Martin’s Big Words Follow-up

Hey all! Pam Schmit has kindly shared some pictures and additional ideas related to the February literacy unit centered around “Martin’s Big Words” by Doreen Rappaport.

Pam shares:

I was anxious to use Martin’s Big Words with my students.  Many of them of them struggle with managing behavior and I wanted to emphasize peaceful, non-violent, even loving ways to deal with peers through WORDS!   Throughout the month we:

read and answered comprehension questions,

retold the scenes, using possessive nouns, attributes, and focusing on articulation where indicated,

talked about the illustrator’s symbolism and focused on the stained glass windows,

took a virtual tour of formal and informal stained glass windows,

colored panels of “stained glass” and bordered the door with it,

restated some of Martin’s quotes, as seen on the door, with expressive delivery,

underlined all the past tense verbs in the text and returned to using some of them,

discussed the literal/ non-literal meanings of “big” and used examples of long words vs powerful words,

glued a timeline (found on TPT), allowing the students to use those past tense verbs in sentences and allowing the students, including the MSD students,  to show knowledge of spatial concepts and sequential order.

There was familiarity with the story among my elementary as well as my MSD high school students, so they were able to build on what they already knew, which gave them more confidence about speaking.  I hoped that the door decorations would somehow remind students of the concepts we have been talking about.  And then decorating the door based on our current book and including some student work now seems like a good goal for me.


Chapter 5- Application

Amanda Piekarski shares:

This chapter was so full of ideas and examples! I loved all of the examples! Here we begin to learn about how the scientific information we have been learning about can be translated into practice. I compared this to how we, as SLP’s, are both the scientist (the diagnostician identifying areas of weakness) and the interventionist (providing services, support in the classroom, and home support). I attempted to compile a list of strategies applicable to the school setting.

Part 1: The 3 T’s

Tune In:

-Tune into the child’s interests. I almost always have an idea of the activity that I want to target when a child enters my speech room. But, maybe that child has another idea/ interest. Can we be more flexible and be adaptable to the child’s interest? If I wanted to look at a book and the child saw a new stack of blocks in my room that grabs their eye, is that the better choice? Choosing toys/ games/ books/ topics the child is interested in may foster more speech and language opportunities. Example: I had a student recently who, through the course of conversation I discovered, had never had a fortune cookie. I promised him I would save him one the next time the opportunity arose. Weeks later we had a wonderful session discussing fortune cookies- taste, shape, where they are made, purpose, etc. that ended with a fortune cookie. He was thrilled and we had a great session!


-Engaging in something the child is already doing may be your best bet! The author stated that the brain doesn’t have to use energy to switch. This made me think about when we pull students (especially preschoolers) who may be engaged. Should we join them instead?

-The studies reviewed showed that children are less likely to retain when there is little or no interest in the topic.

The best interaction/ lesson may not always be what was planned.

Talk More: -Talk with and not to the child.

– Pay attention to use of decontextualized language- build language from the here and now. This means talking about things that can be seen and touched. This will then build into more obscure concepts. Are we using topics that are relatable to the child? If you are talking about ocean animals—do they know what an ocean is?

– Expansion, extension and scaffolding. I think this is definitely a SLP skill! It’s what we do! We offer a ‘better’, more language rich way, of saying something without correcting the child. We need to demonstrate this in the classroom.

Take Turns

-Allow children a little extra time to retrieve words can be the difference between continuing turns and the end of the topic. Do WE talk too much in our therapy session? Are we too quick to fill the silence?

-What questions and yes/ no questions do little for conversation continuation. We need to make sure to balance those open-ended questions. Maybe offering a mixed presentation as we are teaching question forms.

Part II: The Three T’s In Action

· Book sharing- it’s ok if the child is not sitting quietly and listening. Are they engaged? It’s the perfect time to ‘tune in’.

How we can use the 3T’s in reading:

– Encourage children to take an active role, not just quiet listening

– Demonstrate for teachers (push in). Encourage teachers to share with parents.

– Storytelling- have the child re-tell the school day.

· Math and the 3 T’s

– Encourage vocabulary central to strong early match skills: numbers, their operation, geometry, spatial reasoning, measurement and data.

– Basic concepts—we’ve got this!!

· TMW and self-regulation and executive function

– Allowing children choices. A way of constructively altering behavior. This may work for some of our more difficult behavior kiddos. Do you want to do x or y? Do you want to do x first or y first?

· Exhibiting self-regulation. We can be an awesome demonstration! During those frustrating times (you know when the book shelf is knocked over or puzzles are spilled everywhere). We can demonstrate the language needed for self-regulation. This may be easier said than done 😉

· “Because thinking”—help students know why we are doing things.

· Creativity- using music and visual arts. There are so many ways we can expose children to vocabulary, math, and self-regulation with these handy activities.

· Pretend play- never underestimate the importance of pretend play.

· The Fourth T: Turn It Off!

With the expansive use of electronics in our society today… should we not be using technology? Videos, computers, iPad games, etc? We know children’s brains learn best from social interaction. What is our role in this? This made me think of “Milo”? It is a robot for children with Autism. It claims to be “The future of education and socialization for learners with Autism”. If you haven’t heard about it, I encourage you to read about it!

Thanks, Amanda!

Chapter 5 Summary-The Three Ts

Carolyn Dent shares:

***Part I-Setting the Stage for Optimum Brain Development***

This chapter discusses how the Thirty Million Words (TMW) initiative looks in practice. The curriculum is parent developed, parent tested, and parent directed. Hundreds of parents were recruited to review module examples and give feedback regarding quality, clarity, and relevance. Parent-friendly explanations, illustrations, and videos are used to promote a rich language environment. One example given was an illustration for the phrase “words grow your baby’s brain.”

The Three Ts—Tune In, Talk More, Take Turns—were designed to become a natural part of everyday activities (making bed, peeling apple, sweeping floor, etc.)

“Tune In” requires making a conscious effort to notice what a child is focused on, then talking with the child about it, following and responding to the child’s lead. It is critical to be aware of what the child is doing and become a part of it. This enhances the relationship with the child, helps to improve play skills, and helps develop the child’s brain since the brain does not have to use energy to switch to another arena (parent is engaging in what child is already interested in/focused on). When children are encouraged to focus on something other than what is currently holding their interest they are less likely to learn. When participating in child-led activities, the child will stay engaged longer, imitate communication, and learn more easily.

Child-directed speech (melodic pitch, positive tones, simplified vocabulary, and singsong rhythm) entices a child into shared attention and to be engaged and interact. Repetition is emphasized as babies learn words they hear more frequently and will listen longer to sounds/words they’ve heard before.

Parental responsiveness consists of observation, interpretation, and action all being completed with warmth. This warmth, or lack thereof, predicts the stability of the child. When a child is crying, the parent responds (“Mommy is here,”) creating an attachment. Unattended newborn cries results in toxic stress, if continued over time, and the child’s brain connections are permanently, negatively impacted. This affects a child’s learning to control emotions, behavior, trusting others, and health. Responding to a child causes attachment. The many colors of communication are discussed—crying, babbling, making faces, eye contact, etc. all used to get parents’ attention.

“Talk More” requires talking WITH the child, not TO the child with attention to not only the kinds of words, but how they are said. An example of a piggy bank full of pennies versus a piggy bank full of various coins was used to explain using a rich vocabulary. Narration (parent’s talk about what THEY’RE doing) is encouraged for parents to use throughout the day to surround child with language and familiarize the child with steps in a routine. Parallel talk (parent’s talk about what the CHILD is doing) should be done with eye contact, regarding the immediate environment, holding the child close, and with warmth. Suskin also discourages use of pronouns when developing early language skills. Decontextualized language is a higher level of thinking for processing and responding and optimizes school learning. This is accomplished by use of familiar words to talk about things parent/child have done together with no observable reference.

Expansion, extension, and scaffolding are encouraged for the “Talk More” piece of TMW. Expansion offers a better way of saying something. Extension encourages using the child’s word as a building block to add more vocabulary. Scaffolding is adding words to a child’s response to make it more mature.

“Take Turns” promotes conversational exchange. Waiting for the child to respond, allowing a little extra time for the child to retrieve words is important. It was explained that “WHAT” questions don’t enhance conversational exchange or build vocabulary because you are only requiring the child to retrieve words he/she is already familiar with (same with y/n). Open-ended questions are encouraged to promote problem solving.

***Part II-The Three Ts in Action***

Part II focuses on the introduction of math concepts, developing literacy, building self-regulation and executive function, and developing critical thinking skills, emotional insight, creativity, and persistence. Book sharing is recommended with dialogic reading to be used. This is when the child takes an active role in telling the story and answering questions about what they see, think, and feel. This is a great opportunity for using decontextualized language—when answers aren’t on the page. Even reading to a baby is beneficial as they are comforted by the sound of a parent’s voice, the rhythm of the speech and warmth of the touch. The importance of print awareness is discussed and pointing to words is emphasized to make connections between spoken words and print as well as to familiarize the child with the procedure for reading (left to right, top to bottom, etc.) There is a link between parents’ oral narrative activities and their children’s later language skills, which is where storytelling and narrative come into play. This can be addressed with everyday activities (going to the grocery story) and parents should encourage participation, ask open-ended questions to develop imagination, deep thinking, and vocabulary growth.

Numbers and learning to count, at first as a rote practice, lay the foundation for math. Counting things all around (adding subtracting/crackers) is suggested. Talking about shapes and their relationship to one another (spatial reasoning) is important as children who had more spatial words at 2 had better spatial skills at 4.5 years.

Teaching patterns and routine is important as patterns help a child know what will happen next, which helps them focus on learning.

“Process-based praise “(praising the effort) rather than “person-based praise” (praising the child) has proven to produce children who are less likely to give up when faced with a challenge.

Self-regulation and executive function are also discussed. Offering choices allows a child to think independently (regulatory part of child’s brain). The best way to teach self-regulation is to exhibit it, especially watching tone of voice. Directives do not build self-regulation or brains as there is little or no language required in the response.

“Because thinking” provides a rationale for doing something, cause/effect explanation, consequences of actions. This results in critical thinking and a lifetime understanding. An example that was provided was to explain WHY we need to put certain items of clothes on rather than demanding “Put your shoes on!”

Creativity is encouraged through music, painting, drawing, sculpting, and pretend play. This allows a tendency toward exploration, discovery, and imagination and as a result provides a stronger foundation for the beginning of school. The arts also promote an outlet for expressing thoughts and feelings.

The chapter ends with a discussion on technology and simply put, the conclusion is that children’s’ brains learn best from social interaction. Limits on technology use and its purpose should be carefully considered.

Thanks, Carolyn!

THANK YOU and Call for posts

HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!!! I wanted to let you all know that you are ROCK STARS!! Thank you so much for being so willing to share and take the time to gather up and explain your ideas! We have posts scheduled for every Friday through the end of the year except for 3!! One of those is shortly before Derby, and I know you are all doing fun, Derby-themed activities. Is anyone willing to share? If you are, let me know! If you don’t have Derby-specific ideas, but you have something else to share, let me know that too! It would be great to have things planned out through the end of the year and even for the first few weeks of next year. Seriously, you all are awesome! Thanks so much for supporting the blog!


Simon’s Cat

Today’s post is compliments of Jessica Oliver:

We recently celebrated Valentine’s Day.  As part of the celebration, I used short videos from the Simon’s Cat series with my middle school students to work on a variety of goals.  If you haven’t heard of this series, they are short animated clips that have sound and music but no words.  They allow for opportunities to work on inferences, predictions, social problem solving, articulation skills, fluency skills, verbs, labeling, and much more.  Each year they come out with a new short for each major holiday.  They also have videos for every day.  The videos are often funny, cute, and high interest for all age groups.  I have seen SLPs who have used them with elementary students with success.  I use them with middle schoolers and I would have used them with high schoolers as well.

Below is a link to the video I used for Valentine’s Day (though the video could be used any time).  During my session, I paused between each scene to ask questions.  For the first scene, I asked about what the cat was chasing, why he chased the mouse, why he gave it to the girl cat, and asked if the girl cat liked it.  I also asked about what they thought the boy cat would do next, how the girl cat would react, what he could do to solve the problem, and even had students describe cats/mice.  For the second scene, we talked about butterflies and described them.  We talked about the reactions of the girl cat and the boy cat when the girl ate the butterfly.  We also asked about times when they were grossed out and discussed problem solving strategies.  The last scene, gave opportunities to discuss social skills, personal space, and rough play with my ECE self-contained students while also working on describing skills.   Depending on the students’ goals, I was able to easily adjust the questions to address them.  When a student needed, I let them re-watch a scene to check their answer and asked a question again.  One video could last for a whole session of therapy depending on the length!

There are a lot of ways to use the videos.  I hope you guys find them useful.  Just search for Simon’s Cat on YouTube!

Thanks, Jessica!

Chapter 4 Application

Rachel Lacap shares her thoughts:

Good gracious!  Chapter 4 was so chock full of information that I had to read it twice in order to fully appreciate all the information that was presented.  I took notes and jotted down some of the important applications that I gained from the multiple studies that we reviewed in this chapter.  I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but these really stuck out in my head as being important and fairly easily implemented into both my therapy and my daily life with my own children.

· Parent/adult language is more than the number of words spoken, it is also the WAY that we speak, including intonation and use of positive versus negative words.

· In regards to math skills, it is NEVER too early to introduce math talk and spatial talk, as babies are born with an approximate number system that can be used frequently in order to increase future comprehension and use of math skills.  The more a child HEARS math talk, the more they USE math talk.

· Gender differences continue to be pervasive in our society, especially in regards to women and the continued insecurities regarding math skills and abilities (see more below).

· Growth mindset—my favorite!!  I think that THIS is the most important take-away from this entire chapter.  By using a growth mindset in therapy, we can change children’s way of thinking and improve their perseverance, hard work, and grit.

· Growth mindset is praising children for “working hard” and NOT being smart. Saying to a child “wow—you really worked hard on that!” instead of saying “Wow—you’re so smart!” This allows the child to think “I can get better if I try” instead of “I’m just not smart enough”.  This can even be used to decrease the gender differences and insecurities in young girls that I mentioned earlier.

· In order to increase self-regulation and executive function skills in children, we can model self-talk during tasks.

· When talking to children, adults and parents should “suggest” instead of “dictate” in order to increase the child’s executive functioning and self-regulation.  This looks like saying “Please be a good helper” instead of “help clean up.”

· When trying to shape children’s behavior, it should be worded to talk about the behavior, instead of the child, ie, “That was a very bad thing to do.” Instead of “You are so bad!”

What were some of your take-aways?


Rachel Lacap

Wheeler Elementary

THANKS, Rachel!!

Chapter 4 Summary

Melissa gates shares:

The Power of Parent Talk

From Language to An Outlook On Life

Below is a summary of the sections of Chapter 4.  Disclaimer: It tried to summarize the chapter, but it was not that easy.

Dr. Suskind explains that we do know that our experiences can profoundly shape and change our “wiring” between the ages of birth – three. “Parent language” is important and is more than just introducing vocabulary.  She explains that it is the number or words and the way in which parents speak to children.  It influences our potentials in math, self-regulation, spatial reasoning, literacy, reactions to stress, perseverance and our moral fiber.

Several sections of this chapter discuss how math talk is important with parent talk as well. Dr. Suskind explains that some researchers believe that children are born with an innate “number sense” and are able to “guestimate the relative number of things”.  We can quickly look at lines in the supermarket and judge which is shortest. However, this doesn’t translate into us understanding words associated with numbers.

It is suggested that although we are able to innately estimate numbers, the ability to move on to performing higher level math is language dependent.  Understanding that numbers represent individual things in a group is referred to understanding the “cardinal principle”.  A child needs to understand this concept before they can move forward to understanding higher level math.  Dr. Suskind shares that Susan Levine discovered while looking at parent talk, that children who were exposed to more math talk or number talk, appeared to have a better understanding of the important cardinal principal of math.

The author also discusses how spatial ability is important for understanding science, technology, engineering and math.  This principal was also studied by Susan Levine and she found that parents who engaged in “spatial talk” with their children showed more spatial knowledge at the end of the study. However, this does not mean that the child will become a scientific genius.  It suggests that the foundation is there but the student must also have interest and lots of practice.

Dr. Suskind explains the some studies suggest that parents talk more to boys about math than they do the girls and that they subtly suggest to young girls that “math is not their thing”. It was suggested that perhaps mothers pass this bias on to their daughters.

So what else can we do? Dr. Suskind shares that Professor Carol Dweck suggests that we should not be praising natural abilities such as “math comes easily to you”.  We don’t want children to think that math is a “gift” that you either have or don’t.  We want them to believe that hard work, perseverance and devotion are important so that they will not give up thinking “I’m just not good at that”.

Dr. Suskind also shares with us the theory from Carol Dweck that we must teach children determination and to not give up when faced with a challenge. This is referred to as “grit”. It is suggested that parents have a “praise style”.  Children who were praised for diligence and effort in the first three years were more likely to believe that they were successful due to their hard work.

The chapter shares that Professor James Heckman suggests that self-regulation and executive function is also essential in a child’s ability to achieve. We need to hold back from explosive behaviors, inappropriate behaviors, restraining from violent reactions and control our temptations. This is separate from intelligence and is not something we are born with. Dr. Suskind discusses that the home environment is important for developing these skills.

So what else can we do to help the children we serve? Dr. Suskind tells us that Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist theorized that language skills are important for a child’s self-regulation. It is also suggested that interventions focusing on vocabulary development also help improve a child’s social skills along with language skills.  Dr. Suskind also discusses that parent talk is important for responding to unacceptable behaviors in children.  We want children to understand that they are “good” but made a mistake rather than see themselves as “bad”.

I believe Chapter Four tells us more of what we already know and some about what makes sense given what we already know.  What stood out to me was the “math talk”.  I talked to my own children all the time when they were young.  I talked about what we were doing, what we saw, what we read, what we heard…. But did I ever talk to them about numbers and “math”?  Uh oh, probably not much. It helped me think of the child as a whole and how language shapes their every day.  I felt slightly overwhelmed. Did I do a good job with my own children? Have I already missed the boat with the children I serve since they are past 3 years of age?  What about those young children that have difficulty controlling their emotions? I will be more cognizant of my praise style and math talk for sure.  I also feel that it is important for me to provide more articles and activities to parents to help support vocabulary development at home.

Thanks, Melissa!