Motivation, humor, and ideas that every school-based
speech-language pathologist will love!

Start a Dance Party in Speech Therapy with Dance Party Articulation

posted on April 26th, 2016 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Start a Dance Party in Speech Therapy with Dance Party Articulation

I love parties. Birthday parties and holiday parties are probably two of the most common types of parties out there. But do you know what my all-time favorite type of party is? A good, old-fashioned dance party! Crank up the tunes and get your boogy oogy oogy on because their ain't no party better party than a dance party!

Am I right?!

As a form of non-verbal communication, dancing allows people of all ages the opportunity to express thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a manner that explores and encourages rhythmic body movements. In my experience, when most children are exposed to music and are given the chance to dance, they do so with a massive smile. That's why I feel it's essential that we, as speech-language pathologists, make a conscious decision to infuse music and dancing into our teaching activities whenever possible. It just makes learning that much more fun for school-aged students.

I made a new app for all you dancing fans out there!

After months and months of hard work, my latest speech therapy app called Dance Party Articulation is finally available for download on the Apple App Store (please download it to your iPad and/or iPhone today!). This musical app is a comprehensive collection of over 500 wacky and hilarious dance instructions designed for speech-language pathologists to use with individuals who exhibit difficulty producing the following speech sounds: S, Z, R, L, S/R/L Blends, SH, CH, and TH. It's intended to aid in the remediation of articulation impairments, as well as auditory and language difficulties because clients often need practice in more than one area of communication.

For example:

Let's say your kiddo is working on improving his /S/ sound. With Dance Party Articulation, all you have to do is tap on the /S/ section within the app and you'll gain access to dozens and dozens of silly /S/ dance moves like, "Dance like you’re a superhero. Show your super power." After you and your student work on saying that particular /S/ sentence and talking about the sentence, you both can tap on the Play button to start a random dance song that will allow for everyone in the room to dance like a superhero! Maybe you might flex your muscles to the beat? Maybe you might pretend that you're wearing a cape and flying all around the room while the music is jamming? There's no such thing as a wrong dance move, so let your imagination go wild!

In closing . . .

I invite you to check out Dance Party Articulation so you can use these dance instructions to spice up your speech therapy sessions. All of the dance instructions are intended to initiate excitement and humor. And in all honesty, each dance instruction has the potential for leading almost anywhere. Even a dance instruction that appears simple can trigger a unique thought process that happily surprises all parties involved. So what are you waiting for? Download Dance Party Articulation today and shake your groove thang while you practice proper pronunciation!

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Drawing Tricks and Doodling Fun That Your Speech Therapy Students Will Love [Free Download]

posted on April 18th, 2016 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Drawing Tricks and Doodling Fun That Your Speech Therapy Students Will Love [Free Download]

A few years ago, a buddy of mine (hi Brian!) randomly showed me this interesting YouTube video that featured a cartoonist writing the word "boy" on a piece of paper. Then, with a few marker strokes connecting certain letters, the cartoonist turned the word "boy" into an actual cartoon drawing of a boy! It was so simple, yet so magical. After watching the video a few times, I was able to memorize the drawing trick and since learning it, I've shown the "boy" drawing trick to dozens and dozens of students. Kiddos seem to always get a kick out of it and they usually say things like, "Haha! So cool!"

Some students really like to draw.

When we work with children to help increase their communication abilities, it's important for us, as speech-language pathologists, to know the likes and dislikes of our clients. Once we have this information, we're able to create the best learning activities for our students that can perfectly coincide with their goals and objectives. Bringing it back to drawing, sometimes I'll work with a student who truly loves to doodle. And whenever I notice a student's love for doodling, I'll always show him/her the "boy" drawing trick that I learned from YouTube.

Jay really liked to doodle.

One time I showed a kiddo named Jay the "boy" drawing trick. This 3rd grader was completely blown away. In fact, he was so blown away that I thought he was actually being sarcastic to me because he kept saying, "WHOA!" over and over again. But he wasn't being sarcastic, he was serious! The drawing trick resonated with him so much that I decided to quickly go with what was exciting him in that moment. I used my spur of the moment thinking to create a therapy activity that combined the "boy" drawing trick with his current articulation goals and objectives. So for those next 30 minutes, Jay, myself, and another student, we all took turns doing the "boy" drawing trick on random index cards and then we wrote /R/ sentences that related to the "boy" cartoons we just drew. (HERE'S AN EXAMPLE)

Other doodle tricks are out there!

Ever since I've worked with Jay, I've kept my eyes peeled for other YouTube how-to videos that were similar to the "boy" drawing trick. I've come across a bunch recently, so I wanted to share them all with you in hopes that you might be able to introduce some of these to your students who love to doodle.

Here's some of the coolest ones that I totally dig:

In closing . . .

Drawing allows all of us the opportunity to express what we're thinking and feeling in a fun and creative way. I believe that by teaching drawing tricks to students, such as the "boy" drawing trick, kiddos have to really focus on their memory to recall the steps necessary to get from point A to point B. And if they follow and remember the directions correctly, their creation can go from a typical word to a spectacular cartoon, in no time. Seeing that transformation come to life can be something very motivating and entertaining for students on your caseload. Give this idea a go and, as always, let me know how it goes. I love hearing from each and every single one of you.

P.S. - I've recently created a PDF file that highlights the steps that need to be taken during the "boy" drawing trick. Feel free to download it RIGHT HERE. Use it all you want. Enjoy!

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Sequencing Rotting Foods in Speech Therapy [Free Download]

posted on March 28th, 2016 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Sequencing Rotting Foods in Speech Therapy [Free Download]

I've recently fallen in love with watching time-lapse videos on YouTube. These are the types of videos where, in the given clip, time appears to be moving much MUCH faster than usual, and thus, there seems to be a lapse in time. An example of one of my most favorite time-lapse videos is THIS ONE that features a handful of sunflower seeds growing over a span of 10 days. So wild! Seriously though, isn't that just one of the coolest videos you've ever seen?!

The darkening of a banana.

A few months ago right before the winter break started, I left a banana on my desk at work. I meant to bring that lovely banana home but I forgot to. So there it stayed, on my desk at work the whole time while I was away celebrating Christmas and New Years. Fast forward a week and a half later, I went back to work after winter break was done and, to my surprise, I saw a yucky brown thing on my desk. I immediately remembered it was my banana and I heartbrokenly whispered to myself, "Oh, my once sunshine yellow banana is no more." I picked up the rotten banana and respectfully placed it in the garbage. With a single tear slowly rolling down my face, I said, "I'm so sorry I forgot to take you home when I left for winter break, Mr. Banana. You deserved better, my friend."

A time-lapse video of a banana?

Because I've had time-lapse videos on my mind during my impromptu banana funeral, I started to wonder if anyone has ever shot a time-lapse video of a banana going rotten. I thought it would be fun to see a banana changing colors, right in front of my eyes. I decided to jump on YouTube to check and wouldn't ya know it? Many people have filmed time-lapse videos of a banana from its humble yellow beginning to its fatal brown ending. Whoa!

Temponaut Timelapse's YouTube Channel.

The first banana time-lapse video I saw was THIS ONE that appeared on Temponaut Timelapse's YouTube Channel. The time-lapse video condensed 26 days worth of footage to only 1:32 and it clearly showed a yellow banana eventually turning brown, in a matter of seconds. It was so exciting to watch! I don't know about you, but seeing super fast footage like that, it BLEW my mind and I knew I just had to introduce it to some of my speech-language therapy students.

Lots of potential for sequencing activities.

I work with a few students who are working on sequencing tasks and describing picture sequences using complete sentences. So I took the opportunity to introduce some of the time-lapse videos on Temponaut Timelapse's YouTube Channel to a couple of 4th and 5th grade students who needed practice with sequencing and describing. For example, before I saw the students, I watched a couple of the time-lapse videos and screenshot 5 different scenes from the particular time-lapse video I thought was cool (if you don't know how to do a screenshot on your computer, simply Google "How do I screen shot on a PC" or "How do I do a screenshot on my Mac"). After that, I attached the JPEG screenshots to a Microsoft Word document, printed out the pictures, and cut them out. Then, I asked my students to first try and describe to me what the sequencing scene was and then I would challenge them to put the pictures in the correct order. Once they showed me that they tried their hardest, I rewarded them by letting them watch the corresponding time-lapse video of the scene they just described and sequenced.

Who knew rotting food would be THIS motivating?!

Just as I predicted, the time-lapse videos that my students couldn't get enough of were the rotting food ones. From a rotting banana to a rotting watermelon, the kiddos were SO into it all (I guess boys will be boys!). In fact, this speech-language therapy activity was such a hit that I figured I would share the rotting foods sequencing materials that I created with you (because sharing is caring!). Feel free to download each PDF sheet and use 'em with your students, too!

In closing . . .

I hope that this yucky speech-language therapy idea motivates your students as much as it did mine. Take this idea, expand upon it, and add your own style to it. How could this time-lapse video idea be improved? Besides sequencing, what other aspects of speech and language could be targeted from these time-lapse videos? As always, I'd love to hear from ya!

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Injecting Positivity into Your Speech Therapy Session with the Help of Kid President

posted on March 14th, 2016 by Erik X. Raj, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Injecting Positivity into Your Speech Therapy Session with the Help of Kid President

About a year ago, I came across a tweet on Twitter that moved me in the best possible way. It was beautiful. It was genuine. It was, dare I say, the best Twitter tweet in the history of all Twitter tweets ever tweeted on Twitter (nice tongue twister, huh?). The magical tweet that I'm speaking about came from Kid President and it read, "Treat everybody like it's their birthday."

Such wise words from such a young soul.

Before I go into detail about how great that tweet is, I wanted to take a second to tell you about Kid President, just in case you've never heard of him before. Kid President (real name Robby Novak, a school-aged kiddo) is an amazingly positive and creative child. Together with his adult-aged brother-in-law Brad Montague, Robby and Brad started in 2012 when Robby was only 8 years old. Their website features a humongous collection of motivational videos that show Robby as Kid President. In each video, Robby, usually decked out in a snazzy suit and tie, confidently jumps in front of the video camera to insightfully chat about life and what it all means to him (THIS is an example of what you can come to expect from Kid President).

Love. Nothing but love.

If I could pick one word to sum up each and every Kid President tweet or video I've seen, it would be 'love.' Robby loves life, and through his motivational Kid President messages, he reminds everyone that life is lovely and how everyone should be nice to one another. Since Kid President hit the Internet a few years back, I've been a huge fan.

"Treat everybody like it's their birthday."

One of the biggest (and best) changes that I've noticed over the last decade in K-12 education is the obvious school-wide emphasis on bullying prevention that often exists across American school districts. When I was a school-aged student in the 90s, bullying wasn't really discussed too much because I think that back then bullying was just considered another childhood rite of passage. But in my opinion, it's not a rite of passage and it shouldn't be tolerated. So in an effort to do my part with setting the stage for a safe and respectful learning environment, I've shared that Kid President tweet with a number of my middle school-aged students and it's a joy to hear them attempt to describe what "Treat everybody like it's their birthday" means to them and why they believe it to be a spectacular way to live.

Unwritten goals and objectives.

I've said this before but with each child I work with, there's a list of unwritten goals and objectives that I want him/her to be able to achieve that aren't written in his/her individualized education program or treatment plan. Unwritten goals and objectives are the kind and caring lessons that live inside of my mind that I want all of my students to learn. These unwritten goals and objectives emphasize the importance of being a kind and caring person. I feel that unwritten goals and objectives are arguably some of the most important things that we could work on with our students while increasing their articulation and/or language abilities.

Sharing some Kid President tweets and videos with YOUR students.

If you're also committed to consistently injecting kind and caring thoughts and ideas into each of your speech therapy sessions, I recommend you explore the tweets and videos by Kid President.

Here are a few Kid President tweets YOU could share with your kiddos:

And here are a few Kid President videos YOU could share with your kiddos:

So much can come from talking about Kid President tweets and videos.

Use the messages by Kid President to get the kind and caring conversations going. Limit the amount of talking you do and encourage your students to do the talking. If you're providing speech therapy services to a small group, encourage the children to talk with one another about the given video or tweet. Did they like what they saw? Why or why not? How did it make them feel? So on and so forth.

In closing . . .

There's a lot that we can learn from Kid President. And notice how I said WE? Sure, the children we work with could learn a lot, but us ADULTS could learn JUST AS MUCH. After reading that Kid President birthday tweet in 2015, I immediately adopted it as my mantra. "Treat everybody like it's their birthday" is a sentence that I haven't been able to erase from my brain and I'm not complaining. It taught me to be a bit more kind and a bit more caring, for sure. So, do me a favor - check out all that Kid President has to offer to see if you might be able to discover a mantra that you think works for you. One that helps you to grow as a human being. Because remember, all of us, we're all works in progress and there's always room for growth. Always!

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