At the heart of collaboration

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It takes a village, right? I’m not the only one to work with my students on any given day. During the day at their school village, children could cross paths with their teacher, assistant, special ed teacher, OT, ESL teacher, special area teacher, SLP, bus driver, hearing impaired teacher, cafeteria worker, and their peers – just to name a few.   Many of my students receive direct teaching from 4 or more different adults each day.  Overlapping of skills being taught is common.  Transitions happen often.  The more we can collaborate on goal priorities, method of strategies, and common language the better results we will see.  It will be easier for the student because learning will be more streamlined, and it will be rewarding for us when we see results.  Working in the school setting, I have learned numerous educational strategies from my talented colleagues.  I am constantly looking for ways to incorporate math/literacy/science/social studies content into my therapy sessions. I am passionate about the communication skills I am teaching, so I get an extra spark when others are too!  After all, language is a foundation to all learning!

WH posters

I am very fortunate to work with a strong team of educators who look at the whole child, not just a set of goals.  A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation with one of our resource teachers about the different levels of comprehension skills our students were at.  We talked about the next steps for the reading skills and the language strategies I was teaching.  At the core of some of their struggles was a lack of understanding of WH- question concepts.  If I had a nickel for every time we practiced “If the questions asks who, the answer tells us a person”!  (No, actually I prefer chocolate over nickels, but I digress.) Knowing that this skill overlaps both of our areas of teaching, we brainstormed how to get some repetitive practice.  We decided that transitions could be our new friend.

WH bingo on door

The first part of our game plan was to decide to do a cycles style approach.  One week for each question stem going in the order of who-what-when-where-why.  (That’s the order I always say them so it was easier for me to remember).  I wrote them on my calendar – in pen.  I was tempted to stretch it out but I’m glad I committed myself to sticking with the weekly rotation so I can cycle back through them instead of feeling the urge to stay on one for mastery.  I made her some materials from my stockpile of WH?s.  For the first cycle, she is using the WH bingo boards on her door for an exit ticket.  The kids are drawing a card to answer each time they leave.  They are benefiting from repetition and peer models.

WH hats close WH hats

She is also making WH hats with her groups, which I LOVE!  This has increased their engagement and helps with memory recall because now it is an experience.

WH exit tickets WHq

I am using a different set of questions within the same WH theme during our “walk and talk” transition time.  We also get a question for our ticket in and another for our ticket out. The thing I love about routines is that once we teach it, the kids will keep me on track if I skip over it forgetfully.  As we continue to cycle through the WH questions we will be able to move from basic knowledge questions to more complex listening and reading comprehension questions.

The beauty of this collaborative conversation is that we identified a priority for our shared students.  Then using existing materials, we framed our current time more efficiently by squeezing in the WH? focus to transitions.  The students are hearing common language between the two of us so prompting is more effective.  Ahhh, teamwork!

emily blue


Organizing my purpose and preparing a plan

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blog organizing and preparing

I am typically very organized.  Over organized sometimes.  I like to re-organize my organization systems.  I love having the summer break because I can come back in August with a fresh perspective on how I want to manage the mounds of paperwork.  It makes me feel more in control to have a system with pretty paper and cute graphics. Because the paperwork in special education is definitely OUT of control!!

speech therapy meme

This poster makes me smile.  But in all honesty, I feel like our job is a balance of all the pictures.  I know I would go crazy if it was only about the paperwork.  The kids are the best part about my job!

There are many aspects to tackle – parent communication, IEP due dates, RTI screenings, therapy data collection, evaluations, teacher communication, progress reports, parent communication…am I just scratching the surface?  At winter break I found myself needing to refocus my energy to long term planning and relaying our activities and weekly progress to parents and teachers.  This probably came from me feeling like a lost parent with my 6th grader.  I was feeling frustrated about getting minimal communication from some of his teachers.  When I was honest with myself, though, I realized that I could do better with sharing with teachers and parents information about “the magic” that is happening in speech/language therapy.  I knew the challenging work that was going on – but did anyone else?  This involved three interrelated pieces…lesson plans, communication newsletters, and weekly check-ins.

My very real, not so pretty, but handy to have lesson plans.

My very real-not so pretty-but handy to have-more like a snapshot-lesson plans.  Okay, so this version probably doesn’t even deserve the title “lesson plan”.

1. Lesson Plans.  Let’s be real for a minute…you can feel bogged down in this task real quick! I don’t include all the educational jargon on mine…I just want to know WHO is doing WHAT and WHEN it is happening.  It’s about feeling prepared with a purpose and a plan.

Over the years I have written lesson plans in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Ultimately, my lessons are driven by the student’s IEP.  I am held accountable for their progress at annual reviews and progress report periods.  To me, best practice has always been to have a vision of how I want to carry out the smaller steps towards the larger annual goal.  Lesson Plans are helpful to me to see the big picture…where am I today, where will we be in a month, what will it take to get there, am I covering all of the goals, etc.  They are also helpful to remember the order of the skills and my pacing within a unit.  For example, my 4th/5th language groups are doing a unit that will cover 8 sessions (maybe even more) – that is an entire month.  I looked through my book companion unit, compared the skills to each student’s goals, and selected a few of the concepts to focus on.  But we can’t waste a minute of our precious therapy time.  I spent time after school on a Friday planning out the sequence of the unit, and the only way to remember that plan after a relaxing weekend is to have it written down! Bottom line –  I generate LPs for my own use, and if an administrator happens to ask for them then they are already in place.

The system I have been using the past few years works really well for me.

  • First,  I separate my groups based on the type of goals and activities we will be doing.  For example,  I may have 20 different groups that I see throughout the week.  Some of these groups will overlap in goals/activities.  Maybe I have two different 1st grade articulation groups.  No need to plan separately for them.  I can create the same materials for both groups.  So one page will list the students from both groups on it.  Same goes for the three self contained classes for the students with Autism.  While I differentiate for different levels, I prepare the same activity/lesson for all three groups, so I don’t need to write that out three different times.  So instead of listing lessons in 20 different slots, I might have 6 or 7 total pages.  Generally I have lesson plans separated for K/1 artic, 2/3 artic, 4/5 artic, two or three different levels of language groups, and the AU communication groups.  Also, I should note, that currently mine are scratched in pencil and a little more condensed.  They are not cute and colorful, but they sure do help me have my act together!
  • Second, I create lesson plans monthly.  Now in the best of times, I actually think ahead and write out for a month in advance, gather the materials, and have them labeled with the day to be used in the the students’ working folders (or just put them in the order that I plan on using them).  I really like looking at plans monthly because it helps me to address thematic units at the right time (otherwise things like Dr Suess’ birthday and the 100th day of school tend to slip right past me!)


I used the templates from Speechy Musings and added content specific to each set of groups.

I used the templates from Speechy Musings and added content specific to each set of groups.

2.  Communication newsletters.  This is always a challenge because I want so desperately for parents and teachers to know what books, content, skills, and crafts we are doing in real time.  I still have that dream of overlapping perfectly with the content of classroom pacing guides.  I’m hopeful that this will be a communication tool to open dialogue about merging concepts/vocabulary/strategies from the two settings. The hard part of making this a reality is that for it to be meaningful, I am really customizing 7-10 (or more) newsletters each month.  I decided to tackle the challenge this year though.  It has been a little easier when I pair the task with the monthly lesson plans.  The hard part is already done!  Now I just need to format the skills, vocabulary, book lessons, etc into a newsletter.  Plus, when I can overlap lessons/books/themes across groups I do!  I gave myself a break and instead of making my own templates, I bought one from SpeechyMusings on TPT.  Even though her product has ready-to-go newsletters, I still plug in my own content in the blank template because I need to be specific for my students.  However, there was something freeing about already having a template of boxes laid out for me!  So now I transfer the content from the LP and my materials to the format of the newsletter and it is ready to hand out to parents and teachers at the start of each month.

weekly updates

3.  Weekly check-ins.  This step is not as global – yet -although I have really stepped up my game when it comes to relaying content and progress weekly because I want to see the skills carryover.  No, I NEED to see this progress into natural contexts! I have three main tools I use, and these will vary based on the group.

a) notes.  I have some pre-printed for the lesson and some sound specific. (The ones pictured above are 1/4 size paper.)  It gives me a chance to jot down accuracy progress, challenge words, or other info related to the lesson.  I try to have the students show their teacher then take them home to their parents.  I sit in my room and imagine a lovely land where this happens each time and try not to picture the notes squished at the bottom of the book bag with the picture day reminder and the cafeteria menu.

b) speech folders.  Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re here to stay.  At least for some students! Right now I am using them with the students that routinely bring them back.  They are actually being used by their parents too, so that increases my desire to use them.

c) rubrics.  I started small with these – just two students.  I use them to help manage behavior as well as a way for me to communicate weekly to parents and teachers.  Right now I am using these with my 3-5th grade language groups.  I fill them out each session then make copies at the end of the week and give to teachers.  The idea is that they read about their student’s progress on language skills, record any info they need, then send home to parents with other classwork.  It is extra work.  But in my lovely land of unicorns and rainbows, it is a useful tool for me to share real time progress.

For me, these three pieces of the lesson plans, newsletter, and weekly check-ins were connected enough that they came as a bundle 🙂 One on its own is better than none, but the combination of all three strengthens the communication impact.  And communication is what I’m all about, after all.  I’d love to hear your ideas too!

emily blue

Speech/Language Story Companions {Andrea Beaty stories}

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2 3


In this story, we explore Iggy’s love of building (and my love of travel!) Learn about famous structures and the details of when, why, and where they were built.  Students enjoy making connections to other stories they have read and pictures they have seen about these places.  This is a great story to discuss perspective taking and overcoming fears.
5 6 7



Rosie is a classmate of Iggy.  My kids loved finding Iggy in her story and going back to look for Rosie in his.  Together with Rosie, we learn more about flight and the historical figure Rosie the Riveter.  Perseverance is a main theme in this story and we can use her example to stick with our own challenges.  9 10 11



With Ada, we continue to learn more about the students in Miss Lila Greer’s class.  Ada is curious about the world around her.  This gives us a great opportunity to teach WH- questions within a natural context.  Ada Marie Twist is named after Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie.  We extend our learning to include these two famous female scientists as well as Jane Goodall and Sally Ride.  Computer science, physics, space exploration, animals…there are so many aspects of science just waiting for a new generation to take an interest in! 13 14 15


emily blue16

Not all students need to practice each of these language concepts, so I customize a packet for each one.  Using the same story and set of characters allows us the backbone to accomplish a lesson with mixed goals.  The stories can stand on their own, or you could read all three over a period of time.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if Andrea Beaty decides to profile each of the students in their own book?!?  I love the story messages, built-in language concepts, and the clever illustrations by David Roberts.

Check out these book companions and explore your inner architect, engineer, and scientist!  Iggy Peck, Architect        Rosie Revere, Engineer        Ada Twist, Scientist

emily purple


Monday Motivation (Freebie & a giveaway)

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think positive cover


silver lining terms





This is how I approach my life.  It just makes me happier.  And by not occupying a negative space, I find myself around others who also approach set backs and challenges with a problem solving approach.  I was inspired recently to collect some of my favorite motivational quotes to share with my students each week.  Some of these include some helpful life lessons so I am sharing them with my own children as well.  {The phrase of the week at my house has been “The best apology is changed behavior”} At the start of each week I will share a new quote.  This opens the door for us to talk more about the person behind the quote as well…inventors, children, presidents, inventors, actresses, authors, philosophers.


triple example pink

I have chosen a quote for each week of the calendar year.  This way you have options. Some of you do see students/clients year round so you will have enough to present a new one each week.  If you don’t, you have options to be able to swap out quotes or even use multiple in one week.  I have them organized in a thematic way, however you are obviously free to use them as you see fit for your space.

two formats

There are two different versions of each quote…one is on the outline of a face and would be ideal to put in frame.  I have chosen to print the faces on colored paper and cute around the face to then place on a coordinating background color.  I found them to be pretty easy to cut out…some of the hair has more angles to cut, but I didn’t find it cumbersome.  It also looks good all on one color if you choose to not cut.  The other version is just text and fills the whole page.  These are ideal to print on colored card stock of your choice to match your room environment or time of year.  Or colors that just plain make you happy!

writing template

I also have included a template to use for an extension activity.  Students will be able to write the quote, draw a picture, and jot down thoughts of how they interpret the message.  Differentiated for your needs, I have a version with the quote already printed (for students who may have difficulty spelling/writing it all but also for therapists/teachers who may be short on time and want to get to the meat of the lesson) and one blank template that could be mass printed and used for all quotes because students will write in the quote.  You could also use this blank template and write in the quote yourself before copying for your students.   Students can collect these in a cumulative “Motivation Monday Notebook”.  These are also great to display.

four square

I would also like to carry this positive thinking into their home conversations.  I have made these smaller to stick in my communication folders.  These could also be put into a notebook where students then journal on the topics.  My vision is that these will also make great tools to periodically place on students desks with personal notes on the back.


doorMy therapy room is unfortunately situated right next to the student bathrooms. The paper towel dispenser is on the adjoining wall and sounds like a jackhammer in my therapy space.   But in the spirit of seeing the silver lining, I realized that because classes line up right by my door, this opens up a whole new population of kids (and teachers)  that might benefit from the positive messages displayed on my door weekly.  So I chose to display mine in a sparkly frame on my door. (I spray painted a lightweight wooden frame from a craft store and used the removable velcro strip.  Do y’all remember the plastic used for overhead projectors?!? That is my frame’s “glass”.) This will also serve as en entry thought and/or a parting thought for my students.  As we prepare to enter the classroom I have been greeting each group with the quote.  Then as we leave we read it together (quick target for artic too) and I ask them what they think it means.  I haven’t had a group yet that has really been able to rephrase or define the message, so I love that we are taking a minute to explain it and that they get repetition of it through the week.


And now it is time for the giveaway!  TPT generously offered a $10 gift card for giveaways with the back to school sale.  I am still learning the tools of the blog and I just couldn’t turn around a giveaway that quickly.  I’d rather do this slow and correct than turn out a quick mistake (a lesson I’m desperately trying to teach my third grader too!) The great news is that the code doesn’t expire, so you can choose to use it now or keep it for the next sale. To enter, leave a comment on this post…you can share your source for inspiration, a quote that connects to you, or feedback on the Motivational Monday packet.  I am going to push my “select a winner” button on Saturday, so you have through midnight on Friday 9/16/16 to comment in order to be entered in the giveaway.

cut out


I have put in hours and weeks on this project…researching, designing, revising, and creating multiple versions, but I want to offer it to you as a freebie.  It is important to me that we lift each other up and sometimes you just need a happy thought and a freebie 🙂 If you don’t already follow Cult of Pedagogy you should!  Last year I posted about how her article on being a marigold impacted me.  I hope these Motivational Monday Quotes will be some marigold seeds that you can plant in your garden.  I wish for you a successful school year!

emily blue


#septslpmusthave Iggy Peck, Architect book companion

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Iggy cover


My #septslpmusthave is my book companion for Iggy Peck, Architect.  I adore the writing and the illustrations.  And once you fall in love with this story – you will want to share Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist with your students too!  These characters are great models for designing, creating, and exploring.

Because I am about to fall asleep standing up, I am posting the sale now.  This packet is very comprehensive and is 50% off through 9/7/16 (and a few bonus hours until I wake up Thursday!) Here is a peek:

Iggy 1

Iggy 2

Iggy 3

I was beyond thrilled to receive Ada’s story in the mail today (I pre-ordered it on April 28th!) and will be working overtime this weekend to create that story companion, so stay tuned.  Enjoy! emily teal

Back-to-School as easy as 1-2-3

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It is always tricky to trade in my slow-to-rise summer mornings where I may or may not get out of my pajamas for a routine with a 5:30 alarm clock and the grind of packing lunches. But with these staples in my routine, back-to-school is as easy as 1-2-3!  Here are my top three…

1- I need the warmth of my morning tea to center my focus. I love this corksicle mug given to me by a special student. 2- For better or worse I need to know how my day will begin so I wake up and check my email. 3- With 4 of us headed to school together, we have our own mini carpool karaoke!

1- I need the warmth of my morning tea to center my focus. I love this corksicle mug given to me by a special student. 2- For better or worse I need to know how my day will begin so I wake up and check my email. 3- With four of us headed to school together, we have our own mini carpool karaoke!

top 3 authors

Andrea Beatty, Laura Numeroff, Drew Dewalt, Leo Lionni, David Shannon, Oliver Jeffers… oh i can’t pick three, are you kidding? These just scratch the surface…it would be hard to narrow down to 300 favorites let alone 3! These are a few that I love to start the year with.

1- If you are still cutting your velcro strips STOP now! Buy the velcro dots and CHANGE your world!! 2- I still prefer a paper calendar and these flair pens help me to color code. Plus - they are so much more fun to use on my data sheets than blah black ballpoint! 3- On a clipboard, on my lanyard, on my name tag, all over my walls - visual cues are my lifeline!

1- If you are still cutting your velcro strips STOP now! Buy the velcro dots and CHANGE your world!! 2- I still prefer a paper calendar and these flair pens help me to color code. Plus – they are so much more fun to use on my data sheets than blah black ballpoint! 3- On a clipboard, on my lanyard, on my name tag, all over my walls – visual cues are my lifeline!

top 3 music

1- I can’t stop listening! And singing! And dancing! 2- Whether he is singing as Hootie or Darius, his songs make me happy. There is an honesty in his message that I connect to.         3- I have been known to jam to “This Girl is on Fire” with my EC team before IEP meetings!

top 3 unwind

1- I will admit that I don’t always show up at my book club with the book read (All the Light We Cannot See…I’m talking to you) But I always enjoy that time to unwind with girlfriends and talking about topics with different perspectives. Two of my all time favorites…The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler. They took my breath away! 2- Baking – and eating – always relaxes me. Just don’t ask me to clean up. 3- I have been known to plan multiple (sometimes hypothetical) trips at once. Planning makes me happy!

I’d love to hear your TOP THREE as you start a new school year.

emily purple




One organized room coming up…

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cover for room pics

Even with all of my good intentions, my therapy room always has at least one stack of things to file, do, make, or read. Or one of all of the above. Never-the-less, it is important to me that I begin the year as neatly organized as possible. I am so fortunate to have a spacious and comfortable space in our school! Believe me, I know how fortunate I am to have a room with various zones for us to work. Over the years, I have been assigned rooms such as the back office of a conference room, tutor rooms, a shared nurse’s office, a janitor’s closet, and probably my all-time “favorite”…the coach’s office overlooking the middle school gym and shared with the psychologist. I can still hear the basketballs bouncing in my nightmares! It probably goes without saying – I learned how to advocate for my students very quickly! My current room used to belong to our classes for students with Autism, however when our school expanded, they moved to a proper sized classroom and this space opened up for my students. Not a week goes by that I don’t remind my administrators how important this space is for my students and how I utilize every inch!!

Here is a little tour…







I hope you enjoyed the tour!  Are you inspired by something you see?

These are all FREEBIES!!!

Memory Strategies & Visual Cues – The ones on my board are my original set.  I later made a set to share as a freebie, so they will look different.

Hand sanitizer labels – Various styles and sizes

Common Core vocabulary – I chose to print these color coded based on the lists by grade level.  It helps me to know which grade level has these explicitly taught in their curriculum.  However, I don’t restrict myself to that.  If i am using that vocabulary or teaching that skill – I pull the cards no matter what grade!

Goodbye Rhymes – My kids love these!!!  There are some general ones (animals) but also several groups of thematic rhymes (holidays, seasons, Dr. Seuss).  I use them for exit tickets.  We choose one as we leave and practice all the way back to class and then they use it for a final farewell.

Also, here are the links to some items displayed that I purchased from other SLPs: 

Speechopoly – Sublime Speech: I use this as an intro conversational tool to talk with students about “what we do in this class”.  I have also used it as a behavioral reward system.  I printed mine smaller, but it can be used to make a 4×45 bulletin board.  She explains how she uses it in her room here.

Cycles for Phonology toolkit – Speech Musings: The labels are part of the set.  She also shares the name of the storage system, which I purchased and loved!  I then bought a 2nd and made artic labels (not pictured) to store all of my Super Duper and miscellaneous speech cards.  She explains her toolkit in detail here.  I just started using it in the Spring and i found it very helpful.

Photo of the Week – Super Power Speech: I adore this set.  I use it in several ways (she has coordinating worksheets that are leveled for language and include speech and social).  I use photographs from this set for my “close thinking” board.  You can also use pictures from newspapers and various photographs.  See it in more detail here.

Inferencing for a Year – The Speech Bubble SLP: I use this with some groups as part of our routine.  As they become familiar with the routine, we are able to do it as a warm up to our main lesson.  I chose to print them on colored paper and display then in the pocket chart.  Find more details on how she uses them for a bulletin board here.  Day 1 we read through the clues together and try to guess the thematic item. We turn over the picture to see if we guessed right.  Then on Day 2, we use the same structure to describe the item.  I found the little magnifying glasses at Party City for maybe 15 cents each and the pocket charts at my second home (Target’s dollar section).

Have a wonderful start to the school year!!!!

emily blue

Countdown to the Summer Games

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Happy Summer everyone!  I am trying to savor the last few weeks of no alarm clock and not really knowing what day of the week it is.  We have been enjoying our lazy mornings and days at the pool.  In my house we are getting pumped about the Summer Olympics starting later this week.  I love sharing the nostalgia of past Olympic heroics with my kids as we watch new accomplishments and make memories together.  I am always amazed at the level of determination these athletes display and am touched by the sacrifices made by their family in order for them to live out a dream.  Go Team USA!!


Using an Olympics theme to teach is really fun because it naturally leads into conversations about perseverance, determination, hard work, setting goals, working through disappointment, and success.  I always find it fun to introduce unfamiliar vocabulary into units to help students expand their base of knowledge…judo, badminton, fencing, and dressage will be so interesting to learn more about.  The Summer Games: Language Style is jam-packed with summer sports vocabulary to teach skills of categorization, describing, and comparing and contrasting as well as thematic multiple meaning words and idioms.  Summer games cover

Summer games 1 Summer games 2 Summer games 3


For students focusing on articulation sounds, this FREEBIE is a fun way to practice skills of sorting by beginning, medial, and final placement while practicing speech placement.

Gold medal Summer cover


Gold medal Winter 2

Word lists target 5 different sets of sounds

Gold medal Winter 1

Have fun with magic reveals or writing & coloring


Follow the Clues: The Summer Games promotes descriptive language skills, social interaction with questioning and answers between peers, and expanding sentence structure.  Students will describe sports and items related to the Summer Games.

FTC summer games cover FTC summer games 1 FTC summer games 2 FTC summer games 3

I hope you are enjoying your Summer days and have fun watching the Summer Games!

emily blue