Saturday, July 8, 2017

Small moments

I've been relishing my time off!  Nothing beats retirement! Except looking forward to a wonderful part time job working with some exceptional kids (see previous blog post).

Anyway, this past week, I've done some serious walking, and have come across a few delightful friends from the animal kingdom.

Two doors from our house is a beautiful piece of property where James Taylor grew up. These guys were hanging out in the James Taylor front field when I strolled by. (That property has 20 acres, mine has about 1--in case you were wondering.)
Also near our house is a beautiful set of trails owned by the North Carolina Botanical Gardens. This guy and I had a stare-down going.
My husband and I have been going back and forth to Brevard from Chapel Hill a lot lately for family reasons.  We often take a break during driving.  This day was in a park in Morganton, NC where we encountered a newborn fawn parked on a trail by her mama.


We left quickly. I'm sure mama and fawn were fine.





I have so enjoyed these moments, and look forward to many more.



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Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Fork in the Road

Retirement didn't last long for me.  Those of you who read my blog may remember that I retired last January after 24 years in the same elementary school.

photographer

    What you may not know is that in addition to being a speech-language pathologist, I'm also a certified teacher of the hearing impaired.  When a half-time position as a resource teacher for hearing impaired children popped up in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School District, I decided to try for it, altering my plans from hanging out at home, to possibly re-entering the world of IEPs, paychecks, and adorable children.


This change in course meant writing a resume, filling out an application, lining up references, and interviewing for the first time in 25 years.
Nice interview outfit

To make a long story short, I got the job.  As a retiree, working half-time gives me the best of both worlds.  The big perk for you is that I will now have more blog posts and new materials coming!  Working with kids fuels my ideas.

Stay tuned!!!!!  First teacher workday is August 21st!





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Saturday, May 20, 2017

New Voices Foundation--Lara Jane Parker Award Recipients

Last month, I had the privilege of being part of the Lara Jane Parker Awards ceremony.  As a previous recipient of this award, I introduced a new winner, and enjoyed the warmth and comeraderie of all the people involved with this fabulous foundation.

Here's a little background on New Voices. The mission of this group is to help children with severe communication and physical chappenges maximize their learning potential. The ultimate goal is inclusion in all aspects of life.  New Voices seeks to do this through community awareness, training for professionals, family support, and increased access to assistive technology. I am personally honored to serve on the Board of Directors.


The Lara Jane Parker award was named after an outstanding young lady who graduated from UNC in spite of significant communication and mobility challenges. The award was established to provide both reward and recognition to those outstanding teachers, therapists, parents, education and health professionals and leaders who work daily to improved the lives of New Voices children. These individuals help improve their schools and their communities in ways that will allow these children to be fully included in all aspects of their daily lives. The recipients are local--Alamance, Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake Counties, along the with Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

Lara Jane Parker award recipients

I was in awe of these award winners, three of whom are speech-language pathologists, and one a teacher of exceptional children. My Chapel Hill--Carrboro City School colleague, Kara Van Hooser, has been using creative, and cutting edge therapy techniques for years with her severely handicapped students.  Another speech-language pathologist, Caitlin Burke, recently gave voice to a student who had not had a functional communication system for the first 14 years of his life.  All four of these individuals are leaders in their field and constantly strive to perfect their skills, and improve the lives of their students.  Congratulations!


If you want to find out more about New Voices, or would like to offer financial support to their mission, please visit their website.    
You can also follow New Voices on Facebook.

From time to time, I'll be posting about projects and the children of New Voices.  Stay tuned!



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Friday, May 12, 2017

FREE Father's Day Interactive Book

Mother's Day is in two days, but let's not forget about Dad!  His special day is outside of a typical school year, but if you are not in school then, celebrate early!

This is an interactive book to go with Father’s Day. This book is meant for the more linguistically challenged students and is perfect for  speech/special ed collaboration. The interactive book focuses on verbs associated commonly with fathers. These are the same verbs that were in my Mother’s Day interactive book found in my store. Clipart is by Smarty Symbols copyright 2017.

Enclosed:
What do Dads Do? Verbs, Verbs, Verbs” real photo interactive book (pages 3-13)
Icons for ‘What do Dads Do? (page 14)
Sentence Frame for “What do Dads Do?” (page 15)
All free of charge.  Let’s not forget about the important dads out there!


                  



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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

"It's Raining"---Free Interactive Book

I recently went to a workshop run by Karen Erickson.  There is not enough space on this page to list all of her skills and accomplishments, but please look up her various projects here.  The workshop was an awesome reminder why I like working with students with significant verbal challenges.

I like creating interactive books.  These books are meant to not be for mere matching, but for shared reading.  The interactive piece is nice for highlighting concepts, and keeping attention, but a core board should always accompany this so the adult can model comments.  You can download samples of core vocabulary here.

Anyway, we just had an awesome rain shower last night in Chapel Hill, which reminded me that weather is a common topic in an elementary classroom. I created a free interactive book just for all of my internet friends struggling with finding materials with no instructional budget.  Have fun!





You can download this free book here.







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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wedding

If you ever want a beautiful site for a wedding, venture down to Hilton Head Island.  We just had one!  Yes, this is my lovely daughter, back from the Peace Corps (almost two years ago), now walking with her dad to marry the love of her life.

father and daughter


We are excited about a new son-in-law, and are excited for Andorra as she enters this new chapter.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mother's Day Interactive Book and Craft

Here's a very affordable, fun little packet for Mother's Day (which will be here before you know it!).


This is a language/literacy pack to go with Mother’s Day. This packet is meant for the more linguistically challenged students and is perfect for  speech/special ed collaboration. This is nice for integrating literacy and hands-on activities. You are purchasing one interactive book, and a meaningful craft activity with visuals. The interactive book focuses on verbs associated commonly with mothers. The craft includes a step by step set of instructions, and ultimately the child is to pick words or pictures to describe his or her mother.   Clipart is by Smarty Symbols copyright 2017.
Enclosed:
What do Moms Do? Verbs, Verbs, Verbs” real photo interactive book (pages 3-13)
Icons for ‘What do Moms Do? (page 14)
Sentence Frame for “What do Moms Do?” (page 15)
Mother’s Day Flower Craft  (pages 17-24) Fun activity where the kids choose words/icons to describe their mom to go on a flower. This comes with icons, step-by-step pictures, and patterns for cutting out the flower. No fancy craft items needed---construction paper, glue, scissors, and printed icons only!  Make this as a Mother’s Day gift!
Descriptive icons for the flower (page 25) print one for each
child
Communication Board for Mother’s Day craft (page 26)

Here are a few screenshots, but you can go to TPT for previews.  It's a great deal, and easy fix to having to plan for Mother's Day.  
Title page of Interactive Book


Click Here to view this on TPT
Sample Page

Craft
Personal News Update---Daughter is trying again to get married (first wedding canceled due to Hurricane Matthew last October).  Date is April 22 at Hilton Head!  This should be a blast!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Green Eggs and Ham Companion Pack

Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr Seuss is a pretty awesome poem.  It builds as it goes, and my students memorized the lines. It's only written with 50 words, many of them core vocabulary.  When I don't have a clear idea of what to do (as in, I am tired, busy, overwhelmed), I can grab a book such as this, and work on myriad goals with an eager student.  I'm sure all of you school SLPs have had moments where planning awesome lessons doesn't happen.  Green Eggs and Ham is on my backup shelf!


This book can also be on your 'awesome lesson' shelf!  To help you with this, I've created some materials to go with it.  This companion pack is for your extra special learners---those students who really can't access the regular education curriculum, and need help putting words together, and understanding what literacy is all about.  If you are thinking thematically, 'green' goes with St. Patrick's Day, while 'eggs' go with Easter.  Green Eggs and Ham, though, is one that works anytime of the year.  For the record, while I have described a companion pack here, you will need to have your own copy of the book, Green Eggs and Ham (easily found in stores and libraries).

Here's the description:


This is a language/literacy pack as a companion for Green Eggs and Ham. This pack meant for the more linguistically challenged students and is perfect for  speech/special ed collaboration. This is nice for integrating literacy and hands-on activities. You are purchasing two interactive books, rhyming word bingo, and a food choice activity with visuals. Icons to match to the actual book, Green Eggs and Ham, are also included. Clipart is by Smarty Symbols copyright 2017. AAC core vocabulary words of ‘like’, ‘see’, ‘here’, and ‘I’ are emphasized.  This is also a great packet for using adjective + noun combinations, and for the pragmatic functions of stating preferences.
Enclosed:
Interactive visuals for the book Green Eggs and Ham (Pages 3-4)
•“All Kinds of Eggs” real photo interactive book with manipulative icons and sentence frames (5-16)
“Rhyming Words Bingo”(pages 17-21)
•“Eating Green” real photo interactive book with manipulative icons and sentence frames . (pages 22-33)

Let’s Eat  Fun activity where the kids choose their favorite foods to go on a plate. This comes with food visuals, sentence frames, and place setting visuals.             (pages 34-37)


You can check this out over at Teachers Pay Teachers.  Price is modest, and as usual, if you are a starving CF, email me privately at speech40@gmail.com for a complimentary packet.



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

"Test Day, Team Player"---Book for Alleviating High Stakes Test Anxiety; Helpful to use with a Social Skills Group

A while ago, I reviewed two books by a local author, Shannon Fitzgerald (Halloween Night and Thanksgiving Weekend).

She has now provided me with a third book, perhaps her best, different in scope, intended audience  and artwork from her first two, but great for teachers in late elementary school on up to middle school.
The title is Test Day, Team Player.


The setting of this story is a regular education classroom before the End-of-Grade testing begins.  Some of the students are experiencing anxiety, and the teacher in the book leads a group effort to conquer their fears. In this case, the group plan was to wear a class color (all the students wore blue shirts) while the teacher nurtured a group mindset of support for one another while they individually tried their best on the tests.  The author is a former classroom teacher who successfully used this method to help her students get through this annual event. Stakes are high in NC and sadly kids feel it.

One reviewer on Amazon wrote: "End of year testing causes real anxiety for young children, and this book tackles it head on. Rarely does one see the words testing and teamwork together, but the combination works. This book finds a positive message in overcoming challenges and fears together through companionship."

Our local paper summed this book up, along with the illustrations with this article.

In other words,Test Day, Team Player is an awesome resource for a regular education teacher.

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From a special education perspective, I would highly recommend this book to supplement Social Thinking with a social skills group.  Even though the author is unfamiliar with this curriculum, she is using the testing situation to teach 'being part of a group' rather than 'just me'. I was amazed at how Ms. Fitzgerald intuitively figured out this social skills concept.  I guess she was a natural teacher!
The 'just me' approach to a testing situation creates unnecessary anxiety, whereas a team approach helps to facilitate students supporting each other and more of a feeling of 'being in it together'.  This would be a nice tool to use to collaborate with a regular classroom teacher while trying to help the more anxious students in the group.

At the end of the book, the auther gives suggestions for how to make this happen in a classroom.


One final note here is that the illustrations were beautifully done by an East Chapel Hill High School Student, Danielle Losos.  Even her front cover illustration meshes well with Social Thinking--complete with thought bubbles, facial expressions, and body language for students in a class or social skills group to interpret.  ('What are thoughts vs feelings?' is another component of Social Thinking).

Here is an article about this talented high school artist.

I have really enjoyed all of Shannon Fitzgerald's books.  This one is perfect for getting ready for the dreaded testing season.  Since I'm now officially retired, I get to miss it this year :)
  The kids won't get to skip it though, and this book will help them get through the tests, feeling supported by their classmates while they each try their best.





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Sunday, February 5, 2017

On the Road to Key West!



Hi everyone,

I'm now completely done, officially retired per NC Teacher's Retirement System and headed out tomorrow for a jaunt to Key West.  Look for pictures of geocaching, biking, sunsets, water, kayaks, and 6-toed cats.  



When I said I was 'completely done', that's actually a bit misleading.  There's still much to be done, so I'm now on the board for the New Voices Foundation.  I am hoping to publish about this in either this blog or a New Voices website to highlight great teaching, awesome kids, and work that needs done, and I will continue to make materials at low cost for the extra special learners through TPT.  Who knows, at some point, I may even work somewhere!  For now though, Florida, here I come!

Ruth




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Sunday, January 29, 2017

How to Retire Joyfully!

Hi SLP Friends!

    Last Friday was the big day.  I managed to leave the building without turning into a blubbering mess, and now am sitting at home reflecting over a glass of wine (maybe a couple of glasses).  For the last two weeks, I've been showered with warm wishes, nice notes, gifts, parties, hugs, and flowers.  After 24 years in the same school, I left--  turned in the key, peeled snapshots of my students off the bulletin board, cleaned out the desk, grabbed my coffee cup.  The retirement has been awesome, and I now have a collection of tips to make yours great too (if you are working as an SLP in the schools)

1.  Make sure you work for a wonderful school.






3. Love the kids, but also appreciate the parents.  "There but for the grace of God go I."

I guess it all comes down to this:  If you find the right school, work with the right team, and love the people with whom you interact, you will love retirement when the time is right.  I leave with no regrets, no bitterness, only happy memories, and am looking ahead to new adventures both in the speech world and in life.  
I WILL continue blogging, by the way, and have a clearer, freer mind to make new materials.  Come back soon!

My hair looks a bit wind swept in the picture, ha ha.  This article was great in that it told the community that we all make a difference in the lives of kids.  That works for me.



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Monday, January 23, 2017

"Yaks Yak" Awesome Book for Teaching Multiple Meaning Words! Free Printable Visual Supports

I totally love children's books, and am always visiting our local public library to find new ones.  I look for clear language in a book, but the book also has to actually help to teach concepts, vocabulary, feelings, social skills, and myriad other goals that are part of a child's IEP. I was so excited when I found 'Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs', written by Linda Sue Park.  This is a wonderful book to introduce multiple meaning words.


The pictures are funny, there are only two or three words per page, definitions of the words are provided, and I think you and the kids will love it.  You can read about the book here at Amazon.
You can also view sample pages on their website.

Today is your lucky day.  I have made a set of visuals for you using Smarty Symbols to print, cut out, and have the students match to the pages in the book. I'm sure you will also take the time to discuss and demonstrate the meanings.  My students often need the added element of manipulatives to focus their attention, and to offer a visual representation for each word in the pair.  I admit that it was sometimes hard to find an adequate picture, but it's a good effort on my part.  (e.g. There is no picture symbol for 'craning a neck', so I went with a photo.) Smarty Symbols is an awesome set of clip art. I pay a subscription to share my materials with you.  Please use the clip art here only with this book, and don't reuse in another way as it is copyrighted by Smarty Symbols.

Personally, even though Amazon says this book is for ages 4-7, I would plan on using it with language impaired 3rd through 5th graders.  Some of the vocabulary would be difficult for the littler ones.



CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE VISUAL SUPPORTS FREE


Retirement looms in 4 days!!!   With more time, and lots of ideas, I still plan on blogging.  I have many SLP friends and special education teacher friends who like my work.

It's Florida in two weeks, wine tonight, and just a few days left in my cinder block cubicle!





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Monday, January 9, 2017

Helpful Tips for Teaching a Language Group for Students with Severe Communication Challenges

Here in North Carolina, no school has been happening for several days.  We had snow, and when that happens, we become shut in---no school, no shopping, no driving.  The power has stayed on, so I'm happy to blog, check Facebook, work on school work and babysit our granddaughter.  Lovely!

  In spite of our school vacation, I wanted share an important part of my job today.  For the past 24 years, I have worked in our self-contained classrooms and taught weekly language groups, many times co-treating with our occupational therapist.  Some years have been easier than others, but I have felt committed to these groups.  I often work with the children from the group at other times during the week for individual or small group services, but the language group has remained a permanent fixture.
     This group is important so the teachers and assistants can see what I do with the students.  I model the use of communication systems, show staff my interactive books, show how to reduce language input a little to elicit more language output, and demonstrate pragmatic functions of language.  We have fun with crafts, games and simple recipes.

Over the years, I've developed a little repertoire of helpful tips that anyone doing such a group should think about.  Keep in mind that my students are either nonverbal or emerging communicators in an elementary school setting.

1. The adults running a group need to look about five times as enthusiastic as they may feel.  Smile, look like you are having fun, read with expression.  This is often hard to do if you are dashing in from a previous school or session.  Why is enthusiasm important? You are the 'feelings model'!  You want the students to want to be at the table, and kids mirror your expressions and feelings. You want the student to know that you like being there, and then they will like the group too.

2. The more linguistically challenged students must have access to some type of communication system.
 Examples are picture exchange, a communication notebook, a core board, a simple voice output device......if they don't have verbal skills, make sure you give them tools.  Ideally it would be the same system they use throughout the day (which is not the same for every student). You may need to make a few boards for very specific activities. That shouldn't happen too often.
Dreidel game vocabulary
    I have just been awarded a grant for a group PODD for each classroom, and this will be perfect for a language group. The PODD will stay in the room, so the teacher will watch me use it with the kids, and then she'll also use it in subsequent lessons.  Prior to getting the PODD, I've always made sure that visual displays are provided with books, crafts, and games.  Students have their core boards and notebooks.

3. Even during the group, the adults need to use verbal modeling or aided language stimulation.  My students simply don't know what to say.  The adults (could be an assistant or teacher or SLP) need to show them.

4. Keep sidebar conversations to a minimum.  Unfortunately, when several adults sit at a group with a group of low verbal children, conversation begins or comments about totally unrelated topics crop up. Weather, retirement, weddings, hated administration policies.....words fly over the students' heads. I've been guilty, but these sidebars don't help. An SLP in charge of the group needs to redirect adult conversation to the lesson.

5. Schedule---I try to present a visual schedule to the students of  what we are doing.  Usually I draw it on a small whiteboard.  Another option is to use photos or icons with velcro.  Keep your routine similar each week.  A predictable routine really helps with behavior management, student anxiety, and building on language/social skills.

6. Goals--The goals are centered on students' IEP goals, but with a group, it's difficult to work on very many.  My priorities are pragmatics (engagement), literacy and language, and simple concepts. The last few years, we have been enticing the students to the group with music (often a YouTube video), then use an interactive book where they take turns reading the page, adding icons, and answering questions. If an OT is working with me, we then have the students complete a related craft.  If there is no OT, we either play a game, or complete an activity where students need to gain attention and request needed materials to complete a simple worksheet or coloring activity.

7. Pace yourself---For each 30 minute group, there needs to be three to four different activities.  Music, interactive books, hands-on activity, game---attention can wane; use all the senses!

8. Share the wealth--I leave my materials in the classroom, and share all of my interactive materials with the teachers.  Although I sell items on Teachers Pay Teachers, anything I create is provided to staff I work with.  They are grateful, and sometimes have requests for a unit or a new item.  Sometimes, I laminate books for the teachers or send a book home with the students.  It's all good.

9. Don't be discouraged--During my groups, kids may scream, accidents happen, things get spilled. What I have seen is that students learn the routine, you learn them, and over the course of the school year, magic happens.    I love the kids, love the groups, and enjoy the teachers.  I especially love our current and past occupational therapists who have added so much love and expertise.


So I'm actually writing this for SLP who is taking my place starting February 1, and am hoping she won't freak out at the prospect of teaching these language groups!!!!  Yes, a wonderful person has been hired, and I'm counting down to retiring from this NC school system, which has had its awesome moments and flawed moments. I've seen it all from an SLP perspective, from a parent perspective and from a mentor perspective.  I'm not leaving Chapel Hill and I'm still a mentor, so I'll still be acutely aware.

 I will dearly miss my little tender mercies, the sweet children who have been such a part of my life at my school, and especially my more challenged kids (and I'm not religious except that working with these kids can draw it out of anyone with a heart).  I know I'll have new opportunities (since my school is a mere speck in a world of needy children), but tears flow.




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Monday, January 2, 2017

Academic Skills or Social Skills---Sorting Activity and Game


Here's a product I have to offer:  A unit on social skills vs academic skills.

Some students I've taught really have no clue why they are in a social skills group; they really don't know what social skills are.  They confuse it with social studies. (Although some our current leaders in the social studies domain need more appropriate social skills, for the purposes of this unit, the two areas are separate.)
This product helps with students learning the difference between academics and social areas.

This is offered for a very modest price on Teachers Pay Teachers, and includes a sorting activity (four pages and headings for sorting 'academic skills' and 'social skills', a board game with 36 cards for students to determine what are 'academic' or 'social' skills, and a simple pre/post measure.

I have used this at school, and kids really like it and learn why they are coming to the group.

Here's the link!

(Some of you may have bought my old version.  If you bought it previously, send me an email at speech40@gmail.com if you would like the updated version.)


 Sorting!

Board Game!









A personal note:  I have 29 days until retirement from my current school system.  I'll still blog and post materials; perhaps even more with my more flexible schedule.  I'm not leaving speech; just leaving my job.





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