End of the Year Teacher Gift Idea!

Friday, May 27, 2016
Today was Kenzie's last day of preschool. I am so proud of how much she has learned and grown in the last few months. We just enrolled her in school in February. We were touring the school for VPK and she just fell in love with the class so we decided to start her early. I am so thankful for her sweet and wonderful teachers and wanted to give them a gift to thank them!
Of course I turned to Pinterest for some inspiration.There are so many cute ideas but one stuck out to me, especially since we live in Florida! What's better than a fun in the sun gift bag?
Included in the beach tote is a towel, a magazine, sunscreen, and a tumbler for a cool pool drink! I picked up all of these things at Target. I purchased everything pictured above for under $30. The tote bag was in their $3 section! Isn't it cute?
 Because I absolutely love doing these child interviews, I found one for Kenzie to do about her teachers. You can download a copy for free from The Suburban Mom blog. I stuck one of these in the tote bag as well.
 And what teacher gift would be complete with out a cute gift tag to go with it? I created these and posted them in my store for free incase anyone else could use them. You can download them here! Happy gifting!!

Why I Over-Communicate with Parents

Friday, May 20, 2016
How is your parent communication? Do you speak with your students' families on a regular basis… weekly, monthly, yearly at the IEP meeting? Keeping in touch with parents can be a difficult task but it is so important.
Typically parents only get phone calls or notes home when their child is in trouble. They see the school's phone number pop up on their called ID and have a moment of panic. I don't want my students' families to get that feeling when they see my name. I want them to expect a call with good news about a goal they have met or a fun activity they are enjoying and excelling with. Parent communication needs to be a balance of positive and negative. As a private therapist, I don't have required face-to-face parent meetings. If I see a child at their school or daycare, there's a good chance it may be a long time before I meet the parents of my student. I want them to feel comfortable communicating with me about their concerns, questions, and the progress that their child is making. 

Now I know it's not really possible to have weekly conversations with every child's parents. There just isn't enough hours in a day. So I created a parent communication folder that I send home with my students weekly. I actually call it a homework folder, but I am much more conceded with the communication portion of it. Here is what I include in the folder:
1. A Calendar: I make note of the dates and time speech sessions are held, dates the school is closed, dates of meetings, when a re-evaluation is due, how many therapy sessions are remaining if the child's insurance only covers a certain amount at a time, any pertinent information. My hopes with this is that parents will schedule dentist and doctor appointments around speech (wishful thinking, I know!) and also remember to contact me if a session needs to be canceled for any reason.
2. My Day In Speech Log: this is a simple and to the point activity/behavior log. It includes the date, a few lines to note what we worked on, a place to report on behavior and if homework was given. I typically fill this out during the remaining few minutes of a session when the child has earned a reward activity.
3. A Communication Log: I use this if a longer note needs to be left for the parents. There's also plenty of space on this log for a parent to leave a note for you.
Including all of these things aren't necessary for all parents. Some will be over joyed that you tell them each week what you are working on. And some probably won't give it a second look. But at least you are putting in the time to reach out to your students' parents. And that is fantastic. (Psst...this is a great bonus for your end of the year when evaluations come up!) You can download a copy of my communication folders for free, here!


Non-Fiction Learning!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016
The weather here has been amazing. I have been itching to get outside instead of working indoors all day. Some of you may not know this, but for the last 3 years I have been working as a private therapist since I left the school system. This gives me flexibility with my schedule and the ability to be home with my little ones so much more. Working privately also gives me the opportunities to take therapy outside of the home or therapy room and get some real life experiences!
Recently we have been doing a lot of work with non-fiction reading about wildlife, animals, and their habitats. What's a better way to teach about these things than to actually get outside and see them?! There is a local park here in St. Pete called Boyd Hill Nature Park. One of the families I work with decided to take our therapy session outside of our typical therapy setting and get some hands on, non-fiction learning!
During the session before our field trip, I gave each child a graphic organizer (pictured above) where they could make predictions about that they would see, hear, and smell while on the nature walk. Ironically, yes, each child had the word "poop" written somewhere in their prediction! Since not all of the kids I went on the trip with could write, drawing picture predictions was also an option. 
When we got to the park, I gave them back their graphic organizers so they could document their observations. It was incredible to see them applying vocabulary they learned to real life situations and not just a worksheet. That day these kids got to touch a snake, see birds, turtles, and so many other animals we had been reading about. All too often the kids we work with do not get to experience the things they read about in the classroom. I love being able to give the gift of hands on experiences to both my children and the ones I work with.

This was such a fun and educational experience. I highly recommend it.  I know it's not possible for all therapists to have field trips with their kids, however, I have a few suggestions:
1. Take therapy outside your typical setting. Go walk around the school. Learning about nutrition? See if you can visit the cafeteria. Completing a unit on bugs? Take a walk outside and see what you can find!
2. Bring in as many topic-related, real life items that you can when teaching a new concept. Kids learn more when they can touch and hold something. A real object will stick in their memory better than a graphic.
3. Volunteer to chaperonne field trips your students will be on. My principal always allowed me to join my students on field trips. I created entire lessons about the trip before we went and continued on the topic after the field trip. The more exposure to vocabulary and new concepts, the richer the learning.
4. Going on a trip this summer? Bring back photos, a jar full of sand, anything that will help put a real life spin on a typical learning experience. Your students will love learning about what you experienced.

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