Spring into Literacy: Teaching Phonological Awareness

Recently I have been working on phonological awareness skills with a 1st grade speech fluency student who also has difficulty with reading decoding and reading fluency. I provide services for an older elementary school student as well with language impairment that struggles immensely with basic literacy skills. From my observation, this is not an area that all speech-language therapists address. However, literacy is a part of our scope of practice according to ASHA.

These literacy areas are considered appropriate roles and responsibilities for SLPs: 1) preventing written language problems by fostering language acquisition and emergent literacy 2) identifying children at risk for reading and writing problems 3) assessing reading and writing 4) providing intervention and documenting outcomes for reading and writing 5) providing consultation to teachers, parents, students about effective literacy practices

Woah! Did you realize how in depth our responsibilities can extend in the area of literacy?  SLPs can assist with reading & written expression. Say what? I know we have a lot on our plates working with the listening and speaking components of literacy so to think about helping with reading and written expression may be a bit daunting.  After all, the resource special education teachers directly teach that for our IEP kiddos.

Nevertheless, a few years ago, I decided to get additionally training in the area of reading. I quickly observed that many of my students with speech-language impairment had a language based learning disability in the areas of reading and writing. Therefore, I completed a Georgia State University reading endorsement certification program. I learned valuable reading assessment and instruction best practices in this program that I can use when I provide consultation for students in the RTI process. It also helps me know what to do as I directly address phonological awareness with students from time to time.

So, what is phonological awareness? This is the term used to describe essential literacy skills that require a child to manipulate syllables, words, and sounds. These are auditory skills that generally begin at age three and are typically mastered by ages 6-7 if a child does not have a reading disability.

Here is what an SLP can do to teach this skill:
1) create word lists of rhyming and non-rhyming words
*Tell the child 2-3 words. Then ask, “do these words rhyme?”
*Give a child a target word and ask “What rhymes with ____?”

2) create word lists for syllable counting (segmentation) activities
*Tell and show a child a word and ask “How many syllables are in these words?”

3) create word lists with compound words and other multi-syllabic words * Have kids combine syllables to express words. For example, say “What word do you hear when I say hot…dog?

What is phonemic awareness? This is a component of phonological awareness and involves skills such as phoneme blending, phoneme segmenting, phoneme deletion, phoneme substitution.

Here are tips on how to work on these 4 skills:
*Use letters that you can manipulate such as these foam letters from Dollar Tree.

1) blend or combine sounds to say words
c-a-r, w-a-t-ch, b-o-o-k, p-e-n-c-i-l, p-l-a-y

2) verbally segment or separate sounds when given words
mom, dad, crayon, water, bear

3) verbally delete or omit a sound from a word to say a new word
say plate without /p/, say mat without the /m/

4) verbally change a sound to another sound
say /hat/, now take away /h/ and  add /b/  or change /h/ to /b/
say /sun/, now take away /s/ and  add /f/ or change /s/ to /f/

I highly recommend Hearbuilder Phonological Awareness program. It is available as an iPad or iPhone app or as paid subscription for use on the internet.

I hope you learned some new information or refreshed your memory about how to teach phonological awareness skills. These can be used in speech-language therapy sessions or shared while consulting with general education teachers as they deliver RTI interventions in the classroom.

Thanks for reading the blog today!

Tamara Anderson

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Reference: Lanza, Janet; Flahive, L. (2012) Guide to Communication Milestones. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems, Inc.

Educationally Relevant Speech-Language Therapy- Supporting the Common Core Standards

The job of a speech-language pathologist varies tremendously based on the setting and the population that she or he serves. However, in the school setting it has become increasingly important that the SLP provide speech-language therapy that is educationally relevant. So, what exactly does that mean? 

With the integration of the Common Core State Standards in most school districts, SLPs need to align informal assessments and therapy activities with these standards as much as possible. At the same time, they need to always consider what is developmentally appropriate for a child. In my district in metro Atlanta, the grade level curriculum changed in August 2013 when it became a requirement for educators to instruct students according to the Common Core State Standards. Other states were already implementing new curriculum based on these standards while other districts decided not to adopt them. Many of the English/Language Arts Common Core State Standards directly relate to skills that SLPs are accustomed to instructing kids about in therapy.

My current caseload includes students with speech-language impairment and co-occurring specific learning disability, autism, intellectual disabilities, and/or other health impairment (e.g. ADHD). I have a few students who have a speech-language impairment only eligibility that I provide therapy to improve their articulation or speech fluency skills. 

From my experience, I have found it easiest to integrate educationally relevant therapy to students in grades 3-5 with language disorders and co-occurring learning disability. There are many standards that relate to having students identify the multiple meanings of words, use context clues to identify the meanings of unknown words, identify word relationships, name synonyms, name antonyms, identify  Greek & Latin prefixes/suffixes, explain figurative language expressions, and answer comprehension questions from non-fiction text. 

In addition, the language standards require that students demonstrate an understanding of the parts of speech. In doing so, they need to be able to speak and write using pronouns, nouns, verbs, adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions, adverbs, and interjections. Using correct subject/verb agreement is another important element of mastering the language standards. 

Now that you have examples of skills to address. Where do you start? I recommend using formal and informal assessments to determine starting points in therapy. SLPs can analyze results from tests such as the OWLS II, CELF 5, CASL or LPT 3 and note weak areas that relate to grade level Common Core State Standards. 

There are also informal curriculum based language measures that you can use to evaluate students’ strengths and weaknesses such as Nicole Allison’s Curriculum-Based Language Assessments.

I created an English/Language Arts Vocabulary Progress Monitoring tool to informally evaluate expressive curriculum vocabulary skills of children. Often times, kids learn to comprehend definitions and identify terms when given choices, but they still struggle orally explaining the meanings. This tool assesses 105 words that are a language foundation for many of the E/LA Common Core State Standards. 

For students who are working on receptive vocabulary skills, I created Speech-Language Therapy Curriculum Assessments aligned with the English/Language Arts Common Core State Standards to evaluate these skills. This informal tool will be available in my TPT store in the future. I have used these assessment probes frequently in my language therapy room and seen progress with my students. Working on vocabulary in language therapy is essential for students’ comprehension of skills and mastery of the curriculum.  

My Vocabulary Progress Monitoring Tool also provides great informal data about various semantic processing skills in a systematic hierarchy. 
My Irregular Plural Nouns & Irregular Past Tense Verbs Baseline & Progress Check Data Forms may be used to determine students’ expressive knowledge of these grammar targets. 
                                           Irregular Plural Nouns & Irregular Past Tense Verbs Data Forms

After gathering baseline data from an informal speech-language assessment, the SLP can target objectives related to students’ areas of need AND that also relate to curriculum Common Core State Standards. 

For example, for students that need direct SLP intervention with multiple meaning words you may use:

For students that need direct SLP intervention with context clues you may use:

For students that need direct SLP intervention with synonyms & antonyms you may use:

Many students with language disorders also need intervention with oral language in the area of morphology and syntax. You can use my freebie Parts of Speech Graphic Organizer or Back to School Irregular Plural Nouns & Past Tense Verbs. 

Two of my favorite bundles to use to address the E/LA Common Core Standards are :
English/Language Arts Common Core Standards Vocabulary Bundle  ELA Comprehensive Categorization Bundle

The first bundle provides a great mixed review of a variety of E/LA standards while the second bundle provides great intervention in the area of categorization and word relationships. 

Make sure you subscribe to my blog to read additional articles related to educationally relevant speech-language therapy and Common Core State Standards aligned resources. Stay tuned for a Speech-Language Therapy Common Core Standards Guide where you can get more detailed informational about specific relevant standards for SLPS, informal assessments and products to use in therapy that will help you provide curriculum relevant intervention. 

Thanks for reading the blog today!

Tamara Anderson

Speech-Language Therapy Technology Resource Guide

I am excited that my complimentary Speech-Language Therapy Resource Guide is now available in my TPT store!! I have wanted to put this together for a while now and I am glad that it is done! I am sure that I will add resources to this guide from time to time. When you follow my TPT store and subscribe to my blog, you will receive direct notifications of product updates.

So, you may be wondering, “why would a speech-language pathologist want to integrate technology in therapy sessions?” There are so many reasons. If you are a school based speech-language pathologist, this provides you a great way to differentiate instruction by what you are teaching (content), how (process), and product (end result).  You can assign one or two students to work at a technology station with headphones while you interact directly with others. 

I have many students who are working on answering wh questions and I often have them practice using Webber Interactive “WH” Questions CD by Super Duper Publications. I love this CD because it provides a brief lesson for each type of question and then the child can practice answering the specific question set that he or she needs to work on. You can select an option to provide the child with a field of 2-4 choices and I usually select a field of 4 choices. Another awesome part is the CD tracks the child’s accuracy. At the end of the session, I just print the data and put it in the child’s file. I also frequently have students who are practicing listening comprehension at the story level use Auditory Memory for Quick Stories (Fiction)CD or Auditory Memory High-Interest Quick Stories (Non-Fiction) CD  that also tracks students’ data.

Another way to integrate technology into speech-language therapy sessions is to lead a whole group or individual session using a resource that directly addresses a specific learning target for your student or client. In the guide, you will find a list of interactive websites, iPad Apps, video clips, SMART Board lessons, and iBook lessons. You will also find a list of resources according to speech-language therapy work areas of need such as speech articulation, speech fluency, language, vocabulary, grammar, listening comprehension, auditory memory, pragmatic language, and phonological awareness.  I have also included a list of helpful websites that have great printables and general information beneficial for SLPs. 

For example, I frequently use the website jacobslessons.com with my K-2 students who need practice with prepositions and pronouns. I use do2learn.com with students who need to work on categorization (what doesn’t belong) or synonyms and antonyms. My 3rd-5th grade students are pros at using henryanker.com to practice synonyms and antonyms. Although this website states that it has tests by grade level,  I use them as therapy instructional activities.

As you know, there are tons of iPad Apps. It is important that the SLP carefully selects apps that will directly address the needs of each speech language student or client. You want them to have fun interacting with technology, but it needs to be meaningful and therapeutic as well. Therefore, the SLP will need to introduce the app as she would a usual speech language activity and then guide them through or modify the app as needed to work towards mastery of the skill being taught.

Many SLPs use iPads in therapy and it can also be a great tool to download and organize TPT digital speech-language activities into iBooks. This way you can have easy access to a library of fantastic therapy lessons. I recommend using my 2nd-5th Grade Common Core Standards Vocabulary task cards in iBooks to provide educationally relevant therapy.

For those that provide direct therapy in a general education or special education classroom, you may use several lessons included in this guide on a SMART Board. 

I hope that you take time to explore this guide as you plan to integrate new technology resources into your speech-language therapy sessions with your students or clients. Keep in mind that technology should never replace skilled direct therapy instruction by a licensed SLP. Kids still need personal interactions to learn and practice communication and language skills. However, technology can be used to supplement more traditional therapy lessons. 

Remember the overall goal of speech-language therapy is for students or clients to make gains in their communication, language, and literacy skills. In doing so, they will make progress towards or master their IEP speech-language objectives or goals in private practice therapy.  

Thanks for reading the blog today!

Tamara Anderson

Speech-Language Success Stories # 6

I am currently in the last 9 weeks of the school year in my district and spring break is 3 days away!! Speech-language therapy progress notes and report cards went home with kids last Friday. Naturally, SLPs review our students’ data and document speech-language objectives that they have mastered, made progress,  and areas that they may be struggling with learning a skill. 

My success story today is about having students celebrate their victories in the speech language therapy room. I have a poster that says “Super Speech Students- We Are Meeting Goals!!!” Students put a star sticker on the chart for each objective that they meet based on their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) mastery criteria. They really seem to enjoy looking at the incentive poster and counting their stars. 

I also have many of them graph their progress and take home their graph when they meet a goal! I can not count the times that I hear “What’s my score?”  or “Did I do good today?” They know that I take data regularly and that I desire for them to LEARN and improve their scores or percentages of accuracy. Many of them can’t wait to get their hands on my handy Super Duper clipboard that has a calculator at the top. Occasionally, I let a few of them enter the fraction to figure out their percentage of accuracy. I teach them how to convert the decimal to a percentage too! Math in the speech-language room! Say What?!

At the end of the 9 weeks, which usually coincides with a holiday too, I bring edible treats to reward their hard work towards meeting goals. Here are some goodies that I handed out today. 

I also gave out new stickers! Remember to celebrate students’ successes in your speech-language therapy sessions or classroom too!

Tamara Anderson
SLP on Spring Break Soon



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