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Matching games, Memory, Concentration - whatever you call it - can add some fun and are a good alternative to solid drill and kill. There can be some problems in mixed groups - the artic students get the cards without their sounds, the language students can't remember where the matches are in a large visual field, and there is always one student who snatches up all the matches in half the therapy time.

I'm left without good data, extra time in therapy, and unhappy students who didn't get enough turns.

I need more control in these games.
Much like board games and balance games, I've turned matching games into cooperative games.

I'm not against competition. I am all for using therapy time efficiently, and the usual Memory rules mess that up. I always have one student who gets a match and then runs through the rest of the matches. Artic students don't want to say words if a another student gets their match. Some students immediately give up because there are too many cards to remember.

My first solution is to halve the cards. It's pretty easy to do so with cards from Super Duper Inc. because they are numbered and lettered, as in 1A, 1B.

These cards are also easy to separate because there is a word on one side and a question on the other.
speech therapy memory games
After the cards are separated, I can control which one students are looking for. I distribute one pile to the group. This works well in mixed groups. I can give the /s/ cards to the artic student. I can choose the vocabulary words the student needs to work on. Students are matching cards containing their IEP objectives. I get data.

By passing out half of the piles, the visual field is automatically reduced. Students who are easily frustrated by a tableful of blank white cards can breathe easier. There aren't as many cards to remember.

The next adjustment I make is that students only get one turn at a time. Even if a student gets a match, we move on. That way, the one student with the perfect visual memory isn't sweeping up all the cards.

Once a student finds all of the matches, a small reward is offered - a smelly smiley, a sticker, or high five. By taking one turn at a time, the group usually finishes the game around the same time. If the group is having trouble waiting for turns, I make the whole group wait until everyone finds their matches before giving a reward.

Don't be afraid to run very small matching games. In self-contained rooms, I've given students 1-2 cards to match. For students who have a primary eligibility other than speech, a big matching game can be too much. By giving them a visual and only putting 2-4 upside down cards on the table, they can work on turn-taking while also having fun "finding" their matches.

If you like these tips, be sure to pin this post for future reference.

 How to turn matching games into cooperative games in speech therapy to address student IEPs and work efficiently
I've also turned other types of games into cooperative games. Read more at:
How to Turn Board Games into Cooperative Games
How to Turn Balance Games into Cooperative Games

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Here's a link to our videos:

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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.

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