Sunday, July 26, 2009

What Kind Of Cat Are You?

As I was driving home this evening after visiting my son, I was listening to one of my favorite radio programs, the Playground on WERS ( WERS is available via the internet, I encourage you to tune in to their wide variety of music at all hours! The song "What Kind of Cat Are You?" by Billy Jonas came on and I began to think as I listened to the lyrics, this song would be a great starting point for a really cool Project Based Learning mini-lesson. So, I pondered for the rest of the drive, and I am now going to give you the link to Billy Jonas' web site where you can listen to the song and look at the lyrics, and some of my thoughts about activities and ways to use the song as a curriculum tool. I encourage you to think of more and post them back if you like!
Click on song title to see lyrics.

Create your own what kind of CVC word are you song. Divide class into small diverse groups. Have them listen to the song and read the lyrics (or use text to speech) Print out lyrics in needed formats (large print, Braille, etc.) Have each group choose (or assign) a CVC word that has multiple opportunities for use in a "Cat Song." Have the students use dictionaries and encyclopedias both paper based and electronic to develop their own "Cat Song" which they will eventually record with Garage Band. Students who use AAC could use their devices to participate. Students who are more significantly involved could use a "Big Mac" or other communicator to lead the call part of the song and peers do the response for the recording. Extension activities could include vocabulary and writing activities with new words learned.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mr. Potato Head

I am working with a preschool student who is very typical in many ways except speech production. She has a decent sign vocabulary and picked up communication symbols quickly. We began her on a Springboard Lite this spring. I was working with her last week and we were playing with Mr. Potato Head. I decided to model the use of the color page near the end of our session, and after showing her 1x, this is what she came up with, a couple miss hits, then, BAM! "I want blue shoes." Thus our Mr. Potato Head was complete with about 8 arms, 2 tongues, and 2 sets of blue shoes! (This was not a mistake, it was exactly what she wanted, she gives a false name when using the Springboard and thinks it's hysterical!)

Monday, July 20, 2009

What a Bargin!

Guess what, another post about, shopping!! I have been driving by the W.B. Mason Warehouse in South Boston for ages and the other day, purely on a whim drove in, groceries in the car, company coming, a great time for impulse shopping! I wasn't sure if they had office supplies, but the sign said they did, so I just wanted a quick look to see what they had! BONANZA!!!! Print cartridges, binders, desk supplies, all sorts of cool stuff. I bought a dozen small 3 ring binders, great for communication books (8 1/2" by 5 " I think) for 75 cents each! I bought 2 packs of clear ink jet printable window paper for a dollar each, a cartridge for my label maker ( I make my own Zoom caps) for a dollar, and wait for it.... a $300 HP wide format printer open box, but completely wrapped still for $40. I told the lovely folks at the desk I was going to keep this my little secret, but they insisted that it was better for all if I spread the word! So, for all 9 of you that read this and live in the New England area, there are bargain outlets that have supplies in South Boston and New Jersey!

Happy Shopping!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Leadership Day 2009

This is in response to Dangerously Irrelevant's call for posts...
Learn to use what is on your computer. Create and utilize policy that will ensure every employee in your district knows what is on the computer in his or her classroom, office, lab, etc. This includes the Internet. School systems spend untold amounts of money on software, tools, technologies, unimaginable amounts of time on recreating the wheel, and store massive amounts of materials, when a good portion of those things are already available on the existing computers. They are the universal design features built into operating systems, the unused tools in standard software programs and suites, freeware, shareware, open source and Linux software, and websites. Allow access to and provide professional development in utilization of Web 2.0 technologies.

Work to close the digital divides. It still exists in many households. The current trend toward “cloud” based services is going to leave these families even further behind.

Invest in Universal Design for Learning: In addition to encouraging your staff to use more effectively what is already on the computers provide support, training and encouragement, to use those tools to enliven their teaching, and reach and include more successfully a broader range of students. Make sure that every teacher, para-professional, and related service provider can show a student how to make the text larger on the screen, and enable text to speech. When purchasing new materials make sure they meet UDL criteria (

When the UDL features are not enough to provide student access make a commitment to delivering a full range of assistive technology devices and services to your learners. Have staff dedicated to Assistive Technology implementation if your district is large enough. Ensure that the proper ongoing training for staff, student, parents, and others is provided so that challenges can be resolved and the greatest chance of success is achieved.

Believe in your students.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Another entry in the Freeware/Shareware series.
iReadFast is intended to be for speed reading, but I am somewhat skeptical of it claims. I do think it might be a great tool for kids with tracking problems and as a tool for helping kids develop reading fluency. It has a ton of different settings and variables that I have only begun to explore. I am particularly intrigued by the idea of putting in Dolch or other frequently used phrases or material for kids to practice reading in a kind of fun yet challenging way. Start really slow and speed up, see how many you can get right!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


We wonder why kids have such a hard time learning to read and write. I have been teaching for 20 years. I read and write at a fairly advanced level. I recently got my Masters degree with a fairly high GPA, and yet just spent 15 minutes trying to figure out whether my other blog's name was spelled correctly. Or is that spelt, no that has a little red line under it, therefore it must be wrong, unless I am writing about a certain kind of flour, and if I were, then I did indeed spell it correctly, despite the protests of my computer. And therefor looked wrong without an e at the end but didn't have a squiggle, but I added an e (therefore) and it looked better and still didn't have a squiggle, but now didn't has a squiggle, but squiggle, which really shouldn't be a word at all doesn't have a red squiggle, so when did contractions fall out of use in the English language. Oh, and by the way, it seems that either whiney or whiny is acceptable.
PS Now after previewing my post, it seems that contractions are okay, but whiney is unacceptable, despite the fact that most online dictionaries seem to list both as okay. Auuurrrrrgggghhhh. And yes that has a red squiggle under it!

Monday, July 6, 2009

There once was a young man named Sam,
Whose speech was like that of a clam,
So we got him a box,
With the name, Dynavox,
Now he’s a conversational Grand Slam!

I have been working with a SLP in our district to get a Dynavox for one of our high school students, and it finally came in last week. Sam had been using a laptop with Boardmaker Plus as a communication device while we waited for his device to come in. He is very proficient at locating vocabulary, expressing his needs, and had even begun to create his own boards. He is still working on creating longer sentences, staying on topic, and some of the finer points of conversation. I made a home visit to get the device set up and found that the family had already done a good job of setting up the device, but that the device had not shipped with Speaking Dynamically Pro. We made some initial changes and I gave them a brief rundown of the InterAACT software, but we decided to go ahead and try to get the device unlocked and put SDPro on the device as he was already well versed in its use, but to also try to use the existing software. I did a second home visit today to let them know that the unlock code was on the way and to try to merge his old boards while we were waiting. Sam brought the Dynavox out, and proudly showed me two new boards that he had programmed on his own based on printouts and manual boards from his old system! He used the “my picture” templates built in which we had briefly discussed on my first visit to make boards for his job at the aquarium! Can I just tell you I had goose bumps, I was teary, I was so excited that the family now thinks I am a total nut job! It had to be one of the most amazing moments in my career!
Just wanted to share!

Super simple free application

I was looking through some freeware/ shareware/ open source/ linux sites yesterday and came across Reading Guide, a simple little application that I am going to try with several kids in the fall. See the video and check it out.
I apologize if you can hear Hoda and Kathie Lee in the background, but it is summer vacation after all!