Summer Vacation Inspiration for the New School Year (and a Back to School FREEBIE!)

One of the most frequently asked questions you will hear upon returning to school is “How was your summer?”   It’s the perfect icebreaker for initiating a conversation and often elicits lengthy responses.   I know I will personally repeat this questions many times during the first few days with my students.  Not only do I want to hear what my students have to say, but I will also enjoy sharing with them my own summer experiences.  And let’s face it, the real reason SLPs ask a question such as this is so that we can do a quick, informal  analysis of areas such as sequencing skills,  topic maintenance, eye contact, vocabulary  choices, articulation errors, rate of speech, etc, etc ….  This year, I plan on showing them (or maybe boring them with) the DVD I created of my wonderful summer adventure!   We spent several days in breathtaking Acadia National Park in Maine .  We hiked up mountains, biked through carriage roads and walked along the ocean path.  By the time our trip was over, I was ready to look for some Maine real estate and never return home!  ( Wishful thinking! )  Every picture I took could pass for a post card and I hope to use the photos to inspire lots of descriptive language from my students!  {{{If you make it to the end of this post, you can grab the Back to School Icebreaker FREEBIE}}} 

acadia pic

Me with my son and husband after a 2+ hour hike to the peak of Cadillac Mountain–at 1,530 feet, it is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to view the sunrise in the United States from October through March.
(Some of us were still smiling at least!)

In fact I was so inspired by our trip, that I came home and immediately went to work creating a new product for my TpT store that would commemorate Acadia as well as several other national parks in our great country!    I am so excited to share  Language Advisor: A Trip Through Our National Parks with my students!

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You’ve heard of Trip Advisor® , a tool that helps you plan your perfect trip. Well now there’s Language Advisor—a tool to help you practice better language skills while you navigate through far off places!

What you’ll find in this very comprehensive packet:


DAY 1: Synonyms in Sequoia: Read the passage page and then determine which word is the correct synonym from the accompanying exercise. 17 words are highlighted from the passage. Bonus activity: Use your knowledge of the words to create sentences from the pairs provided.

DAY 2: Antonyms in Acadia: Read the passage page and then determine which word is the correct antonym from the accompanying exercise. 16 words are highlighted from the passage. Bonus activity: Use your knowledge of the words to create sentences from the pairs provided.

DAY 3: Vocabulary Building in The Virgin Islands: Read the passage then use the “Language Advisor Rating Scale” to determine your understanding of the 14 highlighted vocabulary words. Vocabulary building exercises are included to address application of vocabulary in WH ?’s and a multiple choice format. Word pairs for creating original sentences is also provided.

DAY 4: Compare and Contrast in Yosemite and Yellowstone: Read through the passages on Yellowstone and Yosemite, then determine the similarities and differences between the two parks. Insert the information into one of the diagrams (Venn diagram or optional organizational chart provided.) Use the open-ended page to write a paragraph summarizing the similarities and differences between the two parks and then chose which park is your favorite. Support your reasoning using the information from the text.

DAY 5: Good Listening in The Grand Canyon: Read the passage and carefully listen to the details. Then answer the 12 comprehension cards. Some of the responses will be concrete in nature, however others will require inferential reasoning based on the contents of the passage.

DAY 6: Building Sentences in The Badlands: Highlight/underline the subjects, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and conjunctions in the passage. Use the accompanying page as a review of the parts of speech and the activity page to add words to each category. If there are any remaining spaces, add your OWN words. Then use the following page to create your own sentences based on the lists you have filled in.

DAY 7: Paraphrasing in The Petrified Forest: Read the passage, then use the paraphrasing tips provided to rewrite each of the paragraphs within the passage in your own words.

National Parks Language Album:
Use the following pages to create your own guide to the U.S. National Parks.
Cut or fold the pages along the dotted lines and staple your booklet together. Use the non-fiction, informational passages to assist you in adding details and descriptions to your booklet.
Take your guide home and share the new information you have learned with your family. When you are finished with the activity, you will feel as though you have actually visited all 8 parks! Be creative and have fun!

National Park Data Collection Sheet:
Keep track of student responses for the antonym/synonym and vocabulary portions of this product.




My middle and high school students were given summer reading assignments from their teachers.  I know one of the other big questions I will be asking them is “What did you read over your summer vacation?”  I sure hope they did some reading over the break!   It is so important to keep the mind active and stimulate continued vocabulary and comprehension development through reading!!    My son is a middle schooler and of course I was keeping tabs on the amount of reading he was doing this summer. (I admit I needed to  hound  remind him repeatedly to read the books on his list.)   I  encourage him (and my students) to read non-fiction text as much as possible.  Although I love seeing this age group reading a good science fiction/science fantasy novel,  non-fiction stories have such great substance and help students make connections to real events and people.     Here are some of the books that I personally chose to enjoy this summer—a mix a romance/comedy/melodrama and a big dose of non-fiction:

The Vacationers and The Rosie Project were both very amusing (and definitely NOT books to recommend to middle/high school students).   The Vacationers was a great beach book filled with plenty of family conflicts and humor—the epitome of a very dysfunctional family trying to make the best of their unfolding inner and outer conflicts while on vacation together in Mallorca, Spain.  I was entertained and stressed out at the same time while reading this one!

The Rosie Project was extremely amusing and caught my attention due to the fact that the main character is a brilliant genetics professor with Asperger’s Syndrome (although he doesn’t identify himself as such).  He is in search of a wife and creates a survey as a means of finding Mrs. Right.  Although most women who takes his survey fail to qualify for a number of reasons, (many of which only a “socially  challenged” individual would find unacceptable), he manages to strike up a friendship with one of the women and it begins to develop into something more serious.   It was interesting to learn about the social quirks demonstrated by the main character and see how others reacted to his oddities!

The rest of the books on my list were all very inspirational non-fiction stories about some pretty remarkable people and events!  I would highly recommend I Am Malala and Following Atticus to middle and high school students.  My 12 year old son read the story of Malala this summer as part of his summer reading assignments (take note of the orange post-it’s sticking out of the book in the picture below—-a reading comprehension strategy!  I had him take notes every few pages of 2-3 important details from the story . This is an effective way to review key information later and helpful when writing a summary of the book.)  Malala is an incredible young lady and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.  She was shot by the Talaban because of her beliefs in fighting for an education for girls.  A must-read for every American and especially for American adolescents.  We should never take for granted our right to a free education in this country!

My son also read Following Atticus after I completed the book.   After hiking in Maine this summer, I was inspired to read this story about a man and his dog.  They hiked the 4,000 foot peaks of the White Mountains in New Hampshire while raising money for those who died from cancer.  Their real life tale has so many ups and downs and lessons to learn.   I am now following their blog and Facebook page and continue to enjoy learning where this pair will hike next.   If you are a dog lover, this is a must- read!

I also enjoyed Rousey: My Fight/Your Fight. If you don’t know who Ronda Rousey is, then I suggest you turn on ESPN, any sports news stations or visit your local book store because her name is popping up everywhere!  I connected with this story on so many levels.  Ronda Rousey is the UFC’s undefeated champion in her weight class as well as a former Olympic medalist in judo.  She overcame so many obstacles to get to where she is today, including Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS).  In her book she discusses her communication issues as a child and attending speech therapy .   I truly admire this incredible athlete, and although I was a kickboxing instructor for several years, I would never want to find myself in the octagon with her.  She is a force to be reckoned with and has her opponents tapping out in a matter of seconds!   Although I loved reading this story, you will find lots of profanities and inappropriate language so I wouldn’t recommend this one to the kiddos just yet!




You’ve made it to the end of this post!   Thanks for letting me share my summer adventure with you!  I hope you get a chance to visit my TpT store and check out my National Parks product (I really loved creating this and have a new appreciation for nature and our National Park system)  Plus, I have several other Back to School products for your older students.   You can find them all HERE.

Pick up my Back to School free product too…..I hope it helps you start the year off smoothly  and gets your students talking!!   Back to School Icebreaker FREEBIE


 cover page summer freebie


Back to School 2015 Linky Party! What’s in You Cart?

tpt 2015 linky

It’s that time of year again!   Time to start shifting our thoughts from the beach to the books…the surf board to the smart board…time to think Back to School!  And while I still have the entire month of August to look forward to, I realize that these precious days will float swiftly by!  I am enjoying every moment of sunshine but thoughts of school are definitely swirling around in my mind.  The TpT Back to School Sale is the perfect way to get your head back in the game.  Jenna is hosting the linky party at Speech Room News so be sure to click on the link and find out what other SLPs are recommending to help start your school year off!

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 Here’s what I plan on using from my own TpT store when I return to work with my middle and high school  crew:


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My  Back to School Problem Solving for Middle and High School Students  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!!


aug pict 2

My Back to School Bundle {Student Planner and Executive Functioning game} is two products combined into one bundle!

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!


aug pict 3

This item is apple-themed for the fall season and focuses on ways to develop a rich vocabulary through specific strategies.  I was inspired to create this item after revisiting a wonderful resource, the book ”Bringing Words to Life” by Isabelle L. Beck, Margaret G. McKeown, and Linda Kucan.  The book brings to light the importance of teaching vocabulary through strategies that reach far beyond the basic dictionary definition of a word.   I have utilized some of the basic concepts found in this book into this TpT product.    Check out the complete packet in my TpT store! 


I am also keeping a wish list of a few items created by fellow SLPs that I would love to add to my toolbox to keep things fresh as we begin a brand new school year:

Is there any better way to get your tweens and teens to connect and stay motivated than through music?!  I love this theme and know it will be so much more enjoyable to address figurative language skills when I present it to my students using Figurative Languae In Pop Music from SLPrunner.     Plus you will also receive FREE song updates to correspond with top 30s pop song charts!! Good deal!
bts 1

Figuratively Speeching SLP has added Super Strategies for Word Retrieval Deficits (fall themed) to her store.  Her original Super Strategies product is super popular, so I’m sure this one won’t disappoint!  If you are looking for ways to address vocabulary building with your students, this product should be on your list.

bts 2


And finally, social skills are a huge focus with my population of students and The Dabbling Speechie has something that will fit the bill!  Making Social Inferences uses real photographs and works on higher level inferencing tasks.    Social skills and inferencing —two important areas addressed in one product.

bts 3


Don’t forget to check out all the great product suggestions at Jenna’s linky party.  The sale runs from August 3-4.  My store will be 20 % off plus there will be an additional savings when you enter the promo code BTS15.   Enjoy shopping and don’t forget to take some time to enjoy the season….after all,  it is still summer!!!




Inspiration in Preparation of the New School Year

As I sat in the waiting room during my son’s orthodontist appointment this past week, I began flipping through a photo album in the office.  The album contained many pages of happy patients showing off their new smiles after treatment was completed.  In the front of the album was a quote that immediately caught my attention:  “The man who works with his hands is a laborer, the man who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman, the man who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”   These words from St. Francis of Assisi not only hold great meaning to my son’s orthodontist, but are so true of our profession as well.

As SLPs/educators, we are a combination of laborer, craftsmen (or craftswomen!) and artist.  We incorporate our hands, our head and our heart into our work every day.    Our hands are in perpetual motion as we use them to cut, glue, fold, write, draw, wave, hold, point, clap, gesture……Our heads help us create, plan, decide, troubleshoot, listen, learn, grow…..Our hearts are a source for caring, guiding, sharing, loving, reassuring.   I think St. Francis’ words definitely sum up our profession very accurately!   We truly are like artists–the students we work with are each a unique masterpiece.  Their young minds are the canvas and we provide the vibrant brush strokes that help enhance and develop these creations!

poem thumbnail

I liked the quote so much that it inspired me to create my own visual so that I can display it in my therapy room when the new school year begins.   I wanted to share it with all of you as well!   You can find the poster in my TpT store.  I included three colored versions and one black/white design.  I hope it will be an inspirational reminder  of why we do what we do every day and bring you positive vibes as you prepare for the upcoming school year!   Enjoy!  (I’d love to get your feedback on this freebie so don’t forget to leave a few words in my TpT store.)

Music in the Speech Room: Rapping and Rhyming for Better Hearing and Speech Month (and all year long!)


May is Better Hearing and Speech Month and this year to celebrate,  I wanted to add something unique and engaging to my TpT store geared toward  the elementary population.  I wanted it to be FREE , fun and motivation while promoting good speech and language during the month of May.  I composed a poem and gave it a little twist.  I’ve added my very first audio activity to my TpT store!!  It’s a poem, it’s a rap, it’s a rhythm, it’s a fun way to practice speech skills and language concepts!    I employed the help of a couple young and willing volunteers and together we created a BHSM Poetry Rap!

BHSM-Logo-Horizontal Do you incorporate music into your speech/language sessions? Here’s some evidence to support the value of using music in your therapy room:

  • Research indicates the entire brain is active when participating in music. There is no specific music center.
  • Research indicates that music facilitates retention of new information and positive emotional and psychological benefits.
  • Researchers believe that music instruction impacts a student’s brain functioning in processing language, which in turn impacts reading subprocesses like phonemic awareness and vocabulary. These subprocesses ultimately impact a student’s ability to read with comprehension.
  • Musical activities are cited by researchers as effective experiences for building listening skills in the classroom (Hirt-Mannheimer, 1995; Wolf, 1992), for both mainstream classrooms and classrooms with children who have disabilities.(Humpal & Wolf, 2003). Recent brain research (Flohr et al, 1996) shows that music training changes and improves brain functioning related to listening.
  • Researchers have recently verified that musical instruction can have an exciting impact on young children’s phonological awareness. Many top educational researchers recommend integrating music into phonological awareness instruction. These researchers recommend songs, and specifically rhyming songs, as an effective mechanism for building phonemic awareness with children in early childhood classrooms (Adams, Foorman, Lundberg & Beeler, 1998; Ericson & Juliebo, 1998; Yopp & Yopp, 1997)
  • Components of a verbally enticing song include:
    • Frequent repetitions
    • Songs that invite participation
    • Raps and rhythms
    • Songs within the child’s verbal ability
    • Natural musical flow of words and phrase
  • You can find more amazing evidence to support the value of music in the development of speech and language in this comprehensive document from ABC Music and Me

Although my poem was made with your younger students in mind, music certainly can effectively be incorporated into lesson with older students.  Song lyrics are a great way to address vocabulary, inferencing skills and  figurative language. I especially look for songs that have  lyrics that contain a positive and inspirational message. Additional  inspiration for creating this poetry rap came from a recent experience.  In April (National Poetry Month) my son’s school went on a field trip to see The Mayhem Poets.  This trio of 20-something- year-old poets rapped and rhymed about every topic under the sun from politics, to fast food to homework and their target audience is middle and  high school students.  It was a great way to engage older students and get them excited about discussions on current events and age appropriate topics!

Need more evidence on the effectiveness of music, rap and rhyme in language development? Check out the audio/video program Flocabulary!   Flocabulary uses music, rhythm and rhyme to teach concepts on many subject areas from grades K-12.   Flocabulary uses  music to facilitates memorization and recall of academic content, while the use of hip-hop and other culturally-relevant media to increase student engagement. I was introduced to this musical tool when my son’s teacher used it to help the class learn the parts of speech and literary devices.   He was rambling off the details of these language concepts in no time with Flocabulary.   There are some free demos as well as options to purchase a subscription available on their site.


You can visit my TpT store to download your FREE audio copy of my poetry rap.  Use this catchy tune to promote a positive message while working on a variety of skills with your students!! (Be sure to have Windows Media Player downloaded to your computer to view this file.)

Use the rap to address the following areas:

•Search for rhyming word pairs
•Listen for all the words that contain their targeted speech sound
•Address good listening and comprehension skills by asking questions about the information in each section of the poem.
•Target written language by asking your students to create their own lyrical ending for the poem.
You can also download the printed version of this activity so that you can print out a hardcopy for reference here.

…..And if you are looking for more activities to help promote Better Hearing and Speech Month in your school, take a look at this product in my store: bhsm tpt cover The packet includes fun language-based ideas can be used across a variety of age/grade levels: 1—Read the BHSM poem (written by yours truly) with your students and use the follow-up page to identify rhyming words, synonyms and to explain the idiom all found within the poem. (pages 3-4) {this activity would be suitable for upper elementary/middle and even high school students} 2—Make the “I’m a Good Communicator” craftivity using the avatars, name tags and speech bubbles included. Display your student’s finished projects in the halls, on the doorway or in your therapy room to help publicly promote BHSM in your school. (pages 5-12: includes avatars, name tags, speech bubbles) {Use this activity with a variety of levels-Pre-K through middle school and adapt accordingly} 3— Speech and Hearing Fun Facts and Opinions—use the information sheet as a review/reference to identify which of the 36 cards are fact and opinion statements about speech, language and hearing. Use the included sorting mat to organize which category the cards belong in. These cards can also be used to help educate and increase awareness among your school staff about speech, language and hearing information! Answer key included. (pages 13-19) {use with older students and school staff} 4–-My Year in Review—A Speech & Language “Snapshot” consists of sentence starters to create a “snapshot” of your student’s experience in speech/language therapy. Have students share/discuss their responses. (page 20) {suitable for K-high school}

BHSM-Linky-Party-2015Jessica at Consonantly Speaking is holding a link up during BHSM so go check out her blog for more speech/language/hearing inspired posts all month  long!

Two Facts and A Fib REVEAL!

fib reveal

I hope you had fun playing with us during the “Two Facts and a Fib” blog hop.   As I hopped through the blogs reading all of my fellow SLPs facts and fibs, I found it difficult to determine which statements were facts and fibs!  The facts were just as amazing as the fibs!!  I was fascinated by all the stories and realized that SLPs lead some pretty cool and exciting lives!!

Fib Reveal: 

(c) I quit smoking “cold turkey” 10 years ago.

So here is my fib (which is not so exciting or entertaining, but really rather ordinary. )  It is a FIB that I quit smoking “cold turkey” 10 years ago!   If you have ever quit any bad habit ”cold turkey,” I definitely applaud you, however I have never even smoked a cigarette a single day in my life!     Truth be told, I absolutely hate the smell of cigarette smoke.  It makes me sick to my stomach.  Growing up, my mom smoked on a daily basis.  I used to sneak into her purse, find the cigarettes and flush them down the toilet!  I’ve never even been curious about taking a puff.   I guess I have my mom to thank for despising cigarettes so much.  BTW,  my mom did quit smoking cold turkey many years ago!

And in case you were wondering…..

a) I Had an 11 lb baby.   True! 

I had a perfectly normal 40 week pregnancy and a very happy and healthy baby boy, however when I was pregnant, most people thought I was carrying twins!  I definitely got vey BIG during the last few weeks.   I’m 5’3″ and wear size 2 and 4 clothing so I am not exactly the body type you might expect to be carrying such a big baby.   My doctor nicknamed my son “Little Buddha” when he was born and told us he was ready for kindergarten! And as a side note, I did have a C-Section after laboring for many hours!


b) I made the Division I lacrosse team when I was in college even though I had never played the sport before.  True!

Although I had not played lacrosse prior to my college days,  I was a field hockey player in high school and college. I was always very athletic and fast!  In college, I was what is called a “walk on,” which means I tried out for the lacrosse team without being on scholarship.  Some of my field hockey friends also played lacrosse so they showed me some of the basics before the try outs.  I learned enough to get a position on the team and had the opportunity to travel to other colleges all over the Maryland and Virginia area.  I was by no means a superstar, but I did get some playing time. It was a great learning experience and I use the story to this day as a lesson for my own child and my students.   When I talk about my lacrosse experience I tell them, “You never know what great things you are capable of until you try.  Set your expectations high and you might be surprised what you are able to achieve!! ”  Such a great life lesson!



Thank you all for playing!  You can check out the winner by heading over to Speech Universe!  And  don’t forget to check out the #AprilSLPMustHave sale on TpT!  This is the last one for the school year!  My End of the School Year Variety Bundle will be 50% off for April 7th ONLY!!
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