App Review: Leaping Leo

Sunday, February 19, 2017 No comments

Leaping Leo by Outloud is available for free in iTunes.  Leaping Leo is a voice activated application that uses the child's voice to control the avatar/photo to collect coins, navigate through a maze, jump over obstacles or avoid fire. The first 4 levels are offered for free with an in App purchase option for $3.99 to unlock the remaining levels. At the time of this review, there are 18 levels in all.

Before you play, you will need to calibrate the voice threshold. I chose 40 dB to reflect the noise level in a quite room. You can reference various noise levels on ASHA's website here
You can select which Profile picture will be hopping around through the scenes by choosing an animal, avatar or student photo.
Next, you will take your character through an adventure, controlling the character with your voice. The character may collect coins, look for treasure or navigate through a map.
Implications for speech therapy include encouraging students to use an appropriate volume of speech, reinforcing practice of targeted speech/language goals such as articulation targets or formulating sentences with targeted words. You can pair the app with targeted stimuli presented on Articulation Sticks or task cards. I found it to be a fun, motivating way to incorporate technology into the therapy session in a meaningful, rewarding way while targeting speech-language goals. You can find it here in the iTunes store.

Would you like to see Leaping Leo in action? You can check out my demonstration on Facebook Live here.

* A copy of Leaping Leo was provided to SLPTalk by Outloud. No other compensation was received. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Community Greeter Program

Sunday, February 12, 2017 No comments

One of the best aspects of speech language pathology and education in general is the collaboration that occurs and the opportunities that are born from that collaboration. I truly believe that we are better when we work together. The Community Greeter Program is proof of just that, inspired by a conversation that I had with Patricia Levitt, SLP, during her poster session at an ASHA Schools Conference. I was excited about the idea of having community members welcoming my students and starting their day off on a positive note so I adapted the idea to meet the needs of my specific building. You see, that's the great thing about collaboration and professional development, it sparks ideas that you can use to meet your needs. At the same conference, I listened to Celeste Roseberry speak about poverty and within her session, the use of video or YouTube to reach families stuck out in my mind. I was in a high poverty building and the so the idea of marrying these two ideas to inspire our students, giving them a shared experience that they could then share with their families left a skip in my step. Thankfully, when I eagerly approached my principal she was immediately on board and gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up to give it a try.

What is a Community Greeter?

  • A member of the community comes in to welcome the students into the building with hand shakes, high fives, hugs and a smile.
  • Once all of the students have entered the building, the Greeter would then visit and speak with a select group of students. The students/classes that hosted the Greeter would rotate.
  • An example of some of the Community Greeters we have had:
    • Senator
    • Mayor
    • Police
    • Firemen
    • Army- High School ROTC
    • Pilot
    • Superintendent/Asst. Superintendent
    • Dentist
    • Local District Principals
    • Nutrition Specialist
    • Elderly Community Member
    • District Employees from other buildings
    • Librarian
    • Pharmacist
    • Many, many more! We had over 50 Greeters last year!


  • Provides students with a shared experience 
  • Opens student eyes to a world of career possibilities 
  • Makes Students feel valued and "seen" by the community
  • Teaches soft social skills in a natural context
  • Facilitates an environment in which students can ask authentic questions. The question asking abilities of our students grew tenfold. Even our youngest students were learning to ask questions of the greeter (not just tell stories).
  • Creating an iMovie trailer of the experience engaged students and families, extending school to the home environment in a positive way {Students LOVE seeing themselves on video!}
  • Created an authentic writing prompt as students could write to the Greeter.

Unexpected Perks:

  • Decreased discipline referrals on Greeter days
  • Increased morale as students entered the building
  • Social skills increased significantly. Students began to independently approach greeters, shake hands, initiate eye contact during appropriate introductions.
  • Community Greeters began to contact us asking to come. Greeters enjoyed the experience, recommending it to friends/colleagues and returning themselves the following year.
  • Community Members got to know and love our kids as we do.
  • As staff transitioned with a new superintendent, principal, etc., the Greeter program offered an opportunity for them to be welcomed by our students in a comfortable format
  • Increased rapport with student body

Some video examples can be found here:

Senator Coley
Various Community Greeters
Discussion with Students about How to Engage with Students with Disabilities

Here is the informational flyer that we used (front and back):

Teacher Feedback:

“The Greeter Program has opened doors into our students' lives. They see people doing awesome things and realize it is possible for them too. Especially when they see/hear from people who are originally from [our town].” - 5th Grade Teacher

“My kids LOVE watching these [iMovies]. Especially when they see themselves and their classmates. They applaud and get so excited, and yes even the big kids get a thrill out of seeing themselves in these.”

“With the students focus being on college and career ready I think it is nice to have visitors from the various occupations so students are able to see and ask questions. It makes it more personal and real for them. It makes a connection to our community too.” -2nd Grade Teacher

“The Greeter Program gives our students an opportunity to meet people in our community that they might not get to meet. When the students come to school in the morning, there is another smiling face waiting to say good morning. I feel that having the greeters gives the students an opportunity to practice their social skills and builds confidence in their initial meeting of someone new. When the greeter comes to the pod, students become the interviewers, asking questions that might interest them. Also, introducing them to careers that might spark interest in their future, therefore embracing the college, career and life motto.”

“I believe the Greeter Program is a very nice addition [to our school] for our students. I like that our kids get to meet successful adults and hear about the challenges they faced growing up.” 6th Grade Teacher

“I think the Greeter program is great for our little ones. They thoroughly enjoyed meeting the firemen and policemen that came to school. I felt it made the children more comfortable with seeing a fireman in complete uniform and may prevent them from being frightened.” –Preschool Teacher

“I think it is great for our kiddos to meet people in the community and learn more options that they have in the community.” -4th Grade Teacher

3 Simple Dollar Store Hacks

Sunday, February 5, 2017 No comments
Hi all! Raise your hand if you love the dollar store. My hand is waving in the air in a "pick me, pick me!" fashion.  I visited the dollar store the other day and thought I would let my closest peeps in on a few ways that these hack will make my life a little easier this week.

1. Limit the Hand Sanitizer to a small pump, rather than a bath. I use hand sanitizer in my therapy room when my students use the sensory bin to cut down on little germs hands spreading their love in the bin. I also use it if a student handles our hamster class pet. I picked up this hand sanitizer at the dollar store and added a Germ Blaster label. A simple hack to cut down on students pumping copious amounts onto their hands, which then overflows onto your floor is to wrap a rubber band around the neck of the pump. Now, students will get a small, appropriate amount to use.

2. Attach a battery powered light switch purchased from the dollar store to the poster below to let those in the hallway know that you are testing or use to let others know not to disturb your small group. Download the posters here for free or click the image below.

3. Purchase small ramekin containers (available in packs of 10) to keep dice under control during game or independent work activities. Stop the insanity of dice flying everywhere by placing the die inside the clear ramekin container for a student to shake to roll. It is a simple trick that will surely save your sanity.

What dollar store hacks have you tried lately? Let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email. I would love to hear from you!

DIY Scratch Off Tickets

Sunday, January 29, 2017 No comments
Raise your hand if you love a scratch off card! I mean really, who can resist? There is something so exciting about scratching them off, isn't there? Here is an easy way to bring that excitement (minus the gambling of course) into your therapy room or classroom!

All you need is acrylic paint (preferably metallic to give it the authentic scratch off feel), dish soap and clear contact paper.

Mix 2 parts acrylic paint to 1 part dish soap. Stir.
Paint a coat of the mixture on the contact paper.
Let Dry.
Repeat 2 more times until you have 3 coats of paint.

Next, simply cut your new scratch off stickers to size to fit over the area that you need them for and stick them on the laminated surface. Once the scratch off is used, you can either peel off the contact paper or place another scratch off sticker on top of it to reuse it again.

I love to use mine on Valentines each year. The Valentines have three scratch off squares on each card. Two of the squares have a cute saying and the third square has a number (either 1, 2, or 3). After earning their cards, the students get to select a Valentine prize from the drawer associated with the number on their scratch-off card. I do not use a prize box in my room, so  this is an extra special treat that they look forward to.

There are many ways you can use scratch off tickets in your therapy room or classroom. As long as a task card is laminated, you can easily cut the scratch off sticker to size and add it to:

  • cover up answer choices on a task card
  • cover choices on a Bingo Board
  • tangible reward cards such as Lunch with the SLP/teacher, Free Homework Pass, etc.
  • Articulation Word Lists
  • Verb Tense
  • Context Clues- What word would fit in the sentence?
You can find the Open Ended Valentine Templates as well as the drawer labels that I made here or by clicking on the image below.

If you like this activity, you may also like this Speech Hearts Base Ten: Articulation Challenge. You could actually use the scratch off stickers on these too! 

Extending Activities Across Multiple Sessions

Monday, January 16, 2017 No comments

As speech language pathologists, we encourage teachers and parents to read the same book repeatedly, each time diving deeper into the plot, vocabulary, character analysis, inferencing what may happen next or alternate endings, etc. [Learn more about research that supports repeated book reading here]. Yet, when it comes to our own practice, we do not always apply the same principles. We may limit activities to one therapy session with a designated starting and end point. We do so with the best intentions. Not to mention that we have [crazy busy] schedules to adhere to. Hear me out though.... by changing our thinking we can actually save ourselves time in planning (gasp!) while helping our students dive deeper into the linguistic complexity of our materials and allowing them to access them from altering learning styles. 

Chances are you have a bunch of materials that you could adapt to this philosophy, digging a bit deeper each subsequent session, adapting to meet varying learning styles along the way. I am going to walk you through how I spread out an activity to go with 5 Little Penguins over several sessions, differentiating within mixed groups. As you are reading through, think how you can use your materials to extend across multiple sessions.

Read, read, read. I used a simple story that I wrote about 5 Little Penguins Sitting on the Sled. You will likely recognize the predictable tune and format. In the book, the penguins perform various actions on the sled and then one inevitably falls off (poor little guy). I use this as an opportunity to REVIEW: Review what the student's goals are and determine how they are addressing them that day. Are they working on verb tenses, identifying words with their target sound, pacing, identifying pictured objects, identifying actions in pictures, sequencing, increasing MLU by filling in predictable words in the story, etc.  EXPLORE: What do you think this story will be about? What pictures do you see on the cover? What is same/different about the penguins? ADVENTURE: Every book opens up a new world to adventure. Engage in the adventure of learning as you read the book together. DIALOGUE: The format of predictable books naturally lends itself to student participation. Have students take turns acting out who is mama (or they can pretend it is papa penguin). Introduce new vocabulary. I work with a low SES population so introducing new vocabulary whenever I can is important. The last little penguin is surfing on the sled which led to a whole discussion (and a comical demonstration by yours truly) on what surfing is. The majority of this lesson played to my auditory and visual learners. Each student also took home their own mini book that they could read at home. While I recognize that you may not have a mini book of the book that you read, do you have a related stamp, sticker, paper bracelet, brag tag, etc. that you could offer your students to encourage them to talk about the story outside of the session?

Play! What do you have that you can use to create a structured play environment that targets student goals? Do you have a sensory bin that you can set up with thematic items or task cards that review the story that you read last time? We used penguins that were differentiated by target goal to act out the story. The students had fun acting out the song with our penguins that displayed their "name" on the card. For example, "Kite fell off and bumped his head!" We used binder clips or clothes pins to make our penguins stand up on the sled and dramatically bump their heads as they fell off. It was a great opportunity to capture data at the word and sentence level for articulation goals and allowed for descriptive language practice as the green turtle or yellow sun penguins fell off. We were also able to interact targeting prepositional concepts (put the kite next to the key) and temporal concepts (the kite fell off before the key).  By allowing students to PRETEND, they LEARN how to incorporate their targeted skills into their play. Allow students to ACT out their own pretend play with the penguins. I learned how creative some of my students can be! Learning through play, makes your students YEARN for more! When students ask to bring the manipulative home (and they will, believe me) you  can assure them that they will get their own set as we move to session three...

Make! Now truth be told, as fun as craftivities can be, they would likely make me pull my hair out if I did them every session. What I love about using craftivities when extending activities across sessions is that it feels more doable. The vocabulary has been introduced, we are simply interacting with it in a another way to make it more salient. MAXIMIZE: The penguin creativity rides on the coat tails of the last session's interactive play. Students follow directions as they color and cut out their penguins before gluing them onto folded index cards. AID: They now have their very own set of visual aids to KEEP for practice at home! I also included a quick parent note with a quick tip to EMPOWER them to help with home practice and keep the lines of communication open. One of my favorite things about a craftivity is that while I drill one student's goal, the other students have a productive activity to keep them busy learning.

STEAM based learning, while it is currently the big buzz word around town in the world of education, it really is intuitive for many of us as we often try to tie a hand-on learning approach to the curriculum to best serve our students. When I ask students, teachers and parents to describe a student's learning style, more often than not, the answer is either "hands-on" or "a combination of seeing, hearing and hands-on learning." A couple months ago, I let my students try their hand at a Candy Corn Challenge and they were hooked. I loved the language opportunities that were naturally embedded into the activity as we planned out the challenge, compared/contrasted outcomes, described our creations, etc. For the Penguin Sled Challenge, I wanted to provide an engaging language opportunity that also rewarded their hard work. Students have to earn their materials by working on their target goals (sneaky, sneaky I know...). For example, for every language task correctly complete or 5-10 correct articulation productions, the student will earn a popsicle stick. To take it a step further, students targeting articulation can generate their own target words, increasing phonological awareness, and then write the word on their popsicle stick. Once a student earns their materials, he/she will complete the challenge to build a sled (using popsicle sticks and play dough) that will hold 5 penguins. Once they complete the challenge, they will then complete a written language task (masked as a reflection) to provide even more language opportunities! I incorporate technology by having students take a photo of their creation and upload it to their SeeSaw profile. We can then incorporate descriptive concepts as we compare/contrast photos of sleds created by different students.

I hope that this got you thinking on how you can use materials that you have to extend speech/language opportunities across multiple sessions. You don't need to necessarily complete the same sequence of exploration or the same activities, but essentially give yourself grace to continue on with a set activity in the next session. For me, it helped me relax my thinking from having to complete a set # of tasks in a session and allowed me to enjoy the experience in a natural succession, lending to authentic learning that didn't feel rushed. Here is a link to the activity that I used as an example if you would like a Grab n' Go way to try it out. I'd love to hear what ideas you all come up with. Leave a comment below or email me with your adaptations!