Back to School Organization

I haven’t written a post in a while because I have been trying to enjoy my last weeks of summer break.  The start of school is just around the corner and that means back to work for me.  This year, I will be starting a new job as a SLP at the preschool level in a public school.  I have seen my new speech room, however, I haven’t been able to get into the room and get organized yet.  I will be able to get into my space in another week or so.  In the mean time, I have been trying to get my “speech stuff” organized at home.  I have bins of materials that have been stored in my basement since we moved last summer.  It is time for me to sort through everything and gather up the items that will be useful for my preschool caseload.

Sorting through stacks of speech materials and selecting my favorite items is a post for another day.  Today I want to talk about my first step in organizing any space….containers.  We have all heard the old saying “a place for everything and everything in its place.”  I take this to the extreme when organizing my speech rooms.  That said, I have been spending the past few weeks shopping for new containers for my new room.  One of my first purchases was this for my desk.  I have seen pictures of this container floating all around teacher pin boards on Pinterest.

speech room organization www.speechgadget.com

I absolutely love this idea. All of your “office supply needs” are met in one little container. The drawers are clear and I covered mine with sticky labels. I wrote on my labels, however, I have seen photos of fancy labels that people have printed for their drawers.  I bought my container at Lowe’s for under $20.00.  You can find this and similar storage containers in the aisle with the screws, nails and other fasteners.  I believe the original purpose for this container was to store small tools, nails, etc.  Some clever person decided it would also serve as a great desk organizer and I agree.  I am not sure who came up with the original idea.  If anyone knows the name of the person who first posted on Pinterest, I would love to hear from you so I can give her/him props.

In additional to searching tool aisles, I also went to one of my favorite inexpensive aisles….the dollar spot at Target.  The Dollar Spot is a great place to find therapy materials, small games and yes storage containers.  I love these small buckets.

speech room organization www.speechgadget.com

This is an item that you can typically find at the Dollar Spot year round.  At holiday times, they have buckets with holiday themes.  These are great for storing arts/crafts items, such as glue stick, crayons, markers, etc.  You can also use them for sorting games, or for “Ants in the Pants,” “Flipping Frogs,”  “Hopping Bunnies” and other such games. The handles make it easy to transport the buckets from place to place.

Another item from the Dollar Spot:
speech room organization www.speechgadget.com

I bought five of these.  One for each day of the week.  I will be storing my daily lessons in these on my desk top.  I almost bought a set of these online and I would have spent way more money than a dollar each.

Here is a Walmart find:
speech room organization www.speechgadget.com

I love these envelopes.  They are inexpensive and I like to store my picture books with accompanying lessons inside these.  It keeps all those small sequencing and retelling pictures with the book.  I have also used zip lock baggies for the same purpose, but I find these envelopes are easier to store.

My other staple for organization is 3 ring binders.  I have found binders are the easiest way for me to stay organized. I just completed my calendar binder and I will share that with you in my next post.  I am very excited to get into my new speech room. Stay tuned for pictures as I clean, organize and get my room set up for the start of the school year.

That’s all from me for today.  If you have some great inexpensive speech room organization ideas, we would love to hear from you.

 (This post originally appeared on Speech Gadget.)

Deborah Taylor Tomarakos, MA CCC/SLP, has been pediatric speech language pathologist since 1994.   She has experience in both public school settings and in outpatient pediatrics.  She is currently employed by a public school system.  Deb has provided therapy services to children with a wide variety of communication deficits, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, CAS, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, language based learning disabilities, and literacy deficits.  Strong areas of interest include technology use in therapy, CAS, and literacy.  You can find her online at www.speechgadget.com where she shares therapy ideas, resources, websites, and technology integration tips. 

Rate That App

Day 99, Project 365 - 1.29.10

Photo by William Brawley

More and more SLPs are using apps in therapy and more and more speech/language apps are flooding the app store.  I love to use technology and apps in my therapy sessions, but how do I pick which apps to use?  Honestly, as the market for apps and the number of apps increases, it is becoming harder to determine what apps to buy.  I wrote an earlier post about where to go to find apps.  I also have shared my spreadsheet of apps for speech/language listed by target area.

Today, I want to talk a bit about determining what apps are appropriate and useful in therapy or educational settings.  In order to make this decision, we really must talk about a rating system for apps.   I know some people love rating systems and some people hate them.  I have found that the more reviews I read, the more I want reviews to be to concise and tell me whether or not the app is worth my time and money.  With that in mind,  I have been searching the web to try to find a “good” system for rating apps.   During my search I found rubrics, guiding questions, checklists and star ratings.  After reviewing a variety of these sources, I developed two checklists and star rating systems for apps.   One checklist/rating system is for reviewing speech/language/educational apps and the other is for reviewing game/book/productivity apps.  The original idea for the checklists was based on a list created by Tony Vincent (more info about Tony is written further down on this page).

The basis of the system is to allot one point for each item on the checklist, adding up points for a total score.  The total score is then translated into a star rating.  I am hoping that this system will allow me to be more objective and consistent in my app reviews.  It will also allow me to post star ratings on iTunes as I know iTunes reviews are important to app designers.

Here is a preview of the App Review Checklists and Rating Charts:

If you would like to take a closer look at my checklists, you can download themhere and here.  As always, I am open to sharing.  My only request is that you link back to my blog, and provide any feedback for ways to improve the checklist and rating chart.  I know my system is not perfect and I will most likely tweak it as I use it to evaluate apps.

Some of you may be interested in reading more about the resources that I used to help me create my lists/rating charts.  You can find links and information below:

  • Speech Techie’s Fives Criteria:  Sean Sweeney of SpeechTechie.comcreated this criteria system for evaluating technology.  It is a general set of criteria that can be used when determining if particular apps are useful for speech/language therapy.  If you aren’t familiar with Sean, he is a certified SLP and technology specialist.  He is involved in app development at Smarty Ears and he presents around the country regarding use of technology in sp/lang therapy.  To learn more about his 5′s criteria, you can download his booklet here.
  • Evaluation Rubric for iPod Apps:  This rubric was created by Harry Walker, a teacher, elementary school principal and blogger (I Teach Therefore IPod).   I found that many educators site his rubric when discussing ways to evaluate apps.  I found several app review rubrics that were based on his original rubric for evaluating iPod apps.
  • Ways to Evaluate Educational Apps:  This is a blog post written by Tony Vincent of LearninginHand.com.  Tony shared a rubric and checklist he created for evaluating apps.  He also discussed several rubrics and checklists that have been developed by other educators and school systems.  The idea for the overall set up of my checklist as well as items to include was based on a checklist that he created called, Educational App Evaluation Checklist.  If you love technology and you don’t read Tony’s blog, you should start today.  His blog is an amazing resource for all things technology in education.

If you have any feedback regarding the checklists, I would love to hear from you.  Stay tuned for app reviews that include my checklist and rating system.

 (This post originally appeared on Speech Gadget.)

Deborah Taylor Tomarakos, MA CCC/SLP, has been pediatric speech language pathologist since 1994.   She has experience in both public school settings and in outpatient pediatrics.  She is currently employed by a public school system.  Deb has provided therapy services to children with a wide variety of communication deficits, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, CAS, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, language based learning disabilities, and literacy deficits.  Strong areas of interest include technology use in therapy, CAS, and literacy.  You can find her online at www.speechgadget.com where she shares therapy ideas, resources, websites, and technology integration tips.