Ways to Make Vocabulary More Meaningful

cropped-round-logo-copy.jpgIn working on our vocabulary pilot study for the summer, we've been researching vocabulary techniques.  With finals just around the corner for high schoolers, it's a good time to improve study skills for vocabulary.705_3540881

Beck and McKeown have just updated their book Bringing Words to LIfe, Robust Vocabulary Instruction, and it is one of my new favorite books for vocabulary.  They have some tips you might find useful this time of year.

  1. Don't just use synonyms or antonyms; use word associations to learn vocabulary terms.  If your child/student is trying to learn the meaning of "gregarious," instead of focusing on the fact that gregarious is the opposite of introvertedthink about a character on TV that typifies "seeking and enjoying the company of others." I think of Mandy on Last Man Standing on ABC.  She is the outgoing, middle child who enjoys spending time with friends more than spending time with her school books.
  2. Put vocabulary into the context of experiences.  You can say, "Describe a time when you or one of your friends was gregarious."  
  3. Use idea completions.  The popular girl was more gregarious than I was at the party, because...

51A6CaPvaULBasically, the meaning of vocabulary words "stick" when the meanings are clear, in a student-friendly context, and involve thinking about and using the meanings right away.

More to come....

The SLP and SOAP Notes

In private practice, treatment notes are an important part of what we do.  It allows us to chart the progress of our students, keep on track with treatment, plan for future sessions and re-evaluate our methods each time we work with a student.
438_3370877Traditionally these notes are done by hand, but the new wave is to keep track electronically.  In order to record notes, first and foremost, you must have privacy controls in place.  This means using a password on your ipad or computer so others cannot login accidentally or on purpose to view client notes.
80_2640019Second, you need a backup system so that if notes are deleted accidentally, you are able to retrieve them easily.  Using a cloud based storage system such as iCloud allows you to access the notes across devices.  However, if you delete a file on your iPad, it will be deleted on your iCloud, so think about using another cloud-based storage system like Dropbox to avoid accidental deletions.
A final level of security for those using digital devices is to backup your computer with an external hard drive, also password protected, and stored at another location outside of your office.
112_2934062I use my iPad to record notes on Pages during sessions.  The iPad takes up less space on the table than a paper folder would.  It allows me to quickly record notes as we go and takes less time away from the student while we are working.  The best part about typing notes and printing them out every few months is that it saves paper.  Typing my notes stores about 1.5 months worth of notes on one side of a printed page.  When handwriting my notes, I could only fit about 2-3 weeks worth per side of a page.
573_3180490Finally, the newest trend is to create a Google form, spreadsheet or document to record progress for students.  Graphs and tables can enhance the visual factor of a student's progress.
What's your preferred way to take notes during your speech-language sessions in your private practice?

Communication and Homework Tools Presentation

Deena Seifert, MS, CCC-SLP
Deena Seifert, MS, CCC-SLP

I enjoyed sharing my strategies and ideas with attendees to the Individual Differences in Learning (gifteddifferentlearners.org) Monday night (April 8th).

If you missed the presentation or want to see it again, here is the slideshare video below.

[slideshare id=18358071&doc=ppcommandhwtechpresentation-130407111324-phpapp02]

Thanks for reading!

Practical Language Strategies for Parents

Deena Seifert, MS, CCC-SLP
Deena Seifert, MS, CCC-SLP

If you are in the Baltimore area, you might want to check out Monday night's meeting of the Individual Differences in Learning Association, Inc. (gifteddifferentlearners.org) 7 pm at the Miller Library in Ellicott City.

They provide support, training and information for teachers, students, parents and others concerned with the well-being of learners.  It's a very informative, supportive atmosphere and they provide a great service for all.

I'll be talking about low tech and high tech strategies to make the learning process easier when helping their kids with homework and maybe present a few new ideas that educators would enjoy learning about.Image

If you can't make the meeting, tomorrow night I'll post a copy of the presentation on this blog and a copy of the handout.

Social-Pragmatics Can Be Impacted by a Variety of Factors

Please view our PowerPoint presentation that we uploaded to SlideShare for you!

[slideshare id=17510389&w=427&h=356&sc=no] <div style="margin-bottom:5px"> <strong> <a href="http://www.slideshare.net/communicationapptitude/social-pragmatics-and-language" title="Social Pragmatics and Language" target="_blank">Social Pragmatics and Language</a> </strong> from <strong><a href="http://www.slideshare.net/communicationapptitude" target="_blank">communicationapptitude</a></strong> </div>

Thanks for reading.

Articulation Practice and Mad Libs

Deena Seifert, M.S., CCC-SLP
Deena Seifert,

When we work with students on their speech sounds, we are counting on the student and his family to practice at home to carryover the techniques.  Mad Libs has created an iOS app that can help students carryover practice.  I give my students a list of their target sound in words categorized by noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc.  We open the app, choose a Mad Lib such as "Sleepover Party," "Camping Daze" or "Original Mad Libs" - there are so many to choose from - and then type in their words.  When we are finished, we add their picture and email it to their mom or dad.  Now they've got a story with their target sound to practice before our next session.


Parents can download the app and use it at home, as well, for even  more carryover practice.  What do you use for carryover practice at home?  We'd like to hear what you are using with your students or children!

High School Vocabulary

Hi all.  Deena and I have been busy lately, sorry we haven't posted much. Lots of excitement "behind the scenes."

I wanted to share some index card words that a smart young lady in high school worked on with me. This student had all but given up on memorizing vocabulary in science, social studies and literature because she could not handle all of the dense language that seemed meaningless.  Here is how we broke down (discussing each phrase separately) the definition for  "allegory - a narrative in which the characters, behavior and setting demonstrate multiple levels of meaning and significance." When she read the definition to me, all of the words were rushed together, she was not parsing them out for meaning.  Because this is how she was attempting to memorize (short-term for meaningless information) it was unsuccessful.


In order to help her anchor the meaning to the actual vocabulary word (she had 20 multisyllabic words to remember), the student realized there were two Ls in the word, so we wrote Level 1 and Level 2.  The gestalt of the definition is that what you see is not what you get, there is deeper meaning.  She said, "Like layers of an onion" so we turned the "o" into an onion.  "Story" rhymes with "gory" so we wrote that on the card as well.  Here is the front of the index card:


Here is another card we did for Allusion

image   image

Notice that the  actual letters of the word contain the very concepts that are embedded in the definition so the student had visual anchors to recall the word.  The A became a Star of David (religious), the LL became a piece of literature, the U became a boat in Boston Harbor (historical) and the I became Zeus's lightening bolt (mythological).

After studying her vocabulary terms this way, she happily announced that she had gotten a good grade on her test!

Apps That Read to You

Deena SeifertM.S., CCC-SLP
Deena Seifert

Isn't technology amazing?  Not only do we have book readers (Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.), but there are apps out there that will read to you.  This technology is known as "text-to-speech."  Here's some information about some of the apps on the market.  As always, before you press "buy" make sure you have done a little investigation and read the reviews that come with each app.

Read2Go by Bookshare (19.99) - From Bookshare (a free digital library for users with physical or learning disabilities) Read2Go is an app that allows you to download books from the Bookshare library directly to your iPad.  It has a text-to-speech feature with a male or female voice which can be set at a desirable rate for the listener.

FireFly by Kurzweil (Free) - for those with Kurzweil computers and accounts, you can download Firefly onto your iPad to read items in your Kurzweil library or the Firely digital library. 

Speak it! - $1.99 - This app will highlight words as they are read to you and can save them to an audio file.  You can adjust the speed of the voice and hit pause, when needed.  What's great about this app is that it can run in the background as you are working.


Web Reader HD $4.99 a web browser that will read the web to you. You can chose where on the web page you would like it to start reading.  It also has male and female voices with speed settings.  Files can be synced to your Drop Box account, as well.

SpeakPad - Free (Mobi) - SpeakPad has a female voice with the ability to buy other voices.  You can adjust the rate, emails text, saves documents and opens documents. It's free so watch out for ads or the cost of additional voices.

Remember, free apps will  likely include advertising of new apps and other information that you might not want to see each time.  Sometimes, it's better to spend a few dollars to lessen the aggravation of pop-up ads.  The market is constantly changing.  Do you have a favorite text-to-speech app?  Let us know.

"R" ticulation

Beth Lawrence, MA, CCC-SLP
Beth Lawrence, MA, CCC-SLP

This post is targeted at speech-language pathologists who work on articulation, but might be helpful for parents/tutors as well.  The "R" sound can be a very tricky sound to correct.  This is an excellent blog post by a speech-language pathologist named Katie:


Her ideas are fantastic! I wanted to share one additional technique I discovered a few years ago in working with a student who had been in articulation therapy for 4 years.  I now use this technique with every "R" case, and I have to say the turn-around time for therapy has dropped considerably.  This student was able to "bunch his tongue" in the back as he had been taught by one therapist, and he used a retroflexed "R" (another therapist) that made him sound like he was trilling in conversational speech.  His "R" sounded rounded and a lot like "ooohr"  Using a "Mr. Mouth", we reviewed the anatomy of the tongue, teeth and mouth.  It became apparent that the sides of his tongue were not engaged with his upper teeth, rather his tongue was "floating" inside his mouth--exactly the position to get a nice, "ooohr" sound!

I placed my hands in a rigid position about 4 inches apart, then had him place his own hand between the "teeth" I had created with my hands.  In order to orient him to how his hand and tongue could move in unison, I asked him to say "t-t-t" and "g-g-g" while moving his hand in the same manner that his tongue was moving (i.e., the tips of his fingers moved upward for "t" and his wrist moved upward as he produced "g").  After he got the gist of moving hand and tongue in unison, I had him pretend to be my teeth, my hand became my "tongue" and I showed him how his tongue was not spreading to gain firm contact with his molars, thus creating a neutralized "R" sound.  I then spread my hand (again, representing what my tongue was doing) to obtain firm lateral pressure on his hands (my teeth), producing a strong "R" sound.  Here is a video my husband was patient enough to do with me:

[wpvideo PMu4cJQY]

With my student, we reversed the process, his tongue easily followed his hand movement as it pressed laterally against my two hands.  Because his tongue was now "anchored" laterally on his teeth,  he made the first strong "R" sound he had ever made.  He moved from "R" approximations in all positions of words to being dismissed ("R" in conversation with 95-100% accuracy as reported by parents and teachers) in five months.  This method has worked with my students, whether the student is using retroflexed or bunched "R".  Some students have needed some strengthening work for this new "spreading" movement, which can easily be done using two (flavored) tongue depressors, one on the left and one on the right side of the tongue.  Resisting slight compression between the two tongue depressors helps to strengthen the lateral portions of the tongue, increasing success.

The Puzzle Method and Writing

Deena Seifert, M.S., CCC-SLP
Deena Seifert,

Beth shared The Puzzle Method with us, which helps writers develop main ideas and key details.  I've borrowed her puzzle idea and started using it with my elementary school writers who are writing sentences to describe pictured situations.  Sometimes students are overwhelmed with the many actions in a picture and don't know where to start.

"Taking a page" from Beth's strategies, I make a photocopy of a picture and cut it up into puzzle pieces.  The student puts the puzzle together, determines the main idea of the picture and creates a topic sentence.

After writing the topic sentence, the student chooses one of the puzzle pieces and writes a sentence about it, and so on with each puzzle piece until a sentence has been formulated about each puzzle piece.  Finally, we work on formulating the concluding sentence.

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This method can be used to create compound and complex sentences by using 2 or more puzzle pieces:

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Breaking a picture up into defined puzzle pieces, breaks down the activity for the student and decreases the frustration that can be caused with a multi-step writing activity.