Using Written Language to Improve Spoken Language (and Vocabulary!)

Thursday, February 20, 2020
Sometimes speech therapy can get monotonous. Working on the same sounds, using the same games... it can get a little boring. Which is probably why we find ourselves constantly perusing the Dollar Spot at Target and searching Pinterest on a regular basis. We are always looking for new, engaging activities. Sometimes the things we think are boring old activities, are actually something new and fun to another therapist. So today, I want to share with you an activity I've been using for years to teach and engage my articulation students. 
If you have worked in an elementary school setting, you have probably heard the term, "rainbow writing." If you're unfamiliar with it, rainbow writing is having a student write a word multiple times, in different colors. It gives great opportunities for lots of repetition and their papers just look so colorful. Typically this was done with sight words, but I started using this technique with articulation words in my speech sessions. When I was in the schools, I had a rainbow writing center that I used with my groups. (If you're interested in using centers in your speech sessions, here is a blog post I did on the (informal) research project I did on speech centers back in 2013.)

To make this activity as easy and low-prep as possible, I created a "Rainbow Doodles" printable packet. In this packet, each sound is listed in words in the initial, medial, and final positions. Have your students rainbow write these words as they practice them. Multisensory learning (seeing, hearing, saying, etc) can enhance learning and help with processing the information. When the child hears his/her therapist say the word, reads the word, copies the word (multiple times), and says it out loud, they are engaging all their senses. 

A 2019 study posted by the ASHA Wire looked at how written form during instruction aids vocabulary learning. The results of the study showed "strong evidence that the presence of a word's written form leads to improved learning of its spelling and spoken form. There is also some evidence that it may lead to better learning of a words meaning." 

When I read this study, it made me think of using the Rainbow Doodles activity in therapy. Instead of just repeating words produced by the therapist, seeing the words can help the child with spelling. Seeing the letters in the word and associating letter names and sounds is directly related to articulation skills. The article written on the study also mentioned that "a small number of studies have also shown that the presence of a word's written form benefits vocabulary learning in children with developmental language disorder, autism, down syndrome, and reading difficulties." Vocabulary is the foundation of language and comprehension. It's directly associated with listening comprehension, reading, writing.... all the skills we work on as speech therapists! 

You can download a copy of my Rainbow Doodles packet by clicking on the image below. (This is actually a very old activity I have had on TpT for years. I recently gave it a facelift and added some more sounds to it. If you already own it, go re-download it!)
Happy writing!!


Mommy Mondays: More Dinner Table Conversations

Monday, February 17, 2020
Family dinners are completely different in each house. The "picture perfect" scenario, as often depicted on television, is everyone home by 6:00pm with a freshly prepared, healthy meal ready to be served. Smiling faces around the table. Everyone sharing highlights of their day. But in today's reality, the typical family is so busy. We are rushing to make dinner (or pick something up) so we can quickly get the kids to soccer practice or a PTA meeting. The close togetherness of a family dinner has gotten lost in the shuffle. I am guilty of neglecting the special time at the dinner table. My husband doesn't get home til about 8:00 each night, so I typically feed the kids much earlier. I used to sit with them as they chatted, but instead of engaging with them I took those 20 minutes to answer emails or sneak a peek at the news. The end result was Kenzie asking to use the iPad at the table or requesting a show to watch as she ate dinner.  I didn't realize how much quality time we were missing out on as I was trying to multitask!

As hard as it is with busy lives, try to schedule in some time each day or even a few times a week to have some serious quality time with your kids. It doesn't have to be at the dinner table. It can be the few minutes before bed or in the car on the way to soccer practice. Turn off the radio and just talk. Ask them questions, play games, be silly! Trust me, these are the memories they will always remember.

This is also a fantastic way to spend some extra time working on language skills.  Start talking about books you read, asking & answering questions about their day (and yours!), labeling things we see. These are all great opportunities to enhance everyday language skills!

To help with this, I created some cards with questions, little games, and conversation starters to get you started. Some of these are really silly so I think your kids will enjoy this! I printed them off, cut them up, and added them to a ring for storage. Keep one copy at the dinner table, maybe one in the car, or even in your child's night stand to use a few minutes before bed. Of course, don't read these while driving but they are perfect while waiting in car circle or if you have an older child that can read them aloud while you are heading off to dance class.

There are 4 pages of questions included in the deck. The first page includes 12 "Would You Rather?" questions. Take turns asking your children which scenario they would rather have happen and have them explain why they chose that answer.  You answer, too! Kids love hearing our responses to silly questions. If you're on Instagram, I have a highlight reel called "Car Line Would You Rather?" My son loves posting 'Would You Rather" videos and having you all vote with your answer. We started this last year when he would sit in carline with me each day waiting to pick Kenzie up. So silly and so dang fun. 

Next are 12 conversation starters. I love learning what my little guys are thinking. What do they want to be when they grow up? What would they wish for if they had 3 wishes? Their answers will probably surprise you! And the fun part is that these answers may very well change by next week,  so keep asking!

On the third page is 12 social skills scenarios. Read them aloud and have your kids answer if the person was using good or bad table manners. If it was bad table manners, have your child respond with what he/she would have done differently in that situation.

Last but not least 12 more cards for a little extra fun! These cards include some quick little games, challenges or silly things to do. After all, we all just want to have fun.

Engage and embrace these moments before they are too old and don't want to hang out with us anymore. The Family Dinner Game Cards are free in my TpT store. Click the image below to download your copy!

Dear Students... a letter from your therapist

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Dear students,

I want to let you in on a little secret. You have a huge part of my heart. I don't only think about you during those 30 minutes when we are together twice a week.

I think about you in the middle of the night when I can't sleep because you haven't reached that goal yet.

I think of you when I read hours of evidence based research studies on the perfect way to help you learn new vocabulary words.

I think of you while I am at the store and see a toy you would like.

I think of you when I get up early to print and laminate activities for us to do that day.

And when I am up late searching Pinterest for new ideas.

When we have a great session, I leave feeling on top of the world. When the session doesn't go so well, I leave feeling defeated. Like I let you down.

I think of you on the weekends when I am attending conferences and workshops.

I say a prayer for you when you're out sick. Or when your family is going through some tough stuff.

I feel so lucky to be a part of your journey. To be a counselor to your parents and a place of comfort for you.

You are very special. You are so loved. And you are a huge part of my life.

With lots of love,
Mrs. Kristin

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