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Jungle Themed Sensory Bin for SLPs

Have you hopped on the sensory-bin train yet?  In my last post, I talked about how to assemble your own - and today, I would like to show you one of mine that I have made with a "safari" theme.


If you missed my original post, here is how to make a sensory bin yourself.  For this bin, I used green crinkle paper originally, and then switched to large green pom pom balls, as the pom pom balls are easier to clean up if it gets accidentally knocked over.


I also got a set of safari themed animal figurines (similar here), as well as some Lion King figures.  (I wanted to make sure that I had both a "boy" and "girl" character to include, so I could work on pronouns with some of my students.)

This bin is great for exploratory play and spontaneous language.  Usually, the first time I introduce a bin, I simply let the students pull out the contents, one piece at a time.  We work on naming and vocabulary, and talk about the different items/animals.  We will also work on categories (such as "Can you find all of the *big* animals?" or "Find all of the things that are brown!") and comparing/contrasting (ex: "How are the lion and the giraffe the same?  How are they different?")



During other sessions, we'll read books or watch videos that correlate with the them, and then we will re-enact what happens in the story with the figures.  This is great for working on story re-tell, pronouns, verb tenses, complete sentences, expanding utterances, describing, sequencing, answering WH questions, and more!

Here are some of my favorite online videos for this theme:
And some of my favorite books for this theme:


If I have students working on articulation or phonology, we will look for items in the bin that have the target sound in them.  If there aren't that many, I will hide stimulus cards in the box prior to the session for the students to find.

What other books or videos do you love for the safari/jungle theme?

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One question I am asked a lot is, "What are your favorite games and activities to use with middle school students in speech-language therapy?"  Today, I would like to share with you my top 13 favorites!


One thing that I think it is important to note that I'm not an SLP that uses games in every session, even for my elementary students.  For middle school, I prefer to structure my sessions with an introductory activity, then a main activity, followed by a few minutes of games as a reward at the end of the session.

Once or twice a semester, I will have a "game day" that is primarily game-based as an incentive for my students to work hard in our regular sessions if needed as a reward.  You would be surprised how motivated middle school students can be with the promise of playing the right games!



That being said, here are my favorite games for middle school students:

Quick and easy for the last 5 minutes of a session:
  • Jenga
  • Uno
  • Basketball hoop (students love to keep score!) - similar one here
  • Regular playing cards (to play games like war)
Top 13 Games for SLPs in Middle School


Good for targeting articulation, language, fluency, and social skills in structured conversation within the session:
  • Rory's Story Cubes 
  • Tell Tale
  • Would You Rather card game
  • Bubble Talk
  • Headbandz
  • Loaded Questions, Jr.
  • Bubble Talk


Good for longer game times, but could also be worked into a "do a task and take a turn" therapy format:
  • Trouble
  • Battleship
The best speech-language therapy games for middle school SLPs!

What games do you find that your middle school students prefer?

PS:  Looking for therapy activities for middle school students?  Check out these posts HERE and HERE, and check out the middle school section of my TpT store here.



It's funny how much an SLP's caseload can change from one year to the next - even within the same district, or even the same building!  One of the challenges I have this year is that I have more younger students on my caseload than I have had in a long time.  My traditional therapy approach - sitting at the table and working on one or two activities for 20-30 minutes just isn't very motivating for these students, so I knew I had to start changing things up in therapy!

After doing some research, I decided to try making a few sensory bins in different themes to help target a variety of goals.  These have been a huge hit with my students, so today, I want to share with you how to make some of your own!


  • First, choose a theme.  (Tip: think about what therapy materials you already have.  Do you have several picture books about the jungle or winter?)  Here are some examples:
    • Seasons (winter, spring, summer, fall)
    • Holidays (Valentine's day, Thanksgiving, etc.)
    • General themes (farm, jungle, pets, ocean, zoo, garden, outer space, etc.)
  • Then, you need to start with a container.  I found clear shoeboxes from the Container Store that have worked well for me, but you could use any type of container.  If you plan on storing it between sessions, I highly recommend using a container with a lid that fits well.  If you don't need to store it, then you could use any sort of tray or box.  

  • Next, you need a base for your container.  Depending on your theme, you might choose different materials - for example, for a winter themed bin, you probably want to choose something that is white to resemble snow.  (Also, consider the needs of your students here - do you have any students that might try to eat the items?  Do you have any students that may struggle with a heavier weight of container?)  There are a lot of different materials to consider, including:
    • cotton balls
    • pom pom balls
    • beans
    • rice 
    • shredded paper 
    • Easter grass
    • plastic rocks or "crystals"
    • small rocks

  • Then, add items that match your theme.  For example:
    • plastic animal figurines
    • action figures (make sure to have both male and female if you would like to target pronouns)
    • small stuffed animals
    • party decorations (such sparkly snowflakes, googly eyes, or hearts)
    • small erasers
  • You can also add "tools" like a small scoop or shovel to add to the fun!
Once your bin is complete, you can choose to add stimulus cards (such as articulation or language cards) if you would like.  The bins themselves are great opportunities for spontaneous language samples, as well as guided language play.  Some of the goals you can target include:
  • Vocabulary
  • Pronouns  (ex: talk about what the different figures are doing)
  • Following directions  (ex: "Show me the lion, then show me the zebra.")
  • Basic concepts (ex: "Find the biggest snowflake!")
  • Prepositions (ex: "Put the dolphin next to the shell.")
  • Expanding utterances
  • Verb tenses - present, past, and future

TIP:  I like to keep a post it note in the lid of my sensory bins to remind me of which bin is which, as well as what related books or materials I have to use on the topic.

The Dabbling Speechie has some great posts on her blog about sensory bins, too, so make sure to check them out here!

PS:  Want to make sure not to miss a post?  Sign up for my email newsletter at www.bit.ly/NatalieSnydersNewsletter!

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SLP friend, I know you.  You care so much about your students and sometimes feel overwhelmed with the weight of everything that is expected of you.  Sometimes you are tempted to walk out that door at the end of the school day and not come back - and yet, there you are tomorrow morning, because you can't give up on your kids, and you know the power of the communication skills you are helping them learn.  It's overwhelming, exhausting, and the best job in the world, all wrapped up together!

But do me a favor, will you?  Take some time for yourself over the next couple of weeks and refill your own cup.  Ignore those progress reports and work emails for a few more days and take care of yourself!  You can't give any more from a vessel that is empty.  It's necessary to take time to rest and recharge yourself to keep up with everything that is on your plate.  You're worth it, friend.


Can I make a confession?  I very rarely do crafts in my therapy room.  Most of the time, they seem very time-consuming on my part, while not allowing for as many trials as a more traditional drill approach.  Also?  I hate cleaning up afterwards!  :)

But every once in a while - especially around holidays - I like to change therapy up a bit and try some crafty projects.  They definitely have to be easy, low prep, and low mess!

Today, I would like to share with you four super easy craft ideas that you could adapt to almost any speech or language goal.

4 Quick and Easy Holiday Crafts for Speech Language Therapy

 First up is this Christmas tree craft.


I made this by cutting green construction paper into a quick triangle and gluing it on a black background.

For this particular student with language goals, we were working on requesting and following directions.  So the student had to use an appropriate question (ex: "Can I have the red marker?"), and also had to follow directions (ex: "Put the yellow star at the top of the tree.")


Next up is this candy cane craft.  I quickly drew a rough candy cane shape on red construction paper, then had the student cut it out.  As the student was working on that, I cut small strips of the white paper for our stimulus words.

For this particular student working on articulation, we brainstormed words that started with S blends. I wrote them on the white strips, and then we practiced saying each word and glued it to our candy cane.  This would also be easy to adapt to irregular verbs/plurals, articulation at the phrase or sentence level, pronouns, items in categories, describing, and so much more!


 Next is this easy stocking craft.  I had my student cut out the red construction paper "sock," while I cut out the white decoration at the top.  We then glued it to black construction paper.

This student has been working on the EET and describing, so I had her come up with a description for a stocking, which we wrote directly on the page.  Again, this would be easily adaptable to articulation, following directions, grammar, categories, or sequencing goals!  You could also write target sentences (ex: "Santa lives at the North Pole") to practice certain fluency enhancing strategies, as well.



Finally, with our constuction paper scraps, we made a quick and easy paper chain.  I cut the leftover paper into strips, and we glued interlocking circles together.

This student was working on S- blends, but would also be great for working on vocabulary and expanding utterances, or using complete sentences.  Again, you could adapt it for almost any goal!  And bonus - it helps clean up some of the mess from the other crafts.  :)

Tell me, what goals would you target with these crafts?

PS:  If you like these ideas, make sure to sign up for my email newsletter to get more fun therapy ideas sent directly to your inbox!  Go to bit.ly/NatalieSnydersNewsletter to sign up.


I've been home from the 2016 ASHA Convention for almost a week now, and have had some time to reflect.  Several people have asked me, "Is it really worth the time and expense?"


In a word, yes.

The ASHA Convention is one of the most exhausting and rewarding experiences I have all year.  I end up walking more miles per day than I want to know, am on my feet for 6+ hours a day, and don't get enough sleep. Last year, I literally wore holes in my shoes!  I miss my family terribly while I am gone. 


But, it also gives me the chance to renew my passion and enthusiasm for speech language pathologist, while surrounded by some of my best friends that I only get to see once or twice a year.  (Seriously, these ladies are amazing, and I am so proud to call them my colleagues and friends!)

I am surrounded by 14,000+ people from around the country that share my passion for communication.  I get to meet hundreds of them myself at our blogger booth, and make amazing new connections that I wouldn't otherwise. I have wonderful conversations with random strangers at our booth or in line to grab some food.  

I have the opportunity to share my ideas on a live stage with other SLPs who will go home and try them.  (Many thanks to my friends Hallie Sherman and Felice Clark for presenting with me!)  

I get pushed out of my comfort zone again and again in the five days I am away from home.  This is why I love the ASHA convention, and why you'll see me next year in LA!






I don't know about you, but I'm eagerly anticipating the 2016 ASHA Convention this week!  Last year's convention was my first, and while it was a hectic trip, it was a great time.  I want to share with you some of my best tips for surviving - and thriving - at the ASHA Convention!

ATTIRE:

My number 1 tip?  Wear comfortable shoes.  Seriously, you will be walking MILES between your hotel, sessions, exhibit hall, and restaurants.  I literally walked a hole in my tennis shoes last year in Denver!  Make sure to have a back up pair, just in case.

As far as clothing, for the average convention attendee, business casual is fine.  Dressy jeans or nice pants and a top are perfectly appropriate.  If you plan on interviewing or are presenting, definitely dress up, but otherwise, whatever you are comfortable in and would normally wear to work is perfectly appropriate.

I would definitely recommend a light jacket or sweater, because many of the rooms can be quite chilly.

HOW DO I DECIDE WHAT SESSIONS TO GO TO?

I like to browse the Program Planner (sent to many attendees via mail in advance) to look at each time slot I have available and what topics I am interested in.  I usually have 2-3 that sound appealing to me based on my current caseload, and I will highlight those.  I also look for some of my favorite speakers in the field.  I try to narrow it down from there, keeping in mind that some popular sessions might fill up and I'll need a second choice option.

SHAMELESS PLUG:


I hope if you will be at ASHA on Saturday that you consider the presentation I am giving with my friends Hallie Sherman from Speech Time Fun and Felice Clark from The Dabbling Speechie.  It's called Use What You Have: Practical Uses for Common Objects to Target All Areas of Communication.  We're so excited to share some practical therapy ideas you will be able to use on Monday morning when you get back from ASHA!

PS:  We have goodie bags for the first 100 people that show up to our session, so you won't want to be late!

WHAT TO BRING TO SESSIONS:

Be aware that you likely will not have reliable wi-fi service during the sessions.  I like to download session handouts in the morning to my iPad, using the Notability app.  I also carry an old fashioned notebook in my tote bag, as well as a water bottle and snacks.

In most sessions, the chairs will be close together, and there won't be much room for a laptop.  If you prefer to take notes electronically, I would suggest an iPad and keyboard instead.

EXHIBIT HALL:

Make sure to allow for plenty of time at the Exhibit Hall!  In fact, I usually like to stop in for a bit each day, because it's just so huge and overwhelming.  Make sure to stop by the SLP Blogger Booth #514, where you can find me and 13 of my blogging buddies!  Here is when you can see me:


Make sure to find me in the exhibit hall during my scheduled time slots, because I've got 500 of these fun luggage tags to give away!



AFTER HOURS FUN:

My blogger besties and I are hosting a fabulous evening on Thursday at the Marriott Hotel - we have tons of great giveaways, so make sure to get there early!  Find out more details and RSVP in the Facebook event page.



DON'T FORGET:

Don't forget to pack a portable battery charger!  You will run through your phone battery very quickly.

Also, if you're like me and completely directionally challenged, download the Citymapper app.  They have a version for Philadelphia that seems very helpful.

GOOD TO KNOW:

Be prepared for long waits for food.  Scope out area restaurants in advance, and carry snacks with you.

There was a coat/bag check last year in Denver, which was handy, but they only took cash.  Make sure to have enough on hand if you plan on using the service!

Be friendly!  There are many SLPs you will see at ASHA that are by themselves or may not know anyone in line or at your session.  Take advantage of this to make new connections and friends!


Tell me, is there anything I forgot to include?  Make sure to say hi if you see me (and feel free help me with directions if I'm totally lost!)!




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