One of my personal goals this year is to increase the use of technology in my therapy sessions. Much of my “free” time can be spent compiling lists and exploring possible resources, applications, Universal Design for Learning strategies and interactive programs. I do plan on purchasing an iPad in the near future to use in my private practice, so I have been bookmarking lists of apps and other resources that the iPad offers. Though the school district for whom I also work has not yet authorized the use of iPads for instructional use, I feel quite fortunate to work in a setting that does offer a variety of additional technology resources — flipcams, smartboards, the ActivPanel I now have in my therapy room, and more. I have developed a few favorite tools that students really seem to enjoy, and the opportunities for engagement and interaction have increased immeasurably. I like to think I am pretty engaging all by myself, but there is something to be said about therapy that includes music, color, sound, movement, and electronic modes of presentation. Children today are wired for the technology (read more about this thought in my Signs of the Times post.)
One therapy tool that is quickly marching its way into first place is the use of video to target speech-language goals.For students whose performance is greatly enhanced with the use of music and visual stimuli, videos help to secure focused attention and engage their minds for interactive learning. I often insert a video into a smartboard lesson, designed to reinforce a theme or idea. Below is a video I found recently on Youtube, which I used in a caterpillar/butterfly seasonal theme. I used the video in a smartboard lesson that reviewed the lifecycle of the caterpillar/butterfly, and reinforced the recently presented story, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The video helped to help model use of descriptive concepts, and we used colorful scarves to incorporate motor movement and sensory input as we pretended to fly like the butterflies. Students were absolutely mesmerized by this tranquil video! They readily formulated their own phrases and sentences to describe colored butterfly pictures following the video:
I’ve also posted recently about using Animoto to create videos using music and selected images. I made another video today with a group of students to target expressive language, descriptive concepts, theme vocabulary and answering wh questions. To introduce summer theme vocabulary, I created a folder of Google images showing kids enjoying a variety of summer activities. Students took turns selecting the pictures they wanted to use in the video, and we practiced individual speech-language goals as we selected the pictures. Here is a visual I created to highlight the sequential directions for this video-making activity:
After we selected pictures, we uploaded them to Animoto, added the music track, and reviewed our objectives/progress while we waited for the video to finish “production” (a process that only takes a couple of minutes.) Then we were ready for step 4 — watching the video! I just loved seeing how connected and animated my students were when they saw the video and recalled the images they contributed. I noted increases in attention, participation, spontaneous verbalizations and use of targeted concepts in ALL students in the group. Here is the video that we made:
With so much success, I plan on using video as a therapy tool as much as possible — flipcam video and mobile device image uploads to star students themselves, interactive video clips in smartboard files, youtube videos that highlight concepts or themes, and other educational videos from sites like BrainPop, PBSKids, and more. I still reserve time and energy to create hands-on activities using games, toys, concrete objects and pictures; but the use of video as a therapy tool is clearly a winner in my book…er, umm– electronic reading device. 🙂
Inspired by SLP and fellow blogger, Jenna Rayburn of Speech Room News, I decided to respond to her Anatomy of a Speech Room challenge and take some pictures of my therapy room. This challenge came at a good time because I have been playing around with the configuration of my little room a lot this year. In the past, my tiny room has been overpowered by my desk, two large file cabinets, and a large round table that sat smack in the center of the room. This arrangement left very little room to stand or move, which proved a bit tricky in some of my therapy sessions (picture me, children with wheelchairs or walkers, a graduate student intern and an additional adult assistant all wedged in around a circle table — yes, can you say CROWDED???) Earlier this year, my super-organized and ambitious student intern helped me brainstorm a bit to come up with a better layout. We packed old files into boxes to rid the room of a file cabinet, traded out the round table for a small rectangular table (a feat which involved me following our building custodian into the boiler roomstorage area— seriously, that “room” is straight out of Nightmare on Elm Street; Freddy Krueger just may have been lurking in the shadows! But, I got my table.) Suddenly, the room seemed much larger and brighter, and my groups could all fit in the room without experiencing claustrophobic attacks. I could also access therapy materials or files without fear of gouging my leg on a file cabinet drawer (yes, that actually happened to me. Ouch.)
All was well until earlier this month when I got my new ActivPanel interactive smartboard (note: I am NOT complaining about this gift, but setting up the device and adjacent laptop did require some more shifting.) After some trial and error with cords, placement of the ActivPanel, student access methods and ways to connect to the Internet, I think I finally have a room layout I like. I am feeling pretty happy about the space — even though it’s small, I think about how the room is a big step up from the room I had right out of graduate school, when I shared a book closet with the school psychologist! (That was another creepy Freddy Krueger space…dark and dingy with stacks of books all around me.)
Check out the pictures below for a tour of my new and improved, geeked-out therapy room!
Here is my room as you walk in the door. I have the therapy table and also a (new) rug where I do floortime play with some of my little ones (as young as three years old.)
Once inside the room, you can see the table and the ActivPanel set-up, with my chalkboard and the visuals I keep handy.
Here is a closer look at the ActivPanel and the board. The lower right quadrant of the board is where I write my objectives — definitely a challenge in groups with varying skills and goals, but I usually try and write something all-encompassing so that they have an idea of what we are doing:
Underneath the ActivPanel (housed on an old, door-less cabinet) I keep printer paper, construction paper, and bins for easy access to lesson plan materials:
At the table, students sit on one side and the end (enough for 4, which is my largest size pull-out group,) and I sit on the side with the laptop and board. This way, students can all see the ActivPanel and they can walk up to it when it’s their turn. I previously had the ActivPanel sitting at the far end of the table, but students were reaching across each other, and trying to get close enough to the board to use the stylus was difficult. So far, this new set-up is working out very well. The laptop sitting to the left of the smartboard provides input to the smartboard. I also use the laptop to enter student data into log spreadsheets (which is actually difficult when I have the students there with me, so really I end up entering data into my log files later…but I do try. More on that topic in a subsequent post.) I also have frequently-used supplies within reach in the space around me while I conduct therapy sessions:
The shelf behind my therapy table (on the left in the above picture) is covered in fabric. I attached fabric to the shelf unit using heavy-duty velcro as a way to hide visually alluring items from easily-distracted and/or impulsive students. When needed, the fabric is easily removed to access books, puzzles, and a variety of games I use to target speech-language skills:
To the right of the chalkboard, I have a vertical file on the wall where I keep picture schedules, low-tech communication boards, core vocabulary boards and other useful visuals. I also have an emergency clipboard I keep handy for fire drills and other emergency procedures:
Here’s my desk (ok, I admit I did organize the surface of the desk a bit before I snapped this picture! I often have IEPs, reports and other papers in a stack, among other things. I am trying to make sure the desk looks at least this neat before I leave each day.) The wall behind my desk technically leads to another office, and you can see there is a two-way mirror there. My “neighbor” has her side covered with paper, but I have grand visions of having the whole office suite to myself, creating a therapy room and separate observation room:
To the left of the desk, I have a storage cabinet covered in fabric, my printer, and a pocket chart with visuals I have hanging on the wall (door.) The fabric keeps the toys hidden until they are offered, and the pocket chart allows easy access to visuals I often use to prompt students for behaviors.
Toy bins under the fabric:
At my desk I also have a Pinterest-inspired place to store my Team notebook (holds parent questionnaires, assessment logs, and anything else I may need at Team,) and activity files/other materials that I am currently using (activity files not in use are stored in the file cabinet underneath this desktop storage.) I got the dishrack at a thrift store for $1.00…works for me!
I even use the space underneath my desk — a “shred” bin for those confidential papers, and a rolling file cart that houses a “working file” for each student on my caseload. I use these files to store individualized therapy materials, most-recent progress report and a current copy of the IEP. Some of my students have speech-language files several inches thick that date back as many as six years; this working file system rolls out when I need it and helps keep current information easily at my fingertips.
Beyond my desk is a built-in shelving unit that is not quite accessible, due to the large file cabinet I needed to put about a foot or so next to (in front of) it. I store mostly books and materials I don’t need that often on this shelving unit, accompanied by pictures of my kids and other trinkets:
I also have a built-in cabinet where I house art supplies, story board characters and pieces, cooking supplies, picture cards (ones I do not use frequently,) seasonal items and miscellaneous therapy supplies. The cabinet is spacious and holds a lot of items in an organized fashion:
At the far end of the room, I have a refrigerator (my own) with some storage on top. In the storage drawers I keep things like glue sticks, stickers, game pieces, dice, and magnetic chips. Markers, crayons, pens and pencils are also within reach:
Above the refrigerator, there are some open shelves where I keep enticing toys (up out of reach so that students have to make verbal or picture requests. No rewards for pointing in this room!) I also have free-standing therapy mirrors, and roughly two-ton pottery pieces that my sons made at pottery camp many years ago; I can’t yet bear to part with them…perfect top shelf office decor! 🙂
To the right of the refrigerator (and behind my therapy table,) I have a bulletin board atop the shelving unit. I use this board to display our school-wide behavior plan poster — a nice reminder for the students and a nice way to prevent me from having to continually update bulletin board displays! Look closely on the lower right side of the bulletin board and you will see some visual prompts I keep on pocket rings…I use these often with students who need behavior supports; many of these students have their own pocket rings I gave teachers use with them throughout their school day.
On the counter below the bulletin board, I keep my artic cards, picture vocabulary cards and other Fun-Deck materials. I also keep binders with adapted reading program materials, Core curriculum standards and other resources.
Well, there it is. My small but sweet therapy space where amazing things happen! Hope you have enjoyed this up-close and personal tour of my home away from home. I would love to know how this room compares to rooms that other SLPS use — I am grateful for this space but always wishing for a bigger room to allow for even more creativity (I’m thinking circle-time area, play house, puppet theater, pretend store, gross motor area and more!) A girl can dream, right?! Thanks for taking a peek and for visiting LiveSpeakLove!
I stopped at the store today to buy goodies and cards for my own kids to give their friends on Valentine’s Day. Our home is now equipped with pre-made cards and card-making supplies (for one child with a bit of artistic ambition,) treat bags and several kinds of candy doused with liberal amounts of pink and red. We are just days away from the holiday, and almost all of my kids are getting pretty excited. (Did you know that middle schoolers are now “too cool” for Valentine exchanges, even casual ones under the pretense of spontaneous candy-sharing?? Hmmmph.)
I am not necessarily a huge Valentine’s Day fan, but I do enjoy the chance to mark the swiftly passing days with entertaining, theme-related activities and the chance to celebrate with the people around me. I have popular, favorite Valentine’s Day activity set to share.
Valentine Bingo Boards – The term “Bingo” is used loosely, due to the fact that I use games like this to target almost every speech or language skill possible before we actually get to any of the “Bingo.” During a typical game, each student’s goals are addressed through differentiated activities involving speech production, identifying vocabulary given verbal descriptions, sentence formulation to respond to wh questions about vocabulary, or following simple and multi-step directions using unique ways to mark the square (no Bingo chips or dotters in my groups…we usually mark our squares by following directions like, “Draw a blue square next to the valentine card.”) We also use related vocabulary to highlight critical attributes and identify similarities and differences. Children often spontaneously share background experiences with the theme-related vocabulary and we take a few minutes to “turn and talk” to relate a past event or experience to a peer or peer group. What might look like a simple “game” to the casual observer is unquestionably a language-rich, engaging experience with opportunities for differentiated instruction tailored to meet multiple learning styles. Made with Boardmaker software, Bingo Boards are cinch to replicate for multiple versions using the “shuffle” tool. This 14 page set includes six unique Bingo Boards (all containing the same words, but in different positions). The set also includes 6 black and white Bingo Boards for students to color themselves, as well as a page of colored calling cards (I live to print two sets of the calling cards and then I also have an instant matching/memory game!). Enjoy this activity set, and feel free to let me know how you used them!
Today I received a new present for my therapy room — a desktop version of a smartboard made by Promethean technologies. Information about this particular model can be found here. This piece of hardware is a smaller, desktop version of the classroom-sized interactive whiteboards that many schools are using. I requested this piece of equipment for use in my small therapy room, to work with small groups and individual students. With the trend in education moving swiftly in the direction of incorporating technology and meeting Universal Design for Learning standards (in addition to enjoying benefits we savvy SLPs have already discovered about the application of technology in the therapy setting,) my somewhat lavish request for the ActivPanel was granted. Today, it arrived! Feeling a bit like a five year old on Christmas morning, I eagerly worked through my lunch and planning period to unpack, set up and install my new geeked-out therapy tool. Here is a picture I snapped with my phone:
Are any other therapists out there using equipment like this? I am interested to know. Prior to this wonderful purchase, I often used smartboards as a resource in classrooms when teaching whole-class lessons. Now this same resource can be applied to small groups in my therapy room. I am excited at the possibilities I now have for technology-based multi-modal therapy sessions, beyond what a touch-screen PC or iPad might offer. It’s quite energizing to think about incredible advances in the tools we use for therapy. As I ponder the immeasurable impact of technological advancement on our world in general and specifically on the field of S/L therapy (visions of graduate school and hours spent cutting pictures out of magazines or photocopied workbook pages to create therapy games flash in my memory,) I end my day with renewed enthusiasm. Yes, it is an exciting time to be an SLP!