Is the word "lexile" new to you?  I know I never heard it while I was going through school.  However, many schools administer the "SRI" (Scholastic Reading Inventory), which gives you a lexile number.  The lexile system uses the length of the sentences, complexities of the words, and word frequency (when words are repeated).  Once the child has been given the SRI, then we know which lexile level the child can comprehend when reading.  Once you know your child's lexile level, then comes in very handy!!!  There is a lot you can do on the site.  For starters:
  • You can enter your child's lexile range or lexile level in order to find books that he/she would be able to read independently.
  • As a further search, you can put your child's interests as well to come up with books that he/she would also enjoy reading.  :o)
  • You can look up specific books by their ISBN number, Title, or books by author to find a book's lexile level.
  • If a book is not entered into the system, you can type a portion of the book (maybe a paragraph's length) into a TEXT document (not a word document... it must have ".txt" at the end of the file) and upload it to the site.  The site will give you an APPROXIMATE lexile level.
  • You can find what grade level your child is reading at according to the lexile range scores
  • Articles about reading and reading comprehension
  • You can create an account (free) to track your reading list
  • and so much more!!!
Another link that I found is the Swallow School:  As you scroll down, there are lexile ranges that are links to lists of books that are at that lexile level!  Very cool. 
Colors are something that kids typically learn during their fourth year of life (age 3-4).  The benchmark is for a child to be able to name one color by age 3 and all colors by age 4.  How can you help this learning process?  One idea is to have a color day (or a color week if you think your little one needs extended time on one color).  

Post the color of the day by putting that colored sheet of construction paper on your child's door.  For instance, let's choose orange.  Let your child/children know that its "orange day."  Have them find something to wear that is orange or find orange in an outfit you've already picked out.  Have your kids find things that have orange in them in your house or while you are running errands.  While you are eating try to eat things that are orange (orange juice, oranges, peaches, carrots, orange popsicles, etc).  Have them color orange pictures, finger paint in orange, take out the orange sidewalk chalk, etc.  The next day may be blue day or green day or brown day!  Let them choose the color or vote on a color (if there is more than one).  If you have an older child, have them tally how many things are found with that color for the day and graph it over the course of a week (a skill that a 3rd or 4th grader should be able to accomplish).  Make it fun so they don't realize that you are actually teaching them colors.  :o)
With every milestone, you must keep in mind that EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT.  Therefore, your child may not hit the milestone on the EXACT timeline, but within a few months you should see these things start to emerge.  Also keep in mind that kids are typically either motor-based or language-based.  If your child was up and walking by 10 months, but seems to be a "late talker", that might be normal for him/her.  Being aware of the norms and watching out for possibly delays will keep you ahead of the game.  

Here are some GENERAL talking rules:
  • 1 word by age 1
  • two-word phrase by age 2 (things like 'thank you' are considered one idea and so it's not a two-word phrase.  A two-word phrase would be two different ideas being linked... "mommy shoe", "up please", "go car", etc)
  • 10-20 words by 18 months
  • about 100 words by age 2
  • vocabulary of 1000 words by age 3
  • Sentence length of 4-5 words by age 4
  • Uses proper future, present, and past tense of words by age 5
  • Should pronounce every sound correctly by age 6

Familiar listeners (close neighbors/friends, parents, siblings, etc) will typically understand more of what a child says.  However, by age 2 1/2 - 3, an UNFAMILIAR listener (stranger) should also be able to understand 80-90% of your child's speech.
I'm sorry I didn't post yesterday!  It was a crazy day between my son not napping due to our tree being cut down (and the loud chainsaw that could be heard throughout the house), the dog going to the vet (and trying to handle the dog who wants to play with every animal he sees and the stroller is no easy task), a friend moving, etc.  Hopefully I can get two posts done today.  If not, our folder game for the week will be postponed to either Saturday or next Friday.  

Have you considered doing sign language with your baby?  There are many benefits, but it's not for everyone.  Children are able to communicate and know what they want or need (at times) before they are able to "talk."  It takes a lot to talk.  You have to coordinate your breathing, when to voice and not, all of your articulators (tongue, mouth, nasal cavity, jaw, tongue), and transition from one sound to the next.  However, signing is a way to allow your child to communicate before he/she can talk.  It can also start to build his/her vocabulary earlier in life.  It has also been shown that when a child can communicate at a younger age, it reduces his/her frustration level and fussing.

There are books and classes out there to learn a few signs that babies would need to know.  Since I'm fluent in sign language, I have not checked them out.  However, there are also a few apps on your phone!  There are many out there that are free.  One that I found is called "Smart Hands Lite."  The full version has 300 words.  The 'lite" (free) version has 33.  However, it has the ones that are most needed.  It also has a video of the person doing the sign along with a short explanation on how to remember the sign!  It will list the sign alphabetically or by category and it has a quiz.  That one is my favorite by far.  One that I found and DO NOT recommend is called "Baby Sign". It gives you very few signs and not very functional ones.  It also wants you to buy the rest.

For those of you who don't have a smart phone, there are other ways to learn signs for FREE:

Now this is where I will get on my soap box. DO NOT TEACH YOUR CHILD 'MORE'.  Huh?  That's the sign that everyone teaches their child first!  Ok ok.  You can teach them more, but make sure to pair it with another word.  Let's say that your child was playing ball with you.  You had little Mikey signing "more" to get the ball again.  Then it was snack time and so you gave him some fish crackers.  Again, you worked on "more" to get more fish crackers.  Now it's after nap.  Mikey wakes up and signs "more."  What does he want more of?  You have no idea!  However, he has been taught that "more" means he gets what he wants.  Instead, pair "more" with the thing you are doing.  "more ball" = play with the ball; "more food" = more snack; "more drink" = more to drink, "more music" = wants to listen to music. Now, unless your child deaf/hard of hearing and you have chosen manual communication (sign language), you probably aren't going to teach your child every sign.  Therefore, you don't have to teach him/her every food sign, "food" will do.  It's something to think about.  
Sometimes kids need more feedback than just the sound in order to produce it correctly.  This is especially true for kids with hearing loss or kids who have had a lot of ear infections and now has significant articulation errors.  (side note:  When a child has an ear infection, there is a lot of fluid in his/her ear.  Therefore, the sound is dampened.  At that time, their hearing is similar to listening to someone talk under water.  Therefore, you may want to talk more slowly, a bit more loudly - don't yell, and make sure to face the child when talking)  

Does this seem familiar?  Yesterday's post of TVAK should be ringing a bell.  :o)

When a speech therapist studies sounds, we study them in groups.  These groups of letters will have similar characteristics.  Knowing the groups helps in knowing what kind of extra feedback you can give a child.  For example, if the sound is voiced (you actually use your "voice box" to produce the sound), then your throat will vibrate when the sound is being produced.  Have your child put his/her hand on your throat and show them the difference between a voiced sound (d) and an unvoiced sound (t).  

Below are tricks that I use.  Find the sounds you are working on with your child to know which extra steps you can take.  There may be more than one source of feedback for each sound so read the whole list first to make sure you are giving your child the most opportunities to say the sound correctly.
  • Voiced sounds (b, d, g, j, l, m, n, r, th - as in 'there', v, w, z, zh):  Touch hand to throat to feel the vibrations of the larynx (aka voice box)
  • Unvoiced sounds (ch, k, f, h, p, s, sh, th - as in 'think'):  Touch hand to throat to feel the lack of vibrations
  • Plosive (p, b, k, g, t, d):  Place hand in front of mouth to feel puff of air.  You can also hold a tissue in front of your mouth and the puff of air produced from the sound should move the tissue.
  • Nasals (m, n, ng):  The sound actually travels through your nasal passage instead of your oral cavity (mouth) and so you can place your hand on your nose (close to your cheek) to feel the vibrations

If you use your tongue to produce the sound and the tongue is visible, make sure to show your child where your tongue is placed and have your child look in a mirror to copy you!  (example: l)
There's an old Chinese Proverb that states: "Tell me, I'll forget.  Show me, I'll remember.  Involve me, I'll understand."  That is so true for most children and adults.  

Children always learn more quickly when more of their senses are involved.  This is true for typically developing children, but especially important for children who are delayed for any reason or have a learning disability.  During my time in Deaf Education at TCU (Texas Christian University), there were four letters that became very important to us - TVAK.  We had to make sure we had at least three of those letters represented in each lesson plan.  What do they stand for? - Tactile, Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic.  We were taught that in order for a lesson to be effective, at least three of those elements must be involved.  There had to be a tactile element (something the child could hold/touch/feel), Visual (something that he/she could see represented), Auditory (something that used listening), and Kinesthetic (letting the children move about).  Now, you might be thinking that this is easy: I'll talk and that covers auditory and I can write on the board for visual - that's two of the three covered.  WRONG!  If you have a child who is delayed or has a learning disability then they may have auditory processing issues, which means they will not understand everything they hear.  If he/she can't read then writing on the board will not help either.  Try to be creative and think outside of the box:

Here are some examples:

Beach Lesson:
  • T:  Let them feel different textures from the beach: water, sand, shells, seaweed, pebbles, etc
  • V:  They can see the objects, show pictures of a beach (or go there if you have one close by)
  • A:  Let them hear a recording of the waves, seagulls, etc.  You could also bring in a conk shell for them to listen to the waves in the conk shell!
  • K:  Have things at different stations so they can move from one place to another, let them draw letters in a bucket of sand, play at a sand & water table.

Lesson on counting 1-10:
  • T:  Cut the numbers out of sandpaper and let them trace the sandpaper-numbers.
  • V:  They can try to match the correct number of objects to the numbers.
  • A:  Sing a song about counting numbers.  Beat on a drum once to represent one, twice for two, and so on.
  • K:  Line the numbers up on the ground in order and let the child walk from 1-10 counting as they go.  If you want them to practice counting backwards, have them start at 10 and walk backwards to 1!!!

Remember TVAK - it will INVOLVE your child so he/she will UNDERSTAND!!!
When working in Deaf Education, we would always see kids who were struggling in first and second grade, but were able to keep up with their peers.  However, third grade would hit and the gap between delayed and typical seemed to become as wide as the Grand Canyon overnight.  If you didn't know it, third grade is typically the year that everything becomes more abstract and more difficult.  If you have a child who is struggling to stay afloat, you may want to beware of what is to come.  Make sure you get your child the extra support that he/she needs.  That could come in the form of summer school, extra work at home (prescribed by the teacher or found here), special education support, tutor, etc.  The possibilities are endless!

I googled 3rd grade standards and found this at  Here is what you can expect from the third grade:
  • Reading:  Read with understanding and fluency, Understand the meanings of synonym/homonym/antonym, Use graphic organizers, Identify the main idea of a passage, Summarize, and have a larger sight vocabulary
  • Writing:  Communicate through writing, Write to inform or persuade others, Identify nouns/verbs/adjectives/adverbs in a sentence, Write compound sentences, Write across the curriculum (meaning in all subjects - including math, science, social studies, etc)
  • Math:  Add and subtract large numbers (probably without manipulatives unless that is a stipulation in an IEP), Know basic multiplication and division facts, Place value in the number system, Rounding, Graphing, Understanding basic probability and statistics

As you can see, the concepts become much more abstract.  You are no longer simply adding apples in one tree to apples in another tree and using counters to represent the apples.  The kids are expected to understand place value, borrowing, multiplication and division!  You are no longer simply sounding out words.  You are figuring out meaning within a context.  

Even if your child is a typically developing 2nd grader, expect for 3rd grade to become more of a challenge and make sure you can be there to help your child along.  The success your child feels in third grade will follow him/her into fourth grade and beyond!
I'm sorry for the late blog and the absent blog on Thursday.  I was out of town for my grandmother's funeral and just returned home.  I usually try not to do work on Sundays, but I was so excited about this folder game that I'm making an exception.

"It's a ZOO out there!"

For many years I didn't enjoy going to the zoo.  I thought it smelled bad (which it can) and I thought it was cruel to have the animals there and so I refused to go.  Well, since having my son, my views of the zoo have completely changed.  It's so neat to see my son light up when he sees an animal he loves (see the picture below - it's too cute not to share) or see something that he may never have a chance to see otherwise.  Plus, those animals are well taken care of and it doesn't smell that bad.

Anyway, in my rediscovery of loving the zoo, I've created a zoo game!  It's a simple game with an actual game board.  It uses number cards to tell you how many spaces to move.  However, you could always use a die or spinner too.  Grab some coins for space markers (or space markers from another game) and have fun!  This game can be used for many different ages.  See below on how to adjust for your child's age:
  • Pre-Talkers:  If your child is old enough to play a game, but still not talking consistently, then you could use the name signs on the game board to expose your child to the word and encourage him/her to say it.  You could even look up pictures of each animal on the computer!  If your child is a pre-talker, but still too young to play a game, this activity is not for you.
  • Early Language:  If your child can't describe the animals on the signs yet, then you may want to print pictures of the animals and have your child find the correct animal according to the sign he/she landed on. You could also ask just one question about the animal:  "What does a monkey say?"  "What color is a lion?" "What does a giraffe eat?" - keep it simple and at their level
  • Elementary/Middle Language:  Have the kids describe the animal.  Don't let them stop with simply the color and size.  Have them describe where it lives, what it eats, what it says, how it moves, etc.  If you are working on definitions (see blog post "Definitions?") then have the child make a definition: name + group (animal or more specifically - mammal, etc) + unique factor (what it says or eats or lives, etc).
  • Listening Comprehension:  If your child can't read yet, then you could read the name of the animal (make sure you are covering your mouth) and have the child find a picture of that animal.  If your child can read, consider covering the names of the animals.  Have the child close his/her eyes while you peak at the name of the animal.  You could then either name the animal, make the sound it makes, or describe the animal and have your child either find the correct picture or name the animal!
  • Articulation:  Either write in words that your student needs to practice, have your child practice a few words before each turn, or have your child really monitor his/her sounds that he/she is working on as y'all play the game!
When your child is an infant you have to do everything for him/her because he/she can't do it alone!  When little Mikey gets a little bigger he can communicate that he wants a certain toy by fussing and pointing toward the toy.  You then hand it to him.  When Mikey is bigger still you pick his snack and open it for him and hand it to him.  Now Mikey is two years old and he doesn't say anything, but you are still getting his drink for him and opening his snack for him.  You are narrating as you go (good job)... so what's the problem?  If you do it for your child, he/she will never HAVE to talk.  You must recognize that you need to start giving your child the opportunities to talk.

Narrating is good - keep doing that (especially if little Mikey is not talking).  However, you need to fade your talking to open up times that you expect Mikey to talk.  The best way to start practicing this skill is at snack time (not meal time).  Make sure its a time that you can focus most of your attention on your child.  If you have older kids (who will also want the snack), then make sure to include them too!  If Mikey is your first child, then include your spouse or any family members that might be close by.  As the old saying goes... "the more, the merrier."

Sit very close to Mikey and first pull out two snacks that you don't mind Mikey having.  Hold them up and ask Mikey, "which snack do you want?  Fish cracker or banana?"  Make sure to pause so Mikey to respond in some way.  If its just pointing, praise that he made a choice and then over emphasize and say, "Fish?  You want Fish?  Good choice!  Let's get fish!"  Now the game can really begin.  Have whomever else is sitting for snack say "Fish please" and immediately hand that child a fish (or whatever snack is being used).  When you come to Mikey encourage him/her to say something.  If no oral response is given, try giving a model and place your hand under your chin and then place your hand under his chin when its his turn to respond.  He won't understand the first time.  Give him a fish and move on.  As you go along, make your wait time a little longer and a little longer.  Don't expect Mikey to say "Fish please" the first day (otherwise, you will be disappointed).  However, first get him to say the "f" sound, progress to "fi", and finally to "fish."  Let's say Mikey has mastered saying "f" to get a fish, this is how you might attempt to extend his utterance:
  • Mom: "What do you want?"
  • Mikey:  "f"
  • Mom:  "Good job!  I like that "f" sound.  Can you say "fi"?" (pause) "Let's all try it" (have everyone say "fi" and everyone gets a cracker) "Ok, Mikey, your turn.  Say "fi"." (now put your hand under his chin)
  • Mikey: "f"
  • Mom:  "Good try.  Say 'i'."
  • Mikey: "i"
  • Mom: "I like that sound!"  (give Mikey the cracker)

The next go round you will want Mikey to say "f" and then "i" and eventually "fi" together.  However, don't make your child work too hard without a reward because frustration will set in and you may hit a dead end.  Stay positive - your child feeds off of your emotions.

Now do you see why I say not to do it at meal time?  That one round of "fish crackers" can take a long time!  And that was only one fish.  Snack time is usually at a time when not much else is happening (and bath time is not coming up), there isn't a lot of set up or clean-up, and when the snack is all gone, the child has to talk again to get another one (natural reward)!!!
Does anyone watch Wheel of Fortune?  It's my favorite show (I know, every Grandma watches this show) and my favorite category is Before & After.  Basically, the puzzle will be two phrases with at least one word overlapping.  For my title, I'm combining "vocal play" and "playground."  Sorry... it just made me smile.  :o)

As the kids start back to school, there will be many kiddos who will get a "hoarse" voice.  These kids are probably abusing their vocal folds (or voice box as it is commonly referred).  Here are some actions that are considered vocal abuse:
  • Yelling/Screaming
  • Talking at a pitch that is not optimal for your voice
  • Talking loud (we naturally talk louder on cell phones and in cars with road noise)
  • Too much singing or not singing in an optimal pitch range

Here are some positive things to help keep your vocal folds healthy:
  • avoid smoky areas (restaurants, at home, etc)
  • avoid caffeine (it dehydrates you and your vocal folds)
  • Vocal rest**

**Vocal rest means NO TALKING.  Whispering is actually worse for your vocal folds than talking.  If you have a "hoarse voice" I suggest only talking when absolutely necessary.  When it is needed, make sure to talk and DO NOT whisper