The Force is Strong in Speech Therapy…

Ms. Saus, you really like Star Wars.”

Yes, dear child. Among many things, I do really like Star Wars.  And it’s  apparent when one sets foot inside the therapy room.

Actually, there are pieces of numerous pop culture icons in my therapy room, from Star Wars and Star Trek to Marvel’s Avengers or superheroes, and How to Train Your Dragon.  There’s an assortment of yellow beetles and happy faces, too.  When therapists spend as much time as we do in our therapy rooms, it’s elemental to create a space that works with us and sparks the interest and imagination of the young minds we work with.  Ours, too, right?  It opens the door for rapport, conversation, and connection.

Over the past few years, the love of Star Wars has grown in momentum with the advent of new series, toys, and now  – unless you’ve been living under a meteor rock – a new movie that’s about to drop.  It’s been a great time to be a fan.

And a Rogue.

Wait – what’s a ‘rogue’?

There is, believe it or not, a group of people who actively use Star Wars in their classrooms to creatively teach academic concepts and life lessons to our students.  As members of  StarWarsintheClassroom.com, we earn the moniker: “Rogues –  an elite group of educators who seek to make learning more fun and exciting by integrating the Star Wars Saga into their curriculum”.  It’s an honor to be amongst their ranks and admittedly a whole lot of fun.

It’s also a bit of a challenge.

One asks: “That’s great and all, but just how do you use Star Wars in speech therapy?  And with your age group [of three to five-year olds]?”  After all, the social, political and even mathematical ties worthy of dissection and discussion readily apply to activities for older students, but pre-Kindergarten?

Rest assured, there are more ways to effectively incorporate the fun of a galaxy far, far away than one might think.  Allow me to count [just a few of] them:

Star Wars Desk ItemsRapport
As mentioned before, the recognition of a favorite iconic figure or item in your room or on your person goes a long way in making a connection with a student – from the unequivocally shy ones to social butterflies, and even with the troubled ones who feel alone and unconnected with the world.

Star Wars Teddy Bear PicknicRecall, Storytelling and Play, Answering Questions
Familiar thematic items and figures add something extra to your curriculum, such as using a themed Build-a-Bear to supplement a  literacy-based speech and language unit about teddy bears.  Language use during play and conversational turn-taking require students to recall past experiences, respond to questions, and make additional comments.  Talking about movies, television shows, toys and characters, and things that are really important to them is a great way to target open-ended communication skills.  Initiating a Star Wars conversation might elicit some of your best topic-maintenance trials!

PerspectiveSocial Awareness and Perspective-Taking
The Saga’s Jedi Code and practice often speak of mindfulness of surroundings and others.  This awareness of others and the world around us is crucial to building good communication skills.  One must be observant of situations, as well as others’ feelings and attempts to communicate, in order to maintain reciprocity, social conversation, and connection to others.  One of my favorite teachable moments of this concept occurred when two little boys were building Don’t Break the Ice.   Both boys saw a different design in the blocks depending on where they were seated at the table.  The opportunity was golden for quoting Obi-Wan Kenobi:  “You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” The guided conversation that ensued, as well as the understanding and reciprocity that dawned between them, was one of those unscripted moments that is inspiring to witness.

May the 4th Activities

Drill/Practice & Rewards
Star Wars figures make great manipulatives.  Use them for practicing position/direction concepts, following spoken directives, sorting, counting, or describing.  Break down crafts (many to be found on Pinterest and Google) into pieces earned during drill and practice tasks, following directions, or to target sequencing.  Add new dimension to your game closet with open-ended SMARTBoard activities, BINGO boards or related store-bought games.  Playdoh or kinetic sand with Star Wars cookie cutters or figurines target vocabulary, any number of language concepts in play, and add a fun sensory component!  Homemade foam lightsabers make great bubble poppers (check out Miracle Bubbles in thematic bottles).

Consensagram

Imagination and Confidence
In this day and age, we work to tear down gender barriers and minimize social stigmas.  What better way to instill imagination, creativity and the confidence to “just like what you like” and “be yourself” in your learners than by embracing your inner geek and becoming a role model? Whatever your obsessions, show your students it’s OK to be passionate about something, even if others might consider it silly. An added bonus comes from using it as a treatment tool!

Think you have what it takes to be a Rogue?  Be sure to check out Star Wars in the Classroom.  Like these ideas, or want to discuss ways to use the things you are passionate about, but are not sure where to start or how to make the content relevant?  Feel free to contact me by commenting below, through the website, or on Twitter!

May the Force be with you… 

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3-D SLP, Jr.’s “Bears on the Loose” – A Product Review

We are big fans of nerdy boxes in this house, having sampled anything from LootCrate™ to NatureBox©, and others.  They are a fun concept, if a little pricey, so we have not kept subscriptions on them over time and have only enjoyed ordering one on occasion.

However, with the drop of 3-D SLP’s professional subscription box, I have been extremely intrigued.  Now, here is a box I wanted to get behind!  Unfortunately, my target population is early childhood – three to five-year old students and families – and the 3-D SLP box is really intended for elementary-aged students, with higher-level language concepts and themes.

Well, darn.

However, the the company pays attention to the customer base and – voila!  With growing success from the original subscription box, 3-D SLP now has launched a “junior” version, just for early interventionists and their students and families.

I have been beside myself waiting for the inaugural box, and am equally excited to share my thoughts on its contents and accessibility with you.

3-D SLP, Jr. arrives in a very nice, heavy-weight box printed with the beautiful company logo.  After receiving a bit of wear during its travels (seems to be an issue with my local post) I am  grateful for the mindful packaging to protect my product.

Bears on the Loose Box

Upon opening the box, I discern the care with which it has been packed; it is an attractive display, boasting a carefully-selected book with materials and activities that thematically coincide for an approximate month’s worth of therapy sessions (give or take, really, depending on how many sessions you provide).

Allow me to take a closer look at this box, in particular.

 

Inside, is a beautifully illustrated book, The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.  Each page holds a wealth of opportunities for language exploration, including discussion of action words, pretend play, outdoor and summer-themed vocabulary, descriptive concepts, and opportunities for open-ended questions and recall: a fully-loaded treasure for any speech-language pathologist, for sure.  

A sturdy folder contains a pack of very nice quality, custom-designed and color-printed reproducibles and materials.  Each item within the box is listed, along with a brief description and possible therapeutic uses.  There is a sample lesson plan, ideas for fine and gross motor activities, sample poems and songs, and play-doh recipes with a cute bear cutter!  Additionally, there are vocabulary concepts (action words, descriptive words: empty/full) and other suggested language targets.  Also contained in this packet is a parent letter with family carryover strategies and ideas for each “age and stage” of early development.

While initially I did wish for additional and more specific language targets, I think it is especially important to point out what I discovered next:  how very open-ended and flexible this theme-box is.  After taking time to peruse the reproducibles more thoroughly (because, let’s face it, I had become completely distracted by all the other glorious manipulatives and shiny objects contained in the box – which I’ll get to in short order), I began jotting down the additional ideas that came to me:  other bear books and songs and crafts, sequencing and following directions, bring-a-teddy-bear to speech day, sorting food vs. non-food items or healthy vs. unhealthy food choices…the ideas just kept coming.  Which I think is both brilliant and the intent of the box.  

In this bear-themed box is a plastic “honey jar” filled with colorful bear counters of varying color and size.  Immediately, language targets of “empy/full” and “big/little” come to mind, as well as general cognitive concepts of sorting, counting, and color recognition/naming.

Also included is a set for pretend “picnic” play, complete with a checkered picnic napkin to set out the colorful plastic bowls for eating delicious picnic foods with speech friends, pretend friends, or teddy bears!  Clients can work on play skills, sharing with others and making sure everyone has one, and pronouns (e.g., Can I have one?  Give one to her.  He needs a bowl.  Where is my bowl?  Where is your bowl?)

In a cute little burlap bag decorated with the 3D-SLP, Jr. logo and a checkered accent is a handful of colorful pom-poms and plastic tongs, ideal for additional pretend picnic food, counting, and sharing.  The tongs add a delightful and entertaining fine-motor element.  I have added more pom-poms to my bag, to match the bowls in the kit, for sorting.  Adapt the tong and pom-pom activities for articulation practice by having students earn their turn!  For every three to five target sounds/words/phrases/etc., they can choose a pom-pom to add to their bowl for themselves or their teddy bear.

Clever packets of gummy bears and tubes of apple-scented hand sanitizer (to clean those hands before you enjoy your picnic!) and sunscreen (for all the fun in the sun!) wrap it all up in a little thematic “thank you” gift box with a final reminder to take care of ourselves in our hectic world of early intervention.  How neat is that?

Indeed, the premiere 3D-SLP, Jr. box has held up to its name to De-liver, De-light, and De-stress its recipients and promises to start my school year off with lessons at my fingertips.  I am anxious to delve into next month’s box and discover a whole new wealth of lesson opportunities!  

Have you received a 3D-SLP box?  What are your thoughts?