Sweet Summer Speech

Working ESY? Seeing private clients this summer? Extra hours in the clinic? Make your sessions a little sweeter…with a lemonade stand!
My 7 year old daughter just finished first grade and was so excited to set up her own lemonade stand in our neighborhood. She was planning out all the details, creating signs, and making lists of all the items she needed.

Then we took a trip to Target  just in case the Dollar Spot had any cute additions. Which of course they did! And she isn’t even the one who pointed them all out to me, begging me to buy them. I saw them and excitedly showed them to her (picture)…

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and once again I spent way more than I planned to when I walked into Target that day.

I convinced myself it would be worth it…I mean I’m an SLP. We can make a therapy activity out of pretty much any supply, right?! Then my creative juices were flowing and I thought, “What a great spring or summer therapy activity!”
So, I sat down at my computer and got to work on this new TpT product

lemonade stand preview
The product includes activities to work on various speech and language skills including:
*articulation (initial /l/ pictures and sight words included plus editable ‘lemons’ to add your own images/target sounds)
*story comprehension (download the preview here for a free sample)
*problem solving
*conversational skills
*vocabulary skills of describing and same/different
**plus a list of books to help you expand the theme
But I think the part that will be the most fun is setting up a lemonade stand with the students – let them help you plan it all out, decorate signs, make the lemonade, decide the best day/time/location to have the stand…

the kids won’t even know how much they are learning!



What a treat!

Once upon a time there was a 4-year old girl who had a dream. She told her daddy all about it and they turned it into a story; daughter dictated the words and daddy drew the pictures. The story became a published children’s book and they lived happily ever after.
This is not a fairytale, though! My niece is the author and my brother is the illustrator of a children’s book titled The Great Marshmallow Adventure. It was published and released when my niece was just 5 years old (she’s now going on 12) and was based on a dream she had at age 4! Quite an accomplishment for a little girl, huh?!
It is the most adorable story of Leah’s adventure one night when her bed turns into a giant marshmallow and takes her on a ride through her neighborhood, which has also turned into delicious treats!
The text is simple, the story is exciting, and it is full of speech and language targets! Perfectly suited for students in grade K-3, easily adaptable for 3 and 4-year olds or 4th and 5th graders. Incorporate into a fall or camping theme or use any time of year!
I have been waiting to be able to use this book as part of therapy lessons. Now that I am back “in the classroom” working directly with students, I had to create some companion activities to use with it.
So, I thought I would share what I came up with – which you can download as a FREEBIE here on TpT.
The book, unfortunately, is not so easy to find these days. It’s not as easy as one may think to get a book published and available to the masses! But, I can help with that! I worked some magic with the author and illustrator (it’s all who you know, am I right?!) and if you like what you see in the free download and would like to purchase this book for your personal library, send Elissa an email at livingthespeechlife@gmail.com and we will make it happen! I mean every little penny (aka royalty) helps when you’re a middle school tween!

Back to the companion

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There are comprehension questions to use before, during and after reading the story, three pictured Tier 2 vocabulary targets, pictures and sentences for sequencing and retelling, articulation pictures with words from the story (r, l, s-blends), and pictures to target the irregular past tense verbs included in the text.
And I cannot wait to read this book as the mystery reader in my daughter’s first grade classroom – complete with a bag of all the ingredients and a recipe card for Indoor S’mores (also included in the download)!
So, click this link and download the FREEBIE – you really have nothing to lose, right?! Did I mention it is FREE!
Be sure to email me (Elissa) if you are interested in more information about this sweet book (pun intended).

Zoned…from the inside out

There has been a lot of discussion among school-based SLPs on Facebook about bulletin boards. Decorative, useful, storage, teaching tool…there are so many options. As I embarked on my first year back in a school after 11 years, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. In my opinion, simple (and functional) is always better; plus I knew I wanted something that could stay there all year long. So, I started the year with my one small board decorated simply with a calendar and Target Dollar Spot finds to talk about yesterday, today and tomorrow. But in the back of my mind I knew that wasn’t how it would stay.
The group of SLPs at my school soon found out that we would need to come up with a professional learning goal as part of our annual evaluation. After some brief discussion, we all decided that we wanted to teach our students about the Zones of Regulation ®.  So, I purchased some great tools on TpT to help me with this task and decided I would decorate the wall space outside my room with some teaching tools for all speech students as they enter the room as well as any students/classes walking by (many of whom are in our self-contained Autism classes or visit the nearby sensory room on a daily basis).

As I thought about how I would put this together and make it interactive, I realized that this would also make a great bulletin board INSIDE my room.
So, here’s how I made it work, the products I used, and how I plan to implement it:



This Zones of Regulation Visual (FREE!) from Inspired in Speech relates the zones to characters from the movie Inside Out in a simple one-page visual. This is displayed outside my room to help teach the emotions that go with each zone. Since most of the students are already familiar with the characters, they already know one of the emotions for each zone!


IMG_1825  These cute posters from Creatively Themed also match the Inside Out characters to one of the Zones. You can find one for green, red, yellow, and blue, and each one is FREE! Without any instruction at all, my speech students are already talking about what zone they are in during sessions (or pretending to be in the red zone just for fun)!
This Feelings freebie from Special Ed Teachers Classroom is a great addition to the interactive bulletin board inside my room. I have it hooked up there with one thumbtack so I can easily remove it and the students can use dry erase markers to complete it (or they can dictate for me to complete it). I can also pull it up on the iPad or display on the whiteboard via computer/projector to work on as a group (I don’t have an interactive whiteboard in my room but this could be a great way to use it as well).
To add to all these amazing freebies, I couldn’t resist this Interactive Zones package from Sunshine on a Cloudy Day. It is full of great resources and all for only $5.00. I have 2 of the Toolbox nameplates inside my room. I placed the tools on a small ring and hung it on the bulletin board so we can ‘get back to green’ whenever we need to during a session. My board also includes the “Knowing My Triggers?” graphic organizer and a daily visual schedule card (that can be easily removed) with a miniature clothespin so the students can mark their zone. I also have 2 copies of the “What Zone Are You In?” reference cards – just another teaching tool to use as needed with my students. I’ll probably make some more to have on hand for any interested teachers/staff.

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Outside, I also have 2 of the toolbox nameplates just in case a staff member is walking by with a student and needs to borrow it. I used Velcro to stick the tools on a printed picture of a toolbox (downloaded from Pixabay) so any student who is not ‘ready to learn’ in the green zone can choose a tool as they walk by or into my room and place it on one of the nameplates. There is also a daily visual schedule card with a clothespin.




Both inside and outside, I have also included my favorite part – to teach students how to match their reaction to the size of their problem. This resource includes an amazing, interactive “How Big Is The Problem” poster and teaching tool.

Of course, there are technological tools that can assist in teaching my students about the Zones of Regulation ®.
There are two apps that teach and reinforce the concepts of the Zones®. Multiple students can be added to go through the sections on their own or we can do it as a group.
A quick search on YouTube turns up plenty of videos and teaching tools to sort through, deciding which are most appropriate for the age group and cognitive level you are targeting.
More resources and free downloads are available from Zones of Regulation ® so be sure to check out that amazing site.
I’m so excited to get started on these lessons – some will be planned and some have already happened by chance just by the students seeing the pictures and posters and asking questions.
I love the concepts behind Zones of Regulation ® and Size of The Problem. It seems students these days are having more trouble with self-regulation at earlier ages. I’m hoping what we SLPs put into place in our rooms and outside our classroom doors will catch on with teachers and become a school-wide positive behavior program!
How do you implement these concepts in your room?

Have you seen her highlights?


Not those highlights!!

I’m talking about those magazines!


In a previous post, we talked about using Highlights® Magazine in speech therapy. That post focused more on the use of Highlights® High Five™ for ages 2-6. Now that we have aged up in our house, we are accumulating copies of the next level for ages 6-12. So additional discussion seemed in order as summer passes quickly and we are all thinking up creative ideas for the upcoming school year.


The fun starts right inside the front cover with “Fun This Month”…

A “Mystery Photo” lends itself to descriptive terms and distinctive features of common objects (e.g., baseball, banana)

Use the “Tongue Twister” for articulation practice, or extra fun!

Follow some instructions and complete a craft

Work on paying attention to detail, identifying pictures or describing as you “Find the Pictures” within the magazine.

Target additional skills such as matching or finding hidden objects

Discuss “ways to” do various things such as “4 ways to celebrate trees” (April, 2017) or “5 ways to cheer up a friend” (August, 2017). Students can even work on additional skills while writing a poem about their favorite tree or writing a letter about why a friend is special.

Whew! That page may last half the month!

Maybe we should dive into the rest of the magazine…

Each issue has a short poem (sometimes rhyming, sometimes not) which includes great descriptive language and pictures to match. Address vocabulary skills and comprehension with these little gems!


Need conversation starters for those social skill groups? “Brain Play” has some great ones.

Working on listening and reading comprehension skills? Every issue has both fiction short stories and informational text to get the job done!

“My Sci” shows up each month with a scientific topic sure to intrigue a student or two…

“Goofus and Gallant” allows for great discussion of the Social Thinking ® concepts of Expected and Unexpected Behaviors.


Each issue contains new scenarios, including pictures. Maybe you can have a Goofus and Gallant poster in your speech room and add to it each month.

The Timbertoes are back with a comic strip for the older age group too. Sequence, retell, ask and answer questions…

What crafts or games can you make with groups this month? Maybe a “Binder Clip Butterfly” (April, 2017) or “Into the Hive” game (August, 2017).

“Paws and Think” allows for extra reasoning/critical thinking practice with higher level questions and picture clues.

“What’s Different”, using clues to solve puzzles, “Hidden Pictures”, jokes and riddles…

Have we reached the end yet?

Almost there…

Don’t overlook the inside of the back cover…for “Picture Puzzler”…find missing items or matching pairs.

And on the very back? “What’s wrong?” pictures are always amazing. Get those kids expressing themselves as they talk about the silly things; even reinforce the Social Thinking ® concepts of Expected and Unexpected Behaviors.

And that’s the end! I can’t wait to create month-long lessons for my new students this school year. I’m all about using one resource to target multiple goals and these magazines will certainly do the trick!

What one-resource activities do you like to use in therapy?

Make sure you follow our TpT store as we continue adding plans and resources to target multiple goals at one time!


Time to get personal…

One of my (Elissa) favorite quotes by Agnes de Mille could not be more fitting in my life right now…

“No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently.”

Let's get personal

I recently completed my 16th year as a SLP – all in the same school system; first hired by my now friend and co-blogger, Lydia. After 5 years working in elementary schools and working on some special projects with Lydia through the Georgia DOE, she approached me to apply for the position of Lead SLP for the school district. This was not a role I ever saw myself in – not something I ever really strived for.

I was content in my school, happy to serve my students, be a member of the school’s leadership team, mentor new SLPs and supervise interns…that was enough for me. Or so I thought…

It took a lot of convincing by multiple people but I went for this lead job and got it. One year later, Lydia moved on from her role as coordinator (and my boss) but I was getting the hang of things, enjoying the challenges. Someone I barely knew took over Lydia’s role and 10 years later we made a dynamic duo! I still worked with Lydia, we wrote a book, started a blog and TpT store. I got married and had a daughter, moved to the ‘burbs and continued as the lead SLP for this constantly growing and changing large metro school district. My boss of the last 10 years has been AMAZING and our partnership and working relationship helped make the Communication Disorders department very well respected in the district and metro area. I loved my job, loved supporting over 175 SLPs, developing programs and professional development, supervising SLP-Assistants, and helping staff through some difficult assessments and meetings. I even stopped missing the day-to-day therapy – I still kept my skills very sharp with all of the troubleshooting and model lessons; and I still wrote and conducted plenty of IEPs and evaluations. So why would I ever consider leaving?

Did I mention the traveling…and the traffic? Some days I was in the car for 3 hours or more driving back and forth from my house (in a different county) to various parts of this district. The closest school to my house took 30 minutes (without traffic) and the drive to my office (in the middle of the county) took at least an hour most of the time. And like every working mother, I struggled with the work-life balance. “Daddy has to take you to the bus stop today sweetie, I have a meeting… We’ll try to do a gymnastics class next year honey…or We can’t do soccer and dance right now”.

The pro/con lists started a couple years ago, the idea of being on the same schedule as my daughter, so close to home I couldn’t even imagine…the seed was planted in my head and just kept blooming. My boss and I knew it would happen someday…but it was so hard to admit that the day had finally come.

And then everything started falling into place…interviews at multiple schools, an offer I could have totally lived with and then the call I never expected. An interview at my daughter’s school – for a full-time SLP position. A great interview and an offer on the spot. Is it even possible to say no? Well, no it is not…

So this year I said goodbye to a team that will never be replaced, to a job I never imagined taking and then never wanted to leave, and to a boss, mentor and friend that helped make me the SLP and leader I am today. It is bittersweet to say the least!

Why do I share all this? Sometimes a personal story can empower us all to be our best selves. Sometimes it can help us remember why we do what we do everyday and the things that are most important to us. I’m going back to my roots as an elementary-school SLP. I’ll get back into those classrooms and work side by side with the teachers. I’ll plan good lessons and bad lessons, my best IEPs and my worst. I’ll meet new friends and colleagues and have students who melt my heart. And I’ll miss my former colleagues, friends, and students everyday. I’ll miss the training and supervising, the problem solving and program development…but I’ll find a new niche in this new adventure

Sometimes we have to make tough decisions – as humans, as parents, as professionals. Change is hard but can also be for the best. Next week this change becomes reality. So here we go…


Wouldn’t it be nice if you could work with your students and not worry about collecting data? How great would it be if we could just do therapy all day, teach discrete skills and strategies, with no worries about the dreaded data! Unfortunately, data is very important and must be collected.

How many times do you stop after the student’s response to record the data?

How often do you keep data and not let the students see what you are writing? Most of the time, they know you are writing down how they did. Why not just let them see it? Better yet, have you ever let them keep their own data?


No matter the age or exceptionality, students can do it. We have had success with students keeping their own data as young as kindergarten and as low as Mildly Intellectually Disabled; but we are sure younger or lower functioning students may also have some success.

Are you wondering how?

data sheet

Provide each student with a data sheet set up in blocks of ten (like this product, free for a limited time). Have the student put a + (plus) for correct and a 0 (zero) for incorrect responses – or whatever code you and the student decide on. We have found that students understand a zero much better than a minus By having the data sheet set up in blocks of 10, you can easily figure out the % at a glance.


Let’s think about a student working on articulation… After each sound/word/sentence you can talk with the student about the production and help them determine which code they should enter.

Of course this does not just have to be utilized with articulation. It works just as well with language skills!

At the end of the session the information can be transferred to a bar graph completed by the student. Our students love this part. They get to choose their own color and have a visual representation of how they performed. You can discuss how they did from session to session – did they improve or have the same level of success? Or maybe they were having an ‘off’ day. Think of all the additional language (and math) concepts you can include in this conversation – more/less, higher/lower, same/different!

Just be sure that you talk about each students’ graphs and performance in comparison to themselves – it is not a contest among students as they each work at their own pace and are at varying levels on a variety of skills!

The students really enjoy keeping their own data. And of course they are motivated to get as many plus signs and as high a graph as possible! It also provides that great visual of how they are doing with their goals – they can even bring a copy home to their parents.

How do you involve your students in data collection?

Be sure you check out these forms and many others on our TpT store.



Have you heard the news???

We just opened our store on Teachers pay Teachers! Visit Living the Speech Life on TpT  to see what’s new. Follow us so you can stay informed as we continue to add new products.

store ad


Read on for a sneak peek of what we have to offer so far – from unit plans for some favorite short stories to test description documents to make report writing a breeze…



Since so many of our students don’t experience enough language and story reading on a daily basis, we love using books in therapy and bet you do too! And we also know you most likely have some mixed groups on your schedule. So, we are creating Literacy-based Lesson Plan Assistants for some favorite short stories. These will help you target a variety of skills including articulation, receptive and expressive language and social language. Check out our blog post where we provide some additional information on these. And make sure you check out the FREEBIE for Frog on a Log? by Kes Gray on our TpT store. Additional titles will continue to be added!

Does the thought of writing an evaluation report make you reach for another bottle of wine? We’ve got you covered on that one too! Check out our test descriptions. Using information from individual test manuals, we have created a way for you to easily explain what the standardized speech-language test assesses and what the examinee is expected to do on each subtest. But it goes a little further than that! Use these downloads to help you document how each skill impacts educational performance. The CELF-5, OWLS-II, and Listening Comprehension Test (for elementary age and adolescents) are already available and more are on the way!

There are a currently a couple other FREEBIES for CF supervision and co-teaching. Keep checking back for additional product including FREEBIES, sales, and bundles!

Follow our TpT store here and don’t forget to follow our blog and @livingthespeechlife on Instagram.


Questions, vocabulary and /r/, oh my!

one-book-mixed-groups2Ok, picture it…it won’t be that hard because we ALL have them…student A is working on /r/ and /l/, student B stutters, student C has trouble with comprehension and vocabulary, and student D, well, student D has trouble with all of it. Why, oh why, would an SLP ever put these kids together in one group? Why, I’ll tell you why…because there are no other options, that’s why!

So, there you are, with this mixed group of 4 for a whopping 30 minutes – give or take.

Student A: “Can we pway a game?”

Student C: “No let’s play a game!”

Student B: “I don’t feel like talking today”

Student D: walking in circles, holding 3 of your dry erase markers and a few books from your shelves



How can you keep them all engaged, work on each of their varied skills, take data and make it all meaningful without breaking the bank or taking up more planning time than you have to begin with.




Books, books, books! Read a book and cover it all. Expand your lessons and use the same book for various groups and multiple sessions.

We know what you’re thinking…hey, how can I just pick up a book and be sure that I’m covering all of the skills I need to cover? How does that lessen my planning time?

We’ve got you covered with our new Literacy-based Lesson Planning Assistants for Speech and Language!

Our first one is available in our TPT store and focuses on the book Cook-A-Doodle-Doo! by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel. This adorable book is told from the point of view of a rooster whose great-grandmother happens to be the Little Red Hen. He decides to bake one of her recipes and actually finds some other animals to help him. It is a great story of teamwork which also incorporates following a recipe, measuring ingredients and some confusion with homonyms and homophones. And of course it serves as a great compare/contrast lesson when paired with the classic story The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone. Don’t worry, the Lesson Planning Assistant for that book will be coming soon to our TPT store.

So are you envisioning all the amazing skills you can target with this one book? Still worried about how you’ll find the time to delve into it and pick out all these targets?

Once again, that’s where we come in. The document provides you with target words for common sound errors and processes. It outlines carrier phrases and repetitive phrases to address fluency. Factual questions? Sure. Predictions? Yep. Social language targets like flexible thinking and perspective taking? You bet!

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We hope you’ll check out this this new product. Feedback is always welcome and appreciated.

Want us to create a Lesson Planning Assistant for some of your favorite books? Comment below and/or on TPT and we’ll get to work on it.

Texts for middle and high school are welcome and will be added as well!

Quick tip: If your media center or local library does not have a copy of this book and you have limited funds (being that we SLPs already spend so much of our own money!), you can always search YouTube and you may just find SOMEONE reading the book, maybe even showing and highlighting the text as it is read aloud! Follow our Pinterest page where we will be pinning these as we find them!

Words, words, words…


In a previous post, we talked about layers of vocabulary including core vocabulary and tier 2 terms.

From linguistic concepts or the ability to describe to using context clues and affixes to determine the meaning of unknown words, vocabulary skills are overwhelmingly evident in preschool early learning standards and common core state standards. This is just one of the foundational language areas that is addressed in our book IEP Goal Writing for SLPs: Utilizing State Standards.

And we know that vocabulary skills are commonly addressed by SLPs for students with language disorders.


What is vitally important is that we, as SLPs, approach vocabulary instruction differently than that of a classroom teacher. The students on our caseloads who are struggling with vocabulary as part of their language disorder are already at a disadvantage – their foundation of semantics is lacking which makes it even more difficult to learn terms at the pace of classroom instruction. And they don’t pick up new words on their own through reading, instruction, or conversation. Their vocabulary deficits on top of additional language deficits and other co-morbid conditions also impact their background knowledge – which is correlated with vocabulary.

We talked in a previous post about Tier 3 words – those words that are content- and discipline-specific – and how that may not be the best place to focus our efforts. Does drilling students on definitions of words they need to know for a social studies unit separate you from a teacher or tutor?

What about teaching specific linguistic concepts?

How do you differentiate yourself from the teacher in the way you approach context clues, root words and affixes?

To better justify the SLP’s role in vocabulary instruction, maybe we should talk a little about the prerequisite skills for mastering the vocabulary skills required to access state and curriculum standards. All standards have prerequisite skills; all skills have prerequisite skills; all language skills have prerequisite skills.

Think about a typically-developing baby’s first 12-18 months and the vocabulary skills they develop. They typically identify and label nouns, then verbs, with a pronoun or two stuck in there (mine, mine, mine!). They start picking up on adjectives (colors, sizes, shapes) and adverbs. They continue to grow from there and expand their semantic skills – there is definitely overlap but there is a general developmental hierarchy.

We learn to match and sort before we develop specific spatial or temporal concepts. You need to have knowledge of quantitative and qualitative concepts before you can use comparatives and superlatives. All of these skills, as well as those adjectives and adverbs, help us categorize and describe leading us to the ability to compare and contrast. We increase our vocabulary of antonyms and synonyms, become more proficient in using context and word parts to learn new words and have a greater understanding that some words have multiple meanings.

Whew! That’s a lot of skills! That doesn’t even take into account the various levels and steps to master each of those prerequisite skills.

What do you consider your role in vocabulary as a school-based SLP?

Stay tuned for tips on goal-writing for a variety of these vocabulary skills.

What we’ve learned from supervising SLP-As

In our district, we hire a select group of individuals with a Bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. For any number of reasons, they do not have a master’s degree in the field but have an interest in working in the school system doing speech and language therapy. And they rock!

First a little background as to how we utilize these SLP Assistants in our school system. We are a large metro district with over 175 SLPs…and at any given time there are at least 3 of them on maternity leave, 1 of them on family or medical leave, and 2 full- or part-time vacancies. As with so many districts, there is little to no money for certified SLPs to substitute (if we could even find any) or to fund compensatory speech-language services after school or during summer breaks. So a viable solution was to hire these lovely people to fulfill this need. They are paid on a separate pay scale between a paraprofessional position and certified bachelor’s level teacher. They are able to provide short-term speech-language services as indicated in the students’ IEPs with supervision and support from a dedicated supervisor (typically one of us) as well as direction from any other SLPs in the building, if applicable. These SLP-As do not write IEPs, attend meetings, or conduct evaluations. They do write their own lesson plans (with assistance as needed), take data and document their sessions, and assist in development of present levels and IEP goals based on their work with the students.

All the fun of being an SLP without all the extra paperwork and meetings? Sounds like a dream come true, huh?

Trust us, our program coordinator receives no shortage of applicants for these positions – and we have had nothing but success with each and every one of them. School administrators, teachers, and even the SLPs they cover for beg them to stay each and every time!

And their value has not gone unnoticed by us…

Just because you’ve been a practicing, certified school-based SLP for more years than you care to mention does not mean you have seen or done it all. Even if you have seen or done it, do not underestimate the power of standing outside the situation and helping someone else be more successful. Much like being a CF mentor, supervising SLP-As provides opportunities to learn new ways of conducting therapy, model strategies and techniques, and see things from a totally different point of view.

This supervision process has taught us that the best of SLPs have an instinct that cannot be taught in graduate school. No amount of theory, book study, or reading research and textbooks can prepare for the therapeutic skills that our SLP-As were seemingly born with. Sure they have each learned things from us and made improvements over time, but it as much through the experiences they have had as the guidance we have given. We have learned through instructing them the importance of receiving solid data that can be easily analyzed in order to write data-driven present levels and goals. We have seen firsthand that flexibility is the most valuable asset an itinerant staff member can possess. They allow us to think better on our feet (and, if we may say so ourselves, write some pretty nice IEPs about students we barely know!). They make us better problem solvers and better SLPs.


Thank you SLP-As…you have taught us more than you can imagine! It’s always a pleasure to work with you!