Taking Therapy Outside! {The Frenzied SLPs}


frenzy outdoor pict

According to Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” students in the United States are suffering from “Nature Deficit Disorder.” This disorder stems from the long hours students spend in the classroom and home, which limits their exposure and experience with nature. Traditionally, sitting behind a desk was thought to be the most efficient way to learn, but new research is showing that spending time outdoors improves student behavior, attendance, and attitudes! Nature Deficit Disorder can lead to problems such as obesity, inattentiveness, and low academic performance. Being outdoors reduces student stress and fosters a deeper connection with the environment that is missing in the classroom. It also takes students away from the fatigue of sitting in a classroom and allows an alternative way for students to learn. This is especially important for students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as studies have found spending time outdoors improves their ability to concentrate in school.

As an SLP who works primarily with middle and high school students, I find myself gravitating toward outdoor lessons as soon as the first warm days of spring start to find their way to my part of the country.  If you want to put a smile on your student’s faces, tell them you plan on holding the lesson outside! Often times, my students will start requesting that we take our lesson outside before I can even suggest it!   Most of my caseload is made up of boys. “Outdoors” is their middle name, in many cases. However, before I consider moving our therapy session to the great outdoors, I set some ground rules: #1- “We can hold our lesson outside if you agree to stick to the lesson”. Remind them that while it is enjoyable to have speech class outside, there is still a lesson to be taught. # 2-  If we can’t follow #1,then we can’t hold future lessons outside.  #3- If there are too many distractions (environmental sounds, bugs flying in the air, people walking by, etc.) and the lesson becomes ineffective, I remind them that we may need to reconsider having future lessons outside.

I am lucky enough to have access to  basketball hoops, picnic tables and walking paths around my school grounds so the following outdoors activities requires these accommodations.  I hope you find the ideas inspiring now that  warm spring days have finally arrived.

 

1—Play some hoops!

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My student-athletes LOVE when I tell them we are going to play a game of “Horse” or “Around the World.”   For correct responses (related to any language skill or speech sound) I let them take shots at the net.  Here’s the rules for playing H-O-R-S-E  in case you are not familiar:  If the first person’s shot is missed, the second shooter may attempt any shot. If his/her shot is made, the opponent is obligated to duplicate it. Each time a shooter misses a shot that he/she attempted to duplicate, a letter is “awarded”. The game continues until one person accumulates 5 letters or H-O-R-S-E.  My competitive kiddos are motivated to take those free throw shots and we usually have a very productive lesson while working on those all important basketball skills.

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Around the World is a similar basketball game.  Here are the rules:   Play typically starts at the edge of the key on one side of the basket. If the shot is made, the player advances to the next position mark on the key. When a player has made shots on every position mark (if a player misses a shot they may chance it and shoot again, and if they miss, they go back to the previous spot, or they may elect to stay where they are currently at), they then advance back in the opposite direction just like the way they came, and the player who does that first wins the game. After the player has moved around the key, the player must make a shot from the center of the three point line.  If at any point a shot is missed, a player may ‘chance’, meaning he gets to take a second shot. If the second shot is made, the player advances as normal. If the player misses the second shot, then the player must go back to the beginning. If player has made it to the other side of the three point line then he must make it twice. If the player chances then he may go back to the opposite side he started on game.  Once a player completes the entire sequence of shots, that player is deemed the winner of the basketball game.

2–Walk and talk

My school is surrounded by plenty of trees and open fields.  Take advantage of the scenery with your students and go on a little “field trip” around your school campus. Walking around the perimeter of the school grounds is a great way to get some fresh air, exercise and play a game of “I Spy.”   There are so many things to spy outdoors!   Use the game to address descriptive language and asking good questions with your language students.  For your articulation students, make the “I Spy” game center around finding outdoor objects that contain their target sound(s). Bring tangible positive reinforcement on your walk so they can keep track of how many items they guessed/described (paper flowers, suns, rocks found during your walk.)

 

3–”Photo Op”

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Take your students on a walk around the school grounds, but this time, focus on the details in nature.  Ask your students to find interesting things to photograph.  If you are permitted and comfortable with the idea, allow them to snap pictures with your phone.   Once you have collected a sampling of various trees, leaves, birds, bugs, grass and rocks you will have your next lesson prepped and ready to go!  Use the photos to work on descriptive sentences, as story starters, articulation practice, asking WH questions, critical thinking…the possibilities are endless!  I have a student who has an amazing eye for photography and he enjoys this hobby in his free time.  We have recently started using some of his photos, as well as ones we have taken around the school grounds, to address his language goals. He is motivated, engaged and enjoys his speech sessions.  That’s saying a lot when you are working with middle schoolers!

4– Picnic table therapy

writing-camp_outside

If you have an outdoor seating area at your school, you have an instant outdoor classroom.  A change of scenery, especially as we approach the end of the school year, may help keep you and your students happy and focused —and you can, and should, still stay true to your original therapy game plan.  Sitting in the grass can get uncomfortable.  The ground may be too wet if it rained the previous day.  Bugs in the grass can also be an annoying distraction.  A picnic table provides a great work space for playing a board game, writing on a hard surface, rolling dice, and placing books and papers.

Looking for more ways to work on speech and language in the great outdoors?   Check out some amazing SLP friends who have lots of inspirational ideas to share in the linky below!  Happy Spring!

Research sources:

  • Ditch the Desks: Action Plan for Taking the Classroom Outside By Ashley Schopieray
  • DC Schoolyard Greening. Why Use Your Schoolyard? Retrieved March 4, 2009 from http://www.dcschoolyardgreening.org/gettingstarted/overview.html
  •  Earth Day Network. Greening the Curriculum Retrieved March 4, 2009 from http://ww2.earthday.net/ ~earthday/node/42.
  •  Tara Parker Pope (2009) Give Recess its Due. The New York Times. Retrieved March 4, 2009 from http://www.childrenandnature.org/news/detail/new_york_times_give_recess_its_due.

 

Things SLPs Should Never Say {The Frenzied SLPs}

 

 The Frenzied SLPs never1

As SLPs,  we strive to be supportive and positive with our students while addressing their communication goals, so reflecting on not-so-positive words that may come up during our daily interactions took some thought.   What I concluded is that sometimes even positive words need to be used selectively, therefore, at the top of my list of “Things SLPs Should Never Say” I would list  the phrase, “Good Job!”  It  does seem contradictory to view a positive message as a negative one as well, however there are several reasons why.  I think it would be safe to say that “Good Job  is one of the most overused phrases in education (and in parenting as well.)  I’m guilty of using this phrase way too much myself (at home and at school) but I’m working on using more effective ways of  acknowledging my student’s and my own child’s behaviors and responses.  The phrase seems to naturally and automatically flow from our stream of thought and onto our lips, however there are several reasons we should reconsider using these two seemingly well-intentioned words.

1.  Students will come to expect it.    Mary Budd Rowe, a researcher at the University of Florida, discovered that students who were praised lavishly by their teachers were more tentative in their responses and more apt to answer in a questioning tone of voice.  They tended to back off from an idea they had proposed as soon as an adult disagreed with them, and they were less likely to persist with difficult tasks or share their ideas with other students.    “Good job!” doesn’t reassure children; ultimately, it makes them feel less secure. It may even create a vicious cycle such that the more we pile on the praise, the more kids seem to need it, so we praise them some more. By creating so-called “praise junkies” some kids will grow into adults who continue to need someone else to pat them on the back and tell them whether what they did was okay.

2.  It can interfere with how good a job children actually do. Researchers keep finding that kids who are praised for doing well at a creative task tend to stumble at the next task – and they don’t do as well as children who weren’t praised to begin with.  What kids do need is unconditional support with no strings attached, which is the opposite of praise. “Good job!” is conditional. It means we’re offering attention, acknowledgement and approval for doing things that please us.

3. There are better options:

  • Say nothing.  We often assume that a response must be “reinforced”  with an immediate verbal reward.   It is often the case that we want to praiseour kids don’t really need to hear it. Students do not (should not) expect to be praised all the time, so the next time you feel the urge to say “good job,” simply say nothing at all.  Observe if your students continues to provide responses and interactions despite the lack of praise.
  • Say what you saw. A simple praise-free statement  such as “You made that sound with your tongue in the right place.”  ”You put all those steps in the correct order” or even just  “You did it”  shows that your recognize their effort and success. It also lets your student take pride in what she did.  By doing this, you are providing  feedback, not judgment, about their response.
  • Talk less, ask more. Instead of offering the instant gratification of “Good Job” when a student provides a response, ask him further questions about his response and address higher level thinking.  Delving into follow up questions such as “who”, “what” , “when”, “where”, “why” and “how” will elicit further interest in their responses and grow a students interest and understanding of a topic.  Saying “Good job!”  may have exactly the opposite effect since it does not encourage further conversation.

4. Substitute other phrases for “Good job!”    My friend and fellow-SLP, Erik Raj,  wrote a post a while back entitled “25 Ways to Praise Students in Speech Therapy.”     He feels that the phrase “Good Job” is overused, becomes a bit monotonous, predictable and boring.  I agree with Erik! He created this FREE poster which includes 25 ways to praise your students. Download his freebie and keep it tucked away  in your planner or hung up in clear site.  The next time you offer positive verbal feedback to your students, remember to change it up and try out a few new praise-worthy words!

Are you curious what other SLPs are blogging about?  What other things should SLPs never say?   Check out their thoughts in the linky below!


Quick and Easy Recipes {The Frenzied SLPs}

slp recipe

Mornings can be pretty hectic in my household!  I am a school-based SLP, mom of a middle schooler and wife of a school principal.  We are all trying to get ready for our school day at around the same time so mornings can be a little frenzied!   Several years ago I discovered a morning game changer—slow-cooker steel cut oatmeal!  It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s delicious!!! It only takes me a few minutes to prepare this glorious breakfast just before going to bed. I plug in my slow-cooker, aka “crock pot,” and let it do its magic!   When you wake in the morning,  your home will smell  heavenly and a hot breakfast will be ready and waiting. One less thing to stress about when you are preparing for your busy day ahead. Most importantly, you will be starting off the day with nutritious brain food that is sure to give you energy and sustenance.   Winter mornings will never be the same again!  Want the recipe?  I’m delighted to share it with you.   Let me know if you try it out.  I hope it helps you start your day off with ease and success!

 

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal

Ingredients:

1 cup steel cut oats

3 cups water  ( I like to use part milk/ part water)

1 cup peeled and chopped apple (optional)

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

 4 tablespoons brown sugar (you can play with the amount to suite your sweetness)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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www.speechsnacks.com

Directions:

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Cook’s Note: Important—> Use steel cut oats only or this will be a mushy mess.  

Take notice of the difference between rolled oats (left) and steel cut oats (right).

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www.speechsnacks.com

 

oats 4

Place the steel cut oats, water/milk, apple, raisins, butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla extract into a slow cooker.

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Stir to combine and dissolve the sugar.

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Cover the cooker, set to LOW, and allow to cook 6 hours.  (If you cook it too long, it can get mushy). ENJOY!!

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Looking for more quick and easy recipes?  Check out the Frenzied SLPs for some tasty ideas!  


 

 

 

 

Favorite Organizational Tips {Frenzied SLP Linky}

org linky

Good organizational skills are a necessity if you work in our field.  We are always collecting new activities, games and  programs, not to mention being bombarded with paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork!  Without good organization skills our jobs can become even more overwhelming and challenging to manage.    Good organizational habits are also a good way to demonstrate, first hand to our students, those all important executive functioning skills that we teach.   After all, we should try our best to practice what we preach!

I work primarily with middle and high school students.  I have been an SLP for many years.  I have collected many materials over those years and continue to find new, fresh, motivating materials.  I try to “clean house” every so often and get rid of outdated, ineffective materials in order to make room for new finds.  I have also accumulated  materials that are my tried and true stand-by’s that I use over and over again.

So here is how I keep some of the materials for older students organized and easy to access:

#1: Organizing my graphic organizers.  I have quite the collection of graphic organizers and have them all separated out with color-coded tabs.  I used these daily with my older students to address a variety of goals. I find that while one organizer works well for one student, a different format may be more effective for another so I have several versions that may address one area (i.e. vocabulary development).    You name the area of language, I probably have an organizer for it!  Vocabulary development (I have at least 20 different graphic organizers for this area), comparing/contrasting, cause/effect, multiple meanings, inferencing, two-column notes, before/after, and the list goes on.    I also keep a separate binder for my writing organizers.  Top-down, sequencing, authors purpose, character traits, story maps, etc, etc, etc.   I have a few copies of each printed and ready to go in my binders so I am prepared for any spur of the moment need for an organizer.

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#2: Organizing my programs and daily “go-to’s”:  Can you tell I like to use binders?!  Yes I have lots of them!   I order most of my materials from various vendors on CD.  When new ones arrive at the start of the school year, I download it , print it out, three hole punch it and add my shiny new binder to my bookshelf.   By the way, Word Feast Adolescent and Tasks of Problem Solving Adolescent are two of my favorites!  I use these frequently.  I use all of the the binders pictured below throughout the year. It’s so much easier for me to remember what great materials I have when I have them labeled and organized in clear view for easy reference.   My “go-to’s” are on a separate shelf located on my desk.  These binders contain my graphic organizers, joke of the week, quote of the week, idiom of the week and picture of the week binders.   I display these in clear plastic 8X10 picture holders (the kind you can buy in the dollar store.)  I can quickly switch out a new page to my plastic holder by keeping these references in clear sight on my desk.   My students love when I display these and look forward to finding out what my new “….Of the Week” display will be each time they visit my room.  

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photo holder

photo holder for use with “….of the Week” display

 

 

#3:  Organizing my seasonal and themed activities. I create TpT products (mainly for older kids and often with a seasonal theme), I purchase TpT products too.  I have sooooo many TpT products!!  What to do with all those TpT products??!!  I store mine in clear plastic containers and house each activity in its own large business envelope.  Luckily I found containers that are the perfect size for the envelopes. I have containers labeled General Themes,  Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer.  I also have an overflow container with miscellaneous language worksheets and activities.  I think I may need to invest in a few more containers or start weeding out the activities that I am not using or finding effective.  My space is limited so I will need to do a little house keeping very soon!!

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These are a few organizational tips I use to keep me sane and my therapy room orderly!   I hope you have found them helpful!   The Frenzied SLPs have many other great ideas for you, so don’t forget to check them all out!  Here’s to a well organized 2016!!!


Celebrating Small Accomplishments, Making Every Day Count! {The Frenzied SLPs Linky}

2016 frenzied slps

Happy 2015 2016!  It’s going to take me a while to get used to writing the number 6!   I’ve already mistakenly written 2015 on two bank checks and a form at the dentist’s office.  The good news is, it’s easy to turn a five into a six without it looking too obvious!!   I’m sure I’ll get it right by the time the summer rolls around.   This month The Frenzied SLPs linky party theme focuses on things we are going to try….. to improve, …. to change, ….to continue, etc. in our work life and/or personal life.

New Year’s Resolution are not my cup of tea!  I find them overwhelming and too long-term.  Making resolutions is easy, but keeping them is extremely  difficult.  I prefer to keep track of small accomplishments.  I love checking items off of a long list and feeling productive.  And yes, I hand write my “to-do” lists with a paper/post-it and pen!    Call me old-fashioned but there something rewarding about writing down my thoughts, crossing them off as I complete each one, and crumbling up that piece of paper when I finish everything that I set out to do!

I think even more rewarding than that  however, is to write down and keep a record of  accomplishments (no matter how small or simple!)

This year I’m going to keep track of some of my accomplishments in a calendar.   It will serve as a simple and effective way of noting daily successes and  help me focus on what I DID accomplish, not on what I DIDN’T/COULDN’T  finish at the end of the day.   By the end of the week/ month/year, I will have many reminders of all the positive, productive, meaningful tasks that I completed!

Would you like to join me and document your own daily accomplishments?  You can grab your  FREE copy of  “Make Every Day Count” calendar HERE.

cover pages calendar

I hope to reflect on my day (at work and at home) and jot down one small accomplishment every day.   The important message is that I will be collecting many thoughts that remind me that I am moving forward and always trying to “make every day count.”

frenzy pic 2016

 Check out what my fellow SLP bloggers are focusing on as they start out their new year at the links below!  Feel free to link up and share your thoughts too!  Wishing you peace, health and happiness as we move through the next 365 days!!


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