Copyright 2014, Natalie Snyders, SLP. Powered by Blogger.
Is the weather ever so nice that you just want to take therapy outside for the day?  We don’t get those days too often in Illinois, and it doesn’t always work with what I need to target or get done in therapy, but here are some ideas I have used when I do!



Two of my favorite outdoor therapy items are sidewalk chalk and bubbles!

For sidewalk chalk, here are some ideas:

  • ARTICULATION: Draw pictures or write target words with your students’ articulation target sounds.
  • LANGUAGE: To target following directions, have your students draw what you direct.  (Ex: “First, draw a blue circle.  Then, draw a red star.”)
  • ARTICULATION/FLUENCY: You could create an obstacle course, with spots for the students to hop to, walk backwards on a line, balance on one foot, and spin around - but the catch is that they have to say their target words/phrase/sentence or answer a question correctly before they can go through to the next section of the obstacle course.  (Bonus: Have your students working on following directions set up the obstacle course for you by following your directions!)
  • LANGUAGE: For students working on describing or comparing/contrasting, have them draw items you direct (ex: animals).  Then, have them describe the items they drew, and compare and contrast them.  (You could do this outside, or after you come back inside.)
Want to take your speech-language therapy outside? Here are some easy ways to incorporate common goals with chalk and bubbles!


Here are some ideas for bubbles:

  • LANGUAGE: Bubbles are a great communication temptation for your younger students!  You can target basic phrases like, “More bubbles” and "Pop it,” as well as expanding those utterances for students working on increasing their MLU (“I want more bubbles,” or “Open it, please!”), and turn taking.
  • LANGUAGE: For your older students, bubbles are a great way to incorporate STEM into your therapy!  I like to pour bubbles in a shallow dish, and provide some different options for creating what I call “bubble wands.”  Some suggestions include cut up straws with string, mason jar lids, and pipe cleaners.  Before blowing bubbles, you can predict which wands will make the best or biggest bubbles, and after you are done, you can summarize what happened, compare and contrast the results of the different wands, and write about the experience.

  • LANGUAGE: You could target following directions by having students follow the directions to make their own bubble solution.
  • ARTICULATION: Bubbles are a simple, yet effective reinforcer for targeting both articulation and phonology.  Have your students say their target words/phrase/sentence correctly a set number of times before being allowed to blow a bubble.  Or, have them say their targets a large number of times quickly (50-150), and then they can pop all the bubbles they can catch in one minute as a reward.

What are some more ideas you have for using chalk or bubbles in therapy?  Share in a comment below!

PS: Like these ideas?  Make sure to sign up for my email newsletter so you won’t miss any!  Go to bit.ly/NatalieSnydersNewsletter to sign up!  


Is you district using the Danielson or Marzano model to evaluate its SLPs?  Are you confused or don't have the time to figure out everything you need to include in your portfolio or supporting documents to get full credit?

Fully editable and customizable Danielson evaluation portfolio for school SLPs


Trust me, I've been in your shoes!  When my district first went to the Danielson evaluation model a few years ago, I was overwhelmed with all of the different areas covered, and didn't know how to explain all of the things I do on a daily basis to get "credit" on the evaluation rubric.  Also, many of the criteria - even on the "therapeutic specialist" rubric - seemed more suited to classroom teachers than speech language pathologists.  I spent many, many hours reading the rubrics and creating and tweaking my own portfolio.

Thankfully, you don't have to worry about this, because after working on it for over a year, I'm ready to share my completely editable Danielson Portfolio for SLPs!

Fully editable and customizable Danielson evaluation portfolio for school SLPs

It includes a completely editable Powerpoint template, using either standard or custom fonts, as well as a full example portfolio (my own!) in PDF form.


A full breakdown of the information and pictures needed are included, as well as helpful tips and step by step directions on how to edit the PowerPoint file.



Also included are ten different customizable cover options!



Need more tips and ideas with the Danielson model, including writing an individual growth plan?  Check out these posts here!




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The Informed SLP - Relevant and Concise Article Reviews for Busy SLPs

I think most SLPs want to make sure what we're doing in therapy is informed by the latest research in the field.  However, as a full time school-based SLP, it can be a challenge to not only find the time to wade through the latest research articles, but also actually finding articles and evidence that are relevant to the topic at hand!  It also can be prohibitively expensive - we often have access to thousands of journals in grad school, but once we graduate and are in the field, we have to pay large sums to access anything beyond the ASHA journals.

Thankfully, Meredith Poore Harold, PhD, CCC-SLP, has a fantastic solution to this problem!  She is the author behind The Informed SLP, a website and series of email newsletters, whose mission is to connect clinicians and scientists with each other's work.

She believes that both the practitioners and scientists in our field are working towards the common goal of improving communication for all, but sadly, there is often a lack of communication between scientists and practicing SLPs.  Scientists are developing millions of dollars worth of funded research, all with the purpose of helping advance clinical practice, but most practicing SLPs don't see it, and don't even know about it for almost two decades after the work has been completed!  Across all health fields (including speech-language pathology), it takes around 17 years for something that’s been demonstrated in research to make its way into practice.  (Source)

So how does The Informed SLP help solve this problem?  Each month, Meredith reviews over 80-100 articles, and narrows them down to 5-10 that have immediately applicable results for school based SLPs.  She then provides a concise (a few hundred words or less!) and helpful review that gets straight to the point of each article selected.

The Informed SLP - Relevant and Concise Article Reviews for Busy SLPs

I have been receiving the Informed SLP newsletter for the past year, and have found it amazingly helpful!  I love the short and concise article reviews that I can immediately put to use in my practice. 

For example, in the December newsletter, there was a review of Storkel, H.L., Voelmle, K., Fierro, V., Flake, K., Fleming, K.K., Romine, R.S. (2016) Interactive Book Reading to Accelerate Word Learning by Kindergarten Children With Specific Language Impairment: Identifying an Adequate Intensity and Variation in Treatment Response. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools.  

The article review included a short summary of the study, as well as the results.  I found it fascinating that students in the study with developmental language disorders required 36 different exposures to new vocabulary words in order to learn and retain them!  (Six exposures in each word of six consecutive therapy sessions)  It really made me think about how I only use a book for a session or two, and made me reconsider using them over multiple sessions instead!

So, how can you take advantage of The Informed SLP?  For the summer of 2017, access to the archive only costs $3 per month to be a member, or $6 for a day pass, or $12 per week.  If you sign up now, you will be grandfathered in at this rate forever!  I personally purchased my own monthly subscription, and find it to be an incredible value.

On August 30th, 2017, the site will increase in price, as new site features will be added, including the ability to ask for help finding evidence on any topic from researchers around the world!



Need a quick and easy craft idea for a busy time of year?  This cute sun craft will help you target multiple speech and language goals with very little prep involved!


First, you will need construction paper.  I chose yellow and orange for the sun, and blue for the background.  I went ahead and punched out a few circles ahead of time with my 3" circle punch, but you could also have your students do this.



As I was introducing the craft in therapy, I had my students help me cut some yellow and orange strips in different lengths for the "sunbeams."  This provided a great opportunity to talk about basic concepts such as long, short, skinny, thin, and thick.


What different goals can you target with this easy craft activity?

  • Following directions - You can easily work this in as you are creating the sun craft!  Talk about what they need to do first, next, last, or what needs to go on the top, middle, or bottom of the page.
  • Basic concepts - While you are cutting out the construction paper shapes needed for the craft, you can have the students find the longest or thickest pieces.
  • Categories - Write the category name on the center circle, then brainstorm different items that fit the category to write on the sunbeams.
  • Synonyms & Antonyms - Have your students come up with synonym or antonym pairs to write on the different sunbeams.
  • Articulation/phonology - Brainstorm words or sentences with the student's target sound, write them on the sunbeams, then have the students practice saying each one a certain amount of times.  This is also great to send home, so parents can see what you are working on in therapy! (Bonus tip: Write the speech sound cues you are using on the back of the page, so the parents know how to discuss it with their students.)
  • Describing - I had my students use the Expanding Expression Tool to describe the sun, and we wrote the different attributes on different sunbeams.





May is Better Hearing and Speech Month!  I don't know about you, but I always make a point of observing BHSM at my school.  Yes, it takes some time and effort on my part, and I know that not everyone on staff will pay attention, but I firmly believe that anything I can do to help spread awareness of the profession is worth it.



To help spread awareness, I created this BHSM freebie (which you can find here in my TpT store) that I share with my staff throughout the month of May.  My goal is to share one or two of these items a week, so it lasts the whole month, but you could certainly choose one week to share everything.



First, I print out a few of the posters and place them in the teachers' lounge.  I also send out an email, letting staff know that the month of May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, and that there will be some small surprises to look out for over the next month.  I also let them know that there will be a special contest at the end, so they will definitely want to hang on to all the information if they want to win!



Then, I print the introduction letter and the "What Does an SLP Do Anyway?" handout front to back on a bright sheet of paper.  This goes in all staff mailboxes.


Over the next few weeks, I share the classroom communication tips handout, hearing protection handout with individually wrapped disposable earplugs (such as these from Amazon), water bottles and tags, and (new for 2017!) highlighters with tags.


At the end of the month, I share the BHSM quiz, letting teachers know that there is a special prize awarded to one random person who completes it.  (Let's face it, a little reward can go a long way! :))  Last year, I let the teachers know that I had a $10 TeachersPayTeachers.com gift card to give away, and that proved very motivating!


I deliberately chose questions that were answered on the different handouts, and I also made a point of including a question about what the letters "SLP" mean.  (I don't mind when my students call me "speech teacher," but I sure would like the adults to know my actual title!)

Tell me, how do you celebrate Better Hearing and Speech Month?

PS:  Want to see more ideas like this, sent straight to your email inbox?  Sign up for my email newsletter here!




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I recently had a grant funded by a local foundation, and after sharing about it on Instagram and Facebook, I had several people ask for more details.  So today, I would like to share with you about what I have learned about writing grants and where to find funding sources.


One thing I often hear people say is that they don't have the time to write an application, especially if there isn't money in the budget anyway.  Trust me, I understand the budget issue!  I currently get around $200 per year to spend on materials for my elementary and middle school caseload - and with 15-40 evaluations per year, that's easily spent on standardized test forms alone.  I spend a lot of my own money on therapy materials, as well as a lot of time creating my own.  (In fact, that's how I got started on TpT - I was working in a newly created position in my first three years fresh out of grad school, and there weren't initially many materials for me to use.)  But when it comes to the big ticket items, I just can't afford to spend that kind of money, even though my students would benefit from it.  And really, it didn't take that much time - once I found out about the grant opportunity, it took me about an hour to write the first grant, and only about 20 minutes for each subsequent one.

First, know exactly what you want.

 ... and more importantly, be able to explain *why* this is necessary to do your job.  Are all of your standardized tests years out of date, putting you at risk for a due process issue, as well as hindering your ability to appropriately assess students for special education services?  Do you travel between buildings, with no space to store or carry materials?  Be prepared to explain how a new iPad loaded with articulation, phonology, and language apps would make you better able to serve your students, while still remaining portable.

Be prepared.

...to explain what exactly it is you do, in a way that someone who is not familiar with our field - or even special education - would understand.  Address that first in whatever type of application you fill out.  Why are your services so valuable?  What does learning better communication skills mean for your students in the long run?  How many students do you serve, and what kind of communication difficulties do they have?

Don't forget to include information about yourself.  Who are you?  What is your background?  What are you passionate about?  What ties do you have to the community and/or school district?

The key to a successful grant application is to persuade whoever might fund your grant that your request is important and will help you help your students, and that speech and language skills are vital to educational success.

First, talk to your principal or supervisor.  

Be prepared with the information above, and be clear that you know this request isn't possible with your current budget, but you are looking for any other possible funding sources.  They may know of different local organizations, grants, or funds that you haven't heard about.  For example, when I requested the Expanding Expression Tool a few years ago, I was told it was out of my budget.  After explaining how I could use it to help my language students, and how it would also help improve their reading and writing skills, my principal was able to find me the money in some left over Title I funds.

I would advise starting on the district level.  Does your building have a Parent/Teacher Organization that helps teachers purchase certain supplies?  Does your district have a community foundation that awards grants?  These are often good places to start.  My husband (who is a first grade teacher in my building) recently got a grant for a class set of Kindles through our community foundation.

Next, are there any area foundations or businesses that will donate to school staff?  This is where you will need to ask around - ask other specialists and teachers in your area - or even your area Facebook friends! - if they have heard of anything.

This is how I found out about a foundation that awards grants specifically for special needs students in my Illinois county only.  (Apparently, the foundation was created with the leftover money and investments from a home for children with special needs in our county that closed down many years ago.)  This is where I received funding for two iPads, apps, and the new CASL-2, and also where my husband was able to get funding for a set of Hokki stools for his first graders.

I also know of a local Lions club that donated to help fund a child's cochlear implants that were not going to be covered by insurance.

Finally, consider state or national sources.  

DonorsChoose.org is a popular option, although it takes quite a bit of work on your part to make sure that potential donors know about your project.  Donors Choose encourages you to fund raise among your personal connections, although there are certainly anonymous donors that help fund projects as well.  From my research, you are most likely to be successful on Donors Choose if your project is $300 or less if at all possible, and you definitely need to keep it under $1,000.  It's more likely that several smaller projects will be funded, rather than one large one.

If you are a member of the NEA, they have Student Achievement Grants available for which school SLPs may apply - you can find more information at their website here. 

Also, check out this list on Edutopia for grants available around the country to see if you might fit the criteria for any grants listed.

You can also try googling "special education grants" and your city, county, or state.

Need an example?  Click on this link to be taken to a sample grant application.  


PS:  Don't want to miss a post or therapy idea?  Make sure to sign up for my email newsletter here:  www.bit.ly/NatalieSnydersNewsletter 


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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