Friday, August 18, 2017

Top 10 Back-to-School Books

  Top 10 Back-to-School Books for Speech Therapy

Are you looking for a fun back-to-school read aloud to start the year with? Do you want an attention grabber that will spark an excitement for learning this year? For me, starting a new school year is an exciting time of the year. New room decor, new school clothes, and newly sharpened pencils. But what I get excited about is NEW books! 

In this post, I want to share with you my top 10 back-to-school books for speech therapy and why I recommend them.

(disclaimer: This post includes Amazon affiliate links. Any purchases made through the links may result in a small profit for My Speech Tools.)


The dinosaur books are some of my favorite. They teach social skills with rhyme and rhythm. In the engaging read aloud, How do Dinosaurs Go to School?, you can target expected/unexpected behaviors or appropriate/inappropriate behaviors for school conduct. The authors ask questions such as,  "Do dinosaurs yell?" This book targets expected behaviors throughout the school day and throughout the school environment (library, classroom, playground, etc.) I used this book with my PK-2nd grade students and we made a large T-chart showing what we should/should not do at school. We hung it in the hall and titled it "How do (name of school) Leaders Go to School?"

Do you have students who show anxiety at school or worry about what other's think of them? David Shannon's book  A Bad Case of Stripes uses a crazy illness like "stripes" to depict the consequences of worry and anxiety. The illustrations provide detailed opportunities for inference and discussion, as well as an opportunity to discuss "size of the problem." I used this book with students in 2nd-5th grade. I copied pages from the book and we looked at text and picture clues to make inferences. The theme, "Be yourself" is a complex concept for younger students to comprehend. I recommend this book for students in upper elementary or older.

For those of you who love Froggy, this is a must for back-to-school. In Froggy Goes to School, Froggy is nervous about school and has a horrible dream about going to school in his underwear. When he wakes up from his nightmare, he is excited to find out it was just a dream. This read aloud for student in PK-2nd grade is engaging with repetitive events and text. Full of onomatopoeia, you can't resist but to read it with enthusiasm. This is another great book to calm the jitters and provide opportunities for young learners to tell you about a time they were nervous or even a bad dream they might have had. So how does Froggy get to school? They leapfrogged all the way to school, Flop, Flop, Flop!

Model personal narrative skills with Mark Teague's  How I Spent My Summer Vacation. This book is written to target older elementary students and middle school students. A young boy stands up in front of his class to tell a story about his summer vacation. With elaborate detail, the readers are thrown into a wild western. This book is perfect for older elementary and middle school due to the nature and complexity of the story. If you are targeting story sequence, personal narratives, adding details, expanding sentences, visualization, and sensory language, this is the perfect book for your students. Story expansion activities can include vocabulary development, and an oral or written personal narrative with the opportunity to share it with others.

A fun book in Lucille Colondro's series depicts the Old Lady getting ready for the first day of school. In There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books! readers follow the traditional pattern reading they are familiar with from her other books. She swallows all her school supplies, just in time to catch the bus. Tier 2 vocabulary such as fuss, balk, brag, measure, protect are rich in meaning and should be taught in context and expanded further in discussion. A few story expansion activities may include: school vocabulary, story sequence and retell, identifying rhyming words, and answering "wh" questions.

David is back! and he's as active as ever! This is another terrific book by David Shannon to target expectations at the beginning of the year. It is perfect for PK-2nd grade since David gets into quite a bit of mischief on his first day of school. This book reminds me a lot of How do Dinosaurs Go to School?I can definitely see it read as a companion book to discuss expectations and behaviors at school. Full of vibrant illustrations, this book is also ideal for building descriptive language, targeting inference skills and expand on cause/effect skills with your students. No matter the age, there are always consequences (good or bad) to our choices.

Nancy Carlson, author of ABC I Like Me! and I Like Me! wrote these two books to provide students the opportunity to develop self-esteem and self-expression. These companion books expose students to rich vocabulary and simple sentence structures. These are great books for "All About Me" themes at the beginning of the year. These books are appropriate for PK-1st grade students. 

It's Llama Llama's first day of preschool! Llama Llama's mama helps him get ready for school. "Llama school begins today! Time to learn and time to play. Make the bed and find some clothes. Brush the teeth and blow the nose."   This book provides opportunities for young students to sequence their morning and tell you what they do to get ready for school. Language expansion activities may simply be, "draw a picture of what you do to get ready in the morning." You could also make sequencing pictures and let students retell the story (wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, drive to school...). When Llama Llama starts missing mama, his friends help him feel better about his first day. What a great opportunity to talk about how to "be a friend."

Chrysanthemum loves her name. Her parents chose her name especially for her. However on the first day of school, she is teased, "You're named after a flower. Let's smell her." Kevin Henkes, author of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, is the author of this charming book that touches on friendship, bullying, and self-esteem. This books provides opportunities for character analysis, Tier 2 vocabulary instruction, verbal problem-solving, and story comprehension with inference skills. This book is recommended for students in 1st -3rd grade.  

This little mouse from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is going to school. Laura Numeroff writes a circular story in the traditional "If...Then..." story pattern.  "If he asks for a lunchbox, he'll want a sandwich." Students will have the opportunity to make text-to-self connections by talking about their first day at school, buying school supplies, packing or buying their lunch, and even having a class pet. This story provides many opportunities for story expansion activities, such as: back-to-school vocabulary, story retell, describing, sorting and categorizing. This book is ideal for PK-1st grade students.

I have included Amazon affiliate links throughout this post for your convenience. I've also provided several book companion links to  my Teachers Pay Teachers online store.

Take a look at my Back-to-School products, including my all inclusive "Back-to-School Speech and Language Pack," adapted books and book companions. Click on the image to link to my Teachers Pay Teachers online store.

Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter and receive updates on new products, therapy tips and resources directly to your inbox. 

Lisa, SLP

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Friday, August 11, 2017

8 Tips for the New School SLP

8 Tips for the New School SLP

As a speech-language pathologist, I have had the privileged of working in several different settings both full time and PRN. As a school based SLP, I continue to work in various PRN positions during the summer and throughout the school year as I have time. My heart and energy, however, is poured  out in serving public school students with disabilities. My students make me smile and laugh everyday.

If you are making the switch this year to public school, there are a few tips I want to share with you to help you make the transition. So don't fret because change is always a little scary.

Here are my 8 Tips for the New School SLP:

1. Focus only on those things you can control. When you work in the public schools so many different things change at the drop of a hat. Here are a few examples of changes I've seen from one year to the next: school assignments, caseloads, staff members, budgets, your office or classroom location, duties, dress code, special education paperwork, district curriculum (math or reading), and of course your schedule. Every year there are changes. And let's face it, big changes can happen anytime of the year due to unseen circumstances. Because things are always changing, I have really tried to focus on my " Circle of Control."   So let's think about the things you can control. Perhaps it's your choices, your attitude, your response to others, your healthy or unhealthy habits, what you read, your sleep patterns, or your effort. These are the things worth applying your effort toward.

2. Be a part of the school community. It is very difficult to "fit in" when you are internet. I've been right there with you, and I get it. I remember when I was assigned to a large campus and an administrator told me how happy she was to have me because she could tell I "wanted to be there." If you are assigned to more than one campus, try and make every effort to show each campus that they are a priority and you want to be a part of their team. You could participate in the pot luck lunches or take a plate of cookies up for Christmas. You could offer to help out with registration at the beginning of the year, or even wear their school T-shirt when you are there once a week. If you do have a room or space, decorate with the school theme or school colors (even if it's minimal). 

3. If you do have a spending budget, don't spend your money too quickly. I am fortunate to have a small budget for materials at my campus. This year it will be a little smaller due to deficits in the budget. However, I am required to spend it by January, which is the beginning of the second semester. In the past, I jumped ahead of myself and purchased games and therapy materials in August. Then by the time I knew my students I was out of money and was not able to purchase what my students REALLY needed. So wait, if you can, and purchase materials when you know it will be most beneficial for the students. 

4. Create systems and procedures. Collaborate with your special education team on how IEP meetings will be scheduled. Will you send out email notices or handwritten? You will also need to establish a procedure for picking up students for your sessions. Does your administrator have policies about students walking down the hall alone? Do you want teachers to send the students to you, or will you go and pick them up? You'll find that administrators like procedures. They are systematic and predictable. They help the campus run efficiently.

5. Document. Document. Document. You probably get the gist of this one. Document all parent conversations. If you send an email to a parent, either save a copy to a folder on your desktop or print out a hard copy to keep in a working student file. You might also want to print out emails you send to teachers regarding student behaviors, progress, information reported by the student, etc. Also, document any missed sessions and the reason for it being missed (ie: "Missed 2:00 session due to student being at a Boy Scout Assembly. Make up session is scheduled for Friday at 2:00."). You can write it in your lesson plan book, on your attendance log or anywhere you can save it. 

6. Prioritize your day. Your time is valuable and limited in so many ways. Yet as SLPs, we want to help everyone as soon as we are asked. I am guilty of jumping up to screen a student when his teacher asks me to "take a look at a kid." I loose track of my schedule and miss sessions when I drop everything for a teacher. Kindly suggest that you are more than willing to come by. Set up a time when you typically do not have students so you can devote that time to the teacher and her concerns. 

7. Be flexible. This is another important aspect of our job that I know you already understand. The question is, are you willing to be a superhero of flexibility? There is always something going on at my campus, such as: assemblies, special community visitors, guest speakers, special science lessons, and district wide assessments. My perfect Tuesday/Thursday schedule is thrown out and I am rearranging my schedule to make up missed sessions as soon as possible.

8. Lastly, keep an open line of professional communication. As SLPs, we are not teachers, intervention specialists, reading teachers, or tutors. We are communication experts. We should model what we are facilitating in our students. Be careful not to judge others' communication intent. Assume teachers want what's best for their students, and be willing to take a few minuets to touch base with your secretary, counselor, administrator, OT, PT, and paraprofessionals. You should also keep your emotions and feeling about a student to yourself in order to remain objective. You may be the only advocate this student has. Because you may be the one who understands your student the most, you may be the one the student confides in and reaches out to. 

If you are making the switch to public school therapy this year, I commend you. Our profession needs dedicated and skilled SLPs that are willing to go the extra mile for student with communication impairments.  I would love to hear from you. What prompted you to make the switch? What are you looking forward to? Do you have someone to walk beside you and mentor you in this new setting? 

Comment below, and don't forget to sign up for my newsletter and blog post to be sent directly to your inbox.

Are you looking for more SLP tips and strategies? You may want to read these previous posts. 

Have a wonderful week,

Lisa, SLP

Friday, August 4, 2017

Part 4: Read the Nonverbal Communication

5 Highly Effective Strategies for Managing Behavior 

(Part 4: Read the Nonverbal Communication)

read nonverbal communicationThis is the fourth part of my 6 part series 5 Highly Effective Strategies for Managing Behavior. I encourage you to read the first three posts in the series, including: 

Part 1: Why is He Acting That Way?
Part 2: Create Routines
 Part 3: Structure for Success

These previous posts in the series provide the background information to understanding the communication intent behind behaviors, the importance of routines, and tips and ideas for structuring the environment for success.

As we've talked about communication being the foundation of relationships, we cannot ignore the importance of nonverbal communication. In this fourth post, I want to talk about the different types of nonverbal communication and how language impaired students are often unable to interpret and use nonverbal communication effectively. Our strategy for managing difficult behavior addressed throughout this post will focus on tuning into nonverbal communication.

What is Nonverbal Communication?

Nonverbal communication includes not only facial expressions, but gestures, eye gaze, body posture, tone of voice, body orientation, and movement between speakers and objects. It is important to recognize that nonverbal communication is not universal and does not transfer meaning between culture and religion. Let's look at a few general examples of communication without words.

There are different types of eye gaze, and I bet you've seen it all. Both children and adults use eye gaze to gain attention, direct or redirect attention, maintain attention, cease interaction, and show confidence.

On the other hand, a lack of eye gaze or eye contact, can be associated with fear, anxiety, feelings of distress or failure, fatigue, distraction, disinterest, boredom, sadness, or irritability (frustration). Be aware these are general statements and a lack of eye contact has different meaning across cultures. In some cultures, looking away shows respect rather than avoidance. When adults and children are actively engaged in positive nonverbal communication, their body orientation will match their eye gaze. Likewise, when communicators lack eye gaze or eye contact due to anxiety or fear, they often pull away physically and distance themselves from engaging with others.