Easy DIY Props for Play Based Speech Therapy

Do you use themes and play based therapy in your speech therapy sessions? 
Research shows that play based therapy IS effective when learning and working on language and social skills, which is why I try to center my speech therapy sessions, especially for younger students, around play.

If you are an SLP working with children, whether it be in private practice, outpatient, or a school setting, then these easy DIY props for play based speech therapy will work for you! In this post I'll explain how to create your own props to enhance your speech therapy sessions for FREE (or at least very cheap).

What is Play Based Therapy, and Why Does it Matter?

Play based therapy is an approach used by SLPs to target speech and language skills through the context of play. Play based therapy allows the child to be more engaged in therapy sessions since the play is based on their interests and is child lead (as much as possible). 

When you introduce skills through play, you are teaching, modeling, and practicing the target skills within a natural environment. This will enable the child to build on their skills as well as practice the skills in a wide variety of environments (therapy room, classroom, playground, home, babysitters house, etc.). Play also produces developmentally appropriate environments and activities for the child while working on a variety of skills. 

While play is fun and engaging, it is also purposeful. As an SLP you should carefully choose the language and skills to be addressed with the toys being used. This will ensure the target skills and language are present throughout the activity. Another added benefit to play based therapy is the ability to help develop social and emotional skills.

How to Make Your Props for Play Based Speech Therapy in Less Than 10 Minutes  

Sometimes as SLPs we get wrapped up in the newest toy that "everyone has to have" and forget that often the simpler the better. Watch this video to see how we quickly made simple toys out of a box and paper. 

Did you see how easy it was to create play props for working on speech and language skills within our theme? 

Here's how we made our props:

1) Find a good, sturdy box. Since I just bought class snacks we used the goldfish box. A sturdy box will allow you to recover the box multiple times throughout the year based on your themes.

2) Cut a large rectangle or square of paper in your desired color to cover the box.

3) Cover the box with the paper. There are several different ways to cover a box with an open side. (seriously...just google it to see what works best for you)

4) Add elements to the props. I drew the elements myself on the props in the video for privacy reasons, but this is a great way to get your students involved. Talk about the elements (ex. A school has windows. People look out the window. Do you see a window in the room? Where should we put the window on the school? What shape is the window?) and let the students take turns drawing the elements.

5) Play!!!!

Remember that the props don't have to look "perfect".

This month we are working on our back to school theme including rules, routines, and vocabulary. Since I also try to incorporate literacy into my themes we read a variety of back to school themed books. Two of our favorite books were "The Pigeon Has to Go To School" by Mo Willems and "Turkey Goes to School" by Wendi Silvano (book companion available here). After reading our books, the school and bus boxes were used to practice taking our fiends to school. We practiced following the rules and routines with our "friends" once the bus drop them off at school. We practiced the words "in", "go", "hurry", "drive", "get in", "get out", "out", etc. with the bus. We practiced our speech sounds with words related to the activity. We put our friends and the bus "in front" of the school, "behind" the school, "near" the school, "beside" the school. We practiced driving "far away" from the school. These are just some of the skills we practiced with our play.

If you need help with your themes, click here to check out themed units in my TPT store. I used elements from the Back To School Thematic Unit in addition to our play. 

3 Tips and Reminders for Implementing Props In Play Based Speech Therapy 

1. Make sure the play is purposeful. Think carefully about how to incorporate your target skills and what important vocabulary can be used over and over, naturally through play.
2. Make sure the child is engaged and having fun! This will help with attention as well as retention and carryover of the skills. Follow the child's lead!
3. Make sure the props you create and the toys you use are able to address a wide variety of skills!

Using props and play based therapy with your themes is pretty well guaranteed to bring joy and laughter to your therapy sessions! 

Comment below or DM @thespeechowl on IG and tell me....

What props have you created for your play based therapy and thematic units?
What goals will you be targeting with DIY props?

Happy creating!

5 Tips For A Successful School Year

Another school year is quickly approaching. While I am excited to see what this new year holds, I am also a big ball of nerves and anxiety! Here’s the thing, last was a rough one! I mean really rough! At one point I questioned if wanted to keep working in the schools. I even questioned if I wanted to continue working as an SLP. I know I’m not the only one that had a rough year, so if your year was a tough one too know that you are not alone! Over spring break I found myself lying on a yoga mat in my living room floor. I had this overwhelming sense of “this is what calm and relaxed feels like.” I had completely forgotten what it felt like. I had been stressed out and anxious for so long that it was a foreign feeling. As I was lying there I realized I had to change things. No one else was going to change things...this was on me! I really thought about the things I could change. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggled at times for the rest of the year, but things were so much better when I started making changes. I didn’t dread my job anymore. I quit listening to negativity. When I look back at last year, I am trying to focus on all of the positive things that happened, the successes we found in my therapy room, the parent that came running over when she saw me to show me how far her preschooler had come with his communication, the way our students and staff came together when tragedy struck, and the strengthened relationships with my students and  my co-workers. 

As I started to prepare for this upcoming year, I spent a lot of time thinking of ways to be proactive. To make this year much more successful than last year. 

Here is a list of my top 5 tips to try and make this year a successful one!

This is actually the area I don’t struggle with as much. I really don’t consider myself type A, unless legal documents and deadlines are involved. I literally have 3 different planners right now...one for work, one for personal, and one for workout and meal planning (something I’m not great at, but plan to work on this year.) For work I use a planner that I created (I am a paper and flair pen kind of gal). Click HERE to checkout the planned that I use. Some you may be digital planner people (I try but I just can’t do it)! To take a peek at my friend Karen, The Pedi Speechie’s, digital planner click HERE

This one tip has THREE components!
A Set boundaries and expectations with your students. When students know what is allowed and what is expected of them you will all have a much better year. (Yes I know this isn’t going to be the case with every student on your caseload, but it will help with many of them.)
B Set boundaries and expectations with your colleagues. Tell your co-workers up front what will and will not work for you (within reason). I have already told several of my special education teachers (we have some changes this year) that I am happy to help when I can, however my job has to be completed first. I’m not being rude, but if my work isn’t completed guess who is in trouble...ME! The staff I helped isn’t in trouble, they finished their job..It’s on ME!. (Remember...I’m trying to decrease stress and anxiety this year.) 
C Set boundaries and expectations with yourself. One of my boundaries is that work stays at work unless it’s an emergency. That doesn’t make me a bad SLP! It actually makes me a better SLP! It keeps me from dreading going home only to continue working. I have other relationships to work on outside of work, so my time at home is focused on myself and my relationships with family and friends. It also means that I have to protect my time at work. I have to make sure I stay focused and complete my “to-do list” in a timely manner. 
 Form relationships with your students and co-workers. I don’t mean you need to be BFF with the teacher in the room next door (if you are BFFs that’s great) and please don’t become BFFs with your students. Talk to your students, know your students, respect your students. This will build a trusted relationships with them. BONUS...when students know you care about them they work harder for you and they show you more respect. When it comes to the co-workers talk to them, form a relationship with them, and respect them. When you respect them they will (hopefully) respect you. HINT...If you haven’t been told before, your school secretaries and custodians can be your lifesaver. Form a professional relationship with them. 
In this day of social media (yes I know Pinterest is technically a search engine and not social media) we all see the staged, beautiful, perfect version of therapy sessions and therapy rooms. Some people may have these perfect lives (I doubt it! Social media is the highlight reel!), but that doesn’t mean you have to wear yourself out trying to keep up with Pinterest pins, Instagram photos, or Facebook posts. If I had to guess 90% or more of my therapy isn’t “Pinterest Perfect” and my rooms sure aren’t decked out in decor. It doesn’t make my kids like me any less and it doesn’t decrease their progress. 

Finally....(If you here me say nothing else LISTEN to this one)
Don’t lose yourself in work. Provide the best services you can for your students, complete your work by or before the deadline, etc., but take care of yourself too. When you get home do something you enjoy! Go for a walk! Go for a massage! Go spend time with friends! If you don’t take time for yourself you will burn out...I PROMISE! 

I hope these tips help make this school year a little more successful than last year. We can do this! Remember why you choose this career in the first place! 

See you soon!, 

4th of July Celebration, Freebies, and a Giveaway!

Freedom, liberty, family, friends, cookouts, pool parties, fireworks...
What words come to your mind when you think of the 4th of July? Anyone who knows me well, knows that I LOVE fireworks! Of course I love all those other things too, and I can’t wait to spend time with friends and family; but there is something about FIREWORKS that makes me happy! I have been lucky enough for the past 10 years to live in cities where there are AMAZING firework shows. Here in Nashville, there are fireworks near my house on the 3rd AND a huge firework show on the 4th! I seriously can’t wait! 

The 4th of July opens up the opportunity for some great SLP therapy themes...freedom, fireworks, american symbols, and more! Whether you are still in school (I hope you aren’t!), working summer school, working in private practice, or doing something else you can’t miss out on the chance to teach your students about these things! In order to help you out I’m linking to a FREE product in my store to assist you in teaching about The Statue of Liberty! 
The Speech Attic has a great Freebie for you too! This 4th of July lap book is perfect for learning why we celebrate the 4th of July, as well as, related fun facts and tier 2 vocabulary!
To make your 4th of July even better, The Speech Attic and myself are having a giveaway on Instagram! Make sure you visit us (@thespeechowl and @thespeechattic) on Instagram and enter to win a $10 TeachersPayTeachers gift card! Giveaway ends at 7:00 pm CST on July 4, 2017. Another BONUS...we will both be placing our stores on sale July 3rd and 4th!
What is your favorite part of the 4th of July?

Ghost Talk Blog Hop

Fall is finally here! The leaves are changing colors, football is on the t.v., and pumpkin everything is easy to be found! That also means that it’s almost Halloween! Myself and some other fantastic SLP bloggers/TPT sellers have created a fun Halloween themed “Ghost Hop Blog Hop” just for you! 

Here’s how it works! 
You can start here, at my blog, or you can start at the The Pedi Speechie. After you download the freebie (the link will be found in the blog post), you will come back to the blog and click on the link to the next blog. Continue downloading and linking to the next blog until you are back where you started. 

By the end of the hop you will have a great Halloween themed story as well as SIX different companion activities that will be perfect for your Halloween therapy sessions! 

You can grab my freebie by clicking here or on the image below!
Don’t forget to leave us feedback on all of the freebies you download! We love to hear how you used these materials in your therapy sessions and how much your students loved them!!!

Click the picture below to head over to Speech Wonderland
for you next freebie!

Have a spook-tacular Halloween! 

Using Non-fiction Texts in Speech and Language Therapy

Using non-fiction passages to address speech and language skills has been my saving grace lately!  Non-fiction passages are perfect for my mixed groups with older elementary, middle school, and high school students. I’m joining The Frenzied SLPs to bring you some products and tips from a few of your favorite SLPs. 
As some of you know, I mostly see middle school and high school students in the school system (I have a few younger kids at school and I see some younger kids in a private practice). It can be very difficult to engage these older students and keep them interested in activities and tasks you are working on in therapy! Last year I wrote a few nonfiction passages and brought them in for therapy...all of a sudden my 8th grade boys, who complained all the time about having speech and language services, wouldn’t leave my room. They (along with some of my high school boys) started begging me to bring more nonfiction passages. We would read the passages, learn important vocabulary, answer comprehension questions, talk about main ideas, and research related events and people. Their favorite nonfiction passages were about U.S. presidents. Another topic my kids are interested in are animals. This summer I worked hard to create a huge product (over 150 pages) for endangered animals. I added even more to this product than I had the others. Once it was close to ready, I took it with me to see some private clients...it was again a HUGE hit! Let me show you all the ways we use these fun nonfiction passages!!! Here is a little secret....I can use the same themes and often the same passages across all of my caseload with just a little tweaking (many of my students have a reading disability). 

Since my students are currently loving the endangered animal passages, I thought I would show you how we use them. Make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom to find links to some of my favorite nonfiction resources!

This product includes 12 endangered animals. Each animal has activities to help us address reading comprehension, listening comprehension, vocabulary, context clues, research, informational text writing, main idea and details, summarizing, comparing and contrasting information, articulation and more! 
We use a Venn Diagram (included in the packet) to compare and contrast the animals we have studied. We use the information we obtain throughout the lesson to complete the diagram. 
We use a  K-W-L Chart to help anchor the information. We use this chart to determine what the students already know about each animal, what they want to know (so we can do further research), and to sum up the information they learned. 
We also love reading the "Did You Know? Fun Fact" sheet. We read over this sheet and the students determine what information they will share with their family when they get home. We love learning fun facts about each animal! 
We read the comprehension questions, then we read the passages and highlight the important information. For my students with more severe language and reading difficulties (or my younger students) we use the level 1 passage and questions. This passage is shorter than the level 2 passage and uses less complex language.  (Having two levels of passages is perfect if you see students across a range of grades and/or ability levels.) 
For my students with less severe language and reading difficulties (or my older students) we do the same thing with the Level 2 Passage. This passage is longer and more complex than the Level 1 passage and there is an additional page with comprehension questions related to the passage. 

We preview the vocabulary before we read, but we focus on the vocabulary more in-depth after we answer the comprehension questions. My students who need more direct vocabulary instruction we use the Level 1 vocabulary sheet. Level 1 includes definitions and a word bank for the students to write the correct word in the blank with supports. My students who are practicing context clues use the Level 2  vocabulary sheets. Level 2 includes words listed in context sentences. We underline or highlight the context clues and then write our best definition of the word. 
I gave myself an answer key! (I'm all about things to make my life easier!)

We use graphic organizers to help us determine the main idea and details, to organize thoughts for writing or comparing and contrasting information, and to summarize information. These are all skills that are extremely difficult for my students. 
If we have time, we complete a flip book for each animal. This helps my students to sum up the information they learned as well as research new/additional information. When we finish they can take the flip book home to share with their families. 

BONUS TIP: We also use these passages to work on articulation. We go through the passages/information and highlight or underline words that contain target sounds. My articulation students help me out by reading portions of the information aloud focusing on producing their speech sounds accurately. This makes having mixed groups a little easier on all of us and no one is jealous that "he/she gets to do that instead".

See...it’s fun, it’s engaging, and there is enough material to cover weeks of therapy sessions! Click the following link to grab these endangered animal passage. Non-Fiction Endangered Animal Passages

I hope you will think about using more nonfiction texts in your therapy sessions and I would love to help you with that! 
Here are several nonfiction passages you may want to check out: Non-Fiction American Symbol Passages, Non-Fiction Inventor Passages, Non-Fiction Black History Passages, Non-Fiction Bundle  

Now head back over to the linky party and see what other great products and tips are waiting for you!

Thankful and Grateful Blog Hop (Frenzied SLP)

The Frenzied SLPs are bringing you a fantastic scavenger hunt style “Thankful and Grateful Blog Hop” and we want you to be a part of it!!! Three lucky winners will be chosen to win a $10 TPT gift card and a $10 Starbucks gift card. 
Click the image above to be sent to The Frenzied SLP Facebook page. 

Here’s what you do:
  1. Read each of the “Thankful and Grateful” blog posts written by individual Frenzied SLPs. 
  2. Collect the letters at the bottom of each blog post. (Make sure you write them down.)
  3. Enter the Rafflecopter. It can be found on any of the blog posts. 
  4. Visit the Frenzied SLPs Facebook page for an additional entry. 
  5. Wait until 11/13/15 to see if you are one of the lucky winners!
Now let’s get down to what I am Thankful and Grateful for! 

1) I am thankful for my friends and family, who support me, love me, and call me out when I need a reality check! I don’t know what I would do without each and everyone of these people! 

2) I am thankful to be a member of the Frenzied SLPs! (Thank you Laura!) I am also thankful for the amazing friendships and collaborative community that I have found through Facebook, my TPT store, and blog. Each of you are included in this community! I have learned new things about myself and our profession through the amazing amounts of constant collaboration! 

3) I am beyond thankful for my new job and the amazing people I have the opportunity to work with! Over the past few months they have shown me that they will be there to support me, teach me, learn from me, pray for me, and talk about life with me. I hope they each know they can expect the same from me! 

4) I am thankful that I have the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing students I have every met! I love finding new ways to help them grow and supporting them in their academics. Not only am I able to teach them, but they teach me new things each and every day! 

What are you thankful for?

Don't forget to write down my letter and check out all of the other blog post, before you enter the Rafflecopter. 
Click the image for the next blog.
Click the image to start at the beginning. 

Middle School Materials and Motivators (linky party)

Oh middle school...working with middle school students is unlike working with any other age range. How do you find materials for the kids? How do you keep the kids motivated? How do you keep the kids from suddenly being too embarrassed to come to speech/language therapy? Those are some tough questions! Luckily, the Frenzied SLPs have you covered with this fun “Middle School Materials and Motivators” linky party! I'm linking up over at Twin Speech's blog
Let me give you a peek into my MIDDLE SCHOOL therapy and how I’ve combated some of these issues. 

How do we find great materials for middle schoolers?
The first thing I want to show you is my newest MIDDLE SCHOOL product! I am so excited to share this with you! I spent well over 40 hours working on this to help my kiddos and we are loving it! Over my years in this field and after talking to tons of teachers about how my students are performing in the classroom, I have become a firm believer that vocabulary is a huge factor in their classroom and comprehension difficulties. Here’s the problem though...I can’t teach my kids every vocabulary word they will ever need to know! Neither can you! But...I can teach them strategies to help them figure out what unknown words mean. One of the main strategies I teach kids is to USE CONTEXT CLUES!!!!! Here’s how we’re working on context clues...
This packet contains important Tier 2 Vocabulary Words for 5th grade, 6th grade, 7th grade and 8th grade!!! There are almost 200 total Tier 2 Vocabulary words included!!! WOW!
We start by using our context clues to define made up words! I want to know that they really understand how to use the clues and that they aren’t correctly defining the word because they happen to know what it means already. 

I have included Level 1 cards (with multiple choice answers), Level 2A cards (same words and sentences as level 1 without multiple choice options), and Level 2B cards (same words with different sentence context and no multiple choice options).
Level 1
Level 2A
Since I have large groups of kids, I make them each a packet based on their needs. If they need multiple choice answers to assist with defining the Tier 2 word, I give them Level 1 cards. If they don’t need the multiple choice answers and will be able to determine the meaning without extra support they receive Level 2A. I read the sentences to the group and the students are responsible for highlighting the important clues. If we need to use a graphic organizer we pull those out too. After they highlight the clues they either circle the letter they believe to be the correct answer or they write the answer on the card. We go around and talk about whether the answers are correct and or incorrect and discuss the clues used to determine the the meaning. 
If I need to address skills with one student, I let the others work on a “Context Clue Center”. They have a mini dictionary (pages with each word and definition) that they can use to check each others answers while they are completing their packets. 
Level 2B
When we are ready to practice our vocabulary in other contexts, we use the Level 2B cards. The words are the same but the sentences are different. 

Once my kiddos understand how to use context clues, I start to see more progress in the classroom. They start trying to figure out what the unknown words mean which leads to better comprehension of the material being presented to them. 

How do we keep middle schoolers motivated?
This year my theme with for the middle schoolers is employment!
We started the year with a conversation. During the conversation we discussed responsibility and taking responsibility for your actions. I told them for the rest of the year speech was their job. They would be responsibility for showing up to “work” on time. They would be responsible for completing all of their work in a timely manner. They would be responsible for completing and returning all paperwork or homework. They would be responsible for their actions on the way to and from speech. They would be responsible for their actions in the speech/language sessions. Finally, they would be responsible for learning, doing their best and making progress. We also discussed that I will be responsible for making sure they are provided the information and strategies they need. I will be responsible for planning our work tasks. Since this is now their job they will earn a daily “wage”. Their wage will be dependent on their ability to fulfill their responsibilities. Their “wage” is in actuality me making tally marks. I don’t do the whole treasure box after each session thing, however, they will be allowed to cash in their wages at various times to earn some type of reward. The reward may be school supplies, it may be a special activity, or anything else decide I make up!

That all sounds crazy right?!?! Do you know every single kid shows up to speech on their own every single session!!!! Do you know every single kid works hard and completes all of the tasks I give to them!!! Do you know every single kid returns their paperwork and homework!!! 

To make sure the kiddos (they’re too old to be kiddos right) students didn’t forget when their “appointment” was, I made them “appointment cards” that were discreet but able to be used as a reminder! 

I made a list for all of the teachers telling them the students who receive speech/language services, the day of services and the time of the services. 

I hope this has helped you out in your journey into middle school! Now head back over to the linky party (click here) and grab some other great tips, materials, and motivators from some other amazing SLPs! 

See you soon!