For the past 5 years, I've been a supervisor for wonderful licensed assistants. This year, I am doing therapy again. I couldn't find a high-tech way of keeping data, so I went back to my very low-tech way.

The basis is the Logbook from Super Duper. What I like about the Logbook is the size of the spaces. They are big enough for me to write in and write progress reports without flipping a lot of pages. And come to think of it, that is exactly what I want from my session notes and data - to help me be more efficient in writing progress reports and reporting information to ARD Committees.

What I don't like about the Logbook is that there is a LOT of information to fill out if you use the whole book. So, I don't. I will warn you that this takes time to set up and keep up, but I feel that it's worth it.

At the beginning of the year, after groups are scheduled, I write each student's objectives on a page and number them. Even if I've worked with the student for a while, this is a good way to review what they are working on and get ready for the new year. This is a kindergarten group:
And yes, I use a very sophisticated paper clip. The paper clip allows me to switch out pages easier than staples, and I can flip paper clips to easily get to the next group. This also means that I have to update each group after annual ARDs. The alternative for me is printing out pages of IEP goals and objectives that are not as condensed.

On the other side of the objectives, I keep the data for the sessions. In the Feb. 7 session, we played a HEARTS game from Speaking of Speech. Here is where I messed up. CC is actually working on #5, VC words, not #3. Here, he named all the words except for "oat", which I have room to document. It was also his first mastery session, so he gets a circled #1. Student AA is working on /l/ and /l/ blends. He only needs 4 of 5 trials, but he was on a roll, so we did a few extra, and he got 10/10 and a circled #1 for the first mastered session. Student BB is working on /s/ blends, and his objective doesn't specify with cues or not, so I made sure to notate that he imitated these words.

In the next session on Feb. 9, BB was 10 minutes late because he was doing hearing and vision screenings with the school nurse, so I just added a little note in the top right corner. For this session, we made Heart People. In addition to "oat", CC didn't produce arm, ant and up, so he's no longer at mastery criteria for this objective. Student AA had mastery session #2 for /l/ initial, and I added in some /l/ final words. Student BB was able to imitate at mastery criteria, so I made a note to myself to push him more the next time.
On Feb. 14, I didn't see this group because they all had Valentine parties. 
I'm still open to using data collection on my iPad. For now though, this system is easy for me to glance at each student's objectives and collect data quickly.
In speech therapy, I use what I call cooperative games. This means that everyone gets to finish the game and get a reward. If one or more students don’t finish, no one gets a sticker. Too politically correct? Possibly. Every grad student and licensed assistant I've explained this to thought I was crazy until they tried it. Cooperative games are absolutely functional for me.

Here's the background: in August 1993, I started my stint as a public-school SLP. I was fresh out of grad school and armed with Linguisystems’ Games to Go and a set of Literature Gems from DLM. For several years, I used a pattern of reading a book one session and using a related activity, often a game, the next session.
My first language resource and a Kite Game from Games to Go
Things changed in 2002. I had a group of four 2nd-grade boys. Student #1 worked on /r/ and knew how to push everyone’s buttons. Student #2 worked on language and reacted strongly to Student #1. Student #3 was working on /r/ and sometimes sided with Student #1 and sometimes with Student #2. Student #4 was also working on /r/ and had older siblings, so he ignored the drama, but he was obsessed with my data marks.

Here’s an abbreviated version of the session:

Me: Today, we are working on /r/ and sentences. Remember our rules and take turns.
#1: Look, I rolled a 4! I’m ahead of everyone!   
Me: We are focusing on your /r/ sounds, not where you are on the game board.
#2: (takes turn and rolls a 5)                                             
#1: No fair! He’s cheating!
#3: How is he cheating? He's not cheating!
Me: Remember our rules. 
#4: (looking at my notebook) Why do I have more minuses than plus marks?
#1: I finished (interprets that as cause to comment on others’ rolls and generally be disruptive. No incentive to keep working because he already finished the game)
#2 and #3: Why do we need to keep playing? #1 already won…                             
#4: Why do I have more minuses then plus marks?
Me: Arrrghhh!

Something had to change. The next session that we played a game, I explained that everyone had to finish in order to get a sticker. It wasn’t magic, but eventually things turned around. The first time, only one student finished the game, and I didn’t give anyone a sticker. But then the boys started saying, “Don’t talk! We won’t finish the game!” Behavior improved. And the bonus? Focus on speech/language skills followed!

For Student #1, having everyone finish the game brought out his helpfulness. He was still very aware of where everyone’s game piece was, but instead of accusing people of cheating, he knew what everyone needed to roll and who needed to help who (whom?). Students #2 and #3 were fine with this, so behavior calmed down. For Student #4, I changed from + and – marks to tally marks. He couldn’t interpret those, so he concentrated more on saying /r/ than looking at my data. At the end of each session, each student got a grade, so he still knew how he was doing.

As far as being politically correct, my feeling is that I only have the students for a short amount of time. Most of my students can learn about competition and sportsmanship during the rest of the day.  I need to focus on their speech/language goals and objectives, and I need them to focus on what they are working on.

If students are working on social skills, I still start out with cooperative games. The student learns that it is OK for someone else to finish first sometimes, and then we can work up to accepting winning and losing.

Here are the positives of running cooperative games:
·         Students can focus on speech/language skills, not on who is winning the game.
·        Cooperative games end the complaints of “Not fair!” Everyone finishes, and everyone gets a reward.
·        Students use positive peer pressure to get the whole group to finish the game.
·        Students help out other students.
·        By waiting until everyone finishes, the students who finish early are still engaged. They want everyone to finish the game.
·        Behavior generally improves. I usually only have to skip stickers one time. The next time, everyone remembers and wants to finish the game.
·        I keep my sanity. I think.

Here are a few examples:
Kite Game from Games to Go by Linguisystems: In this kite game, most of the cards just have kites, but there are also opportunities to get extra kites or have to put some back. I tell the students everyone has to have a certain number of kites, for example 6, by the end of the session. Instruction cards are only drawn once and then go to the middle of the table. 

SPRING Game from Speaking of Speech: The game includes 6 SPRING game boards and 6 sets of the letters. The object is to cover the chicks and bunnies with letters to spell out SPRING. If a student has an S and draws another S, there are two options. First, if another student needs an S, the S goes back into the envelope. If everyone else has an S, the S goes into the middle of the table so that we can move on to other letters. It sounds complicated, but my 3rd-5th-graders catch right on and can decide faster than I can whether to put the duplicate card back into the envelope or in the middle of the table. Once a student spells out SPRING, he continues taking turns and is able to give duplicate letters to other students who need them.

Chicks Hatching From Eggs is from Year-Round Literature by Super Duper, another resource I use often. In this game, there is a 1, 2, 3 or 10 on the cracked eggs. Students have to add up their eggs to reach a certain number of points, 15 for example.

Several years ago, my Special Ed. Director brought in an organizational expert. She introduced me to these wonderful file folders, and I'm going on year #10 of using them. They're a little expensive at $15.79 for only 4 at Staples, but they have been a lifesaver for my testing materials. Here's a close-up of one:
Before I used these files, my tests and protocols were all stacked on a shelf in my cabinet. Oh, I started off the year organized, but it didn't stay that way for long. I would grab tests and protocols and shove them back in wherever they fit. This system in the filing drawer is so much easier to use. I can grab what I need, and there's a dedicated, one-step place to put everything back in. 

Because I usually open from the side, here's the view I have:
Well, this is the view when I'm standing on a chair. I'm on the short side, but it's easier to show you this way. I know what tests and protocols I have and which ones I need. The only things that don't fit in here are the TOPS 2 and my box of Preschool Language Scale manipulatives. And really, how hard is it to mess up two boxes?

This picture is from February 2012. There is no way I would ever show you a picture of the cabinet I previously stored my tests in February. These folders make storing testing materials practical, easy and efficient.

The Idea: Microwave cake came to me the old-fashioned way - one of the ladies from my mom and dad's Sunday School class mentioned having a it at her last bridge party. It sounded interesting - just take 2 cake mixes and blend, put 3 tablespoons of mix and 2 tablespoons of water in a microwavable container, and nuke for 1 minute.

A Google search revealed the idea on Duncan Hines. Since I had to stop by HEB on the way home, I decided to go ahead and get the ingredients, even though I was a little leery. I grew up in a family of wonderful bakers, and cake mixes have just never done it for me. My mom always said that it took just as much time to back a cake from scratch as from a mix, so why not do the better one? And I really don't trust the microwave for baking.

The Process: Use one box of angel food cake mix plus any other flavor of cake mix. The only angel food cake mix was the HEB brand, and I got Red Velvet for my husband and daughter.

The angel food cake mix came with two packets, one for the egg whites and one for the cake.
The directions are to pour both mixes in a big baggie and mix up. I just dumped the two packets in along with the Red Velvet mix. Usually, I am very particular about this, but I figured that I wasn't missing out on much if  if didn't work. Shake the bag until all the mixes are combined. In this case, it turned the color of hot chocolate mix. Or the same color as my counter.
Measure out 3 tablespoons of mix and 2 tablespoons of water and mix in a microwavable container. I used a small Pyrex, but a coffee mug would probably work, too. 
The looks of it straight out of the microwave fit my expectations. It is not as good as a real cake. Coming from the microwave, it has the rubbery texture. But amazingly, it tasted less like cake mix than I expected. It's almost like using an Easy Bake Oven in half the time! I definitely think the whipped cream was called for, but it really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

The Good: It's easy. The mix can stay in the baggie in the pantry for quick snacks. Taste is pretty good.

The Bad: Rubbery texture. Adding frosting or whipped cream will downplay the texture! If you want a gooier cake, put the topping on right out of the microwave, and it will seep into the cake. Cool the cake if you don't want the topping to melt.

Summary: I'm keeping the baggie of cake in the pantry to see how often my family uses it for snacks. I still like my "from scratch" cakes better, but this is great for snacking and not baking a whole cake that won't get finished. It's very easy to remember 3 tablespoons of mix, 2 tablespoons of water, and 1 minute in the microwave. Has potential to be a keeper.

The Pin: Here is my crock pot. It was a wedding present. I didn't really want it, but my grandmother convinced me to keep it. She said I would use it someday. Because of Mama, I kept the crock pot, but I didn't really use it for 19 years.

Two years ago, I served as Lead Speech. That means I volunteered to be the go-to person for our speech therapy team. This involved monthly meetings. I know one meeting a month doesn't sound like a whole lot, but when school and departmental meetings also factor in, the speech meeting is difficult to schedule in. We were all on different campuses and had to clear our schedules and travel to one spot. So I bribed them with lunch. The easiest way to do that? Pull out the ole' blue Rival! Mama was always right. I miss her terribly.

Along the way, I learned a few things. Tip #1: Always use a liner.

I found these at my local HEB for $1.94. It's a little expensive for 4. I think that as recently as last year, I could buy a package of 5 with twisties, but I love them. They are on the aisle with baggies and foil. The liners are made for bigger crock pots, but I just smush it in. It makes for super easy clean-up, as well as no-spill transport.

Tip #2: Any 13 x 9 casserole will work in a crock pot. Two years ago, Pinterest and its multiple crock pot recipes didn't exist. I used several casseroles: Chicken and Ritz Crackers, Baked Spaghetti, and even Chicken Enchiladas from Rebecca Rather. Most of these recipes will fit into layers in a 13 x 9 pan. I just double the layers in the crock pot.

Last night, I made my mom's King Ranch casserole recipe. The layers are: corn tortillas, chicken mixture, and cheese, and repeat. I used three layers instead of two in the lined crock pot.

My crock pot is on the small side, about 3 1/2 quarts. The 13 x 9 recipe fits nicely, and there is room at the top.

Tip #3: Twisties go well with liners. I made the King Ranch last night for lunch today. I just tied the liner with a twistie because the lid is loose, and I wanted to store the casserole in the fridge.

Twisties also came in handy when I took my lunches to the speech meetings. No fear of spills in the car! This especially worked the day I made Taco Soup. I'm a little disappointed that the twisties no longer come with the liners, but luckily I have a few stocked away.

For casseroles or soup, now that the liner is tied up, just put the whole thing in the refrigerator, store overnight, untie the liner, and turn on low the next morning for lunch.

Use liners for easy cleaning, use casserole and soup recipes to expand your crock pot's repertoire, and stash twisties for no spills!

The Pin: Warm flour tortillas from HEB. Here is my exchange today with the cashier, obviously a nice guy but a newbie.

Cashier: How did you get the flour tortillas warm?
Me: They are the tortillas from the warmers.
Cashier: Really? We have those? Are the tortillas good?
Me: Yes.
Cashier: Can you just pull them out and eat them?
Me: Yes, that's what we do.
Cashier: I may have to go get some.
Me: There are also other flavors, but they aren't warm.
Cashier: Really?
Me: Yes, Southwest, butter, wheat...

Is this conversation backwards to anyone else? I mean, I've never worked at HEB, but I do know their products!

The Good: We go through HEB flour tortillas like candy.

The Bad: They are basically just flour and carbs.

Summary: We can't quit buying them!
The Pin: From Kabubble.

                                                Source: via Laura on Pinterest

These are artistic Valentine people. But what caught my eye is that my school's die-cut heart is a frame and a solid. Cutting out a few die-cut hearts and paper slips would be fairly easy. I love easy set-ups.

The Good: Besides the simple supplies, my grad student and I were able to do this activity with K-5th and Functional Academics, so it is easy to adapt to different IEP goals. There are lots of artic words, and for language, there is sequencing, vocabulary, answering questions, and following directions.

Here is the take-off of a glyph I made using BoardMaker. The students answered questions based on their IEP objectives to put together the heart people. For example, a student working on /r/ might have to work on the /r/ in "purple". A student working on initial sounds would have to say /p/ for "purple". Language students working on sequencing would say, "First, I need..". The possibilities are endless.

The color of the border is the color of the body part the students got. For the hands and feet, they used a heart punch, and we drew on eyes with crayons. That just matched the glyph. Googly eyes would be very cute. And I promise that if I knew how, I would have uploaded this so it could be printed off.

Here are the heart people examples:

The heart person on the left likes pink, likes New Year's Day, wants flowers, has a boyfriend, and wants a box of candy. The one on the right likes purple, another holiday (like July 4th), wants candy, doesn't have a boyfriend, and likes gum.

The Bad: Absolutely nothing.

Summary: Easy, flexible activity for Valentine's Day.

This week, the church nursery director called to give me the heartbreaking news that another volunteer had miscarried. I sent a card. It was difficult knowing what to write, but I definitely knew what NOT to say. I miscarried 15 years ago, and although people were well-meaning, I spent some moments of the next few days being offended and dropping my jaw in disbelief.

What did not help me:
"It was meant to be this way." Yes, I know that God has a plan for everything and that I am meant to live by believing and not by seeing. This was not something I needed to hear at the time.

"There was probably something wrong with the baby." "It may have had a lot of problems if it was born."  Really? I'm a speech pathologist, and my husband is a counselor. We had often wondered if God was preparing us for special-needs children. We would have gone through with the pregnancy no matter what. And never refer to the baby as in "it". That just tops the insensitivity list.

"You'll have another one." First of all, this is a personal decision. Second, unless the person speaking is a doctor, this statement is worthless. Third, I remember thinking, "But I wanted this baby." Acknowledge the baby.

"At least you already have a healthy child". Yes, I'm thankful. But don't brush off this baby.

What helped me:
"What do you need?" Time and prayers.


Understanding when I was distracted at work. 

Words of sympathy. 

Heaven is for Real. I just read this book last year, but I was bawling when I read the part of the boy meeting his sister in heaven. The parents had never told their son of the miscarriage, and yet the sister was there.

Held by Natalie Grant. A song that came out years afterward but drew forth some powerful emotions.

As I wrote in the card, I couldn't believe that I filled up the inside and part of the back. I usually just sign my name to cards. I hope that the mother and family find it comforting and not offending.

When I signed up for Pinterest in July 2011, I didn't find very many speech therapy boards. Boy, how quickly things have changed! I have found so many good ideas, bloggers and resources. And the good thing is that I can organize my finds in a way that's functional for me.

Recently, I saw a round-up of teacher's blogs and pins on Pinterest, so I thought, why not have one for speech therapists? I'm following several wonderful boards, but I'm sure there are many more out there. Add yours by clicking the button below - either link to your blog or to your Pinterest boards.
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