In a Pickle?

a row of jars of pickles

Photo by mariko

Trying to find some good reads for struggling readers with comprehension needs? It can be especially tough finding something to interest the boys. I recently came across a good book I wanted to pass along. Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight is an excellent book to lure reluctant boys into reading a few more pages. It is a graphic novel for elementary age kids available from Scholastic or Amazon.

Frankie’s reality is written in typical book style, but his great, imaginative adventures are presented in comic book style. Lots of great vocabulary in this one, like “…it was made by a lost civilization most scholars…” Civilization and scholar? Now that’s some great Tier 2 vocabulary my kids can use! True to many graphic novels there are also plenty of slang terms, parodies, and idioms, but my kids need exposure to these terms to function in social conversation.

So, what would I do with a book like this? Well, besides that great tier 2 vocabulary instruction, I am a big believer in building background knowledge to support comprehension. One look at the front cover and title and most people make a connection between Frankie and Indiana Jones, except a lot of my kids don’t understand that connection. Dim the lights and show them a clip of Indiana Jones so they can figure out the connection between Frankie and Indiana Jones. Discuss why the author would want to do this.

Superheroes have made a big comeback in the stores and on TV. This book pays tribute to two well known superheroes, Superman and Batman. Chapter Six of Frankie Pickle uses a version of “It’s a bird, it’s a plane…”. Batman is spoofed throughout the book, especially in Chapter Nine with references to the “Pickle-mobile” and the “Pickle Cave”. YouTube is an excellent source to pull bits of video from vintage Superman and Batman TV shows. Consider showing your students clips from Superman with people pointing at the air shouting, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman!” Or even a clip of Batman saying, “To the Batcave, Robin!” It might sound like television viewing, but these pop culture icons are spoofed in so many books and shows, that the superhero background building you provide them now will provide them with a lifetime of support in “getting the joke”.

All of these great comprehension and vocabulary building ideas are available for the price of a scholastic book and YouTube access. Check out Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight if you need some fresh material for elementary boys!

(this post originally appeared on Educational Inspirations)

Nicole Power is an SLP and literacy consultant at Bethany Public Schools in Bethany, Oklahoma.  She provides language/literacy therapy as well as intervention primarily to elementary students.  Nicole is the district coordinator for the Response to Intervention program and collaborates with teachers and other specialists to provide high quality instruction to struggling students.  She presents area workshops and created and directs the Oklahoma School SLP Conference.

Screenings: A World of Our Own or a Collaborative Effort?

Teacher at table with young students


Photo by woodleywonderworks

(This post originally appeared on Educational Inspirations)

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of comments from SLPs about screenings to identify speech/language issues. There are postings asking what screenings people prefer and sometimes questions about how to go about getting it all done. I’ve also seen some articles discussing the possibility of a universal speech/language screening for RTI purposes. Our changing roles in the school system have really made me look at screenings in a new light.

For instance, how efficient is it to do speech/language screenings? When it comes to articulation it has been my experience that teachers are pretty capable of hearing “funny speech” and sending me e-mails about it. I have never had kids fall through the cracks when it comes to articulation; however, I see the upside to universal screenings for articulation as well. Universal, school-wide screening of articulation three times yearly could identify developmental errors and track progress over time. On the other hand, there are two SLPs in a school of more than 750. The thought of screening 750 kids is enough to have me running for the hills. So, how could this be done?

If teachers are pretty good at identifying when a student’s speech sounds “weird” couldn’t this be used as an initial screening? At our school we talked to the teachers about listening for articulation errors. During our usual reading screenings we asked teachers to mark down the names of students whose speech did not sound appropriate. This is our universal, first line of defense articulation screening. Then the SLP can develop a list of students who need a screening by a more experienced ear.

That sounds pretty easy, but what about language screenings? Language screenings such as the CELF are given individually and can take 10-20 minutes to administer. Completely out of the question when it comes to 750 kids. I have to admit I am intrigued by the idea of an easy to administer universal language screening, but I have to wonder if it is really necessary.

One elementary I work with administers the DIBELS Next to all students. The subtests vary by grade, but the early grades administer phonological awareness, nonsense words, and letter naming tasks. As an SLP, I analyze the results of these quick and dirty screens to determine if there are any students with possible underlying language issues. I look not only at the phonological awareness results, but the emerging phonics skills. A student’s ability to name letters also has some basis for clues about reading (Rathvon, 2004) and thus, language abilities.

For older students, I find it useful to look at screenings like the MAZE (AIMSweb, Shinn) or DIBELS Next DAZE (DIBELS Management Group). These screenings are group administered in 3 minutes and require students to read silently and make semantic and syntactic decisions about their reading. This offers me some clues about the reading comprehension of students. I also like the spelling screenings available from AIMSweb. These are also group administered and give me a bounty of clues about orthographic, morphological, and semantic knowledge of students.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to the development of universal speech/language screenings, but I would like to see some research about whether reading screens already in use by schools are effective at also identifying language problems. I also wonder if we could be using the reading screens already in place as a first defense for screening everyone and then possibly do a deeper language screening for those students identified as having possible underlying language problems. As an SLP I’m all about identifying these issues early and doing some preventative work, but I’m also about working smarter, not harder. It seems much easier to me to use what is already in place in a school rather than trying to convince teachers to help me administer a “speech” screening.

What about you? Do you give a separate screening for all students in your school? Do you make use of reading and other literacy screens already in place?

Nicole Power is an SLP and literacy consultant at Bethany Public Schools in Bethany, Oklahoma. She provides language/literacy therapy as well as intervention primarily to elementary students. Nicole is the district coordinator for the Response to Intervention program and collaborates with teachers and other specialists to provide high quality instruction to struggling students. She presents area workshops and created and directs the Oklahoma School SLP Conference.

Piles of RTI data

Pile of folders

Photo by Rex Roof.

(This post originally appeared on Educational Inspirations)

OK, so you managed to take on RTI.  Now you are inundated with piles of data.  Typically, when we have screened the elementary, I have piles of DIBELS books to enter.  When I get done with that and think I am in the clear, then people start putting the scores of the absent kids on post its and sending them to me.  I find them on my chair, computer, and phone.  It never ends.  Then add my evaluations of speech language kids, intervention data from teachers, and print outs of articles I intend to read when I finally run out of things to do.  I can’t find anything.  Sound familiar?

No matter how organized I set out to be each year, by October I am drowning in piles, but I have found a few things that really work for me.

First, check out Caselite Software.  For a mere $100 I have found a way to get my speech-language scheduling done quickly. The greatest thing about this is that it also keeps your records for  you.  I have not had to write anything out in triplicate since I got this.  I can track who came to therapy, absentees, and who missed therapy due to field trips, etc.  I can also record my notes from the session.  Then I can print it all for Medicaid billing.  A dream come true!  You can find this at www.caselitesoftware.com

Second, for those RTI coordinators awash in a sea of intervention data sheets. A colorful little storage tower comes in really handy.  Mardels has perfect storage towers.  I put blank Tier 1 sheets in the first drawer, blank Tier 2 sheets in the second drawer, and completed data sheets to be filed, in drawer 3.  I color code the Tier sheets to make them easy to spot.  A bright pink for Tier 1 and bright yellow for Tier 2.  I put raw screening data sheets collected three times a year in the next drawer.  Then I use the remaining drawers for materials I am using daily for intervention groups such as timers, reading passages, etc. I keep this tower right next to the door in my room.  Teachers have figured out where I keep data sheets and just send students to get what they need.  This cuts down on more post it notes from teachers asking for data sheets.  So, one less thing to worry about.

I also have a file bin divided by grade level for RTI files.  Every student in our school that receives interventions has a file folder.  Pink folders for Tier 1 students and Yellow folders for Tier 2 students (the file folder colors correspond to the Tier sheet colors).  I always write the student name in pencil in case they move from a pink to a yellow folder.  All the intervention data the teachers turn in is filed in this folder.  It transfers across years so if a student was receiving interventions last year we just add to the file.  If a student goes to Tier 3 (full evaluation for us) we have all the interventions already compiled.

How about you–how do you stay organized?

Nicole Power is an SLP and literacy consultant at Bethany Public Schools in Bethany, Oklahoma.  She provides language/literacy therapy as well as intervention primarily to elementary students.  Nicole is the district coordinator for the Response to Intervention program and collaborates with teachers and other specialists to provide high quality instruction to struggling students.  She presents area workshops and created and directs the Oklahoma School SLP Conference.