Copyright 2014, Natalie Snyders, SLP. Powered by Blogger.
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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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.


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