Well, it turns out it did take me over a week to get out our next Activity of the Week. It has been a busy time at Grow, as we are GROWing! Two new clinicians have been hired this week, so stay tuned for some "Meet the SLP" entries to get to know the new team members better.
But, finally and without further delay, here is this week's Activity of the Week. To continue on our snow theme, even though all the snow has been long rained away here in Vancouver, we read Snowmen at Night last week. This is a great book for discussing perspective taking and expected/unexpected behaviour in a fun and silly way. With some of my preschool and early elementary kiddos this week, we did the following extension activities with it:
I did read this with a few older kids as well and used it as a jumping off point to make a bio poem. After reading that bio poems ("bio" as in biography) can be a good way to increase perspective taking skills in middle schoolers, I've started to incorporate this into some of our narrative language sessions. We first make bio poems about ourselves and then we work through the template with characters in the books we read. Typically I do this with more serious characters, but this week, we made a bio poem about silly snowmen! :)
Stay tuned for the next Activity of the Week!
Thanks for reading,
Welcome to our first Activity of the Week! This is where I’ll showcase something I’ve worked on this week. Most of my sessions center around a storybook, as storybooks are an effective way to teach vocabulary, grammar, narrative structure, inferencing, and more. It also keeps my kids engaged! AND, I just love books, so any excuse to read them works for me!
For those kids that have a bit more trouble sitting through a book, sometimes I will make modifications, such as reading the book while sitting on a platform swing, reading the book one page at a time and acting out whatever action is happening while we read, or giving the kids manipulables or small figurines that go along with the book and letting them play with those while we read.
A little disclaimer, obviously not ALL clients are right for this activity. Be sure to match your book and activity choice to your client’s interests and abilities. That said, I’ve been able to use kids picture books with a lot of my older clients as well and, to be honest, they have loved it! I think a lot of “big kids” actually miss having picture books read to them (that’s not research-based, just my own experience!). I often tell my older kids, “We’re going to learn older kid skills but with a younger kid book,” and they don’t mind at all. I’m just always sure to extend their learning with another “older kid” activity after. I may pair the picture book with a related article from ReadWorks or may tack on a writing activity on a topic from the book. For my book this week, The Mitten, I often use the Winter Is Coming article, which often segues into a nice discussion about why some of the animals would probably not be wandering around in mid-winter to find the mitten!
But now, without further ado, my activity this week! Last week we experienced a massive snow-dump here in Vancouver. (Well, massive for Vancouver!) So my book choices have been all snow themed. (Stay tuned in the future for a list of some of my favourite kids’ books organized by theme!) This week we did The Mitten by Jan Brett. This book has so many amazing teaching possibilities, I just love it. Here is a sample session with The Mitten:
First we read the book. With any kid above Kindergarten level, I let them help with some of the reading. Depending on the child’s literacy skills, they may read the whole book, do one page here and there, or at least help with a word or two on each page. This book has some words that are repeated and fairly easy to sound out, like “Baba,” “snow,” “mitten,” and more. Most kids, even those with reading difficulties, can at least get those words and then feel some success in the book reading part.
Then, I usually prime them with some questions about the narrative elements. I use the Story Grammar Marker format from MindWing for this. Studies have shown that asking children questions about narrative structure can increase their success in including the components in their retell. I also love to use manipulatives to go along with the story. I have a little snow-white mitten myself and I made a few paper animals to go in it. We use some dolls from the dollhouse for Nicki and Baba.
After the retell, with the story fresh (and then re-freshed!) in our minds, I often jump into some inferencing questions. Depending on my client’s goals, this may be a larger part of our session. If the child is working on anything social-learning related, I will really increase the amount of time and discussion we spend on inferences and emotions in books. The Mitten, along with most of Jan Brett’s books, often include some excellent pictures for inferencing. It’s so nice how she includes a little clue about the following page on the current page, so the kids can guess what might happen next.
Here are some questions I may ask about The Mitten:
I also love using books to teach vocabulary. I use a vocabulary chart that I found through a presentation by Jennifer Schultz, MA, CCC-SLP called “Building Vocabulary Through Children’s Picture Books” on Northern Speech Services. I will include my vocabulary chart for The Mitten in another post. [Also, if you are interested in using picture books to teach vocabulary, I found this presentation full of great ideas and information!]
To teach the vocabulary in my session, I usually pick 2-4 words from my list that the child didn’t appear too familiar with. We write them on cards, along with a friendly definition. I often use ELL dictionaries to find the definitions as they’re written in plainer English. Then I have the child draw a representation of the word. We may act out the word then, or go through the book and find other places where that word applies. (for example, in The Mitten, if the word is “Burrow,” we might look through and see which other animals burrow.) I’ll often try to find some synonyms for the word. We use the words in sentences. I try to make a few funny and ridiculous sentences as I have found when I get the kids laughing, they remember things better! :) We keep these vocabulary cards in clear plastic pages (I use baseball card pages) in a vocabulary journal. As we amass more words, we sometimes take the cards out for a variety of activities, but that’s a post for another time. ;)
The final activity I may do after a book read is a related story. Together with the child, we tell the story, but change a few elements. I wish I had snapped a photo of the latest one I did for The Mitten with a little friend of mine! We created a comic-style story about a fisherman who lost his boot in the water. As the boot drifted down, all sorts of sea critters crammed their way in, until finally a great blue whale squashed in. Suddenly, he blew air out of his spout, sending all the animals in all directions, and the boot right back into the old fisherman’s boat.
It’s rare that I will do all of these activities with one child. When I do, it is obviously over the course of a few sessions. However, I often do cycle through different activities with different kids. For example, in one day this week, I used the book for vocabulary with one child, for a story retell and narrative practice with another, for attention and simple sentence structure with another, and inferencing with another. Lots of birds with one stone — err, I mean book. :)
I hope you enjoyed this Activity of the Week! Stay tuned for more next week!
Feel free to leave pictures and descriptions of what you have done with this book in the comments!!
Thanks for reading,
Welcome to the new blog! The delay in uploading a "first post" was primarily due to me trying to figure out who and what this blog was for. Is it for you, parents, deciding whether to see an SLP or looking for ideas of what to work on at home with your child? Is it for you, fellow SLPs looking for new therapy ideas and evidence-based practice? Is it for those interested in pursuing a future career as a speech pathologist? Or is it a mix of all three and maybe a few I haven't even considered?
In the end, I decided it's most likely going to be the latter, because I think I can provide content for all 3 of those options. I'm going to try to make it easy to navigate by using the "categories" links located in the right-hand sidebar. There you'll be able to click on whichever category suits you best and find all the posts specifically tailored to you.
For this first post, I'm going to provide some more information about myself as a bit of an introduction. If you're a parent considering hiring a private speech-language pathologist, you definitely want to make sure you're hiring someone whose expertise and temperament is compatible with your child and their needs. To help in that process, I've answered a few interview questions below, so you can get a better idea of who I am and how I work.
Where did you go to school and how long have you been practicing?
I graduated from the UBC School of Audiology and Speech Sciences in 2007. After that, I worked in the public sector for awhile at the Surrey Centre for Child Development. I also consulted to an amazing private SLP who used to work in the Vancouver area. I have been practicing privately on my own since 2009.
What made you decide to become a speech pathologist?
I studied psychology (with a minor in Spanish) in my undergrad at Boston University. At that time, my degree advisor was Jean Berko Gleason, a massive name in the field of Developmental Psychology and Language Development. When I realized that my favourite part of psychology was learning about how children developed language, Dr. Gleason advised me to look into becoming a speech pathologist.
What is your favourite thing to work on in therapy?
Though I do do speech sound therapy in my practice, my *favorite* things to work on are higher level language skills - anything from forming sentences all the way up to social skills and pragmatic language. I love working on narrative language, reading comprehension, and discourse. I often think this is because my undergraduate degree is in psychology instead of linguistics.
What do you love most about being a speech pathologist?
So many things!!! I love that I get to read books and play games as part of my job. I love that I get to find the fun in all of the goals I target. I love seeing the look on the kids' faces when they achieved a goal or gave the correct answer and they know it! I love working with families and supporting real, functional communication in the daily lives of the kids I work with.
What is an area of the field that you would like to learn more about?
I'm really interested in learning more about the building blocks of literacy and how it is so intertwined with oral language development. One of my professional development goals for 2020 is to learn more about literacy development. Another is to really continue to increase and hone my skills when targeting social competencies.
What do you like to do when you aren't helping kids improve their communication skills?
I have two daughters (pictured above), so I spend a lot of time with them. We love playing Uno and creating elaborate pretend games. I also am a writer so am always trying to carve out time to work on my manuscripts. When not writing, I love being outdoors, hiking, swimming, camping, all of the above!
Stay tuned to see more posts! I'll be adding a "therapy activity of the week" documenting one activity I did each week. In addition, I'll post lots of info about books and activities I use frequently. I'll have some posts coming up about typical and atypical speech and language development, as well as some red flags for when you might want to seek an SLP. Stay tuned for all of that and more!
One quick note, to anyone hoping to become a loyal follower of my blog, my posts might not be as frequent as on other blogs you may follow. My primary priority is to provide the best service I can to my clients, so therapy time, prep time, and professional development will always take precedence over blog-writing time! That said, I will update here at least weekly with my activity of the week. :)
Thank you for reading and feel free to comment!
Carla Monteleone & Deborah Carter own and operate Grow Speech and Language Therapy in Vancouver, BC