Time to Talk: 11 Apps to Support Children’s Language Skills

Summer School Vacation: Fostering Language Carryover with and without Apps

The activities we do when on vacation can be used to support vocabulary and language skills. When used together with your kids, apps can also be useful tools to stimulate communication and fostering language carryover.

Summer school vacation is finally here. Many parents have a lot of plans set up for their kids, but make sure to save some time for pure relaxation with each other. That’s where our memories of childhood are built.

Hopefully some educational activities will be shared by teachers, libraries and service providers for the summer. I can share apps but rather than let your children play on the iPad to keep them occupied, I suggest using apps together with your child during relaxing child/parent time, similar to book reading. I always suggest that parents play with an app before introducing it to their child. Apps are flexible tools. They can be purely entertainment or can teach a skill. It’s all up to how they are originally taught. Remember, even an electronic game can be a vehicle for narratives, explanations, and defining vocabulary if the parents ask for this. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: Helping Our Kids Explain

Helping Our Kids Explain

One of the classic cliches of the parent-child relationship is the question and answer, “What did you do today?” “Nothing.” Over the years, I have had so many parents ask if I could help them get some information from their children. I suggested that they think about the three types of questions (yes/no, wh-questions, and open-ended questions) and chose ones with easier answers. Open-ended answers are overly broad and require the most work. “What did you do today?” appears to be a wh-question (what, where, when, who, why, how), but it is actually an open-ended one. Asking what a child liked doing today and what they didn’t like doing today may create a structure that supports more conversation. So parents need choose their questions carefully.  Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: Stress-Free Reading

Therapy Dogs and Reading

Often times our local libraries host a reading to dogs program where therapy dogs support literacy through companionship for young readers. Check Hilltown Families list of Weekly Suggested Events to find out about upcoming programs.

When I was in first grade, my family began to notice my lack of interest in reading. I spent most of my time building villages in my sandbox, drawing, and climbing trees, while they always carried a book everywhere they went. To me, reading was some magical thing they did that had nothing to do with me. Enter my grandmother, the elementary school teacher. She was enlisted to help me with reading. Now that I think of those torturous sessions, I realize that I was not the only one being tortured! My poor grandmother required incredible amounts of patience. Eventually, I learned to read, but never with the pleasure that my family experienced daily. I was slow and had to hear every word in my mind. I dreaded reading aloud in class. I would count the paragraphs other students before me would be reading and try to figure out and practice mine in advance. I never heard what anyone else read because of my state of terror. It was very easy for me to mix up words, making my peers laugh and horribly embarrassing myself. It was an ordeal. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: Understanding & Helping Children Who Stutter

Smooth Speech

When a child repeats a beginning sound of a word or a beginning syllable, or pauses for a long time before speaking, or says filler words like “um, um, um,” parents wonder if their child is a stutterer. As listeners, we feel the effort and anxiety the child is experiencing to get their words out. We feel helpless, uncomfortable, or mildly annoyed to have to slow down and wait to find out what the child is trying to express, especially when we are on tight time schedules. We finish sentences for them, ask more questions to find out what they want, or tell them to relax and slow down.  Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: Mapping Out Childrens’ Behavior

Barriers to Learning: Part 2

Our behaviors are stitched together by a series of reactions…how we respond to things, how we process and then how we move on to another reaction. For children it is important to have some recognition of behavior and how reactions dovetail.

In my last article, I talked about how behaviors interfere with children’s learning and can impact their emotional, vocational, and economic futures. One important factor that positively impacts learning is the ability to think and reason. We can teach self-regulation of emotions. First, the child needs to understand that no one can think when they are emotional. I already explained using a 1-5 rating scale for “How big is my problem?” and “How big is my reaction?” The game “Should I or Shouldn’t I?” gives kids practice using a rating scale. Turning music on, then off for practice calming down was also mentioned in my previous article. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: The Importance of Applying Reason & Scaling Problems

Barriers to Learning: Part 1

LEGO exercises can be a path to reason. Certainly calming.

This week I’m thinking about my students and how they’ll function in the world. Will they have the social skills to keep a job? (Social skills are a stronger predictor of job success than the ability to do the job.) Will they have the skills to be available for learning while in school? Although I often feel overwhelmed and powerless about the state of the world, I am very thankful to have skills and materials that can address barriers to learning for my students. At least, in my little corner of the world, I can start them on the right path. One parent described my job as teaching her child how to think.

For many of my students, their behavior at school and home is their biggest barrier to learning and to having successful futures. Although this is partly the realm of a psychologist, or a trained ABA practitioner, as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), I am the expert for social communication. I am the teacher who helps them discover what is expected in a situation and what is unexpected and that there are consequences to the choices we make and the ways we communicate. Read the rest of this entry »

Language Play: Learning How to Learn

Learning How to Learn

Since it’s the first month of school, I was talking to a parent about a flash card app called Quizard and the benefits of repetition in learning academic content. Children’s job is to go to school and learn as much as possible while there. In elementary grades, they get the skills necessary to read and write, and essential math concepts and facts. In fifth and sixth grades and beyond, they apply their skills to learn content.

I was teaching in a high school when I found an online flash card site called Studystack. Most of my kids struggled with biology, math concepts, and vocabulary. I showed the site to the biology teachers. The teachers or I made online flash cards on the website. In one class, using them was part of the homework assignments. In another, they were used in class during down time between units or during review time before tests, for instance. Eventually, some students learning office skills volunteered to enter the MCAS math vocabulary for a school-wide resource. By the way, the Quizard app can download vocabulary from the Studystack site; and you can add photos and use it on mobile devices.

But my biggest revelation came when I used this resource with my language-learning disabled students…

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Language Play: Fair Season Language Games

Fair Season Language Games

I’ve never lived in a place so rich with fairs! We’re lucky to be able to go to so many. For my family, it has become a New England summer/fall ritual that harkens back to a simpler time when people got together to play and eat with their neighbors. Enjoying life together in this way, creates a sense of community so naturally. It combines the cycle of the yearly harvest with pride in our achievements in art, craft, food, animal-raising and gardening. It gives us a solid sense of identity and camaraderie. The thrill of the rides, the lights against a dark sky, the people of all generations surrounding food stands, eating at picnic tables, strolling, and running in the delight of being alive. All in all, a country fair is a great human experience. It slows us down so we can experience who we are again.

I remember the drive home from the Cummington Fair one year with my grandson. It was the first fair where he was self-conscious, even though he had been there before as a baby. Even though it was late, he hated to leave. On the way home, he tried to console himself in the back seat: “We can come back tomorrow night.” We explained that the fair was a special, once a year event, BUT we could prolong our pleasure by talking about what we saw and did until we got home. And so a new set of language games were born for the trip home…

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