In Alignment

12 Sep

Yogis like to be in alignment.  So do Speech & Language Therapy goals in a school setting.  And now, here at PS20, all of the Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade Speech-Language therapy goals are aligned with the Common Core Curriculum Standards.

As explained in a previous post, the Common Core Standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education. Students who have Speech & Language disorders often have trouble mastering these skill sets.  Speech and language therapy in our school focuses on helping students with speech and language disorders access the classroom curriculum and master the skill sets defined in the Common Core Standards.

In an effort to increase collaboration with classroom teachers and in striving for a more interdisciplinary approach to Speech-Language therapy, I have spent time this summer dissecting the Common Core Standards and looking at ways to align student Speech/Language therapy goals to address grade level skill sets.

On the bulletin-board outside my classroom, teachers and parents can see which Common Core Standards we are addressing in therapy.  The big domains we work on in therapy are articulation, phonics, sequencing/ story retells, morphology, syntax, fluency,pragmatics/conversational skills and vocabulary/semantic relationships between words.  The language of the Common Core Standards are now reflected on student’s IEP‘s in their measurable annual goals.

Here is an example of an aligned goal:

“Given a general conversational prompt or when retelling an orally presented story, {FirstName} will orally construct sentences containing appropriate morphologic features (word endings) such as plurals (trees, dishes), possessive (boy’s), articles (a, an, the), present progressive -ing (running), regular and irregular past tense (spilled, wrote), third person singular (he walks), comparatives/superlatives (-er, -est), negation (not, or un as in unhappy), reflexive pronouns (themselves, myself) and prepositions (in, on, under, behind, beside, between, in front).”

A student with a language disorder may have difficulty discriminating between and using word endings and appropriate morphological features.  When you look at the Common Core Standards for Kindergarten, First and Second grade, students are expected to construct sentences that include a variety of  word forms, depending on the grade.

Each IEP goal will have a corresponding rubric that I can use to track where a student is at in September and measure growth throughout the year.  In the example above, I would be collecting a student’s language sample at 3 or 4 points over the course of the school year to see if their use of word endings and prepositions is increasing and approaching competency.

I’m excited to have finished with this little project as I know it will help us build upon our already strong and integrative special education program here at PS20.

Please feel free to contact me by email or stop by my office if you have questions or want to talk more about this!


Must Have Back-to-School Apps for Speech-Language Therapy & the Classroom

6 Sep

Screen Shot from iPhone Story Builder App

Welcome back to school!  I hope everyone had a restful summer and is feeling rejuvenated and inspired to get back to work with our kiddos!

I just finished freshening up my iPad with some great new Speech & Language Apps to use in therapy this year.  While there are dozens I could review (and hopefully over time I’ll get to some more), I wanted to let you all know about a few great ‘must-have’ back to school Apps for those of you who are experimenting with using the iPad or iPhone (less ideal because of the small screen, but still perfectly functional) in classrooms and in therapy sessions.

Super Duper Fun Decks and Question Cards are a staple in any Speech-Language Pathologists bag o’ tricks.  Instead of using the Super Duper Fun Decks, which, let’s be honest, are really just glorified flash cards, you can avoid the clutter and have a far more interesting, engaging display for students by downloading a number of different illustrated picture cards with prompts to your iPhone or iPad.   Click here to see a current listing of all Super Duper Speech and Language Apps.   Super Duper has even rolled out some new Apps to increase efficiency and productivity for  teachers and therapists.  Check out the Age Calculator and Data Tracker to see if they will work for you in your practice.

Another great App for Back to school is the Common Core Standards App.  The Common Core Standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education.  They are meant to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.   Many states have already adopted the Common Core Standards, New York being one of them.  To see if your state is using the Common Core Standards to guide classroom instruction and curriculum, click here.

Here is the link for the Common Core Standards App, which is designed for the iPhone or iPad.  You can sort by subject and grade level to see the exact skills and knowledge that students will be expected to know this year.

Finally, I love the These apps from The Mobile Education Store.  All of their “Builder Apps” (Language Builder, Sentence Builder, Question Builder, Story Builder, Conversation Builder) were specifically designed to help elementary age children improve their language skills.  I have used these apps with my students who are struggling with syntax or narrative skills.  I’ve downloaded the newest one, “Conversation Builder”, and am looking forward to trying it out this fall.

Stay tuned for some exciting new community-based Speech & Language lesson plans for our students this coming year!

Free or Inexpensive After School & Summer Programs

27 Jun

If you live in Manhattan or Brooklyn and are looking for free or inexpensive after school and summer programs for your child or your students, please click on the document link below.  The list consists of programs that are available to students from PS20 but after all of the research that went in to compiling this list I should be able to answer questions and help point you in the right direction if you are looking for something different!

Hard copies of this list will also be available in the main office at PS20.

Have a wonderful summer everyone!

Afterschool & Summer Programs PDF

Great Find for NYC Parents: Summer Fun Guide!

23 Jun


I have been getting a lot of questions from parents about after-school and summer programs for their kids.  I’m in the middle of a bigger-than-I-thought little project over here, putting together a spreadsheet of information to help navigate most of the free or affordable programs in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

While this is taking more time than I thought to compile, I wanted to share one great resource that I stumbled upon through my research on this topic.

It’s a website called Mommy Poppins – Things to do in NYC with Kids.  This website is written by local parents who find (mostly free) off-the-beaten-track enriching activities to do with kids.  They post new content every day and share what they think are the best weekend happenings every Wednesday.  The website covers activities in all 5 boroughs and consists of guides to help you find ClassesSummer Camps,Birthday Party IdeasMuseums and ExhibitsIndoor ActivitiesDay Trips and Travel Ideas and more.

Most relevant now is their Summer Fun Guide– and most of the activities they list are completely free!

Their event calendar features great things to do every day.  If you are looking for something specific, you can search the site or use the category tags to filter their information.  You can also sort posts by age or location by clicking on the colorful tabs underneath their logo.

Finally, if you sign up for their free newsletter, you’ll receive emails with all of their updates.

Enjoy looking around on their website and I’ll be back soon with a comprehensive list of after-school and summer programs!

Ten Tips for Working With A Speech Pathologist

6 May

My sister-in-law (also a Speech Pathologist) sent me this article from EducationNews this morning.  It made me laugh so I thought I would pass it along.  It’s important that the people we work with understand who we are! 🙂  I’m definitely guilty of all of these and appreciate the author’s willingness to shed light on on these largely truthful quirks in a light-hearted, endearing way.  The article was written by Penny Castagnozzi, co-director of Reading with TLC and proud partner/sister of Nancy Telian, M.S., CCC-SLP! 

Ten Tips for the SLP-Blessed:

1        Don’t even bother to ask, “Do you know what you’re going to do today?” Of course she knows what she’s going to do. She’s a Speech-Path! She made her mental list the night before and has been rehearsing it ever since, unless she’s written it down on a small piece of paper, which she’ll copy neatly onto another, larger piece of paper right after she has her first cup of  coffee.

2        If there’s any verbal confusion, it’s your fault. She’s a speech pathologist, and knows how to express her thoughts – all of them – all of the time.

3        Nobody takes more notes than a Speech-Path. They may not be legible, or organized, but the thoughts are on the paper! (Without being conspicuous, continue to take your own notes at meetings so you can read and understand the important facts!)

4        Nothing is simple. A statement like, “He has a sore throat,” will surely be followed by, “What time exactly did this start? What was he eating at the time? Did you take his temperature? What do you mean by normal? Is it his normal or everyone’s normal? Are you sure he hadn’t had ice cream right before you took his temperature? Does he have any rash? Maybe we should x-ray his throat to make sure there is no bone sliver in it! Did you feel his neck? Were his glands swollen? (I know – you’re thinking, “These are actually all very good questions to ask.” That’s my point! Of course it all sounds reasonable to you -you’re an SLP!)

5        They are like elephants. No, I’m not calling them gray and wrinkled…that would be describing me right now. What I mean is that they never, ever forget anything that happened in the distant past. What’s amazing is that not only to they make mental notes that seem to last forever, but, when asked, they can pull these figures and facts out of thin air in any disagreement.  Are they all true? I don’t know! I clearly do not have the kind of memory to know this or I wouldn’t have asked Speech Path in the first place! Sometimes the memories are just a wee bit too vivid and detailed to be believable, but how can you prove that something thirty years ago wasn’t true if you’ve already admitted your ignorance by asking the question?

6        Don’t try to compete with their work ethic. Speech Paths can, and will, stay up all night to finish an important project, an evaluation, a paper, or a speech. Just say, “I don’t know how you do it!” as you wave to them and drag your weary body off to bed or out of the room.

7        Be prepared for long emails. In the spirit of thoroughness (Yes, “thoroughness” is a word, and I’ll email you the web page that proves it so you’ll believe me!)  every detail of every thought will be put on paper to explain a point. Maybe we should start an email “game” with them, called “Say it in Three!” There are only two rules to this game. One – in any email, there can only be three sentences. Two – no sentences are allowed to have more than 4 clauses. It’s not that I don’t need and appreciate the information, but my brain (remember, I’m 52) can only hold on to three details. That’s it.  If I ask for directions to a location, only give me the first three steps. After that, I’m pretending to listen. (I know what you’re thinking, “Hmmm, poor short term memory for linguistic information…this woman clearly needs some intervention…)

8        Expect them to find flaws. Don’t take it personally – it’s their profession that causes this behavior. They’ve been trained to look for imperfections in speech and language. Looking for something to fix comes naturally to them, and the skill transfers much too easily to other areas of life. On a day you’re prepared to speak in front of an audience of 100 people, you may be standing there minutes before the presentation starts, confident in your tailored slacks and the jacket that hides everything you don’t want the world to see.  Speech Path comes up to you and whispers, “You have something white in your hair – I’ll get it” or “There’s a string hanging here – let me pull it,” or “There’s some black under your eye… no, there…no, a little higher…” It’s a wonderful esteem booster.

9        Enjoy the fullness of life with a Speech Path. Because of all the details they notice and report to you, you’ll live more richly, see more fully,  step more securely, and, if you’re with a Speech Path that’s just like mine, laugh more heartily. They are truly involved in all they come in contact with, and that vitality and commitment to make things better is not only endearing, but commendable. The world is a better place because of Speech Paths.

If you see yourselves in this article, pass the tips on to those you love or those who may occasionally react to you with a smile and a slight wince. If you don’t recognize any of these traits, just explain this article away as merely a way for some poor middle-aged soul who needed to vent openly (nationally?) about a sibling she may be spending a little too much time with lately! Oh, and for those of you who are disturbed because I had promised ten tips…I just wanted to see if you were paying attention! I knew you would be – you’re Speech Paths!

The full article can be found by clicking here.

In the News: Parents’ Ums And Uhs Can Help Toddlers Learn Language

15 Apr

I’ve posted a bit about stuttering lately, and this article from yesterday’s NPR Health Blog is a very cute, informative and related follow up. 

While language modeling for young children can be critical to how they develop language,  don’t worry about having perfectly fluent and smooth speech when talking to your kids!  Research from the University of Rochester suggests that when parents have disfluencies in their speech (or fumble over their words) children learn to anticipate that an unfamiliar or “big” word may follow and it may in fact help them to learn new words and acquire language.

You can click on this link below to access the short article on NPR’s Health Blog:

Teaching Vocabulary: How Do We Learn New Words?

12 Apr

Students learn vocabulary most effectively when given opportunities to construct meaning rather than simply memorizing definitions, synonyms and antonyms.  To this end, there is no time and place to teach vocabulary, but it is a part of everything we do as teachers, parents and therapists.


When children learn to talk, they learn to say their first words by repeatedly hearing the words for concrete items in their environment.  Words like, “ball,” “cup,” “more,” “big,” “juice” are words kids learn first because they occur frequently in their environment.  Little kids learn and acquire new words through repeated exposure to them.  So do school aged children.

For school aged children, giving a definition for a new word usually isn’t good enough.  A child isn’t really experiencing a word or filing it away in their personal word bank for future use, by reading or hearing a definition.  Research suggests that It takes a minimum of 15 encounters with a new word for a student to understand and use the word independently.  In addition, words are nuanced.  There are subtle distinctions and variations between words that mean the same thing (synonyms) and unless children have the chance to interact with each of these words, experience them and engage with them it’s probably not going to stick.

Asking the right kinds of questions and helping students to make connections among words that they already know can be very effective.  Asking questions like, “Where have you heard this word before,” “Can you think of another meaning for this word,” or just talking about word meanings and being silly with definitions (substitute other words that don’t make sense or sound funny) help kids to expand the way they think about words.  If we build confidence and competence in dissecting and connecting words that students already know, this skill will start to translate and help kids “problem solve” when they encounter unfamiliar words.


One technique that most Speech Pathologists use with the little ones for stimulating language is focused stimulation. This is a pretty simple technique, but needs to be intentional and planned out.  The clinician decides on the target word for the mini-lesson and uses it over and over again while interacting with the child.  The idea is not necessarily to require a response or repetition from the child, but to expose them to a new word repeatedly, in a natural setting.  This can take place while playing a game or reading a book and is very different from simply making a child repeat new words.

If you’re interested in learning more about using Focused Stimulation, click here for some examples and a great summary of this simple technique.


It’s also good to keep in mind that vocabulary doesn’t just refer to the words we speak.  Sometimes we read or hear words that we would never use, but we still know what they mean.  So are these words a part of our vocabulary (words that we would never use, but know what they mean)?  Yes.  We have a receptive vocabulary and an expressive vocabulary.

Judy Montgomery, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Professor, Chapman University has identified four kinds of vocabularies.  That is, our listening, speaking, reading, and writing vocabulary. Research shows that when you teach or target one of those categories, it has a large impact on the others.  So learning a new word is most effective when we can hear it, see it, read it, and write it.


Here are just a few of the games/ materials I use with kids to help build exposure and experience with new words:

Here are some links to internet games/ activities for building vocabulary (these links can also be found on the homepage under the link Category: Building Vocabulary Internet Games):

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