A Kitchen Renovation Lesson Learned {a.k.a, “What I did this summer!”}

As we head back to school, the typical question posed by many is, “How was your summer?” or “What did you do this summer?”  Well, that is quite the loaded question for me! I have my general response prepared, however, here is the response a speech pathologist who is over- analyzing the question gives….

Back in July, which went way too fast, I wrote a post about an idiom that became my reality:  “You’ve got to crack some eggs if you want to make an omelet!”

egg pic

We renovated our kitchen this summer (and I mean gutted it down to the studs!) and lived in drywall dust, dirt and noise for many weeks.   Yes, we certainly cracked a few eggs.  Now our omelet is nearly complete!  We are still waiting to finish a few details like under-cabinet lighting and the backsplash, so I’m going to wait to share photos of the final product.

As the renovation progressed,  I realized just how much the experience related directly to myself, the concepts I teach in my therapy sessions and the students themselves.

First, I have a new found respect for students with attention deficit and other focusing difficulties.

We tried to stay out of the house as much as possible during the day while the contractor worked, however during our down time at home, reading, blogging and creating new TpT materials was impossible!   I found myself struggling to focus, stay on task and get motivated.  I realized just how similar my behaviors were to many of my students.   Sometimes no matter how much they try to focus on the teacher and the lesson being presented, they struggle with the distractions around them.   They may recognize the distractors, they may know what strategies are necessary to help them re-focus and get the work accomplished, but no matter how hard they try, they remain challenged and frustrated by the distractors  This was definitely how I would describe myself this summer, and as a result I have greater insight into the behaviors of the students I teach!

Secondly, renovating a kitchen is the mother-of-all executive functioning tasks!!!   

The six steps of executive function include:  1. Analyze a task  2. Plan how to address the task  3. Organize the steps needed to carry out the task  4. Develop timelines for completing the task  5. Adjust or shift the steps, if needed, to complete the task  6. Complete the task in a timely manner.  Wow!  Need I say more??  If you want to teach executive function in the most hands-on, practical, real-life manner, demolish a kitchen and put it back together again!!   Now there’s an idea to share with the woodshop teacher in your local middle and high school!  On a daily basis I found myself analyzing, planning, organizing, developing, adjusting as we worked toward completing the job.  The homeowner is most definitely an  integral part of the renovation process!

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One of my favorite presenters on executive function, Sarah Ward, talks about “starting with the end in mind” then advises, ”go back and figure out how to get there.”   This is not just great advice for those with executive functioning disorders, but truly for any and all of us!  My kitchen rendition (the drawing below is not my actual kitchen) represents the “end” that Sarah refers to.  Going back and figuring out how to get there is the challenging part,  however with good organization and planning the process flows with a bit more ease.  ”Starting with the end in mind” can be applied to so many tasks that our students must carry out at home and in school on a daily basis.  For example, often times  middle and high school students want to know when they will be released from speech.  SHOW them what it will look like.  “When you have corrected the _____ sound.”  “When you can use slow and easy speech consistently in conversation.”  “When you can use good eye contact and stay on topic during a conversation.”  These are some of the ways we provide examples of the final product.

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Sarah suggests that we ask the question  ”What will it look like when it’s done?”  to help our students get organized and form a starting point. Great question Sarah!  When my kitchen is totally complete, I will let you know!  In the mean time, creating a blueprint, design, layout, etc. is necessary in order to envision the final product and help answer the question “What will it look like when it’s done.”  Where do you want the cabinets and appliances?   Is the space functional and practical?  Where should you place knobs and handles? What color will the cabinets and walls be? What material will you use for a backsplash and floors?  It is necessary to answer all of these questions in order to paint a better picture of the end result.  What a great demonstration of executive functioning!

 

 

clock

Time management is also a huge chunk of the executive function picture.   How long will the renovation take?  (answer: waaayyy longer than the contractor tells you!)  When should appliances be delivered? What time will the contractor start and end each day?  These are all time management questions that need to be addressed throughout a renovation.

And speaking of time, the summer is such a great time to catch up on a little extra sleep, enjoy your morning coffee and newspaper, stay in your pj’s for just a little longer….HA! No such luck here!  The contractor arrived at my house every morning (including a few Saturdays and Sundays!) between 7:30 and 8 a.m.   I certainly wasn’t going to be caught dead looking like the walking dead!  I put good time management and executive functioning into practice once again by setting my alarm early every morning. I made sure I was dressed, out of his way and ready for the day before his arrival!  I wistfully wished for just one morning to watch The Today Show and Hoda and Kathy Lee in my pj’s with a cinnamon roll and hot cup of joe!  On the upside, at least we won’t have to adjust to getting up early for the start of the school year.  We had a lot of practice this summer!

 

hoda and k

Time management skills are equally important in the lives of the children we teach.  My students use organizational planners to keep track of assignments, important events, tests, etc.  I ask them to figure in the actual amount of time they think each task will take.  This is so helpful in actualizing and prioritizing various tasks in their lives. ( To help students further improve this skill, I created a home planner for them to organize their lives and manage their time outside of the walls of the classroom setting where executive function tasks can be very challenging.)  As another example, when my son starts middle school this fall, time management will become a huge part of his daily functioning.    Student are given three minutes between classes to get to their lockers,  get the books, materials, etc. necessary and get to the next class. He will have to carefully strategize and decide when the best time to visit his locker will be so that he is not running late to his classes.

Thirdly, Michelle Garcia-Winner’s Social Thinking Program  would have certainly come in handy during the renovation!

One of the most important traits in life is the ability to be flexible!   “The Incredible Flexible You!”  is not just a social thinking program folks, it became my motto!!   Here are a few examples of being flexible during the remodel.  Contractor: “Oh there’s a pipe running through the wall that was supposed to be opened up.”  or “Did you know the wall that you want to remove is supporting the beam that holds up your roof?”   Yes, these were real life scenarios faced during the renovation.  We found ourselves developing alternate solutions, choosing the best option, and being realistic. What a great lesson in flexibility and problem solving to share with my older kiddos this year!

Need another example that demonstrates flexibility??  Here’s a gem that you can ask your students to figure out: How does one manage to eat meals when one does not have a kitchen to cook in?  Go out to eat every night?  Invest in a case of cold cereal? Starve? Nope, not in our house, after all this is “SpeechSnacks” we’re talking about!  We set up a make shift kitchen in the basement, plugged in a microwave to heat food, used the spare fridge to store food, used the grill to cook meats and veggies, and created a dining room table out of several cardboard boxes.   The lesson here–learn to have a plan B, get creative, find other ways to get the job done.

kitchen 3

Finally,  are you familiar with The Incredible 5-Point Scale?  Let’s just say I discovered that it’s not just an effective tool for students learning to gauge the different levels of their emotional responses! Frustration was at an all-time high during the remodel.  ( I will refrain from going into all the reasons why, however opening the walls of our kitchen was like opening Pandora’s box)   As the job progressed, I realized that the Incredible 5-Point Scale would have come in handy for sure!  My emotions certainly ran the gamut during the remodel—frustration, anger, contentment, confusion.  I admit that I was a “5″ on that scale on more than one occasion. Perhaps I should have just hung this chart up on one of the unfinished kitchen walls to get me through each day!!

5 point scale

Looking back at the kitchen remodel,  I can draw so many parallels between my experience, techniques and strategies applied in my therapy sessions and the challenges faced by the students I work with.  I was overwhelmed at times, just as our students can be when presented with encountering classroom, social and organizational challenges.  I occasionally experienced difficulties carrying out tasks, staying organized, communicating feelings, making decisions, solving problems, just as our students experience on a daily basis.   As a result of this project, I will have greater empathy for those students who struggle in these areas.   I know I will use this experience as a way to connect with the middle and high school students on my caseload.   My kitchen has been my ”proving ground” this summer.  A place where we  “cracked a few eggs” and learned many a lesson!  I’m glad to be changing venues soon as the school year quickly approaches.  My therapy room will be a welcomed sight for sore eyes.   Or maybe I should suggest renovating that space as well??!   Maybe not!

Using the ALS Challenge to Challenge Your Speech Students! {and a FREEBIE}

It was the summer of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!  Did you take the challenge?  I did, along with my son!   It was an honor to participate in this awareness-raising sensation along with millions of others this summer.   And it inspired me to turn it into a teachable moment with my middle and high school students when I return to school.

 

als pict

If you took the challenge, share it with  your kids. They will get to see your “human” side and realize that teachers are real people with real lives too!!

 

Educate your students with some background information about ALS as a way of addressing comprehension skills.  Here is the official web site for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It  explains ALS in clear and simple terms and would be a great reading comprehension lesson.

Incorporate video clips of the Ice Bucket Challenge videos in your therapy lesson.  Show your students video clips of various challenges (there are millions of them on Facebook and YouTube so it shouldn’t be too hard to find many examples, including challenges from celebrities, professional athletes and everyday people.

Use the videos to address language concepts with your students: inferential thinking, answering WH questions and problem solving.  (Please screen for appropriateness before sharing with your students!)

  • What are people being challenged to do?   (What are the rules of the challenge?)
  • Why do you think people were pouring buckets of ice water over their heads? (What is the purpose of this action?)
  • What reactions/emotions do those taking the challenge have in common?
  • Identify the CAUSE and EFFECT in the segment.
  • Describe/sequence the video. What happened first, next, then, last?

Here is a compilation of celebrities taking the challenge:

And how about those Ice Bucket ”fails!”

These clips are a great way to address problem solving.

  • What went wrong in the challenge?
  • What could have been done differently?
  • How did the participants react to the “fail?”


Bring the “challenge” into your therapy room this school year with an activity that I created in my TpT store.  I call it the SLP Speech Bucket Challenge!

ice pic 1

The first student to fill their bucket with 20 ice cubes is the winner. But don’t pick a melting ice cube or you will have to put your ice cubes back into the pile!

Game includes:
•Your choice of two versions of the bucket graphic to appeal to various age groups plus one extra bucket to write in your own challenge title.
•One sheet of 12 colored ice cubes.
•One sheet of 12 melting ice cubes.
•One sheet of black/white line drawing ice cubes for use with the goal you are targeting.

Want to add a little more fun to the Speech Bucket Challenge???

Let the winner pour a bucket full of “ice water” on your head! NOT real ice water of course! Fill a plastic container with any of the following: Styrofoam “peanuts”, cotton balls, shredded paper, confetti (or any other material that is soft and safe!) The rest of the group must clean up the mess when the fun is over!

I hope this FREEBIE gets your year off to a fun start while teaching some important lessons!   Challenge on!

TpT Shining Stars Linky Party!

aug linky party

TpT is throwing a second Back-to-School sale on August 20th!!  What a fantastic idea!  Many parts of the country start school after Labor Day (that means me!) and having this additional sale is perfect timing.  My mindset is finally focused on school related preparations.  I have added products to my store as well as shopped for products to add to my repertoire now that the school year is quickly approaching!   Special thanks to Jen over at SLP Runner  for organizing this link up.    Here are some of my favorite items that I wanted to share…

My first (and newest) item in my TpT store is an activity for your older students, which has been the focus of many of the products in my store.  Back to School Problem Solving for Middle and High School Students!

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It includes step by step strategies for solving problems, scenario cards, open ended speech/thought bubbles, some tips to help  teens start off the school year, and a recipe card with healthy lunch ideas!!

 

My Back to School Bundle {Student Planner and Executive Functioning game} has been receiving good feedback.  It is actually two products combined into one download!

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First, this unique activity addresses good organization in older kids.  I created a home planner for students to help them keep organized when they leave the walls of the school and get them through their morning, afternoon and evening routines!

 

The second activity in the bundle includes 36 executive functioning strategy cards that will help students answer questions/listen to tips related to preparation, time management, organization and good listening strategies.  A great way to help get them centered and focused for the school year!

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Lastly, I have a back to school FREEBIE to help get your year off to a good start!  20 Chip Challenge is an open ended motivational game that will help elicit many speech or language responses, Check out my FREE and paid versions of this fun and simple game:

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I am LOVING this activity from Teri and Tiff’s Creative Resources— Prediction Comic Strips.  I can use more materials related to  predicting with my middle/high school kiddos.  They will have fun with this for sure!

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This product is designed to help students improve their reading comprehension skills by practicing how to make clue-based predictions.
Each of the 20 comics provides an opportunity for students to make a prediction. All the comics have 5 slides. The first 3 slides have already been created, so the students need to observe the first 3 slides, decipher the key details, and then predict what will happen in the last 2 slides.

 

I can’t believe I didn’t purchase this one yet.  Reading and Responding Interpreting Language and much more by Mia McDaniel is definitely  at the top of my wish list this time around!

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The kids will have fun with the text message/iphone theme as we address this all important goal for so many of the students on my caseload.

 

I know I will certainly find more items to add to this list, but theses are just a few of my favorites.
aug tpt sale pict

My store will be on sale August 20!  You can get 28% off of anything in my store by using the code BOOST at checkout!!

Don’t forget to check out SLPrunner’s awesome linky party and see all the amazing products that you could be using with your caseload. Here’s to a great start to the 2014-15 school year!

Teaching idioms and other language concepts using familiar photos—let’s crack some eggs!

“You’ve got to crack a few eggs to make an omelet!”  Are you familiar with this expression?  It means: in order to achieve something, it is inevitable and necessary that something be destroyed. It is my new, favorite idiom and I will surely be adding it to my list when addressing this goal in my speech/language therapy sessions!     I will most definitely be able to provide visual examples of this idiom when I discuss it with my students in the new school year!  You see, I’ve been a little M.I.A. lately when it comes to blogging due to our current “omelet making adventures!”  Last week we started renovating our kitchen and “cracking many an egg!”  I knew it would be messy and inconvenient for a while, which is why we waited until the summer to tackle the project.  And like all home renovations, you never really know what you’re in for until you start tearing away at the layers, which can also lead to finding potential problems that you weren’t expecting or aware of!   Electrical, plumbing, etc……we are finding that our home has its share of issues!!

I like to take pictures of home projects to document the progress along the way and gain a greater appreciation of the final result.  While taking photos of my kitchen, it dawned on me that I could use the pictures as a teachable moment with my son as well as my students.  I think the “egg expression” is clearly demonstrated in the picture below!

 

I started looking through many of the photos I have been taking this summer and found ways to connect a number of them to idiomatic expressions and other speech/language goals.  Sharing photos of my real-life experiences from the summer will be a great way to start off the new school year and will help my students understand, remember and apply idioms and other language concepts with greater ease.