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Teaching Punctuation for Writing Success

Child, Kid, Play, Tranquil, Study, Color, Write, LearnLast week  I wrote a blog post entitled: “Teaching Metalinguistic Vocabulary for Reading Success” in which I described the importance of explicitly teaching students basic metalinguistic vocabulary terms as elementary building blocks needed for reading success (HERE).  This week I wanted to write a brief blog post regarding terminology related to one particular, often ignored aspect of writing, punctuation.

Punctuation brings written words to life. As we have seen from countless of grammar memes, an error in punctuation results in conveying a completely different meaning.

In my experience administering the Test of Written Language – 4 (TOWL – 4) as well as analyzing informal writing samples I frequently see an almost complete absence of any and all punctuation marks in the presented writing samples.  These are not the samples of 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th graders that I am referring to. Sadly, I’m referring to written samples of students in middle school and even high school, which frequently lack basic punctuation and capitalization.

This explicit instruction of punctuation terminology does significantly improve my students understanding of sentence formation. Even my students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities significantly benefit from understanding how to use periods, commas and question marks in sentences.

I even created a basic handout to facilitate my students comprehension of usage of punctuation marks (FREE HERE) in sentences.

Similarly to my metalinguistic vocabulary handout, I ask my older elementary aged students with average IQ, to look up online and write down rules of usage for each of the provided terms (e.g., colon, hyphen, etc,.), under therapist supervision.

This in turns becomes a critical thinking and an executive functions activity. Students need sift through quite a bit of information to find a website which provides the clearest answers regarding the usage of specific punctuation marks. Here, it’s important for students to locate kid friendly websites which will provide them with simple but accurate descriptions of punctuation marks usage.  One example of such website is Enchanted Learning which also provides free worksheets related to practicing punctuation usage.

In contrast to the above, I use structured worksheets and punctuation related workbooks for younger elementary age students (e.g., 1st – 5th grades) as well as older students with intellectual impairments (click on each grade number above to see the workbooks).

I find that even after several sessions of explicitly teaching punctuation usage to my students, their written sentences significantly improve in clarity and cohesion.

One of the best parts about this seemingly simple activity, is that due to the sheer volume of provided punctuation mark vocabulary (20 items in total), a creative clinician/parent can stretch this activity into multiple therapy sessions. This is because careful rule identification for each punctuation mark will in turn involve a number of related vocabulary definition tasks.  Furthermore, correct usage of each punctuation mark in a sentence for internalization purposes (rather mere memorization) will also take-up a significant period of time.

How about you? Do you explicitly work on teaching punctuation?

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Teaching Metalinguistic Vocabulary for Reading Success

In my therapy sessions I spend a significant amount of time improving literacy skills (reading, spelling, and writing) of language impaired students.  In my work with these students I emphasize goals with a focus on phonics, phonological awareness, encoding (spelling) etc. However, what I have frequently observed in my sessions are significant gaps in the students’ foundational knowledge pertaining to the basics of sound production and letter recognition.  Basic examples of these foundational deficiencies involve students not being able to fluently name the letters of the alphabet, understand the difference between vowels and consonants, or fluently engage in sound/letter correspondence tasks (e.g., name a letter and then quickly and accurately identify which sound it makes).  Consequently, a significant portion of my sessions involves explicit instruction of the above concepts.

This got me thinking regarding my students’ vocabulary knowledge in general.  We, SLPs, spend a significant amount of time on explicit and systematic vocabulary instruction with our students because as compared to typically developing peers, they have immature and limited vocabulary knowledge. But do we teach our students the abstract vocabulary necessary for reading success? Do we explicitly teach them definitions of a letter, a word, a sentence? etc.

A number of my colleagues are skeptical. “Our students already have poor comprehension”, they tell me, “Why should we tax their memory with abstract words of little meaning to them?”  And I agree with them of course, but up to a point.

I agree that our students have working memory and processing speed deficits as a result of which they have a much harder time learning and recalling new words.

However, I believe that not teaching them meanings of select words pertaining to language is a huge disservice to them. Here is why. To be a successful communicator, speaker, reader, and writer, individuals need to possess adequate metalinguistic skills.

In simple terms “metalinguistics” refers to the individual’s ability to actively think about, talk about, and manipulate language. Reading, writing, and spelling require active level awareness and thought about language. Students with poor metalinguistic skills have difficulty learning to read, write, and spell.  They lack awareness that spoken words are made up of individual units of sound, which can be manipulated. They lack awareness that letters form words, words form phrases and sentences, and sentences form paragraphs. They may not understand that letters make sounds or that a word may consist of more letters than sounds (e.g., /ship/). The bottom line is that students with decreased metalinguistic skills cannot effectively use language to talk about concepts like sounds, letters, or words unless they are explicitly taught those abilities.

So I do! Furthermore, I can tell you that explicit instruction of metalinguistic vocabulary does significantly improve my students understanding of the tasks involved in obtaining literacy competence. Even my students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities significantly benefit from understanding the meanings of: letters, words, sentences, etc.

I even created a basic abstract vocabulary handout to facilitate my students comprehension of these words (FREE HERE). While by no means exhaustive, it is a decent starting point for teaching my students the vocabulary needed to improve their metalinguistic skills.

For older elementary aged students with average IQ, I only provide the words I want them to define, and then ask them to look up their meanings online via the usage of PC or an iPad. This turns of vocabulary activity into a critical thinking and an executive functions task.

Students need to figure out the appropriate search string needed to in order to locate the answer as well as which definition comes the closest to clearly and effectively defining the presented word. One of the things I really like about Google online dictionary, is that it provides multiple definitions of the same words along with word origins. As a result, it teaches students to carefully review and reflect upon their selected definition in order to determine its appropriateness.

A word of caution as though regarding using Kiddle, Google-powered search engine for children. While it’s great for locating child friendly images, it is not appropriate for locating abstract definition of words. To illustrate, when you type in the string search into Google, “what is the definition of a letter?” You will get several responses which will appropriately match  some meanings of your query.  However the same string search in Kiddle, will merely yield helpful tips on writing a letter as well as images of envelopes with stamps affixed to them.

In contrast to the above, I use a more structured vocabulary defining activities for younger elementary age students as well as students with intellectual impairments. I provide simple definitions of abstract words, attach images and examples to each definition as well as create cloze activities and several choices of answers in order to ensure my students’ comprehension of these words.

I find that this and other metalinguistic activities significantly improve my students comprehension of abstract words such as ‘communication’, ‘language’, as well as ‘literacy’. They cease being mere buzzwords, frequently heard yet consistently not understood.  To my students these words begin to come to life, brim with meaning, and inspire numerous ‘aha’ moments.

Now that you’ve had a glimpse of my therapy sessions I’d love to have a glimpse of yours. What metalinguistic goals related to literacy are you targeting with your students? Comment below to let me know.

 

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#BHSM – School Based Innovation and RtI FREEBIE Blog Hop

Art by Margaret Warner mwa2808@gmail.com

To celebrate the 2015 ASHA Better Hearing and Speech Month in May, Speech Language Literacy Lab has organized an RtI Blog Hop. During the hop Smart Speech Therapy LLC along with 29 other professional bloggers from a variety of ancillary fields (e.g., OT, special education, etc.) will be sharing FREE materials and resources on the subject of School Based Innovation and RtI.

Each day, readers will have an access to a new blog post to have access to new freebies and resources. Our organizer Sl3l lab will also be linking these blog posts to their site daily.

Blog Posting Schedule:

5/1/2015 Kick Off to Better Hearing and Speech Month!

5/2/2015 RTI for the R sound! Badger State Speechy

5/3/2015 An effective RTI program Stephen Charlton Guest blogs on Speech Language Literacy Lab

5/4/2015 Technology and RTI  Building Successful Lives Speech & Language

5/5/2015 Starfish Therapies

5/6/2015 Orton Gillingham Approach & RTI  Orton Gillingham Online Academy

5/7/2015 Evidenced-based writing that works for RTI & SPED SQWrite

5/8/2015 RTI/MTSS/SBLT…OMG!  Let’s Talk! with Whitneyslp

5/9/2015 RtI, but why?  Attitudes are everything!  Crazy Speech World

5/10/2015      Consonantly Speaking

5/11/2015 Universal benchmarking for language to guide the RTI process in Pre-K and Kindergarten     Speech Language Literacy Lab

5/12/2015 Movement Breaks in the Classroom (Brain Breaks)   Your Therapy Source

5/13/2015 How to Write a Social Story   Blue Mango LLC

5/14/2015 Some Ideas on Objective Language Therapy    Language Fix

5/15/2015 Assistive Technology in the Classroom  OTMommy Needs Her Coffee

5/16/2015 Effective Tiered Early Literacy Instruction for Spanish-Speakers Bilingual Solutions Guest blog on Speech Language Literacy Lab

5/17/2015 Helping with Attention and Focus in the Classroom   The Pocket OT

5/18/2015 Tips on Effective Vocabulary Instruction  Smart Speech Therapy, LLC

5/19/2015 An SLP’s Role in RtI: My Story Communication Station: Speech Therapy, PLLC

5/20/2015 Incorporating Motor Skills into Literacy Centers   MissJaimeOT

5/21/2015 The QUAD Profile: A Language Checklist  The Speech Dudes

5/22/2015 Resources on Culturally Relevant Interventions  Tier 1 Educational Coaching and Consulting

5/23/2015 Language Goals Galore: Converting Real Pictures to Coloring Pages  Really Color guest blog on Speech Language Literacy Lab

5/24/2015 Lesson Pix: The Newest Must-Have Resource in your Tx Toolbox Speech Language Literacy Lab

5/25/2015 AAC & core vocabulary instruction Kidz Learn Language

5/26/2015 An RtI Alternative Old School Speech

5/27/2015 Intensive Service Delivery Model for Pre-Schoolers   Speech Sprouts

5/28/2015 RTI Success with Spanish-speakers     Speech is Beautiful

5/30/2015 The Importance of Social Language (pragmatic) Skills Linda Silver guest post on Speech Sprouts

5/31/2015 Sarah Warchol guest posts on Speech Language Literacy Lab

Hope to see you all hoping during #BHSM!

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For the Love of Speech Blog Hop: February Edition

Slide2Today I am very excited to participate along with 27 other talented SLPs in the For the Love of Speech  Blog Hop.  I love being an SLP, and to spread that love around  from February 1-4 I am giving away a Valentine’s Day Product: “The Origins of Valentine’s Day: At thematic language activity packet for middle and high school students” .  

This thematic packet was created to target listening and reading comprehension of middle and high school students diagnosed with language impairments and learning disabilities. The packet contains Response to Intervention (RTI) Tier 2 vocabulary words in story context. Expressive language activities for the packet include production of synonyms and antonyms, fill-in the blank, as well as sentence formulation using story vocabulary. Comprehension questions pertaining to story are provided in an open ended question format. It is great for teaching reading comprehension and sophisticated vocabulary in a thematic context related to familiar to the student events.

You can grab this product  for free for a limited time only in my online store (HERE) and then head on over to Teach Speech 365 to grab her freebie as well. Collect all freebies by the time the blog hop ends on  February 4th!

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For more useful FREE and PAID products check out my online store by clicking HERE or on the picture below SST Graphic

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Super Sweet SLP Frenzy!

10577017_1507393046184550_3535116238090541827_nGet ready for another SLP Frenzy, and this one is a Super Sweet One!. Starting this Sunday, October 26th parents and professionals can participate in a two day Frenzy Hop. From 9 AM EST Sunday, October 26th until 10 p.m. EST Monday, October 27th some of your favorite SLP bloggers will be having a Facebook Frenzy.  During the Frenzy, you’ll get the opportunity to download over 20 candy themed freebies! So get ready for the Frenzy Hop by clicking on the interactive Frenzy map link to find out the frenzy participants.

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How to participate: Click on any of the 20 images on the interactive map. The link will take you to Facebook where you will see the following image

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 click on that image and follow the directions of how to download that blogger’s freebie and move on to the next one. Have Fun Hopping!

 

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SLP Frenzy Hop: May Edition

May frenzy advert #2There is a fun activity coming your way. Starting this Sunday, May 4th parents and professionals can participate in a two day Frenzy Hop. From 8 AM EST Sunday, May 4th until 10 p.m. EST Monday, May 5 some of your favorite SLP bloggers will be having a Facebook Frenzy.  During the Frenzy, you’ll get the opportunity to download 20 freebies! Each will be different and they will target a variety of different topics!  So get ready for the Frenzy Hop by clicking on the interactive image map below to find out the frenzy participants.
Continue reading SLP Frenzy Hop: May Edition

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SLP Frenzy Hop: January Edition

SLP Frenzy TabThere is a fun activity SLPs can participate this weekend: SLP Frenzy Hop. From 8 AM EST Friday, January 24 through 10 PM EST Monday, January 27 some of your favorite SLP bloggers will be having a Facebook Frenzy.  During the Frenzy, you’ll get the opportunity to download 20 freebies!  Each will be different and they will target a variety of different topics!  So hurry and start your Frenzy Hop today by clicking on the interactive image map below.

frenzy map

How to participate: Click on any of the 20 images on the interactive map. The link will take you to Facebook where you will see the following image SLP Frenzy Tab click on that image and follow the directions of how to download that blogger’s freebie and move on to the next one. Have Fun Hopping!

 

 

 

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Birthday Giveaway Day Twelve: Columbus Day Explorer Freebie

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What better way to celebrate a birthday than to get presents?  Well here’s a fun little present Maria of  Communication Station: Speech Therapy has cooked up just in time for Columbus Day.  For those of you who follow her new and improved blog, Communication Station: Speech Therapy  you know how much she loves to use thematic units to support communication development.

She’s done examples of how she creates thematic therapy units for younger children but haven’t shared anything for older students until today.

This packet is perfect for students in the upper elementary grades, middle school, and depending on cognitive level and communication goals, possibly some high school students as well.

It includes background knowledge/post learning worksheet where students have the opportunity to share what they already know, want to learn, and have learned after either doing their own research or reading the short story enclosed in the packet.

Along with the short story there is a comprehension questions worksheet that students can independently complete or complete as a group.

Next is a vocabulary synonyms match-up sheet that can be used to pre-teach vocabulary (note: vocabulary words highlighted in red in the short story), teach while reading using context clues, or post teach/review.  Again this sheet can be completed independently on in a group.

Following this sheet, there is a writing prompt in which your students will be given the opportunity to use some creative thinking and reasoning skills to write a narrative about exploration.  In addition, there is a guided questions sheet for younger students or students who have difficulty organizing their thoughts.

Finally, enclosed in this packet are 10 true/false cards.  Each statement is about explorers and their role in history.  Weather the facts are true or false they are followed by additional information your students can learn regarding each topic.

You can grab your free copy of this packet here!  Be advised of Communication Station terms of use: the packet is for personal use only, redistribution of it is strictly prohibited.  Feel free to direct your friends to her site for their free copy as well.

Enjoy and happy talking and exploring!

Maria Del Duca, M.S. CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in southern, Arizona.  She owns a private practice, Communication Station: Speech Therapy, PLLC, and has a speech and language blog under the same name.  Maria writes a monthly column on all topics related to child development, titled Kid Confidential, on the American Speech-Language and Hearing Associations blog, ASHAspere.  She has experience in various settings such as private practice, hospital and school environments and has practiced speech pathology in NJ, MD, KS and now AZ.  Maria has a passion for early childhood, autism spectrum disorders, rare syndromes, and childhood Apraxia of speech.  For more information, visit her blog or find her on Facebook.

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Birthday Month Extravaganza: Week Two Giveaway Lineup

Birthday GraphicIn case you haven’t read my previous post on this topic, my birthday is in October so I decided that it will be fun to give away one product every day of the month (well almost). My SLP colleague bloggers and TPT sellers thought the same, so they donated many exciting materials and products for me to give away all throughout the month of October.

Every 7 days I will be posting a schedule of giveaway products as a jpeg with embedded pdf file containing links to the donor’s blog and product being given away so you’ll know in advance which giveaway you’d like to enter.

Below is a WEEK TWO lineup. Take a look at the posted schedule and decide whether you want to enter a few giveaways or all of them, it’s really up to you!   Each giveaway will last only one day so you better keep up because if you blink you’ll miss it!

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The Art of Asking for Help

Richie is an engaging 9 year old boy, who attends therapy to improve his language skills. He is compliant and cooperative in sessions and is eager to learn new information. There’s only one problem, Richie is unable to spontaneously ask questions and request clarification when he doesn’t understand the presented information. Oh, he’ll sit there quietly, intently looking at the therapist and making perfect eye contact. His entire body posture will scream at you “I am listening to you and I value what you have to say!” But when it comes to answering questions about what he’s just learned, Richie clearly doesn’t get it and has no clue on how to obtain it! He might attempt to answer the questions and stumble half way through before giving up. He might also provide a response completely unrelated to the presented question. But most of the time, much to your frustration, Richie will simply shrug his shoulders and reply “I don’t know”. This is typically when many graduate speech interns and CFs alike will ask him with barely disguised frustration: “Why didn’t tell me before you didn’t understand?” Richie will shrug his shoulders again. Oh, he is not trying to be oppositional, he really doesn’t know! Continue reading The Art of Asking for Help