Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter Fun--Throwing Snowballs!

Ok, so we don't get snow in places other than in the mountains here in Southern California, and I'm not sure any of my students have even seen real snow. But, we've had a lot of pretend snow!
In the first week of our Winter theme, we dressed up in hats, scarves and mittens and threw snowball balloons. That was great for teaching the concept of turn taking as they threw the snowballs back and forth to each other. Turn taking is a basic conversational skill.

Last week, we threw cotton ball snowballs!


Language concepts- wet/dry, up high/down low
Turn taking
Articulation- /s/ blends
Fine motor- using finger tips to rip cotton balls
Hand-eye coordination- aiming for the paper

Before we got started, we gathered what we needed--just some regular cotton balls and we filled a pan full of water. (it was also funny because it was raining one of the days and when the rain had emptied out, we re-filled the pan with rain water :)). We also taped up some paper onto the wall for them to aim at.

The students took turns requesting cotton balls ("I want snow"), using their good /s/ sound in the word SSSnow to practice their sound.
They then worked on their fine motor skills by ripping the cotton into smaller pieces. (We originally left that step out, but my trusty occupational therapist who monitors my classroom suggested it).
We talked about how the "snow" felt dry.
Next, they dipped the cotton into the water pan

and talked about how wet it was

and finally,  they threw the snow onto the wall!

They continued to take turns, use their words to request and aim up high or down low onto the paper!
 Of course, after the activity was over, I realized we should've drawn a snowman onto the paper to help reinforce another vocabulary word and the use of the /s/ in snowman! But, the kids had a blast. Not only did they get a chance to be active and throw snowballs, but they had plenty of opportunities to use their words, take turns and work on their speech sounds!

Happy playing!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Winter Letter "S"

Another activity we did this week was also inspired by No Time for Flash Cards. She has a weekly Letter of the Week craft where she takes an upper case or lower case letter and makes a craft with words that begin with that letter.
This craft inspired me to make a special bulletin board in my classroom that displays similar Letter of the Week activities. Once per theme, we choose a different letter to focus on from vocabulary words in the unit. The purpose of this activity is to increase alphabet awareness, as well as to increase sound/symbol relationship (in other words, knowing that "R" says /rrrrr/). Hooray for phonemic awareness!

For our Winter theme, I chose the letter S, using the vocabulary items snowflake, snowman, scarf and skates.

Learning Vocabulary
Pre-academic skills- letter recognition; sound-symbol relationship
Articulation- /s/ blends

We started by reviewing the vocabulary and having the students try to label the items. We also were sure to over-emphasize the /s/ sound, as many of our students leave of the /s/ when it's with another sound in a word, like saying "no" for "snow."

Next, they needed to request a letter "S" that was already cut out of construction paper and they had to request each of the items they wanted put on their "S." They were able to put whatever pictures, stickers or stamps of the vocabulary words onto the "S" wherever they wanted to, which is also nice for developing fine motor skills, too. Throughout the activity, we talked about how "S" makes the /sss/ sound and all the words started with the /sss/ sound.

The kids enjoy looking at their "S" on the bulletin board while they eat breakfast and lunch. They especially like to find thier own letter, which helps us reinforce their ability to recognize their name.

Happy SSSStamping!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Winter Fun--Painting with Ice!

Many thanks to No Time for Flashcards for this totally fun idea!

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, we painted with ice cubes. The kids had lots of fun with this hands-on activity. Even our occupational therapist who visits the class thought it was a neat idea for the kiddos to get a great sensory experience!

To prepare for this activity, the night before, I put a couple of drops of paint into each part of the ice tray, filled it with water and let it freeze. I bagged up each color and we were ready to go!
Vocabulary- Ice, cold, mittens, colors
Science- concept of ice melting into water

We started by talking about what the kids saw by asking "what do you see?" "what do you think this is?" "have you ever seen ice?" "what colors do you see" and encouraging them to talk.

Next, we talked about what the kids felt. We talked about how it is winter time and it's cold and the ice is cold, too! Then....

we got to touch it! We constantly reinforced the vocabulary word "cold."

Next, the students practiced using their words to request their paper and ice. Our goal is for the students to say complete sentences on their own, like "I want blue ice" or "I want paper." Some kids can do that, but others need help. They had to ask each time they wanted a new color, reinforcing the need to use their words.
Then, they painted!

Some of the kids really had a great time, others didn't like the cold feeling, but we encouraged them to at least try! If they really didn't like it, we let them put on mittens, giving us another great opportunity to reinforce that vocabulary word.

Our paintings came out beautifully!
They are now displayed on our window for everyone to see.

Happy painting!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winter Music

During our Circle time, we sing a lot of songs or read books related to our vocabulary theme.

During our Winter theme, we have been singing a great song called "Snowman" off of the "Rocking and Talking" CD from Kids' Express Train.
Kids' Express Train is a company that includes a speech-language pathologist named Rachel Arntson. They have lots of CDs that target specific speech and language skills. I LOVE thier CDs and use them quite often! They also have CD ROMs with pictures to accompany the songs.

The song "Snowman" is great to use for developing many speech and language skills:

Word Imitation- Imitation isn't just the sincerest form of flattery, it's also a basic way to help children communicate who don't have much spontaneous language. "Snowman" encourages children to sing along and repeat the simple phrase "snowman."

Pronoun Use- Many children still say "me" instead of "I." The song says "I'm a snowman," giving the kids lots of practice to sing along using "I."

Sequencing- As the song goes through all the items needed to make a snowman, we use the pictures and lyrics sheet from the CD ROM to follow along. Then, we take the activity sheet from the CD ROM and the students put the pieces on in the same order.

Articulation- Many students leave off the /s/ sound in words when it comes with another sound, like saying "noman" instead of "snowman." Since there are oodles and oodles of opportunities for the students to say "snowman," they get lots of practice! I also give them some visual cueing to remind them to use the /s/.

Happy snowman building (and singing!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Winter Fun! Week 1

Last week, we returned from a fun and fabulous winter break and jumped right into our winter theme. We'll be focusing on "Winter" for about 3 weeks. Here's a brief run down on what we did last week!

We introduced our winter vocabulary. All throughout the theme, we have pictures of our vocabulary words, along with the written word, up on our main bulletin board.These are the same pictures that are sent home with families for practice at home. Our winter words include snowman, snowflake, hat, ice skates, scarf, mittens, boots and jacket. Hot cocoa, penguin and cold are some other fun words to talk about!

I try to have a lot of fun activities that we do when we are really focusing on teaching vocabulary. One way I try to bombard the students with vocabulary during this theme is by having them "feed" the pictures to our well-loved, yet hungry, penguin.Students take turns (I want my turn) picking a picture and labeling it. We also talk about the object--for example "where do you put a hat?" "on your head!" *high five* Then, the child feeds the penguin (and gets to practice the sentence "he is eating!").

Our penguin friend also got a chance to eat when we fed him snowmen with articulation cards on them so students could practice their /s/ sound (SSSnowman) and saying Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) words like cat, bat or boat.

This is what our library looks like:We have several books about winter for our students to read!

For each theme, we also incorporate math activities. As the students learn pre-math skills, they are also continuing to focus on the new vocabulary words. The also have to request everything they want!
We had one activity that focused on size concepts of big, bigger and biggest.
Students sorted according to snowball size and talked about the sizes. Did ya notice that a snowman has a big snowball, then a bigger one and the biggest at the bottom?
Students also made a counting book counting buttons they put on their snowman.

We use the concept of Touch Math to reinforce counting.

There are so many more activities for us to do! I'll fill you in on some more activities as the weeks move on. Until then, I hope you enjoyed your Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. It's a wet week in Southern California, so stay dry!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Benefits of Games in the Classroom

I love it when people *get it!* School is not always easy (or fun...) for all kids. Each person has a different learning style, too.
The other day, I received my e-mail from the National Education Association (NEA) and loved what I saw! The title was "Experts Tout Educational Benefits of Board Games" and there were two articles (Washington Post and mlive from Michigan) talking about these benefits.

Discovery Toys has some great games that can be used by teachers (and even speech pathologists ;) ). Here is some info about some of my favorites:

Number Hunt:
Recommended for ages 4+, children are motivated to learn math skills, like number recognition, counting and addition.'s on sale right now until February 6!

I have to admit that this is one of my favorites! I've even played it by myself, even though I'm much older than 7... It's a great game for teaching turn taking skills and for following directions, but it really takes some critical thinking and planning ahead to play, which is so important for children in school. On their turn, the player moves board pieces to clear a path to the object they need to collect. Lots of fun!

I've actually already expressed my love for this game here ;)

Other great games include Wiz Kids, Friendship Island, Play to Be Safe, Word Flip, and A to Z Jr.

We're always playing different kinds of games in my classroom during our small groups time. It's great for teaching turn taking, vocabulary, sentence use, and we've even played some Bingo games for specific speech sounds!

Happy playing!

Our Day In Preschool!!

In my program, we have 3 different classes. On Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays, 2 sets of students come--they are my 3 year olds, one morning class and one afternoon class. On Tuesdays/Thursdays, my 4 year olds come just in the morning. Each class is 2 1/2 hours and we have a lot to do each day!
Here is a brief description of our day and why we do what we do:

Arrival and Free Play:
Once our kids get off the bus or dropped off by their family, we head to the classroom and the playing begins! From a teacher's point of view, this is our chance to take attendance and look through backbacks, etc.
From the students' points of view, it's free time! They get to do their main job in life--PLAY! It's a child-directed time where they can explore, read a book, build blocks, do a puzzle, cut and color...the possibilities are endless!
How is this speech and language therapy? Well, the 3 adults in the classroom (me and my 2 assistants) use this time to model correct productions. We get to play, too! As we push cars, we talk about it. As the children pretend to cook, we talk about it. If there is a battle over a toy, we talk about it and give the students the correct words.
The adults in the classroom are always talking with them about what they are doing (“oh, the car is going fast!”) or have them follow directions (for example “pick up the red block and put it on top of the table”).

Opening Circle:
Here, we are basically teaching the children to be students, including how to sit and pay attention for 10-15 minutes. That can be a long time for a preschooler! We also work on name recognition, spelling their names and simple math, like counting and simple addition.
How is this speech and language therapy? We work on answering questions (who is this? what is your name? who is not here?), saying short sentences (my name is ___) and we help the kids with their pronunciation (if she says "I am a dirl," we give her lots of help to say that /g/ sound and say "girl").

Meal Time:
Who doesn't like to eat? It's a pretty motivating time in our day! Yum! Not only do we work on talking, we also introduce some literacy skills--we have placemats with drawings of all the things we need, plus the written words.
How is this speech and language therapy? My students don't get anything without making an attempt to communicate! Some kids can say "I want pancakes," other kids will use American Sign Language signs for "more" and "milk" to get their drink. It's also a great time for me to make sure their feeding skills are fine and they can move their mouths correctly.

At the second circle of the day, we focus on the vocabulary theme we are working on. We talk about the words and look at the pictures on the bulletin board. Then we will sing a couple of songs or read a book related to the theme.
How is this speech and language therapy? One of the most common goals that my students have are to learn more vocabulary words. The constant repetition of the vocabulary words, especially in song, help them learn the words so they are able to point to the word and then say it. Books are also a fantastic way to learn vocabulary and to teach storytelling.

Small Group Rotations:
During small groups, the students spend about 8-10 minutes at each of our 3 activities. The activities they do here typically change each class, although we may repeat some. Here, we have teacher-directed activities where we focus on pre-math, pre-literacy, fine motor and articulation and language skills.
How is this speech and language therapy? First, each activity is related to the vocabulary theme that we are working on, so they have more practice with these words. Second, the students need to request everything! They can't even get a crayon without saying "I want a crayon!" Finally, this is the time where I really get some direct time with them to work on their specific speech and language goals, including vocabulary, grammar, following directions and articulation.

Outside Play:
Here, we really let the kids run free! They can ride tricycles, run around, play games, and sometimes go to the bigger kid playground and slide and swing. It's fabulous for gross motor skills!
How is this speech and language therapy? Well, we have the kids in their favorite environment, so they are very motivated to get what they want. This makes it easier for us to get them to request. They also learn to use correct words to get what they want and to share--the bikes are popular, but there just aren't enough! It's also a time for us to simply model correct speech and language, like "he is riding," "she is running," "the ball is under the slide" or the /s/ sound in "Swing."

Closing Circle:
At the end of the day, we finish up by singing goodbye, reviewing the day and lining up to head out to the waiting bus or mommy and daddy.
How is this speech and language therapy? When we review the day, we have pictures representing each activity, so we are teaching them to sequence. This included important words like "first, next, last." Also, the students need to say "I want my backpack" before they can go, reinforcing the fact that they need to use their words.

Our day goes by fast, but, as you can see, it's full of lots of speech and language opportunities!
Until next time, "Good bye friends, we're sad to see you go, boom boom!"