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Games that require putting pieces on a structure - or taking them off - are easy, motivating, and fun. In therapy, they can also lead to competition that takes focus off speech and language goals. Keep reading to find out how to use these games while running effective therapy groups.
how to turn a board game into a cooperative game in speech therapy by All Y'all Need
Games like Monkeying Around, Yeti in My Spaghetti, Don't Spill the Beans, Don't Break the Ice, and many more, are easy to find, affordable and engaging. This cooperative method will work with any game that involves balance through either adding or taking away game parts.

Let's talk about Monkeying Around.
The object of this game is to put on all the monkeys without making the magnetic tree canopy fall down. If it does, the hungry alligator gets to eat the monkeys!
It's cute, it's fun, so what's the problem? Students start focusing on who makes the tree fall. And see the little spinner in the yellow circle? They get upset if a friend spins 3 and they spin a 1. The cries of "No fair!" start. And then behavior management. And speech and language goals get stuffed into a few minutes of precious therapy time.

Here's my solution:
* Don't use the spinner. Everyone gets 1 monkey per turn. No one focuses on who spun a 3 and who spun a 1.
* Because students are not focusing on the spinner, they can look through their stimulus cards or write words on their homework pages.
* Set a team goal, for example, the group has to work together to get 12 monkeys on the tree without it falling before getting a smelly smiley.
Lather, rinse, and repeat for any game that requires balance.

What about games that take away, like Don't Break the Ice? I also set a team goal for those. For example, I may require that students work until each student has 4 blocks. If all the blocks fall before that, they all go back into the tray.

The same result happens - students work together, don't blame the poor person who has to hit the ice cube that will make everything drop, and they can pay attention to what's going on while also working on homework pages between turns.

Be sure to check out How to Turn Board Games into Cooperative Games for more tips. And be sure to check back for more types of cooperative games.

Games are great motivators in speech therapy. And I love getting lots of data from open-ended turn-taking games. The downside? Games are games. And they can bring out competitiveness, cries of "No fair!" and not much focus on language skills. Cooperative games are my solution, and this method will work for open-ended board games!

I changed to cooperative games waaay back in 2002. You can read about my reasons for this in Cooperative Games. Suffice it to say, there was a group of 2nd-grade boys who tested ALL of my therapy skills. We weren't getting ANY work done. I had to change.

Open-ended games are some of my favorite therapy tools. I can address some drill & kill in mixed groups, get good hard data, and the games are pretty easy to set up. I frequently use the August-December and January through April game boards from Mia McDaniel - Putting Words in Your Mouth.

A typical session starts with assigning game pieces. I've tried different ways - letting students pick, shaking the pieces in my hand and drawing them out blind, and throwing them up in the air like confetti and seeing who catches which one. Not really, but it feels that way sometimes!

The best way to assign the game pieces is by shirt color. I can keep track of which pawn is whose at a glance - a handy thing when I'm keeping data, running the game, working with a small group, AND doing behavior management.

Next, we quickly review our speech and language goals for the session.

I explain the rules of the game. It should be pretty easy - take a turn, roll a die, first one to finish wins. It's not. Inevitably, one student will always roll the 1 while another always rolls the 3 (I only use 1, 2, 3 dice.) Here are the rules for a cooperative game:

* EVERYONE has to get to the end to get a reward. I use smellies (read about these here and here) because they are easy and motivating. Stickers and brag tags also work.
* The first one to finish still takes turns. They continue to roll and let another student move those spaces.
* If you roll the die off the table, you lose your turn.

That's it. Just 3 rules. The benefits are:
* Behavior management - the students are focused on working together to all finish the game.
* Focus on speech/language skills - the students aren't worried about who is ahead.
* Fewer cries of "No fair!", "He's cheating!", and "I'll never win!"

Usually, there is one student in the group who is one concerned about where everyone is on the game board. You know, the one who moans, "I'll never catch up!" or crows "I'm so far ahead of everyone!" Cooperative games give that student a chance to be helpful instead of telling other students they are behind or that they are cheating just because they rolled the 3 instead of the 1.

Another trick I like to use is to give each student a homework page and have them write their words between turns. The table can get a little crowded if there is a game, homework pages, and more than 4 students, but it does help with focus on speech and language skills.

While this works for 98% of my groups, nothing is 100%. I don't use cooperative games if students are working on social skills such as sportsmanship or playing games with peers.

I hope these these tips help you with your own groups. Be sure to check back for future posts on other types of games!

My class is obsessed with our Letter of the Week iMovie productions! It's a quick and engaging way to assess your students' knowledge of letter identification, beginning sounds, and capital/lowercase differentiation. I'll show you how to use iMovie with your students. First, here's an example:
Please note that I did edit one of our class iMovies for a preview. Most iMovies contain pictures of my students.

Activities Day-by-Day: 

Monday and Tuesday - Investigate the letter via books, songs, etc... Use your usual teaching tools.
Pretty easy so far, huh? Nothing new needed.
Wednesday and Thursday - Have your students walk around your classroom or school and take pictures of letters and objects that begin with the letter of the week. Send all of the photos via Dropbox- more on that below- and put them in whatever order you would like on iMovie.
Friday: Have a viewing party and watch the iMovie. The kids will want to watch it several times.

Don't feel discouraged if you don't have a class set of iPads or any iPads at all! Just use your iPhone! The students could search for objects and raise their hand once they have found their object/letter. Then, you'd just have to send them iMovie. I did this at the beginning of the year and it worked perfectly.

How to Set Up and Use Dropbox:

For security purposes, Airdrop is turned off at my school. I have 1:1 devices in my classroom, so I share all of the photos via Dropbox. I just send them to myself during nap time or after school. You can teach your kiddos to share photos via Dropbox....IF YOU'RE BRAVE! ;)

If you don't have Dropbox, go here to create an account. It's really easy and only takes 2 minutes max.

If you already have a Dropbox account, just make sure you sign in.

How to Make a 1-Minute iMovie: 

Reasons why I love Letter of the Week iMovies:
  1. The kids are completely engaged!
  2. Technology! Technology! Technology!
  3. The students feel a sense of pride because they are taking ownership of their learning!
  4. They get to yell, "That's what I found!" really loudly while the other students cheer.

As I prepare for parent conferences, I am so thankful for the "Parent Conferencer" tab on ESGI. I can create a schedule and print out conference letters within minutes! 

Here's how you can utilize the "Parent Conferencer" tool on ESGI: 

Go to the "Parent Conferencer" tab and add dates and times you would like to schedule conferences. 
Click and pull student names into desired time slot. 

Once all students have been placed in a time slot, click on the "Print All Letters" tab to print a conference letter to send home to parents. Each letter is generated with the students name and their conference time. *Spanish translation is also available! 

When it gets closer to conference time, click the "Print All Reminders" tab and send home a reminder letter to parents. 

Don't have ESGI? No problem! Try a free 60 day trial using the code B7165. You won't regret it! 

Ah, it's that time of the year. Therapy is rolling along, referrals are on a steady pace, it feels like whatever "balance" is might actually be achievable, and then the REMINDER on the calendar pops up - END OF REPORTING PERIOD. And suddenly, the prospect of writing multiple progress reports makes us lie on the ground in the fetal position. To help with your sanity, and to keep people from wondering why the SLP is speechless, we've rounded up a few tips to help SLPs get through progress reports.

Plan Ahead

I know, easier said than done. Try creating calendar reminders as a countdown, as in "2 weeks until reporting period ends", "1 week until reporting period ends", etc. Just plant a seed in your mind. You don't have to do anything with the reminder, unless you want to. It's kind of like allowing for a snooze (or few) on your morning alarm. When the final reminder of "Reporting Period Ends TODAY" comes up, you'll be less frantic.

Check the Data

At least two weeks before progress reports, take a quick look at the data for each student. Don't analyze the data. This should take no more than a few seconds for each student. Quickly make a list of students you need data for before writing the progress reports. Maybe a student has been absent due to sickness, or a student moved in mid-reporting period, or you yourself were out. This fast glance will tell you which students you need some good hard data before the due date. And yes, I've learned this the hard way for multiple reporting periods.


Consider writing progress reports for students who have services in addition to speech first. The Sp Ed teachers will thank you. If your data is already in the progress reports when the Sp Ed teacher is ready to print them, they might kiss your feet. Not really, but this act will go a looong way in working with them.

It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Chunk your assignment. How many reports can you reasonably write at one time? Is it a time limit, like 30 minutes? I tend to write my progress reports by groups. For example, I try to get through at least 3 groups at a time. Or complete all the reports for the morning groups, take a break, then concentrate on the afternoon groups. 

Make Sure Your Hard Work is Seen

You've done the therapy, the data collection, and written the progress reports. Make sure the right people get the progress reports, whether it's the teacher, parent/guardian, or student.

The progress reports I am required to use have tiny print. They are not user-friendly for reading. To solve the problem of distributing the progress reports, I use Progress Report Covers for SLPs. These are templates, and they are editable! I download one the pages, type in the common information (date, my name, and school/district). Then, I run off a bunch of the covers and write in the student's name and grade/teacher. The progress report covers are ready to staple on top of the progress reports! Parents/guardians and teachers have user-friendly print to know that the progress report is included.

Reward Yourself!

Progress reports are hard work. Treat yo self! And give yourself a big ole' pat on the back!

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