July 17, 2018

Five Reasons You Should be Using Sudoku with Your Students



Have you ever tried solving a sudoku puzzle? I often try, but I am not usually successful without cheating...haha. But I truly love solving puzzles and going through the process of trying to solve them.

Many of my students also enjoy solving puzzles, but often find standard number sudoku puzzles too difficult. That's why I began creating picture sudoku puzzles to use with my students. I have sudoku puzzles for articulation, language, and book companions. My sudoku pages are great for all levels and I have even used them with students as young as 5 years old. Today, I am sharing 5 reasons why I absolutely LOVE using sudoku with my students.

1. They are highly engaging. Every time I pull out my sudoku pages, I instantly have my students' full attention. They think the puzzles are so fun, which keeps them engaged. It doesn't feel like work. Many of my students often ask for more...just for fun!

2. I can easily differentiate. I never have students who are on the exact same level academically. Sudoku puzzles come in a variety of difficulty levels. When I use my sudoku pages with my students, we can all be working on the same activity, but each student has a level appropriate for their ability.

3. They require no prep! Sudoku worksheets can be printed and used with absolutely no prep required. I have even have friends who have used them on the smart board as a group activity. Need to save paper? Print once and use them in sheet protectors with dry erase markers.

4. They are great for executive functioning skills. Completing a sudoku puzzle requires the ability to pay attention, self-monitor, organize and plan. When I use sudoku with my students, we are always working on these skills. It's not just about solving the puzzle, but also learning how to focus on certain sections, use the information on the page, and think through possible solutions. The harder these pages get, the more focus and persistence is required. It's a great way to help students learn how to work through a challenge.

5. They are so versatile. You can use sudoku pages as large group activities, with small groups, individuals, or even as homework. The opportunities are endless!

If you want to try using sudoku with your students, I have several FREE options for you to try. Click on the titles to download from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Don't know how to do sudoku? Just start out with one of my level 1 pages and go from there. You'll get it in no time!

FREE Articulation Sampler

FREE There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly book companion

FREE Earth Day vocabulary

If you're looking for more sudoku options, click the following titles:

Articulation Sudoku Mega Bundle

Langauge Sudoku

Old Lady Sudoku Bundle

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April 9, 2018

State Testing...An SLP Survival Guide

Springtime. Blooming flowers, green leaves, rain showers, warmer temperatures (hopefully), and...standardized state testing. Oy.


In Texas, we have two major testing weeks...one in March/April and another in May. Our first round of state testing begins tomorrow (April 10) and will include 4th/5th grade as well as middle and high school students. Then in May, everyone in grades 3 and up will test.

Most school based SLPs do not have to administer state tests (though I know a few who do), but testing weeks definitely still impact us. At several of my schools, the speech therapy room is used for small group or individual test administration, so I lose my therapy space for several days. Any schedule I have been working from goes out the window due to students testing or rearranging of PE times, etc. Testing weeks are not easy for anyone, including the SLP.

But have no fear! I am here to share some testing week survival tips. Just a few things that I have found make my week(s) a little easier to deal with.

1. BE FLEXIBLE - This may be easier said than done. You may show up on Tuesday with a plan, and then show up and find out your plan needs to be scrapped due to a sudden schedule adjustment. Just roll with it and expect that last minute changes will occur. You may need to be flexible with everything from your location to how you group your students. Just roll with it and do your best.


2. GET CREATIVE - One of the biggest challenges I face during testing week is not having a therapy room to see my younger students. To this I say, 'No problem!" I use this opportunity to get creative with where we have speech therapy. If the weather is nice, we might go outside. Can't go outside? Try the gym or cafeteria, or another empty room. Walking the halls is probably not allowed when testing is going on, but you might be able to find another space and make it an adventure! You could also try pushing in to your students' classrooms for the day.


3. CATCH UP ON PAPERWORK - Sometimes, testing schedules make it pretty impossible to get any kind of therapy done. This is when you can use your time to catch up on paperwork. Write IEPs, reports, or progress notes. Maybe you have Medicaid billing to catch up on...

4. GET SOME CEUs DONE - If you can't see students, you could spend some of your day completing online CEUs. There are so many great courses offered online now and days. I am a member of SpeechPathology.com (affiliate link) and can pretty much complete CEU courses whenever I want to. I hear Medbridge is also fantastic. Or check out the ASHA website or Northern Speech Services and see what they have to offer.

5. CHECK IN WITH YOUR TESTING STUDENTS - When testing is finished for the day, I always check in with my students who had to test. There is usually enough time at the end of the day to get a session in. I do not force my students to come to speech after testing all day, but many times they want to come. I always check in, see how their day went, and ask them if they want to come to speech. I also make sure to have something extra special planned if they do make it to speech.

Testing weeks are usually not fun for anyone on campus. Stress levels are high and schedules are a mess. Just try to stay positive and know that it will all soon be over. Try to be flexible and get done what you can get done. Hang in there and just be thankful that this only happens once (or twice) a year.

I'd love to hear from you. Do you have to help administer state tests? How do you handle testing weeks? Leave a comment below.

March 30, 2018

Story Champs - Why Every SLP Should Have this Resource

Let's get straight to the point. There are MANY different commercial products on the market for language intervention. But have you heard of Story Champs from Language Dynamic Group? I have had the privilege of using Story Champs in my speech room this year and it has been a game changer.


Story Champs is a language intervention tool that can be used by SLPs, reading intervention teachers, general education teachers, ESL teachers...pretty much anyone who works on language or narrative skills. It can be used in large groups, small groups, or one-on-one.

I have been using Story Champs with most of my students this year. We started back in September and they still love it. I use it to work on listening skills, story retell, sentence structure, vocabulary, comprehension, answering wh- questions, sequencing, articulation, and more. My students love the stories and I love that I can differentiate for each student, even within mixed groups. It's great for grades pre-k and up and for students with a variety of disabilities and cognitive abilities.

The Story Champs kit comes with:

  • Storybook
  • Illustration Cards (digital version, too)
  • Icons
  • Games
  • Flashdrive with loads of extra printables

How I Use Story Champs:

Students are taught what each of the story icons represents - character, problem, feeling, action, ending. There are additional icons for more advanced students, including setting, plan, consequence, etc. The elements and icons are used through every story. 

I then present the story to the students using the illustration cards. As I tell the story, I place an icon on the corresponding card to help make the connection between the icon and that part of the story. 

After I tell the story, we discuss it and work on answering questions and practice vocabulary. We then review the story and each element. 

With the illustration cards and icons still on the table, we then retell the story together. I help my students as much as they need it, modeling language and vocabulary use the entire time. 

I then allow them to retell the story on their own, supporting them as necessary. Once they are ready, I remove the illustration cards and allow them to retell the story using only the icons. The final step is for them to retell the story again with no icons or illustrations. 

We always wrap up using a printable from the flash drive where they can cut and glue blackline images of the illustrations on a story board. They get to take this home with a parent letter that explains the story and has information for parents to extend the learning to the home setting. 

I have also been able to use Story Champs for large group lessons in the kindergarten classroom. Every Friday, I  led a lesson with the entire kindergarten class (my little school only has one kinder class). We went through the story, discussed the story elements, practiced listening and retelling together, and in partners. We all loved this time we shared and I was able to monitor my speech students during the activity, too. Students can then work in centers on extension activities related to the story. 
 

Overall Opinion:

Now that I have had the opportunity to use Story Champs, I am hooked. I absolutely love this tool and how versatile it is. I can modify the stories and the level of difficulty for each and every student. The illustrations are appropriate for all ages and really help students focus on the elements of the stories. 

Once students have a good grasp of the story elements, we work on carrying these elements into their own narratives. This is a great way to extend their learning and allows them to make personal connections with their own experiences. 

I love that I can use Story Champs with mixed groups. Students with language goals get what they need, and my students with articulation goals have the opportunity to practice their sounds. I sometimes modify names or vocabulary in the stories to add specific phonemes for articulation goals. 

The best thing about using Story Champs is that all of my students are ENGAGED and actively participating through the entire session. 

I highly recommend Story Champs to anyone who is looking for a great language intervention tool. If you have any questions about this resource, feel free to comment below or email me at kristin@talkinwithtwang.com. You can also reach out to Language Dynamics Group. They are very helpful!

Special Offer: If you are ready to get your very own Story Champs kit, Language Dynamics Group has provided me with a discount code to share with you! Enter code LDG10MP at checkout to save 10%

Enjoy!


December 31, 2017

5 New Things to Try in the New Year

Another year has come and gone. It's time to recharge and start fresh. I always enjoy seeing the end of year recaps and how everyone celebrates the new year. From end of the year count downs, to top social media posts from the previous year...and all the goals and resolutions for the new year.


I've never been good at setting (or keeping) new year's goals or resolutions. I usually start out with good intentions, but somehow fall back into my same old routine sometime before January ends. 

This year, instead of making a new year's resolution, I wanted to share 5 things that I plan to try in my speech room. You may already do some (or all) of these things, or you may not. Either way, I hope you will read and share your thoughts with me. Maybe you have some expert tips for me as I try these new things, or maybe you want to try them, too. Let me know!

1. Sensory bins
I know many SLPs are already sensory bin experts. I, unfortunately, am not. I tried using a sensory bin one time before Christmas Break and it went okay, but did not end well. The bin of rice ended up spilling in the back of my car.  I may or may not still need to vacuum up the dry rice mess.  This year, I want to give using sensory bins my full effort. I want to try using bins of different materials with all my speech groups. I know The Dabbling Speechie and Ms Gardenia's Speech Room both have a ton of sensory bin activities to help me get started!

2. Monthly speech newsletter
When I was a teacher, I often sent home a monthly newsletter to parents. The newsletter included a recap of what we worked on the previous month and plans for the upcoming month. I also included tips and information to help parents work with their children at home. I want to improve the home-school connection by sending home a monthly speech newsletter. I think it will be a great way to keep the lines of communication open and offer tips and ideas for working on speech and skills at home. There are several editable newsletter resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, including some from Nicole Allison and Speechy Musings

3. Growth Mindset Teaching
I have seen posts and info about Growth Mindset all over the place, but I have never really looked into it with any amount of depth. This year, I want to learn more about developing a Growth Mindset and teaching my students about it, too. Badger State Speechy and Speech to the Core both have great Growth Mindset resources, and I am ordering the book (Amazon affiliate link for your convenience).


4. Literacy Based Therapy Plans
Confession time...I have had this as a goal for a while. I just have not given it my full commitment. I love the idea of literacy based therapy, and I have a ton of resources to help me get started...I just need to commit and dive in. I actually have a full membership to SLP Now that I don't even use. Why? The SLP Now site is full of great literacy and theme based resources to help make this type of therapy easy. In the new year I plan to really dig in to all the resources I have and give this a go!

5. Step Out of My Comfort Zone
This is really one of those things that we hear often. Why is it so hard? This year, I know there will be changes in my professional life. I plan to step out of my comfort zone and explore all options available to me. It's time to be confident and not hold back. This is necessary for me to really try items 1-4 in my list. Anything new is often uncomfortable and scary. I will not hold back. Go big or go home, right?


There you have it...5 things you must try in the new year. Are you already an expert in any of these areas? Share some tips or words encouragement with me in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!  Or, let me know if you plan to join me in trying something new in your professional life. Let's go for it together!

Happy New Year!

August 20, 2017

SLP on a Mission...Working with Students in Honduras

This is a recount of my time spent in Honduras working with students at a local school.
Click HERE to return to the main post and read more about my trip to Honduras.

The following is a recap of my experience at the Abundant Life Christian School in Gracias, Honduras. My friend, Kristi, is a missionary in Gracias, and kindergarten teacher and counselor at ALCS. Her school is a bilingual private school that serves students from K-4 through 12th grade. They do not have regular access to a speech-language pathologist, diagnostician, or special education team. Kristi has a background in special education and has noticed some needs in some of her students. For the past year, we have been communicating about the students and the need she saw for speech-language evaluations. After a year of unsuccessfully trying to connect her with a bilingual SLP who might be willing to travel to Honduras to help out, I finally decided that I would go myself.

SLP on a Mission...Meeting Elsi

This is a recount of my time in Honduras with Elsi, a little girl with a cleft palate.
Click HERE to return to the main post and read more about my trip to Honduras.

In this post I am sharing about a little girl I met in the village of Santa Elena, Honduras named Elsi.


The mission team of 61 Isaiah Ministries first met Elsi about 3 years ago. She lives in a remote village up in the mountains in Honduras. She was born with a severe cleft palate and lip. The mission team was able to to arrange for her to have surgery to have her cleft palate repaired. Due to malnutrition, in Elsi's first surgery, doctor's were only able to repair her lip and nose. Her family was provided with a special bottle and formula, to help her gain weight and a second surgery was scheduled.

SLP on a Mission...More About 61 Isaiah Ministries

This post is more information about 61 Isaiah Ministries, the team I worked with on my mission trip to Honduras.
Click HERE to return to the main post and read more about my trip to Honduras.

About 6 years ago our friends, Shannon and Kristi, decided to move to Honduras to be become missionaries. They formed 61 Isaiah Ministries, packed some of their belongings, and moved with their 2 young children to Gracias, Honduras.