How I Teach With Smash Mats!

Friday, September 1, 2017
I really should take stock out in PlayDoh. Seriously.  I have used PlayDoh to help my students reach more goals than any other toy or material. They love it. And I don't blame them. It's squishy, it's fun, and it's super motivating. With the love of PlayDoh so high amongst my students, I decided to make some activities that would help them learn as they played. And this is how Smash Mats were born!
My original goal for Smash Mats were to simply teach vocabulary. After we read story, I would name a target vocabulary word, and the child would smash a ball of PlayDoh on the picture of the word. Simple, yet effective! It was a great way to keep data on receptive and expressive vocabulary. But then so many more on the spot, teachable moments happened while using the mats. And now, the use for smash mats has grown to reach so many different areas and therapy goals. Here are a few examples of how I am currently using the mats....
Articulation, Apraxia, and Phonology. I created smash mats for every consonant, blend, and diphthong. I have my students practice their target word before they smash a ball of PlayDoh on the word. But I have been able to use smash mats to target articulation even with my vocabulary mats. If a child is working on the /s/ sound but we are using the under the sea mats, I will have them say, "I see a crab" or "I see a shark." 
Answering Wh-Questions. I created a whole packet just for Wh-Questions. Having the visual available is great for younger children or those just learning the concept of answering who, what, where, and when questions. 
Asking Questions. This can often be a tough concept to teach. We ask our students questions all day long. But how do you teach a child to ask us questions? I have had a lot of luck using smash mats and letting the child be the teacher. Start with a simple imitation, but let them ask you where the target word is on the mat, "Where is the bat?"

Story Sequencing. This has been so much fun. After we read a story, I love using the smash mats to help my students re-tell and sequence the story. The visuals of the characters and vocabulary words are so helpful for them.
Pronouns. Using he/she/him/her/them/them can be a tricky concept for so many students. Why not make the learning process more fun with PlayDoh? My students have a blast finding the picture that matches the description then smashing a ball of PlayDoh on top! I also have used it expressively by having the child describe the picture using correct pronouns before the smashing begins!

Sight Words. These mats were created specifically for one of my students that hated practicing sight words. Enough said!
Categories.  This has been a very effective way to teach about items that belong in the same category and items that don't belong!
Now with all these mats, how do you store and organize them? I use a binder. I print, laminate, and hole punch the mats before I stick them in my binder. It's easy to store them this way and very easy to take with me as I travel to see my students! Smash Mats are so much fun and definitely something I will continue to use to help my students reach their  goals!

1 comment

  1. What a fun idea! I love it! Now you have me thinking of all the ways I could use this. :)


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