggested word list (for /f,v,k,g,l,r,s/, sh-ch-j, and blends),homework sheets for earlier developing sounds (final consonant deletion, /p,b,m/, /t,d,n/, /h/, /w/, and a blank sheet for your convenience), retelling using story elements, and a fun pirate game (ideal if you have a "popper" but you can also use a bean bag or any soft item that the students can throw!).
Search and find worksheet in a green and yellow frame
Search & Finds are a favorite in my TpT Store. I included one in this packet for later developing sounds. (I also included /k,g/ and /f/ in this one just in case you have students working on those sounds who may be able to complete the sheet.) There is another set of homework sheets for early developing sounds.
Pictures of pirates arranged in circles on a wall with a popper and a ball in place. The pirates have numbers on them.
Fun popper game! Don't have a popper? Use a bean bag or another soft object that can be thrown!

The Decision

Dot Day or Pirate Day? Here's what I'm going to do: The week before Dot Day we'll work on The Dot. The week after, Rufus Goes to Sea. It may take more than 1 week to get through Rufus and that's okay. The students really don't mind a pirate theme for 2 weeks!
picture of 2 books on the top with the title of the blog post on the bottom. Green chalkboard background with brown frame.
Need more ideas?
This blog post has a dot project for preschoolers.
Official merchandise for Dot Day can be found here.
Over 50 activities for Pirate Day can be found here.

My New System For Organizing My TpT Materials

picture of clear plastic boxes on shelves
There's a lot of talk this time of year of how everyone organizes their TpT materials. I keep looking for better ways to store everything. I've reorganized my materials quite a few times, but I really like my new system for organizing my TpT Materials.

At the end of last school year, I decided enough was enough and I purged. Gone are materials that I had when I first started working as a school-based SLP over 30 years ago. With all of the great materials offered through TpT, a lot of my things were just so outdated. I figured if I hadn't used them in a few years they weren't worth keeping. Was it hard? You betcha, but it felt so great to clean that stuff out!

Before I even knew anything about TpT, I kept my homemade materials in clear plastic boxes and notebooks.
2 big plastic boxes on a shelf
As my TpT materials grew, I put most things in notebooks.
Notebooks with labels on the spine sitting on a shelf
I also started using bins from the dollar store. I put packets in gallon freezer bags and had a bin for each month.
Different color plastic bins on shelves
Using bins, my shelves were somewhat organized but some of the bins were stuffed full.
I've planned around monthly themes pretty much my whole career (it's so much easier to plan that way!) so notebooks and bins fit my needs...until I started buying and downloading cards. Off I went to Michaels to buy these containers:
Plastic containers on shelves
Apparently, these containers are a hot commodity now. My Instagram feed blew up with SLPs trying to find them on sale. They weren't that easy to find a few years ago when I discovered them so I'm not surprised they were hard to find. These containers are absolutely fantastic for cards. Each container has 16 cases that are the perfect size for cards.
Top view of a plastic card container with labels on each card container.
I organized each container by seasonal activities. I put a label on each individual case so I can just look at the top of the case to see what cards are in the container.
Top View of card containers with a label on the individual container

When I purged last spring, I also purged these boxes. I had a lot of cards that I downloaded as freebies that I didn't have any use for, so they were "filed". I didn't get rid of the boxes or containers, just the contents.

I work with an awesome Special Ed Teacher who puts my organization skills to shame. I thought I was pretty organized, but she's peer-pressured me into upping my game! Enter: more plastic containers and the need to really get my materials organized in a prettier way. I told my principal I "Bartonized" my room (since the teacher's last name is Barton).  I'm quite pleased with the end result.
Shelves with plastic boxes and notebooks
These 12x12 plastic scrapbook storage cases are perfect for holding materials by themes. I just put them in the case, made labels for the front indicating the theme, and printed out a list of items in each case. When I'm looking for something, I don't have to open each case and rummage through it; the contents of the case are on the top.

As you can tell, I have plenty of space to add more boxes if I need to. Moving everything to the scrapbook cases gave me more room on my shelves. There's going to be a time when I don't have the whole classroom at this school, so I'm trying to think ahead and plan for not having all of the storage space I have right now.

So far I really like my new system for organizing my TpT items. Everything is together by theme/month so planning is much faster. Now I need to start organizing my cabinets!
picture of clear plastic boxes on shelves with "Organizing TpT Materials" below picture.

It's Time to Brush Up On Your Therapy Skills...Especially For /r/

image of paint brushes with title in words
Photo by RhondaK Native Florida Folk Artist on Unsplash
Back to School. Are you excited or just hoping to get through it? The students in my school system just finished their first week of school. It just didn't seem like the beginning of the school year to me. I slept great the night before and ran on autopilot with my morning routine. I got to school and did what I needed to do: wrote out class lists and got my rechecks for 1st & 2nd grades ready, among other things. Now it's time to brush up on my therapy skills...especially for /r/.

Just Like Riding a Bike

Oh, that /r/. The bain of our existence as school-based SLPs. Once you have a routine and a plan, it's just like riding a bike: you get back into it and before long you're back in the groove.

5 Tips for Grappling the Elusive "R"

I had the pleasure of getting out of my comfort zone and participating in a Facebook Live Session with Brooke from Simply Speaking SLT. Brooke is a New Zealander, so talking with her was interesting and very easy on the ears. My topic was 5 Tips for Grappling the Elusive "R".  I shared 5 things I've learned to correct production of /r/. Brooke was fantastic at putting me at ease and by when it was time to go "live" I felt like I had a new friend. I think you can tell there were a lot of laughs!
We had a bit of a snafu after a few minutes, so we had to complete the session in 2 parts. Brooke started this wonderful series a few months ago; she completes one/month. You'll definitely want to check out her Facebook Page and watch past (and future) shows. Oh, and definitely watch the second part of my session for more tips that maybe you didn't know about! I'm keeping my freebie up until August 15, 2018. Just click here and you should go right to it. 

I wrote a couple of posts about how I go about working on /r/ with my students and I had been meaning to get around to posting a video. The Facebook Live was perfect timing and allowed me to talk about my procedures/techniques in greater detail. 

You may be excited about back to school, or it may seem like you didn't even have a break. Either way, July &  August means it's time to brush up my therapy skills...especially for /r/! 
Image of paintbrushes with words "time to brush up on your therapy skills" underneath.
Like this post? Pin this picture to a board!
Are you looking for even more tips for working on /r/? Try these posts:

If You Had The Worst Day of Your Life

Picture of a smoking gun with the words "Don't be scared. Be Prepared" above it.
Photo by Ivandrei Pretorius from Pexels
Do you know what you would do if you had the worst day of your life? I'm not talking about the day when you wake up to the dog vomiting (or peeing), the baby won't eat, your teenager throws a fit because his/her hair isn't perfect or that outfit isn't washed, then you get a speeding ticket on the way to work, etc. You get the picture. No, I'm talking about a truly horrible day: a day when your school ends up on national news. A day when the unthinkable happens: someone comes to your school and opens fire.
I need to preface this post by saying that I have never had to live through the worst day of my life & I hope that I never have to. I am not an expert on this situation; I only wanted to pass on some take aways that I had from Active Shooter Training provided by our local Sheriff's Department.

A Change in Attitude and Emotions

How sad is it that school employees even have to go to this training? I have to admit, I was not happy that I had to spend my first morning back after summer vacation going to Active Shooter Training. As the morning progressed, my emotions changed. I started taking notes to pass on key points that were made just in case anyone doesn't have that training. I took pictures of slides so I wouldn't forget anything or misquote what was said. (I'm sure I looked like quite the nerd doing this, or that the officers providing the training thought I was texting.)

One of the first things the first officer said was this really should be called "Active Attack", not "Active Shooter", since not all events involve guns. There have been killings through the use of vehicles. A USA Today article lists 15 incidents of vehicular killings through the world. These occurred both in the USA, Canada, and Europe.
In any attack, we have 3 options: Run, Hide, or Fight. There has been no definitive profile in these attackers; there are some similarities between some of them but there is also some variance. Mental illness is one commonality, but we all know how often mental illness goes untreated. Instead of a profile, risk factors have been identified:
Slide with a list of 5 risk factors

Believe it or not, schools are not the #1 place for mass attacks, commerce is more likely almost twice as much. Schools are the #2, followed by outdoors. 45% of attackers have no connection with the location of the attack.
In one of the videos we watched, when police arrived on the scene of the attack they stepped over victims. Their #1 priority when arriving on the scene is to stop the attack. In determining who dies, a couple of factors were outlined: How quickly law enforcement arrives and target availability. Our local law enforcement timed how long it would take them to arrive to any of our schools: they have it just under 3 minutes. If I'm not mistaken, the average time in the USA is 5 minutes. Who is going to buy the police time? We are. Our job in this situation is to buy them the time to get there. Law Enforcement is not going to be the first on the scene. We're already there and it's our responsibility to keep our kids safe until they arrive.

Buy Law Enforcement Time to Arrive on the Scene

Throughout the training the officers stressed the importance of knowing your surroundings and running through your plan should an attack happen.  They stressed that if you can, run. Try to bring anyone you can, but if they slow you down by resisting leave them behind. We don't know how we will react when we are put in that situation and chances are we want to help as much as we can.  But we have to help ourselves first. If you're trapped and can't leave, barricade the door with anything you can find. If you make it hard for the attacker to enter, he'll leave. My SRO said that the attacker knows he only has a very few minutes before police arrive and he/she isn't going to waste time trying to get into a room. If you can't run and there's nothing to use as a barrier, then hide. Fight if you can, but if you are going to fight, be committed.
We listened to a 9-1-1 call from Columbine High School. This staff member was truly under diress as she talked to the operator. She did what she thought she should during the incident; she tried to keep her students safe but was unsuccessful. The shooter was right outside of her door when she called and she didn't feel it was safe to go to the door to lock it or to try to barricade the door. They were trapped and they paid the ultimate price for it. She tried, but she hadn't had training for that situation. That is why having this training is so important.

Get to the 3rd Stage Quickly By Being Prepared

There are 3 stages of disaster response: Denial, Deliberation, and Decisive Moment. The officer cited a book by Amanda Ripley: The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes- and Why.  (not an affiliate link)
Denial: How many times do we hear/see something and it takes a few seconds for it to register? How many times do we try to dismiss what we heard as something else? My son was at an outdoor music festival over the summer. One of the rappers thought it was a good idea to use gunshots as part of his show. My son said he heard one shot and thought "okay, that was just one." But then he heard more. He said he looked around and realized it was part of the show but a lot of people hit the dirt. Fortunately it was part of the show and wasn't real.
We were shown a video clip of The Station Nightclub Fire. This happened in 2003 and was caused by a stage manager using pyrotechnics as part of the show. The result was that the stage curtains caught on fire and the whole place was ablaze in 5 minutes. In the video you can see the curtains catch on fire but people are still standing around, thinking it was part of the show. Once they realize it isn't, they left the way they came in because they didn't know there were other exits. A diagram of the building shows there were other exits that could have been used. One wasn't used because it was blocked. Biggest takeaway from this: If you have even an iota of thought that what you hear is gunshots, treat it as such. If you have any thought that what you see or hear isn't right, treat it that way and get the heck out.
Deliberation: This is when you need to shift your emotion from fear to anger. When we're afraid, we freeze. But when we're mad, we act. Once we realize that what we hear/see is putting us in danger, we need to act. We need to get angry. Once we are able to shift to that emotion, we're able to do what we need to do to survive.
The officer compared the human brain and "puppy dog brain". The human brain is conditioned for flight, fright, freeze whereas the puppy dog brain reaction is fight, flight, feed, reproduce.  The main idea here is that it is an innate reaction when we are faced with a situation to run, freeze, or be frightened. If you put a dog in a situation where he is cornered, he will try to run but if he can't, he will fight. No one teaches a dog to do any of those things; they are innate behaviors. This relates to an active attacker in the way that we have to rehearse in our mind (if not physically) what we would do if we are put in this situation. If we have no pre-programmed responses, we react on impulse. If we freeze our heart rate increases which will keep the brain from doing its job. It won't be able to flip through the scenarios we have in our memory bank for a reaction.
Decisive Moment: Avoid/Deny/Defend suggest that we have to get through the first 2 stages quickly to get to this moment when we act. It is imperative to do that to survive.

As I said above, when law enforcement arrives their first priority is to stop the attack. If there are wounded and you are safe, know what to do to help them. Homeland Security has an initiative called Stop the Bleed. It's purpose is training so that survivors will know how to help those victims who are bleeding until medical help arrives.

How to Stop the Attack

The biggest way to stop an attack is identify the attacker before the killing begins. How do we do that if there is no definitive profile? Several "commonalities" have been identified:

As educators we have to pay attention. We have to report what we observe and see to our supervisors and to proper authorities. If we watch and observe we have time to catch a probable attacker in one of their 5 phases:
Fantasy: They will share their feelings with others but it is often dismissed as "crazy talk"
Planning: typically very hate filled; he will describe intricate intentions
Preparation: This is the phase in which they can be caught. They will gather items and intelligence
Approach: They will be physically on the property before the attack. This is the "smallest but greatest" window of opportunity to stop the attack.
Implementation: Our only solution at this point is to ADD (avoid, deny, defend).

I am probably the least observant person there is on the face of the earth. We were strongly encouraged to always be aware of what's going on around us. This training really opened my eyes wide to what I need to do to survive and to make sure my colleagues and students survive. It's frightening to think that I may be put in that situation some day, but the officer told us "Don't be scared, be prepared".

What the Heck is Going On?

The officer cited books by Dave Grossman as an offering to why attacks on our schools are happening. We all know kids whose parents aren't parenting, they're "friending". They allow their children to play violent video games. As a child's brain matures, what goes in is programming their brain. It is helping to develop the moral code in that child. I found this quote by Dave Grossman in his book On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Contact in War and Peace: "90% reduction in violence among boys who had video games and tv removed." (Goodreads- not an affiliate link) Another quote (also from Goodreads): "if we drill our children on mass murder simulators, that too will be a reflexive, autopilot skill that is available to them at some tragic moment of truth." I have a friend who told me that at her school in another state, they do the simulation drills. We all think it can't happen to us but looking at Columbine,  Sandy Hook, Parkland, and Virginia Tech we have to realize that it could happen to any of us at any time. I'm not sure if the officer was quoting Dave Grossman when he said this, but it is a scary thought: "We have just scratched the surface of violence in this country."

Again, how sad is it that we have to have a personal plan in place for survival when we are at school? Sad, but this is a reality that we all have to be prepared for if you had the worst day of your life.
HUGE shout-out to the Blount County (Tn.) Sheriff's Department for providing this amazing training to the educators of the school system. 

This post in no way takes the place of training by the proper officials. If your school system/facility does not offer training, I would highly encourage you to recommend that your supervisor contact local authorities for proper training.
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