Winter Literacy

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(photo credit)

I love following bloggers and using their lesson plans that are paired with children’s books!  They have inspired me to create some of my own plans for my elementary aged clients.  Over the winter break, I pulled out some of my seasonal books and created simple, functional lessons to pair with the stories.  I also purchased and printed some great winter literacy plans from a couple other sites.

The first book, Tracks in the Snow by Wong Herbert Yee, is a nice read for my 1st and 2nd grade clients.  This year, much of my caseload is working on irregular past tense verbs, so I decided to use this short and sweet winter story to target verbs.  I decided to create a list using sentences with present tense verbs from the story.  Children will take turns changing the target verb into the past tense and earn an animal track card or tokens for correct responses.  The person with the most tracks or tokens wins! You can grab your list here for Tracks in the Snow.

My next book, The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg is a funny story about a little girl who retraces her steps outside in search of a missing mitten.  I found this book by Scholastic for a quarter at my local library sale!  I needed a lesson for some 3rd graders that focused on simple comprehension questions following a short reading and this book fit the bill!  If you can find this book at your local library or bookstore, then you can use these comprehension questions!

Another score at the library sale was, In the Snow: Who’s Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George.  I highly recommend borrowing or purchasing this book because each page gives clues about a winter animal that has crossed the trail in the woods just prior to the children’s walk.  Great for vocabulary building and answering who/what questions!!

If you have not seen the FREE templates at www.makelearningfun.com that go along with the stories, The Mitten and The Hat both by Jan Brett, then you should follow this link to take a look!

Finally, I recently found some great worksheets for the award winning story,Owl Moon by Jane Yolen at this blogger’s TpT site.

I hope that you have found these resources to be helpful!  If you have, then please take a moment to follow [my] blog and/or like my Facebook page, speech2me.  I would LOVE to hear about some of your favorite winter literacy units, so feel free to comment below!  Happy New Year!!

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This post originally appeared on The Next Chapter in my Speech World.

Nanette Cote, MA, CCC-SLP works contractually for Staffing Options and Solutions and has her own practice, Naperville Therapediatrics.  She is a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist in Naperville, Illinois who was recently certified in Interactive Metronome Therapy.   Her blog, speech2me, was named one of the top Speech-Language blogs for 2012.  For more information about this practitioner, please visit the blog at www.speech2me.blogspot.com or the Facebook page.

A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words: Using Photo Books to Increase Vocabulary, Grammar, and Narrative Skills

Photo Gear


Photo by DeusXFlorida

(This post originally appeared on Child Talk)

Making photo books with your kids is a fabulous way to help increase their language skills. It matters not if you are a mom simply looking for  creative ways to provide your toddler with a language-rich environment or a dad looking for ways to help your kindergartener learn to tell stories– photo books are a flexible tool than can be used in a huge variety of ways.
How to use picture books? The general idea goes a little something like this:

  • Take pictures during a fun event such as a trip to the zoo or the beach,
  • Capture key moments in the pictures,
  • Print the pictures that highlight the key moments from the event,
  • Spend a few afternoons gluing the pictures onto construction paper, letting your children help cut, glue and color around the pictures; if your child is old enough, help him to write captions for the pictures, and
  • Laminate the pages and have them bound into a book that can be read over and over.

One you’ve done this, you’re all set up to use the books to help increase language.  Kids love these books because they are based in experiences that they had; this makes the books both meaningful and fun. And children usually want to read the books over and over again– as annoying as this can be, it makes picture books the perfect vehicle for developing language.

With toddlers, you can use the pictures to build on language.  Most toddlers love to start looking at pictures of themselves around 12-24 months, right when they are starting to rapidly increase their vocabulary and move from one-word phrases to two-word phrases. Photo books create excellent opportunities for using parallel talk, description, and expansion to help children develop new vocabulary and help them make the jump from one to two words.

Check out the video below.  I use expansion with my daughter, who is looking at a picture of herself riding a toy motorcycle with her brother, James.  First, I wait for her to say something (“ride!”). Then I build on her words by putting them into short phrases, two different times. As a result, she comes back with a two-word phrase of her own (“James riding”)! No, it doesn’t always work this quickly….I’ve been using parallel talk, description and expansion with her for the past year and it’s only really starting to pay off now.

Toddlers aren’t the only ones who benefit from photo books, though. Using these books with preschoolers and early elementary age children can be great way to work on a whole variety of language-related skills. You can:

  • Work on sequencing by having your child lay out the pictures in the right order as you make the book,
  • Work on pre-writing and writing skills by having your child trace words you write or write his own words and sentences as you make the book,
  • Work on vocabulary by defining new words and integrating those words into the story and by using time words such as first, next, then and finally,
  • Work on language by using indirect correction, in which you correct errors in your child’s grammar by restating what he said, correctly and conversationally (e.g. Your child: “I runned really fast!” You: “You did. You ran so fast!”), and
  • Work on memory by having your child practice telling the story with and without the picture book in front of him.
Finally, photo books are a fantastic way to work on narrative (story) development. Developing an understanding of narrative structure (the typical flow of stories) is essential to being able to engage in conversations, tell others about things that have happened, and understand academic texts later in the elementary years. Enhancing narrative development is an asset for any child; I work on it with my son, often. It’s also a skill that can be very hard for children with language delays and specific diagnoses such as autism, so working on it with these children is essential. Using photo books to visually show stories in which children actually participated helps make narrative structure more concrete and easier to understand.   At first, you can use photo books to help your child understand that the story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Later, during the early elementary age years, you can help your child form a story that has the following elements:
  • Setting (“We were at the zoo”)
  • Goal (“We wanted to see the animals,”)
  • Problem (“But Sally was scared of the lion.”)
  • Feelings (“I was so mad, because I wanted to see the lion.”)
  • Attempt to solve the problem (“So we went to see the owls instead. Then Sally was ready to see the lion. Mom just covered her eyes.”)
  • Conclusion (“After that, we had a really fun day.”)

It doesn’t have to be perfect, of course. Stories are messy, just like life. They won’t fit perfectly into those elements, nor should they. But telling stories in a way that wraps loosely around those story elements, over and over and over again, will help your child begin to internalize the flow of stories.
There is so much to do with picture books that the possibilities seem endless.  What’s more, at the end of the day, you also have a book full of memories that your children will cherish for years to come.  And that’s just priceless.

Becca Jarzynski, M.S., CCC-SLP is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in Wisconsin. Her blog, Child Talk, can be found at www.talkingkids.org and on facebook at facebook.com/ChildTalk.

Not all Health Information on the Web is Created Equally

modern chair with attached computer monitor

Photo by Mads Boedker

In addition to being a speech-language pathologist, I am also working towards a Master’s degree in communication. My specific area of interest is health communication, which I came to rather naturally as my work at ASHA evolved. Part of what I do is develop content for brochures and other consumer materials, including what exists on the ASHA website. In the beginning, I approached this from my SLP background and clinical experience and described clinical disorders and other topics from that perspective. Over time, I started to realize that what I developed, while not wrong, was likely missing the mark in terms of what the reader wanted. I came to this realization after stumbling across information about health literacy, which led me to research on the readability of consumer materials developed by health professionals and organizations, including ASHA.

I also learned about how people use the Internet to search for health information and how the information they often find is difficult to understand or does not address their specific questions. I stepped back and took a more critical look at the information that existed in ASHA materials and on the website and found that there was room for improvement. And I’m happy to report that ASHA has spent a number of years now working on making those improvements, which hopefully some of you have noticed in products like consumer brochures and the Let’s Talk: Patient Education Handouts, as well as on the public side of ASHA’s website (for those of you who haven’t yet seen the recently updated information about hearing and hearing loss on ASHA’s public site, I invite you to take a look).

This semester I am taking a class on eHealth Communication, which focuses on the theory and practice of communicating health information via electronic means. We recently had a discussion about health related web pages and how they are “hit or miss” in terms of being understandable, valid, and meaningful. We talked about how the average web user may not always know whether a site is “good” or filled with misinformation. We had many questions, such as can people easily figure out if the content was developed by a credible source or guided by those with a financial interest in the decisions readers might make from what they read on the site? Are they able to make decisions based upon what they read (or see and hear if video and audio are included on the site)? Do they find information that means something to them or is it too generic or complex to have any real value?

Coincidentally, the day after this discussion, the leader of ASHA’s wellness team posted an article from the New York Times talking about this very issue. The article compared and contrasted two well-known health web sites – WebMD and the Mayo Clinic – and talked about the content, the design, and the motivations behind the two sites. The class discussion and the article got me thinking – how do I assess the sites I go to? I definitely look at the number and type of ads and I try to figure out who authored the information. I also look at how it is written and will only delve into really complex, technical content if I am highly motivated about the topic. Because of my background and personal interest in health communication, I may be more critical of the writing style, use of terminology, and layout than most, but I do consider that when deciding if I want to spend any time on a site.

So now I ask you – what factors do you consider when determining if you are going to spend time on a site? Do you suggest sites for your patients? How do you decide which ones are the most appropriate? Do you ever follow-up to see if they found the site or found it useful? The Internet is full of information and not all of it is good. Knowing that many people search the web for health information, it really seems that it is our professional responsibility to help guide our patients as best we can. And maybe we can learn something ourselves along the way.

Amy Hasselkus, M.A., CCC-SLP, is associate director of health care services in speech-language pathology at ASHA. She is also currently enrolled in a Masters degree program in communication at George Mason University, with an emphasis on health communication.

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.