August 29, 2013

Appy Hour: Word Mess

review of a fun and challenging app to target vocabulary and visual scanning

Word Mess is a fun app I grabbed when it went free a few months back, and it has tons of potential for use with older students working on vocabulary skills!

The main screen will present you with two options: Challenge or Quick Play. If you choose Challenge, you'll experience all different puzzle types, and try to progress through as many levels as you can without losing a challenge. With Quick Play, you get to choose the type of puzzle you want to play.

There are different types of puzzles, and they all present the user with a screen full of a mess of words...get it? :)

Find the Word: To solve this Word Mess you are given a specific word to find, and you need to tap on all of them as fast as you can. You gotta be fast - the clock is ticking and additional words pop up on the screen if you take too long! In the later levels, bombs appear that scramble the words up.

Category: The Category puzzles really vary in their complexity. Some are as simple as "Find T-Words" and some I was guessing at ("Find English Authors"). These puzzles are fantastic for those kiddos who are working on vocabulary skills such as naming items in categories and synonyms.

Rhymes: These puzzles are really great for boosting those phonemic awareness skills! There are always many words that sound the same but are all spelled differently, like flight, white, and height, which can be really challenging!

Odd One Out: In the Bonus Rounds the challenge is Odd One Out - you need to find the one single word on the screen that is different from all the rest (usually a word that means the opposite) and find it as many times as you can in 60 seconds.

Word Mess is a really fun app that would make some vocabulary learnin' pretty fun for your older students. It's great for targeting vocabulary skills, phonemic awareness, visual tracking, and categories. I have fun playing it myself! At this time, Word Mess is available in the app store for $1.99. Check it out!

August 28, 2013

Beginning of the Year Speech Time Capsule

a time capsule activity for students to reflect upon their learning goals

Has the school year started for you yet?? The first couple weeks of school is a great time to get to know any new students, and to reconnect with students you haven't seen all summer. How about using a Speech Time Capsule to ease back into therapy mode with your students this fall?!

This form is perfect for reviewing speech goals with your students. At the beginning of the school year, you can talk about why they are coming to speech, what their goals are, and then have students reflect on what they'd like to be able to do by the end of the school year. What a fun way for students to be creative, think about their own learning goals, and get in the right mindset for the coming months.

I made a time capsule box to store the sheets from my students. Oatmeal canister to the rescue! At the end of the school year in May, we'll open the seal and talk about the last box on the worksheet. Students will be able to think about all the fun things they did this year, and see if they accomplished their goals!

I hope this is a fun way for you to kick off the school year! You can download your {FREE} speech time capsule forms here. Leave a comment if you grab it!

August 23, 2013

Back to School Week: SLP Introduction Letter for Parents

tips for introducing yourself to new teachers and parents

I don't know about you, but I am just terrible at remembering names! It's embarrassing to admit, but I usually need to write names down for later reference, or I find myself asking people 2-3 times what their name is. Or I ask other people what someone's name was! I know...

This is a common problem for many people. So as I started working in a new district this year, with all new teachers, and all new parents, I decided to write a letter introducing myself. It's a nice way for people to learn a little bit about me. Also, parents of our students are often working with multiple professionals, so I completely understand when it can be overwhelming to remember names and roles of each individual.

Border: Ashley Hughes
Font: Noteworthy

Here's what I made sure to include in my letter:
* My name and title (obv...)

* Some background info: where I completed my schooling, where I grew up, settings I've worked in

* A little bit of personal info: things I like to do to relax, tidbits about my family

* Some general info about my speech services: what I expect from my students, homework and importance of family practice

* Contact info: email, phone number, website, etc.

I created a QR code with all my contact info so parents can quickly scan it and save everything without needing to type it all into their phone. In the past I have included my business card too, but I don't have new ones made with my new district contact information yet, so I'm hoping the QR code will be an acceptable substitute :)

What do you think?! Do you send a letter to new parents and teachers?

August 22, 2013

Back to School Week: 7+ Ways to Motivate Your Students

ideas for reinforcement systems and ways to motivate students

I hope you've been enjoying Back to School Week so far! Today let's talk about different ways to motivate and reward your students to work hard towards meeting their therapy goals, while having some fun at the same time. There are a ton of super great ideas out there, so hopefully you can find something that will work for you :)

1) Stickers or Token Board:

When working with preschoolers, I often give them an index card or paper and allow them to add a sticker to the row frequently if working and remaining on task. They need to fill it up before the end of our work time in order to enjoy some free play. The number of stickers required depends on the student. Sometimes I use token boards the opposite way - students start with a full board, and pieces are then removed if off task. This website has quite a few {FREE} token boards in themes that are popular with the young'ns. For school age students, they earn a few stickers each time they come to speech, and get to pick a prize once their sheet is filled.

2) Prize Box:

This is the method I tend to use. Students earn stickers each session if they complete their work, are good listeners, and try their best. Once the sticker sheet is filled up they get to pick out of the prize box.

3) Positive Reinforcement Jar:

I used this in my room last year, and the students really enjoyed it. I usually picked a name out at the end of every month, and that student got to choose a prize.

4) Board Games:

Classic board games are awesome for using in therapy. The ones I seem to use all the time are Connect 4, Jenga, Chutes and Ladders, and Candy Land. It's so easy to accommodate games for various communication goals, or just simply use as a free play reward at the end of a great session.

5) iPad: In general, all my students LOVE earning iPad time. Often, they will not want to work, but when we do the exact same activity on the iPad...whole 'nother story!

6) Timers:

Sometimes kids just need to know how much longer they need to work. I usually set the timer on my phone or use a timer on the iPad. Visual timers or an hourglass can also be really great for those kiddos that need to actually see how much time is left. (P.S. iPads with the most updated operating system installed have a visual timer available in the "clock" that comes standard.)

7) Craftivities:

Kids learn best by being active, playing, and doing. If you have the time, space, and patience, craft activities are a fun way to get kids rarin' to go! Crazy Speech World always posts great ones, and this Pinterest board has tons of fun ideas.


And now, for a roundup of amazingly awesome reinforcement ideas from around the web!

Wack-a-Word: from the Peachie Speechie

Vocab Twister: This could easily be adapted for any communication goal!

Custom Chipper Chat Boards - from Liz's Speech Therapy Ideas. I see lots of kids having fun with these!

Random Rewards: This post was all about random jobs for kids, but I think it would be fun to have a random rewards jar in my room!

Get your students really involved in activities with these fun and personalized game tokens!

What fun would it be to work on flash cards with sticky hands?!

Kristin over at Simply Speech (I adore her blog!) posted about Class Dojo and how she is incorporating it into her speech room.

Kristin also posted her new behavior chart. This is similar to what you see in many elementary classrooms, but now it's been revamped for the speech room!

Splatter the Speech Teacher: This is what a coworker of mine did with her upper elementary students last year to motivate them to complete their speech homework. If students turned in 15 or more assignments before the last week of school, they earned ice cream toppings of their choice to slime on the speech pathologist! What a blast!

Finally, as a last resort, there's always this option:

(totally joking!) 
Leave a comment: What's your go-to way to motivate and reward students?

August 21, 2013

Back to School Week: Scheduling Tips & Tricks

Back to School Week continues with tips and tricks for scheduling

Back to School Week continues here on Schoolhouse Talk! In case you missed it, yesterday's post was all about 6 Helpful Documents for the First Week of School. Today, we'll be thinking about the dreaded task of scheduling! 

This post originally appeared on September 19, 2012, but has been slightly updated.

As a student, the beginning of each school year comes with lots of exciting things. Shopping for a new outfit to wear on the first day of school, checking off the supplies on the classroom supply list, etc. Picking out folders was my favorite - what other children of the 90s out there can remember Lisa Frank school supplies?! I secretly was excited at the end of each summer when the class lists were posted. Summer always seemed to last too long, and I was always excited for school to start again. I was a huge nerd.

As a school employee, the beginning of each school year has a bit of a different feel. Yes, all the newness and excitement radiating from the students is a bit contagious, but mostly we long for summer break to start all over again. And as a school-based speech-language pathologist, the beginning of school means scheduling. Bleh. I am so fortunate this year as my caseload is starting out relatively low. I am serving two elementary schools plus birth-3 home visits in two neighboring towns. But I know some SLPs whose caseloads are pushing 80 students or have 3-4 buildings to schedule in the same 5-day school week.

My first year working in the school setting, scheduling 53 students at 2 different buildings was such a big source of stress. I had at least two different excel spreadsheets, class lists, a list of how I was going to group the students together, and a school calendar all on my desk at once. I think it took me a whole work week just to get the schedule to fit. It was a nightmare!

I was determined to complete my schedule differently this year. Somewhere over the summer I read the idea of using Post-It notes for scheduling, and I thought it was genius! So here is how I completed my scheduling this year...

I gave each teacher this form that listed the students in their classroom who have speech services along with the minutes required each week for services, and asked them to attach a copy of their class schedule or list the times that will NOT work to pull students.

Click here to download your own copy of these forms. I had more of my personal information on the slips I gave to teachers, but modified the document for general use for the purposes of this upload.

Once most of the teacher slips had been returned, I was ready to get scheduling! First, I organized my Post-Its by grade: preschoolers off campus got orange, preschoolers on campus got blue, Kindergarten got green, and 1st grade got pink. Home visits got yellow. I wrote administrative/lunch/regular meetings on purple notes. Each student got a Post-It with their name/grade/teacher, how many minutes of therapy they were required each week, and the times the teacher had said were okay to pull the student. If a student was to be seen twice a week, they got two Post-Its with their name.

Then I made a giant 5-day schedule, divided into 20-minute increments (mostly for a guideline - it would be unrealistic to be able to fit my students perfectly into the designated time slots). A white board would work really well too.

From there, I went to town sticking Post-Its into time slots that worked based on the times teachers had given me. I didn't need to keep referring to an excel spreadsheet to see teacher times or look back at old emails - everything I needed was right on the Post It. If a time didn't work, or if I needed to move a student to a different time, I could just pull off the Post It and move it to a different spot.

Scheduling was still a bit tedious since these students are all new to me, but it only took me one day to finalize my schedule this year. Woohoo! Of course, I know it's not actually final, and that conflicts and additions are bound to arise. But I think this was a pretty great system to use this year and I will more than likely tackle the project the same way in the future.

Leave a Comment: What tips do you have for making scheduling easier?


UPDATE (2013): I've read some great tips on Crazy Speech World's instagram photo. I especially like basketball_mom_23's idea:

"I start with a document with all of the kids names down the left side and time slots across the top. I fill the squares in red for the Times that they are not able to be pulled (recess, specials, etc.). It makes it easier when I put groups together to find the common white areas to schedule those groups in. Also a quick reference for the rest of the year to check availability to do makeup therapy."

August 20, 2013

"S'peach'y Feedback" Linky Party

one lucky reader gets rewarded for leaving great feedback

I decided to link up with Allison's Speech Peeps for her S'peach'y Feedback Linky Party this month! This is such a great roundup that Allison hosts because YOU get rewarded for leaving awesome feedback on Teachers Pay Teachers! I read and appreciate every single bit of feedback I receive because your comments help me create better materials to share.

This feedback was left on a freebie in my store, and I just really appreciated the honest and thoughtful comment. So, whomever uses the name "atim715" on Teachers Pay Teachers - congratulations! You've earned your choice of any product from my store! Just email me at and let me know what you would like.

Thanks to EVERYONE who has visited my TpT store - love you all! Keep leaving those helpful comments. You never know, you might be the big winner next month!

P.S. Thanks to Graphics From the Pond for the deliciously adorable clipart used in my feedback picture :)

Back to School Week: 6 Helpful Documents for the First Week of School

use these {FREE} documents to help start the school year off right

It's that time of year again! The mornings are getting cooler, kids are getting bored at home, teachers are busy organizing and decorating their rooms, and new outfits are being laid out to prepare for the First Day of School! To get ready for the start of a new school year, I'm having Back to School Week here on Schoolhouse Talk. Each day will feature different information to help you get ready.

I've been back for a week already, and students start on Wednesday. As I prep for meeting new students, working with new teachers, and tackling the dreaded schedule, I have been utilizing lots of documents I created last year. All documents are {FREE}, just click on the picture or the green titles to download :)

1. Speech Therapy Schedule Notices for Teachers

I give this form to all my teachers and ask them to write times that will or will not work for me to see their students. It's so helpful to reference when scheduling conflicts arise. And you know they do!

2. Speech Therapy Schedule

After I've figured out a tentative schedule, I use this form to let teachers know when the students in his or her class will be taken for speech sessions.

3. Data Sheets

This is how I keep track of my session data. You can read more about this form here.

4. Speech Passes

I use these for the articulation kiddos I pull into the hallway for 5-minute sessions. Before I implement use, I let teachers know that I'll quietly walk into the classroom, place a pass on a student's desk, and the student will then leave to meet me in the hallway. That way, the class doesn't get interrupted when I need to borrow a student.

5. Speech Session Updates for Parents

These notes are quick and easy to fill out at the end of your sessions and send home with kiddos. Parents stay up to date and get lots of good home practice tips. Sometimes I staple homework sheets directly to this form. Five different styles are available.

6. Editable Progress Report Templates

This is an editable PowerPoint file that makes filling out quarterly progress reports a breeze! Just open up in PowerPoint, make as many copies of the slides as you'll need, and go to town writing.


I hope you found some useful items to get organized this school year! If you download anything, I'd sure appreciate it if you'd leave feedback, that way others will know if you found the materials useful. Thanks and have a great school year!

August 19, 2013

Back to School Sale and New Book Companion!

enjoy up to 28% off all TpT products August 18-21

You know what? I completely forgot how fast the weekends go during the school year. This one just flew. I was pretty productive on Sunday though, and got some new materials finished!

First up, more Itty-Bitty Books for Articulation :) I am in love with these things, and can't wait for students to start school so I can use these! So far, I have books for P, B, M:

T, D, N:

K, G (note, some of the words targeted start with a hard C):

SH, CH, J:

I am almost finished with the S, Z book so be on the lookout for that this week! My goal is to have all the sounds (including blends!) done before Labor Day.


I also made my first book companion! This one goes along with the book When the Elephant Walks by Keiko Kasza. (I'm not an Amazon affiliate, so feel free to click on the link!) Such a cute book!

 The packet includes six different activities, as well as a list of related books and iPad apps that would be great to use alongside this book. There are animal flashcards/trivia targeting the different animals in the book:

There's a vocabulary match too. Both fill-in-the-blank sentences as well as sentence generation:

When the Elephant Walks also has lots of amazing synonyms for the word "run". In the book, the animals flee, scurry, dash, etc. So I created a couple synonym puzzles to help target some of those challenging words. There's also a blank one included so you can add your own target words:

Story Retell flash cards are also included. Just put this page in a page protector and students can write or draw their answers on the spaces provided. Or cut apart the cards and have students answer orally:

And who doesn't love an open-ended game board?!

There's also an animal memory game included, as well as a list of related books and some fun iPad apps that would be great to use alongside this book. You can find this packet here :)


Finally, don't forget about the big Back to School blowout happening over on Teachers Pay Teachers! You have until midnight tonight (Monday, August 19th) to save big bucks! My entire store is 20% off, and you save even more when you use promo code BTS13 during checkout. Nothing better than saving money, right?! And since I'm so excited about Back to School this year, I've extended the sale in my store until August 21st AND I'll randomly pick one person who makes a purchase from my store to receive a product of their choice for FREE! The more you buy, the more chances you have to win!! Happy shopping!