This is a great thing to have on hand for kids who are pre-talkers, early talkers, or significantly delayed.  The box can also be turned into a folder game (or a series of folder games).  This is not a traditional folder game Friday, but that's because I'm not at home!  I'm on VACATION!!!  Therefore, I wasn't able to upload something to print remotely.  

A common objects box is just what is sounds like - a box full of common objects.  I've tried to scour my old toys (my mom held onto just about everything), garage sales, and toys my son no longer plays with in order to collect up my "common objects".  In my box I have: a cup, cell phone (toy), shoes (doll shoes), sunglasses (they were Timothy's), crayon, bowl (toy), spoon (took one from my son before he started to eat solids), sock, play keys, scissors (all plastic kid scissors that barely cut paper much less any fingers), toy car (as real looking as possible), toy airplane (also as real looking as possible), ball, book.  Look around your house and you will find a lot of things that can be put into the box.  My box is about the size of a shoe box.

I will pull out the box and act very excited about what's in the box.  I'll shake the box and point out to the kids all of the noise that it makes.  I'll then have the kids request to open the box.  This varies with the ability of the child.  For a pre-talker, I'll have them "knock knock" on the box (physically knock on the box while I say "knock knock") and when they knock I'll say "open".  If the child has learned to knock, then i'll encourage him/her to say "open" after he/she knocks.  If the entire word is too much, then a simple "o" will be acceptable.  If the child is a talker, then I'd ask for an appropriate utterance like: "open the box please".  Once the box has been opened then I'll let the child choose one thing to play with and explore.  If the child is a pre-talker I'll tell him/her the name of the object, its purpose, describe what it looks like or how it feels, and let them appropriately use the object (push the car along the ground, bounce the ball, etc).  If the child is an early talker, then I try to give him/her time to name the object.  I may ask some questions about the object to get the child to start to learn to describe or target any of his/her goals at the time.  When it's time to move on, I say "one, two, three, my turn" and take the object and place it in a bag - out of site, out of mind (hopefully).  I'll then pull out the box and the entire game is repeated.

How can this be a folder game?  Simply print pictures or cut pictures from magazines of real objects and paste them in the folder.  Still make the kids go through the ritual of requesting to open the folder and then talk about the object or objects in the folder.  You may want to make several folders with only a few objects in each.

How can you use this for older kids?  You may want to start teaching kids about grouping objects into categories.  You could have an animal folder.  Let them explore the animals that you have in your folder.  Then ask if they can think of others.  If they cannot, then close the folder and have the child try to remember the animals he/she saw in your folder!  
 
Kids typically LOVE to play "bean bag toss."  It's a simple way to target MANY different goals at once.  You can either use a commercialized bean bag toss game or you can make your own (much cheaper).

Around this time Christmas stuff starts to hit the shelves (I know, I know - its out earlier and earlier these days).  However, that is good when it comes to created a bean bag toss game.  Sterilite makes an ornament holder box (I'm sure other companies do as well).  I found one at Big Lots for $6.00 recently.  The one made by Sterilite has a lid, which makes it easy to store all necessary items in your box.  You will need the ornament box and beanbags.  You can either purchase beanbags (Amazon.com has them for sale) or you can make them (I found a tutorial here - you do not need to put numbers on you beanbags).  Now you are ready to play.

There are several ways to make this a therapy game:
  • Have the child do some work before earning a turn.  Write numbers in the individual ornament slots and whoever accumulates the most points by the end of the game wins.
  • Place cards or questions in the ornament slots.  Whatever the child lands on is what he/she must work on or do for that turn.  You can either write points on the back of the card (depending on its level of difficulty) and add up the points to see who wins or assign a number of points earned if the question is answered correctly.  What you do depends on the kid(s) you work with and their level of confidence and abilities.

What kinds of cards or questions would you put in the box?
  • Articulation:  Pictures of words containing the child's sound
  • Language:  Pictures of things that would target the child's goal (pictures of multiple items for plurals, pictures of a boy, girl, or thing to work on pronouns, pictures of a boy/girl holding items to work on possessives, picture of a scene or an action to work on creating complete sentences or describing, pictures of items to work on creating definitions, etc)
  • Pragmatics:  Questions or topics to discuss to practice good social skills (eye contact, maintaining the topic of conversation, taking turns in a conversation, beginning/ending a conversation appropriately, etc)
  • Listening:  Pictures with several items and ask for the child to point to a particular item
  • Fluency:  Pictures of scenes or actions - have the child describe the picture to work on his/her "smooth" speech
 
Don't throw out those old beach balls just yet.  They can become great speech and language materials.  All you need is an old beach ball and a permanent marker.  Don't have a beach ball laying around your house?  Now is a good time to find some on sale.  I've even found them at the dollar store!  

Use your permanent marker and write tasks on the ball.  Throw the ball to your client/student/child and wherever his/her thumb lands, that's the thing he/she has to complete.  This can be used for many different goals!  See below for some examples:
  • Articulation:  Write words that your child is working on.  You can even throw in some sounds that have already been mastered.  Is your child working in conversation?  Write different questions or topics to discuss so you can elicit that sound in conversation.
  • Language:  Working on past tense or future tense verbs?  Write the infinitive form of a verb (to cook, to wash, to bake) and have him/her tell you the correct verb form.  Working on describing?  Write down a bunch of items that your child would have to describe.  Working on naming items in a group?  Write down a bunch of groups (fruits, vehicles, animals, etc) and have your child name 3-5 in each group.  If you need some more ideas for what your child is working on specifically, just leave a comment or send me a message from the "contact me" section.
  • Pragmatics:  Write down different topics of discussion and have your child practice good conversational skills (eye contact, taking turns, remaining on topic, making appropriate transitions, etc).
  • Fluency:  Write down things to discuss and practice their "smooth" speech.
  • Listening Comprehension:  Write simple to more difficult instructions that would match your child's ability in listening comprehension.  Some variations could include: touch your shoe; get a pencil and put it on the desk; walk to the door and knock three times, find a blue crayon (if you have crayons out), etc.  If you have more than one person in the group, then have that person read what to do and have the child who is working on listening comprehension follow the instructions.  If it's just you, then have your student read the direction to you and have you do it.  Then when you catch the ball, read it to him/her and it's his/her turn to follow the direction.
  • Pre-talkers:  Encourage your little one to ask for his/her turn.  You can model the correct phrasing by saying "my turn" and picking up the ball.  Say "my turn" again (using auditory highlighting) and then place your hand under your little one's chin.  Wait for him/her to try to say something.  It may take a while until they understand the relationship between saying my turn and getting the ball.  You won't need to write anything on the ball, but it can be helpful to start the talking process.  You can also exhibit the following language from a ball (this is not an exhaustive list, just what comes to mind at this moment): ball, bounce, roll, throw, bye bye ball, my turn, mine, kick.  Remember to use auditory highlighting to emphasize the word(s) you want your little one to imitate. (see blog post from 
Picture
Here is an example of what I found at a garage sale (more of an ice breaker game), which gave me the idea for the beach ball!


Make sure to comment me or send me a message (contact me section) if you have a goal that has left you stumped!  I might be able to help brainstorm how you can adapt this activity for that particular goal.

 
I first learned about Bloom's Taxonomy during my undergraduate years and I have used it with many different groups of kids.  It's a wonderful way to make sure that our kids are learning many aspects about one topic.

Bloom's Taxonomy was created in the 50's by a panel of educators (lead by Mr. Bloom).  This theory of teaching divides learning into three domains:  cognitive (head/knowledge), affective (heart/feeling), psychomotor (hands/doing).  It is also creates a hierarchy of learning, beginning with the simplest form (knowledge) and getting progressively harder ending with evaluation (judging, discussing, evaluating).

When I taught deaf education, we would have a different theme each week (or sometimes a theme would last for two weeks).  I would then take that theme (i.e. space) and each day focus on a different Bloom's level.  I would send a form home with the parents of questions they could ask their children each day.  The questions corresponded with the Bloom's level that we would have focused on that day.  It was a great way for carryover to take place.

What are the levels?
  • Knowledge:  learning facts, terms, and basic concepts
  • Comprehension:  demonstration of an understanding of the facts by organizing, comparing, or describing
  • Application:  using the knowledge to show how it can be applied to your life or in order to solve a problem
  • Analysis:  examine and break the information down into parts
  • Synthesis:  compiling information in different ways
  • Evaluation:  give and defend opinions using the information previously collected

So how did this look in my classroom?  Let's use the previously mentioned "space" theme:
  • Knowledge:  learn the new vocabulary words that the kids might not know.  We typically used flash cards in many different ways - searched for the picture, matching game, etc.
  • Comprehension:  We might sort pictures from our book into two categories:  space items (astronaut suit, stars, moon, space shuttle) and earthly items (books, playground, trees, clothes).  Another great activity for comprehension is describing some of the space pictures used from the previous day.
  • Application:  Talk about if we have ever been to space?  (no) How might we be able to go to space? (become an astronaut)
  • Analysis:  What are the parts of a space shuttle?  (window, door, wing, etc)
  • Synthesis:  How would you change the space shuttle?  Let's draw a new space shuttle and tell me what you would include.
  • Evaluation:  Do you think it's important that we study space?  Why or why not?

Bloom's Taxonomy is also a great way for kids to analyze books they are reading.  For more information on how this can be done, see this link: Applying Bloom's Taxonomy to Books

If you need to help getting started, there is a wealth of knowledge on the internet (here's a simple one that is good).  If you would like books that has everything spelled out (what questions to ask, what activities to do, and pictures that only need to be colored and printed), then check out the "Blooming" series at Linguisystems.com.  (two of my professors have written the newer versions of these books)
 
I recently got asked this question.  Names have been changed.

Question:  My son, Jason, who is almost 18 months old has been referred by his pediatrician for a speech therapy evaluation.  I don't know if it is necessary or not.  What should I expect and should I enroll him?

Answer:  Let me start with what you should expect.  Your therapist will probably ask you questions to get a case history.  She will be looking for any red flags in Jason's history that may indicate a speech/language problem.  She will then probably play with Jason to get him used to her.  She will give him one or possibly two tests (I try to stick to one when they are 18 months old).  The test may look like playing, but she's trying to get him to show her different receptive and expressive language skills.

Now let me give you some "milestones" for 12-17 month old speech and then 18 month old's speech since I know Jason is close. There will be two categories: Receptive Language (what Jason hears, understands, and responds to) and Expressive Language (what he is telling you without any prompts). Expressive language is not always talking as long as it is COMMUNICATING (he is getting a message to you). However, talking should be involved by this point.
12-17 months:
Receptive Language:
*recognizes his/her name
*understands no
*understands simple instructions
*places an object in a cup on command
*gives a toy on request

Expressive Language:
*points and gestures to call attention to an event or to show wants
*imitates familiar words
*waves good-bye and plays pat-a-cake
*uses mama and dad and several other words, usually nouns
*practices words
*likes to make the "sounds" of familiar animals and things
*attempts to communicate by mixing jargon with real words
*vocalizes for enjoyment

18 months:
Receptive Language:
*points to own toes, eyes, and nose
*brings familiar objects from another room when asked
*follows simple commands

Expressive Language:
*Uses 10-20 different words
*starts to combine 2 words, such as "all gone" , "daddy bye-bye"
*uses words to make wants known, such as "more", "up"
*imitates words and sounds more precisely
*knows and says the name of 5 things
*begins to reduce use of real words with jargon


Whether or not you should enroll him is a personal decision.  I've seen patients as young as 18 months old.  In that particular case, the 18 month old was not saying any words.  He only needed services for 6 months and was exited.  He is now doing fine and doesn't need any more therapy.  My personal belief is that the younger we can get them, the less time they spend in speech therapy (that excludes severely handicapped children, kids with multiple diagnoses, or a diagnosis that will follow him/her for a lifetime).  Wait until you see the test results and see what the therapist recommends.  You can then take all the data and make a decision that is right for your family.
 
Ok... so it's not technically a folder game, but this one is too good not to share.  This comes from another great speech therapy friend, Conni Wambold.  She and I worked together in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System and she introduced me to the wonderful world of "choose games."  They are simple and easy and the kids LOVE them.  While working with Conni, we did themed therapy.  Therefore, my choose game has a "theme".  However, it can take on the theme of a holiday that's close by, a favorite character or show, etc.

With a choose game, you have a character and pieces you must collect.  For my example, it's a camper/hiker (character), sleeping bag, campfire, boots, tent, and backpack.  Simply print out the pictures onto several different colors of paper (you choose as many or as few as you need).  Then, cut out the characters and mount them on a solid piece of paper (preferably not the color that the hiker is printed on.  I often used black).  Cut out the items the kids will have to collect and mount those on black construction paper (so they can't see through the construction paper).  Laminate all the pieces for durability.  

Directions for the game:  Each child gets to choose one color hiker.  All other pieces are placed face down in a pile.  The kids will do some work (whatever he/she is working on) and then get to choose from the choose pile.  If he/she got an item the hiker needed in his/her color, then the child gets to keep it and the play continues to the other kids or yourself.  If an item is chosen that does NOT match his/her color, then it must be placed back in the pile face down.  The first person to collect all five items the hiker needs wins!

This game can be used with any deficit area since the child works on whatever goals he/she has and then gets to take a turn.  It's great for kids who work on pragmatics to simply practice good social skills while playing the game (notifying someone when it's their turn, waiting for his/her turn, learning to lose, etc).

Click here to print the PDF version.
 
This post is geared more for the speech therapists, but parents - there is a lot for you on that site also (namely the information on normal speech development, communication disorders, and pictures of things you know your child needs to work on at home).  

You know me - I love FREE!  Speech-Language-Therapy is site filled with FREE stuff!  The best part is that it has tons of word lists WITH pictures.  No more searching through google images to create your own flashcards (well, not for the things they have on the site, at least).  They have links to other useful sites, which takes some of the guess-work out of internet searches for you.  The table of contents page is a good place to start.  They have information on typical development, communication disorders, etc.  Now, the "freebies" page is my favorite.  They have a quick phonological screener, therapy facts and tricks, and TONS of pictures for articulation and phonology.  The most useful thing I have found are the minimal pairs for phonology therapy!  Wow!  Minimal pairs that are printable.  All I did was print, cut, and paste onto flashcards!  Woohoo!

Hope you find some good stuff in there.
 
On August 23, I discussed the importance of TVAK (Tactile, Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic) in every lesson.  [If you missed that one, I highly recommend it]  I hope it has changed your focus of how to reach kids - either your own or your clients.  It is so important to stimulate as many senses as possible.  

In deaf education, we often do "listening walks".  It's simply a walk around where we wait for the kids to hear something and locate the sound.  We will then talk about it.  If the kids aren't hearing something, we'll direct their attention to it.  It's a great way for kids to hear an environmental noise and learn, first hand, what that sound means (car horn honking = car is coming) and how to react (stop moving).  When I taught at Sound Start: A school for the deaf and hard of hearing, we would often take listening walks on lawn day.  The maintenance men were very sweet to make sure to come close enough to us so that the kids could see what they were doing while listening to the sound.

While listening walks are wonderful, let's not forget our other four senses: touch, taste, sight, smell.  Take a walk with your kids (it doesn't matter the age) and have them find things they could touch and describe how it feels.  If they don't have the words for it, give them the language by saying, "that feels rough."  Let your kids find things they can hear (a lawn mower) and explain what it is, what it does, if it's loud or soft, etc.  Taste is one that may be hard to do unless you "plant" a treat for the kids to try.  :o)  Let the kids find something they see - maybe you're focusing on a certain color or shape that day.  Have the kids describe that object as best they can.  Give them the language that they don't have to fill in the gaps.  Let the kids smell things and describe their smell - good or bad.  It may be funny to do the walk on garbage day and see if they notice the garbage smells.  Let the kids take the lead as much as possible.  If your child is a pre-talker, then watch him/her.  When he/she is focused on something, then describe it to him/her.  Your pre-talker may not be able to tell you what he/she sees, hears, smells, etc, but where he/she is focusing will tell you what his/her little brain is trying to learn about.

If your child works on articulation, then make sure to find things that have your child's sound or listen to your child's sound in conversation.

If your child is working on listening comprehension, then take an "I spy" walk.  Say something like: "I spy a car", "I spy something that smells yucky", "I spy something that is blue and says vroom", "I spy something that has four legs and a tail", etc.

If your child is working on fluency, then work on his/her "smooth speech" while on the walk.
 
During my CF year (first year that a speech therapist is working), I was working in a Middle School.  Almost every one of my kids had "figurative language" on their set of goals.  That's not surprising since figurative language is so abstract, which makes it difficult for kids with learning disabilities, delays, or are on the Autism Spectrum (which made up about half of my caseload).  Therefore, I created and began a program called "Idiom Of The Week".  Each week I would highlight a different idiom.  I tried to make sure that they corresponded with an upcoming holiday or was one they may hear or use often.  I would then send a note home to the parents and notify all the teachers.  I wanted these kids to see and hear these idioms as often as possible.  Each week we would talk about the idiom - what it sounded like it meant and what it actually meant.  Then we would try to use it in a meaningful sentence while in therapy.  Whenever I "dropped" by their class, I would make sure to use it while I was there or if someone said it to me (in a meaningful sentence) before I could say it, then that person would get a prize.  The whole school Special Education department really got into it and it was quite fun! 

Speech Therapists - this may be a way to work on figurative language with your kids.
Parents - this may be a fun thing to do with your kids since figurative language can be very difficult.

See the website for a free downloadable example of the signs I made and hung up on the walls.
 
Blending sounds, as you may remember from past blog posts, is a phonological skill and an important building block toward reading fluency and eventually reading comprehension.  I can't give you a time frame when your child will be ready to begin blending or when blending should be mastered because every child is different, especially when it comes to reading (my neighbor was reading the newspaper at age 4.  It took me until kindergarten to learn to read simple words).  However, I know that it can help kids of all different ages.  I've started blending with kids as young as 3 1/2 and I've used it with struggling readers as old as 3rd grade (however, it may be beneficial even past 3rd grade if this skill has not yet been mastered).  In this blog post I'll explain what blending is, when your child is ready, why it is important, an activity to do with your kids, and a link with more information.

What is blending and when is my child ready?  Blending is the ability to sound out individual sounds and put them together into a word.  You may be more familiar with the term "sounding it out".  For instance:  /k/  /a/  /t/ becomes "cat".  It may look something like this:
     kkkkkkkkaaaaaaaaattttttttt
     kkkkkaaaaaatttttt
     kkkkaaattt
     kkaatt
     kat = cat!
When your child is able to demonstrate that he/she knows the sounds (phonemes) that each letter (grapheme) represents, then your child is ready for blending.  Make sure to start off slow - with words that are three letters long first!  You don't want to overwhelm a child.
Picture
Why is blending so important?  In order to become a proficient reader, a child must learn to blend sounds smoothly and easily into words.  I will refer you to the "reading tree philosophy" that I have created.  As you can see, phonemic and phonologic awareness skills are the base of the tree and the basis for reading fluency, which eventually leads to reading comprehension.  All of the phonologic awareness skills are important to understanding how phonemes build syllables, clusters, and words.  Blending, specifically, is important because if you are unable to sound out words quickly, fluently, and efficiently, then it will be hard to achieve reading fluency or comprehension.  It is difficult to get through a sentence, much less a paragraph or book if your reading is choppy.  For instance:  "tuh huh eee, the, kuh a ttt, kuha tt, cat, is, rrrrr eeeeee ddddduh, rrrr eee dduh, reduh, red" = the cat is red.  

What can I do with my kids at home to help with blending?  You will need:  magnetic letters and a cookie sheet.  I'd suggest to start with a "word family".  Word families are groups of words that all rhyme (sound the same at the end) and end in the same letters.  Let's do the "at" family:  bat, cat, fat, hat, mat, pat, rat, sat.  Collect the necessary magnetic letters.  Place "a" and "t" on a cookie sheet with space between them.  Have your child say the letters in isolation: /a/ and /t/.  Then, move the letters close together and have your child smooth the letters: "at".  Now, place one of the consonants that will create an "at" word on the cookie sheet.  We'll start with "b".  Place the "b", "a", and "t" on the cookie sheet with space between each letter.  Have your child say each sound separately and then start to smooth (or blend) the sounds together.  Get the letters a little closer each time he/she attempts to blend until he comes up with bat!  It is easy for us, but this is a stretch for little minds.  You must be very patient and try hard not to blend it for him/her.  You want that little "light bulb" to go off.  Once he/she says the word, then have him/her find the picture of the word that was read (see sheet to download on the website).  Repeat with each of the "at" words.  

Where can I find out more information?  I found a very informative article on the web.  It is connected to a website of a reading program.  I have not researched the reading program and so I can not say one way or another whether it works.  I am not endorsing the program in this blog post.  However, the article of information on blending is great!  Follow this link to the Right Track Reading article on blending.