Saturday, October 27, 2012

Creepy Apples and Easy eBooks - Make Your Own!

One of my second grade students, Anna, started jumping up and down when I picked her up for speech yesterday. She could hardly wait to get to my classroom. Her enthusiasm was touching but I must admit, it wasn’t ignited by having the opportunity to spend time with me; she was excited because she was going to have a chance to work on her eBook.

Technology is changing fast. Two weeks ago I discovered a fabulous app for my iPad which makes creating eBooks a breeze.  With “Book Creator” you can create iBooks using the student’s own stories, photos and illustrations. When the book is complete, you can load it right onto your iBooks shelf or email it to parents – and the app costs only $4.99!

The kids are still working on their stories but since I wanted to become familiar with the app, I created an iBook version of The Ghostly Night. If you’d like to check it out, you can download it free at the iBook store on an iPad (or iPhone). Just open the app, click on  “store” and search for The Ghostly Night. The app is free as are thousands of books. I downloaded several classics like Pride and Prejudice and The Tale of Two Cities but you’ll find other free books for kids.

After we left her classroom, Anna couldn’t stop talking about her story. In her tale, she was walking home when she noticed something following her. Apples! There were creepy apples everywhere! 

(Now if you think this story sounds familiar, you are right – Creepy Carrots, by Aaron Reynolds, was a huge hit with my students.) There were creepy apples in bushes, in trees, bouncing up the steps. 

Anna yelled, “Mom! Creepy apples! Creepy apples!” She ran into the kitchen. She ran down the hall. She ran into her room and then . . . well, I’d better stop there. Anna may want to publish her story one day and I don’t want to spoil it for you. But I will tell you, the ending was a happy one and I’m hoping for more happy endings in the lives of my students, when they reach their educational goals and continue on toward higher ones.
Artwork from Marcia Douglas' Kindergarten Class

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall Break!

School is closed this week for our “Fall Break” and since my sister is visiting from Washington, I’m taking a blog break as well, but I thought I’d share a few photos I took as we toured around town. 

A view at the edge of our village
A roomy bench with a view
In the garden of the restaurant where we had lunch.
A bench in a village shop

A rustic "bench" outside the Kelley House Museum 
A flower in the restaurant garden

If you've notice a theme - benches and beauty - you've caught the mood of my fall break. It has been a wonderful week of refreshment and relaxation. See you next week.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Ghostly Night

On Thursday, I was walking a group of kindergarten students to the speech room when they all began talking at once. Joel, one of the three, abruptly stopped walking and grew quiet. He had been very animated moments before but I couldn’t catch what he was saying because of the verbal outpouring around him. When I turned to check on him he had a frustrated look on his face so I asked what he’d been trying to tell me. He spoke again, very loudly, repeating one word from his previous sentence, “dose”. I had no idea what he was talking about and probably looked confused so he repeated the word, louder this time. That didn’t help at all so I asked him to tell me more. He didn’t. He repeated the one word again, leaning closer to me, willing me to understand. After a few more one-word attempts he finally expanded his question and I realized he was asking for a particular story. The single word he was trying to say was “ghost”.

As you might have guessed, Joel uses “d” for “g” sounds. He moves his tongue forward when it should go back - speech therapists call this “fronting”.  He also leaves out sounds in consonant blends, like “st” in ghost. We call that tendency, “cluster reduction”. If I had thought hard enough, I might have recognized “dose” was his attempt at saying “ghost” but it took a few more clues (and help from the other students) before I got his message.

I was happy he wanted to hear “The Ghostly Night” again because it would give him practice making the “g” sound. In fact, that is the reason I created the story, to give students like Joel an opportunity to practice their target sound without relying entirely on drills.

In the book, Kristy cannot sleep.

“The wind rattled her window. The full moon threw grasping shadows across her bedroom wall. They swayed with the rhythm of the wind.”

Soon, Kristy calls her mother,

“Mom!” she cried. “There’s a   g  -  g   -  g   ghost in my room.”

She calls again when the wind howls, when a branch scrapes her bedroom window, and when she sees her curtains move. Each time the kids join in on the repeated line, “There’s a   g  -   g   -  g   ghost in my room.” They can’t seem to help themselves. That gives them a lot of speech practice pronouncing the “g” sound as well as giving them an understanding of the sound the letter represents. We call that “phonemic awareness.”

At the end of the story there is a twist that the leaves the kids laughing, even on the second and third reading.  They seem relieved there is no real ghost in Kristy’s room and when the tables turn on the Mom . . . well, I’ll stop there. I don’t want to spoil it for you.

This book isn’t a Halloween tale but it is especially popular with my students at this time of year. I’m glad of that since I work with several kids who mispronounce “g”.

When the students got ready to leave the speech room on Thursday, Joel asked about our speech session for the next day. He wanted to know if we could play a “dose dame”. Obviously, we still have a bit of work to do.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

One Year of Blogging - More to Come

SpeakWell, ReadWell has reached its one-year anniversary! That inspired me to look back and consider why I began this blog in the first place. Originally, I posted a welcome message with a story of one of my students. After a few weeks I removed that section to give the page a cleaner look. But now, in honor of the blog’s birthday, I’m reposting the original welcome.

Speech therapy can address a wide variety of communication difficulties – problems pronouncing specific sounds, weak vocabulary, speaking with incorrect grammar, using language in socially inappropriate ways . . . and the list goes on!

Strong speech and language skills provide a foundation for reading and that is how I came to choose the name for this blog. When a child cannot speak with correct grammar or vocabulary he’ll have more difficulty predicting words in stories, and prediction is an invaluable skill to becoming a proficient reader. Speech and reading are both aspects of communication; our ability to communicate helps us establish relationships with others, enabling us to share our stories. And speaking of stories . . .

One afternoon I picked up a group of Kindergarten students for their speech session. On the way to my classroom one of the kids became very animated; he gestured expansively and a rush of unintelligible words came pouring out. His poor articulation made it difficult to pick up more than a couple words but he supplemented with expressive body language. When we got to my room he demonstrated even more effectively what had happened to him while on vacation. He pointed his finger like a gun, grabbed a chair and laid it on its side, then pounded his fist into his arm. What trauma he had been through since I last saw him! I pieced together his tale through his words and pantomime then confirmed more details later by talking to his teacher and parents. The family had been robbed at gunpoint and this child needed to tell his story.

Fortunately, most of my students don’t have such dramatic stories to tell, but they do need to tell their own – stories of a new kitten, a trip to the county fair, or a new pair of shoes. They also need to develop skills to read the stories of others. My purpose for this blog is to open a discussion about communication, introduce appealing children’s literature, and share experiences. I fervently hope that we all - parents, educators, and writers - help the children in our care learn to tell their own stories.

Yesterday, in my last speech group of the day, the student whose family had been robbed came for his speech session. I’m happy to report I can now understand his speech though he still has a slight lisp. I’m also happy to report he has become a wonderful storyteller and the stories he tells are not traumatic; they are full of joy, adventure and a rich family life.