I’ve recently discovered a new tech tool for speech-language therapy…Word Clouds. Using word clouds is a fun way to incorporate text into your speech-language lessons, perfect for increasing the speech-to-text connections. If you are utilizing Universal Design for Learning Standards (and you should be,) word clouds are also a powerful tool to customize the display of information, highlight critical features of a subject matter and incorporate media in learning activities. They are also just plain fun. Kids seem to really enjoy seeing their words and ideas instantly transformed into art.
Below are a few word cloud activities I have used recently. I’ve been exploring different features of the available word cloud sites, and I’ve included examples of my favorites:
Tagul.com – Below is a word cloud I made with a group using the Tagul Word Cloud Generator. Tagul allows you to customize the shape, colors and fonts, and quickly produce word clouds that can be saved as images, emailed or embedded into web pages. I used this word cloud site with a group of students as we generated categorical vocabulary given the topic “Things We See Outside in the Summer.” Students verbally produced categorical lists and then we reviewed the words, discussing similarities and differences between related word pairs.
ABCYa! – ABCYa! is a simple word cloud generator that is quick and user-friendly. There are limited layout, font and color scheme choices, but the word clouds are created instantly without fuss or worry over too many parameters. Below is a word cloud we created in a group co-treatment lesson with the social worker. As a follow-up to a story lesson, we generated positive attributes and descriptive words. We instantly created the word cloud, and the students then used the word cloud words to identify five attributes to describe themselves. We ended with a group discussion in which students offered positive attributes about their peers. The activity was engaging, powerful and memorable, as students used their speech-language skills to reinforce themes of self-concept, friendship and giving compliments.
Wordle – Wordle is another fun word cloud generator that allows custom colors, fonts and layouts (not in shapes, though) to produce a visual vocabulary display. With Wordle, you do need to capture screenshots of your word clouds in order to save them as images; otherwise they are stored online in a public gallery. Below is a brainstorm word cloud I created with a group as we identified relevant summer vocabulary words in response to the questions, “What do you like about summer?” Students eagerly participated in this group discussion, formulating sentences to describe their favorite summer pastimes and memorable events. A variety of language skills were targeted using this simple visual tool.
Tagxedo – Tagxedo is one of my favorite word cloud generators, allowing text to be displayed in a shape using customizable color themes and fonts. You can even have your word cloud in the shape of an actual word or phrase. I have been experimenting with the options that Tagxedo offers, and came up with this LiveSpeakLove Word Cloud:
There are many other word cloud generators available on the Internet. You can find a generous list of word cloud sites with a simple internet search. I would love to hear if you are using word cloud tools in your classroom and/or therapy rooms…feel free to post your ideas in the comments section. Thank you for visiting Live Speak Love, LLC!
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. 🙂
Wow, what an overwhelming response I received after being featured as a guest contributor on PediaStaff, sharing some of my Earth Day activities! I decided to share a few more ideas for those of you looking to plan your week with Green therapy, technology and activities that incorporate UDL strategies. Please feel free to click, download and share any of these resources. Enjoy!
Here is a lively video teaching kids to Reuse, Reduce Waste, Recycle. It will get everyone up, dancing and moving as they learn about the 3Rs of helping the world:
Are you looking for even more visuals/activities to address goals with Earth Day vocabulary? Here are a couple of creations for you — Free downloads!
Looking for some Earth Day Books to share with your students? Check out some of my favorite theme-based books that will reinforce the concepts you review in therapy sessions. Many of these books are available in e-reader and audio versions as well as print:
Also, I previously posted about a site that offers free online versions of books. For every book read, they make a donation to literacy campaigns around the world. What better way to help your students feel good about working to make the world a better place?? If you are not yet convinced, please watch this video that gives you an overview of the Pearson Foundation inititative. It is well worth a couple of minutes of your time:
So get reading! Use your computer, laptop or smartboard to create a multi-media, interactive story time that will also make you and your students feel good about helping others. Here are a few Earth Day selections (by the way, this post is not a solicited review of their site or program…I simply think it is a wonderful idea for many, many reasons!):
I hope you enjoy these ideas designed to offer engaging activities with multiple modes of presentation. The more I learn about what works in speech-language therapy, the more passionate I become about incorporating technology into my sessions. I would love to hear from those of you who are using similar technologies with your students. Thank you for visiting LiveSpeakLove!
I wanted to share a successful activity that I used with a group of students. We have been working on the formulation of sentences using correct verb forms. I posted previously about how to quickly extract Pinterest images from PediaStaff Pinboards to create activities for my interactive smartboard. We have all enjoyed the use of technology in our sessions, and students especially the sound files that are played as they interact with the images. Here is a snapshot of the activity I previously posted:
I have also posted previously about using Animoto to create multi-media videos using images I select. Students have really seemed to love the videos I have used so far. I decided to have a group of students help me create a video as part of their speech-language therapy, using images I extracted from the PediaStaff Action Verb Photo Library on Pinterest. To start, we reviewed the folder of images I extracted from the photo library, stored on the computer. Students took turns choosing which pictures they wanted to include in the video, and produced a sentence with their targeted verb form (e.g., “The lion is roaring.” or “The boy was crying because he was tired.”) As they took turns, I copied their selected images into a newly created folder to use for our Animoto video. After all the images were selected, we easily and quickly made our Animoto video. To make the video, we uploaded an mp3 file I bought for 99 cents from Amazon, and then we uploaded the images students just selected. We added a couple of text slides (as we reviewed the concept of Action Words, and the different verb forms each student was currently working on as their objective.) Ta-da!! Our video was created. After a couple of minutes to discuss each student’s progress, our video was ready to view. Students were amazed that the work they just completed was instantly transformed into their very own music video! This activity reinforced their work in such a dynamic, rewarding way. Students were excited, beaming and abuzz with chatter about how they had just made their own video — definitely a success!! I plan on using this technology tool again very soon. For your viewing pleasure, here is the video that my students created:
Interested in trying Animoto for yourself? Click here: Animoto
I am fortunate to work in a Title 1 school with supplemental funding to provide rich, technological experiences for the developing minds of our children. ELMOS, document cameras, mobile computer labs, and interactive whiteboards are familiar terms to teachers and students throughout my building. Today’s generation of children are ostensibly at a disadvantage if their education does not incorporate technology on a regular basis…a sign of the times. I’ve heard students in my school ask questions that make me chuckle, like, “What’s an overhead?” or “Can we just Google it and find the answer?” I also had a student recently point to a picture of JFK on the wall in the hallway and remark, “Hey, I know him! He’s in my Black Ops game!” Ahhh yes, sign of the times.
Children today are surrounded by multi-media sensory input; instant gratification in the form of video games, cell phone apps, texts, on-demand video streaming, internet search engines and multi-media lifestyles. As a young, hip SLP (just go with it…I’m making a point here 🙂 ) I prefer to reach students where they are and provide therapy activities incorporating technological resources, whenever possible. Feeling a bit passionate about the idea of addressing multiple learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile) and building brain connections through a multi-modal approach to instruction, I even began a technology initiative for the SLPs in my school district this year. A Technology Committe was formed with interested participants, and we have been meeting periodically to develop systems for creating and sharing technological resources. We hope that other SLPs in our county will take advantage of opportunities to incorporate technology into their therapy sessions. Our work is to be “unveiled” at a professional development next month, and preparing for the presentation is getting me even more excited about the work we have done.
In the LiveSpeakLove spirit of sharing resources, I thought I would post some of my favorite ways of incorporating technology into therapy sessions. My county has a strict policy for the use and approval of technology, so all the ideas I have here are limited to what is currently approved for my school distrcit (i.e., no iPad, iTouch or related technology; web-based applications and sites have been approved through our filter process.)
ActivInspire Flipcharts – My school system uses the ActivInspire software program as one way to create “flipcharts” or lessons to be used on interactive smartboards. I now have a desktop version of the classroom-sized whiteboard in my therapy room, so I am using ActivInpire Flipcharts for individual, small and classroom-sized groups. I really do not work for Promethean or ActivInspire, but this technology has changed the way I provide therapy. Check out this video for a quick overview:
You can create your own flipcharts using the program’s resource libraries merged with your own content, or find unlimited resources to download and adapt at the following sites:
Online Games/Activities – The internet is filled with language-rich games and activities that will engage learners and provide instant reinforcement for task completion. Not to take the place of traditional speech-language therapy with individualized instruction and feedback provided in a monitored, systematic format, online games are a unique supplement to the personal interactions we create in therapy. Some of my favorite sites are:
TinyEye Online Therapy – I found this wonderful, internet-based company several years ago when I worked for them providing online speech-language therapy (via Skype and the ingenious online therapy system they have created) with a school in China. Taking advantage of the time difference, I logged on several times a week after my own children were in bed and provided instruction and feedback to students in China (who were assisted by their teachers during our sessions.) This service delivery model is perhaps the REAL wave of the future. With critical shortages of SLPs throughout our world, companies like TinyEye have devised a way to use technology to meet students’ needs in an efficient, global model for services. Even if you have no desire to Skype with China during your normal snoozing hours (perhaps not for sleep-deprived souls with crazy lives, but I would do it again if a mutually-agreeable contract became available,) you can still take advantage of their online therapy games–FREE for school-based SLPs. Just register with them to receive access to games addressing myriad goals, objectives, skills and targets. Games can be added to online “backpacks” with access even given to students for homework practice. Here is just a sampling of the abundant online resources they offer:
Nick Jr. Online Games – More online games featuring kids’ favorite characters. All of the games feature educational content linked to curriular vocabulary.
SMART Exchange – Images and smartboard lessons that are directly linked to State Curriculum Standards. Simply click on your state, identify the standard, grade level and subject area, and VOILA!! Instant resources available to you that address those standards. Here is a glimpse of a search I did for third grade language arts activities using the Maryland Core Standards:
Online Multi-media resources – Images and videos can be directly inserted into flipcharts, smartboard lessons, or PowerPoint presentations to increase student engagement through visual stimuli, sounds and animation. I frequently search for images to use in Boardmaker documents, to target populations that comprehend and store vocabulary labels significantly better when real images are used (see this article for a brief rationale.) I also use sound effects and videos frequently in computer or smartboard-based lessons. Children in today’s world — a world filled to the brim with t.v. shows, video games, computer games, cell phone games and so on and so on and so on — love the power in clicking an icon or button to create instant visual or auditory feedback. Here are my favorite tools for creating multi-media delight in therapy activities:
Google – Wow, images and animations galore, many of them free! (just make sure you have an antivirus program installed before you click on links you find.) You can search for gif animations, videos, and even use their image search feature to locate the exact image to insert into your lesson.
Watch Know Learn – free, organized database of educational videos covering all subjects and grade levels.
Self-made video clips – my school purchased several flip cams that many of us use. With these cameras, students can be video-taped (abiding by confidentiality requirements) and inserted into presentations. Therapy sessions can include self-assessment and monitoring pieces with this tool, and provide documentation for acquisition of skills. Plus, kids just like it.
Video Montage Programs – Pictures and video clips can be set to music and preserved using slide show programs like Animoto or Windows Movie Maker . I often use programs like these outside of therapy as well (e.g., to document accomplishnents during school-wide assemblies, or to document my own family photos in a creative way.)
This is just a quick overview of some of the tools I routinely use to increase student engagement and give them multiple ways of processing and responding during our sessions. For even more ideas, check out suggestions from the National Center on Universal Design for Learning (UDL.) In addition to technology ideas, their list of suggestions includes ways to adapt materials for various disabilities and activate background knowledge in students across populations. A fantastically huge database of web-based resources is presented as it relates to UDL checkpoints.
Feel free to let me know what types of technology you are using and how your students or children respond. We live in a dynamic, fast-paced world where “smart therapy” means more than just keeping up with the latest reseatch. To be truly “smart,” we now need to step out of our comfort zones a bit and embrace the technology that surrounds us.