Thank you Maureen for allowing me to write a guest post on your fabulous blog! Today I would like to share about an exciting new opportunity that has been awarded to the campus where I work. I hope that by sharing this journey, other SLPs will be encouraged to become more involved with not only their student body as a whole, but also the community their students’ come from.
As a SLP in an Early Childhood Center, I have had the amazing opportunity to work with supportive administrators and leadership team members. Two years ago, our principal decided that we needed to focus more heavily
on detailed, functional vocabulary instruction as an entire campus. Our campus has a high rate of free/reduced lunch which means many students come from homes that have been affected by poverty. We also are a minority-majority district with a large number of Hispanic students who at the age we get them, speak very little if any English. With the earliest years of development being the ones where language is developed, setting a tone for future academic success, we felt it to be an urgent priority.
Our campus wide vocabulary initiative started with introducing basic social skills in the morning. The school counselor and principal stood at the front of the school each morning as students came in. They noticed that few students would make eye contact much less utter a simple “good morning” in response to their daily greetings. When a little sugar coated positive
reinforcement in the form of a Skittle was added, the eye contact and conversation quickly improved. This sparked an idea in the principal’s head that lead to an entire shift in our brief morning interactions.
The first item she brought in was a quilt. She began by holding the quilt as she said good morning to the students. They soon began asking, “What is that?” She would ask them questions and provide them with more information before telling them the name of the mysterious item. Many of them would use associated words like blanket, cover, etc. Our goal was for them to
learn the word “Quilt”.
I think this was one of the kids’ favorites because they asked about it the rest of the year! It was spring and there were plenty of weeds on the playground, so we would carry over the vocabulary lessons from the morning into recess where they lined up and waited several minutes each to use the gardening equipment: rake, hoe, shovel. This lesson grew into a hallway vocabulary gallery where the students’ illustrated and wrote sentences about their recess experiences. I took pictures
and labeled them for an interactive bulletin board near the bathroom line for teachers to ask WH questions about the actions and objects in the photos.
Over the next year, we targeted words such as GLOBE (and map), STAPLER, KAYAK, LADLE (and all of the accompanying kitchen utensils), SKIS(water and snow!), and Trophy (medal, plaque).
As these activities progressed and we saw the potential impact on language skills as a whole, we wanted to get into the
homes of our students and teach the parents how to encourage good language skills through everyday experiences with their child.As part of my winter take home activities, I purchased Jenna Rayburn at Speech Room News’ Learning Through Playpackets to send home with some hot chocolate for my speech therapy students. Jenna’s little handouts inspired me to do what happened next! I wanted to provide the tools to push language rich activities into EVERY child in my school’s home.
We collaborated as a team and as a community and figured out a way! Our local HEB grocery store donated muffin mix for 200 students and my principal bought the remaining 100 packages. We sent home the mix with a detailed handout in both English and Spanish that outlined specific language targets. For example, the instructions were to be followed using specific
vocabulary such as plurals, categories, temporal terms “first, then, last.” Items needed were to be named and spread out to examine and describe. Action words were to be used such as “baking, mixing, pouring, measuring.” Descriptive words were to be used such as “hot, wet, and soft.” Parents were instructed to ask their child’s opinion during the activity and allow them time to communicate verbally by asking questions and making comments.
It was a huge hit! Parents posted pictures of their kids making muffins (or pancakes) in their kitchens with the hashtag #ExperienceCarver all over social media. The kids were so excited to come back to school and tell us what they made at home. We had the opportunity to hear their stories and ask them questions about the activity each day at school as they came in.
This was what our students and even more importantly-their parents-needed! Now we were challenged to figure out a way to fund more activities like this.
Our district has an educational foundation that provides grants to our teachers to provide programs that are not normally covered through our district budget which will enhance the educational experience of the student or school as a whole. I felt that our school would benefit so much from language opportunities in the home, that I wrote my first ever grant with
a passion burning in my heart that could not be extinguished! Three long months later we found out we were approved and were presented with our $8,964.00 check! Our students will be able to experience language with their parents in a more meaningful and specific manner throughout this upcoming year.
Our schedule for the first semester will begin with August. Every student will take home with them a plush bear and plastic place setting that includes a cup, plate, fork, spoon and knife. The handout will give instructions for parents to play hide and seek with the bear using positional terms such as “under, below, behind, on top of, behind and beside.” The action words listed for playing hide and seek are “hiding, playing, and looking. They will play house with the bear and talk
about their activity using action words like “feeding, dressing, sleeping.” The categories targeted will be “kitchen utensils, clothing, furniture, and rooms in the house.” The parents will help their child describe, pretend, compare and observe which are all terms used in the Texas Kindergarten Standards and Preschool Guidelines.
Although each month will be fun and engaging for both parents and students, I think the month I am looking forward to the most is March. Each child will receive a kite, a pair of sunglasses, binoculars and a ball. The plan is to target outdoor vocabulary and things that fly. Think of ALL of the action words and basic concepts!
Thank you so much for your time today. If you would like to know more about our grant application, the schedule of activities or how we plan to get the parents involved, please feel free to email me at MsGardeniasSpeechRoom@gmail.com. I would love to discuss it further!
Hey there! I’m Maureen Wilson, a school-base SLP who is data driven and caffeine powered. My passion is supporting other pediatric SLPs by teaching them how to harness the power of literacy and data to help their students achieve their goals…without sacrificing time they don’t have.