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Fives Booklet

Fives Booklet


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Published by speechtechie
Booklet describing criteria for using technology resources in speech-language therapy.
Booklet describing criteria for using technology resources in speech-language therapy.

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Published by: speechtechie on Dec 02, 2010
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Introduction: SLPs, Context and Technology

While working in the public school setting for the past 10 years, I developed a specialized interest in the integration of technology in speech and language interventions. I am referring to technology not so much in the AAC sense, but rather to help build and present contexts to students, much like a clinician would use a storybook. This booklet is designed to present a framework for using technology as the friend that it is- a friend that helps you implement context-driven therapy sessions that engage students and move them toward their academic goals.

So why is context so important? As public school Speech-Language Pathologists (for whom this book is primarily designed, though the principles presented may assist those in other disciplines, settings, or those who work with other populations) our clients are actually students, and our role is to assist them in accessing the curriculum by building their language skills and use of strategies. To facilitate their success, we need to incorporate the topics, concepts and activities they struggle with in the classroom setting, while keeping a strategic focus (Ehren, 2000) and avoiding acting as a tutor or aide. In Contextualized Language Intervention, Ukraintz stresses the importance of SLPs knowing "how to systematically scaffold learning within a whole, purposeful, complicated activity" (Ukrainetz, 2007, p. 2) rather than focusing solely on discrete skill instruction.

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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Why turn to technology? Despite many clinicians feeling naturally nervous to start dealing with the learning curves associated with technology, once steps are made in that direction, technology can actually make the job of an SLP a whole lot easier. Presenting context to students is simplified greatly by using interactive web activities and simulations that would be cost- and time-prohibitive to develop in a traditional manner. Additionally, clinicians will find that students are hugely motivated to learn while using computers, and that employing technology does not mean the clinician is taken out of the equation. Rather, there is much scaffolding to be done when technology is used to present a "purposeful, complicated activity."

Take for example, the Forces and Movement activity from the BBC Schools Science Clips website. In this activity, students follow steps to interact with "objects" onscreen in order to demonstrate concepts around forces and movement. Clearly, this is a complex activity whose context fits right in with early-middle elementary science curriculum. However, when the task is analyzed, this activity also is quite languagebased, with a number of embedded skills and targets appropriate for a language session. Many students receiving school-based SLP services would be unlikely to be able to complete this activity accurately and discuss it meaningfully without the SLP's scaffolding.

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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Choosing Classroom Activities
In selecting activities appropriate for language interventions, I apply certain criteria that I would like to call the FIVES framework. When looking at a web, software or hardware resource, it is helpful to consider these five factors: Free—Is it free or nearly free? This isn't always an excluding factor, but most public school SLPs don't have much of a budget! Interactive—Does the site use technology well to provide opportunities for students to make decisions, perform actions, and possibly create, or does it mostly consist of text? Visual—Using the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), does it provide a multisensory experience that our students' classrooms might lack, or that bears repeating? Educationally Relevant—Does it relate to topics, skills, or strategies that mirror or enhance classroom content? Speechie—(a cutesy term, I know, but it fits...) when a task analysis is done, does the activity target language goals specific to the students' Individualized Education Plans? A resource that meets all these criteria is The Jamestown Online Adventure by History Globe. While many students may have missed key details of the story of the early settlers when it was presented auditorily or through readings in their classroom, this activity allows them to make decisions from the colonists' point of view and "experience" the results.

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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The clinician's role is key in helping the students navigate the steps of the activity, repeat and rephrase key points (especially in the texty sections) and process the implications of their decisions. The Jamestown site could serve as a context for many activities that target language goals; one example is using a graphic organizer to track key details. An example of a graphic organizer that I created to complement this site is linked here. Give it a try!

Does it Have to be Free?
I am not going to spend a lot of time elaborating on why we want educational resources for a public school setting to be free (or mostly free). As a school-based SLP, some years I felt lucky to have a materials budget of $50, which might buy you an activity book, and definitely would not go far towards buying software, websubscriptions, or equipment. Sometimes you have to endure a modicum of advertising to access the site (if it’s obtrustive, I generally rule it out), though in some cases a site that is essentially a big ad can present some great language-learning opportunities (see Old El Paso’s El Tacodor Games). That said, some software, apps, or web subscriptions are definitely worth paying for, even more so if you can secure a grant Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP Page 5 12/1/10

or district allocation (Brainpop is a notable example). I should close this section by acknowledging that SLPs sometimes have a difficult time even getting their own computer to use with students. If you travel between schools, the schools may not feel they owe it to you, and your department may not have the funds. I would say you should lobby, lobby, lobby for the necessity of your having a laptop, for all of the reasons outlined in this booklet. In the event that you do not succeed, or need to wait, I would say buying one (even a cheaper or refurbished one) to use with students is one of the best investments you will ever make. And if you do private therapy after school, well, then, it’s a write-off, isn’t it?

Why is the “Interactive” Element of Technology So Important?
Much of what this booklet referrs to are resouces that could be used in students in direct therapy, rather than drill-and-practice activities better relegated to completion in the classroom or with a paraprofessional. To clarify what I mean by direct therapy, I am referring to what would be on the sections of the Individualized Education Plan that outline the time you will spend conducting or facilitating therapy with the student, whether individually or in a group. This is an important distinction to make, because there are certain technology resources that would be great to set up as part of a student’s program, perhaps under your consultation services, but would not make much sense to use in direct therapy (Some examples of these quiz-based resources include Earobics or certain commercial flashcard-like programs,often on CD-ROM). If the student can guide him/herself through the activity without your Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP Page 6 12/1/10

scaffolding, or with only the supervision of a teacher or paraprofessional to remain engaged...well. An important principle of using technology is that it probably shouldn’t count as direct therapy if the instruction is really being provided by the computer.

This is where the I in FIVES- Interactive- can help us to make good technology-based choices for our direct therapy. True interactive resources differ from quiz-based technology in that students are given more room to make choices, solve problems, and to make mistakes that your scaffolding will help prevent or review, so that it is a richer learning experience. Interactive resources also tend to be more deeply rooted in an educationally useful context, and ideally move at a pace that allows you as a clinician to “get a word in”- whether to model language, question, extend, and of course to provide a pre- or post- activity that emphasizes language targets. Let’s take, for example a resource that is indeed Free, Interactive, Visual, Educationally relevant, and Speechie- Earth Sun and Moon- An Interactive Learning Experience.

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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I have always considered the concepts involving the relationship among the earth, sun and moon as planetary bodies to be pretty abstract, and not quite suited to the 2nd grade curriculum where this unit is placed in my district. After an engaging and thankfully brief and forgiving arcade game, students are able to navigate their rocket to the earth, sun and moon and use key strokes and mouse movements to make things happen! The activity creates a strong visual experience that helps kids move beyond the simple knowledge that “Yep, we’re on Earth” to understand some of the larger scientific concepts. In the classroom setting, I have seen kids left to their own devices to complete this activity and then be largely unable to articulate what any of it meant. However, with discussion facilitated by the SLP throughout the activity, kids can be scaffolded to use more complex language to produce some wonderful descriptions and connections.

Visualizing the Abstract
So what about the V, those visual elements that can be so critical for our students who spend a good deal of time in classrooms missing key points of auditory instruction? It’s clear that resources such as Earth Sun and Moon- An Interactive Learning Experience are not only interactive but highly visual. Technology is a great tool for making abstract curriculum elements visual for our students. It also provides visual supports that assist us in scaffolding students’ production of all those things we put on Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP Page 8 12/1/10

their IEPs- vocabulary, complex sentences, discourse. To take another example, for students studying U.S. Geography who have never been outside of their own state, a resource such as Sheppard Software’s USA Puzzles provides tons of pictures--and interaction with pictures--that will likely leave students with valuable associations when the activity is complete.

Technology can also be a good tool for us to use to create materials for students that bring challenging concepts into reach. With the advent of Web 2.0- the “Read/Write Web” in which we don’t merely read webpages but can actually publish to them with ease- many creation tools are at our fingertips! Some of these might be too complicated to expect a student to use, but we can certainly navigate them, with a little practice. One good example of this type of creation resource is Pixton, an online comic creator. Pixton is in the vein of Kerpoof, but gives you much more leeway in customizing your comic to emphasize body language, facial expressions and other aspects that might be useful in a pragmatic language/social thinking skills group. I recently used Pixton to create a set of comics to introduce the concepts of expected and unexpected group behaviors (See Michelle Garcia Winner’s work) to a new group of students. My goal was to use the visuals to help the students verbalize what they saw in the pictures, which would then serve as a working list of expected behaviors for our group. See Appendix II for a sample of the comics we discussed.

Isolating the specific behaviors depicted was challenging for these students, and they did indeed benefit from cues such as “Think about his word balloon, then look at hers.” In the end, however, we did have a nice list that came from more of a constructivist activity than if I had just told the kids what I expected, and more of a visual (and fun) activity than if we had just generated them verbally. If you are interested in Pixton, check out the great tutorial here.

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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Educational Relevance and Interventions
Another way technology can assist us as SLPs lies in its power to infuse connections to classroom content into our sessions. This is the E in the FIVES criteria for selecting good technology resources for our interventions- Educational Relevance. Our students receive our services specifically because their speech and language impairments affect their progress in the curriculum- IDEA says this must be so. So although we need to build their basic skills-categories, following directions, among many others- it makes sense to be building skills while using classroom materials as a context. We all resort to commercial SLP materials that may not always have a lot to do with our students’ classroom content. This is necessary given our extremely busy schedules and the need to focus intensively on specific skills. However, I always consider it important to at least touch on the classroom’s major units (not every unit!) and construct language enhancing activities within these contexts.

This becomes easier when we become familiar with the state and/or district academic standards, usually available online (the pretty-good MA DOE website is one example). These standards are broad and can be overwhelming, but like everything, we can take them a bit at a time. I always find it striking how language-based the standards are; IEP objectives could not only be aligned with state standards, in many cases you could use the actual standard as an objective!

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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Now, when we consider using academic content as our context for some sessions, it may become uncomfortable to envision ourselves drilling facts and running simple tutorials with our students. Here is where it can become important to “keep a strategic focus” (Ehren, 2000- again, what a great article!) and to use the activities to develop strategies such as notetaking, using graphic organizers, questioning, consulting word or conjunction banks, etc. Technology makes it easier, though, because there are many interactive websites that align with curriculum standards, keeping our students engaged while minimizing our material preparation time.

Below is a brief (I could go on and on about this) list of standards from my district (Newton, MA) and state, linked to fun activities that are language-enhancing and relevant to the standard.

Grade 1

Describes adaptations that allow various organisms to survive in their habitat

Grade 3

Understands that land and weather affected Wampanoag, Pilgrim and colonial food, housing, clothing, celebration and activities

Grade 5 Grade 7

Describes characteristics and interrelationships in an ecosystem Recognizes that every organism requires a set of instructions for specifying its traits

Grade 10

Shows connections… between particular historical events and ideas and larger social, economic, and political trends and developments.

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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What is “Speechie?”
The FIVES criteria- so far we talked about the benefits of resources being Free (or nearly free), Interactive, Visual, and Educationally Relevant- can be useful for our own thinking as well as to justify our use of a resource, should that need arise. So, I will wrap this booklet up by discussing the last and possibly most important factor, that of how the activity targets speech and/or language skills and strategies. I used an S at the end of the acronym to call this factor “Speechie,” a convenient term, though I have some issues with its cutesy qualities!

What makes an activity Speechie, then? As I have mentioned previously, we want to look for activities that are more broadly related to speech and language skills, that provide a context so that clinicians can scaffold the emergence of skills in our students. Often, technology-related activities that specifically zone in on speech and language skills (e.g. CD-ROMs from commercial publishers) can be completed by students in a self-paced manner, providing valuable practice, but sort of taking us out of the equation. To keep ourselves in the equation, we can select resources that are not really labeled for “Speech,” but are Speechie in that we can structure the activity and engage students in developing the wide range of skills and strategies that are laid out within IEP goals and objectives.

Locating Speechie activities requires us to do somewhat of a task analysis, looking at the activity through a language lens. Of typically written IEP objectives, does the activity provide a context for students to do any of the following? Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP Page 12 12/1/10

Follow verbal (written or auditory) directions or sequence steps to complete a task?

Comprehend story- or information-based language and discuss its elements (e.g. “main ideas and details”)?

● ● ●

Organize elements into categories, describe, define or create associations? Generate complex sentences or discourse (narrative or expository)? Use discussion, balanced-literacy, or problem-solving strategies (e.g. inference)?

Apply selected academic strategies (e.g. note-taking, use of graphic organizer)?

● ●

Respond verbally so as to use accurate articulation, voice or fluency strategies? Utilize social interaction or social thinking skills to complete a task?

This is a broad and limited list, but gives us a frame of reference to look at a resource and see how it might be considered Speechie. One of my favorites is the BBC’s What is Weather?. This fun site allows students to view humorous animations describing all the elements of weather (temperature, precipitation, etc) and then complete interactive activities that apply the presented information. Clearly, weather is right on target in terms of being educationally relevant, but bringing the clinician into the equation is what makes this resource Speechie. Some things the therapist can do to elicit skills include: -Asking the student to verbally describe what they saw in each of the (basically wordless) animations, to bring about a definition of each weather term. -Modeling and eliciting complex sentences about the animations and activities “Ohhhh, I see, WHEN the wind was moderate...” -Moderating turn-taking and sharing elements if the student is completing the activity with a peer.

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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-Questioning, reviewing and rephrasing the geographic and weather-based information in the Clothing activity (as well as eliciting predictions about what kind of clothing might be needed on the trip). -Having students track results of their guesses on a graphic organizer in either the Clothing or Sport activity. -Creating follow-up activities that target the content and language skills (e.g. weather journaling).

In this portion of the activity, students review weather information about a country, then guess what sporting activities you could do there in a given season.

The FIVES criteria is just one tool clinicians can use in analyzing and integrating technology resources into your therapies. For more examples of resources that meet these criteria, follow me on my blog, SpeechTechie.

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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Appendix I: Five More Examples of FIVES Resources

Resource: Free?

Brainpop site and App “Featured Movie” and “Movie of Week” (Brainpop Jr.) are free, others w/school or indvidual subscription.


Quizzes for each movie, Jr. site has more interactives such as games and writing activities.


Brainpop’s animated movies provide many visuals to illustrate vocabulary and concepts. Movies can be paused to emphasize visuals.

Educationally Relevant?

Directly aligns with state standards (with pages showing exactly how, and directing users toward movies that address specific standards by state).


Movies are organized, simplified explanations of topics; great context for using graphic organizers and teaching expository text structures such as list, sequence, cause-effect.

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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Resource: Free? Interactive?

Lego Creative Builder Completely Drag-and-drop interface to “free build” or build objects according to a model or plan.

Visual? Educationally Relevant? Speechie?

Allows students to visualize spatial concepts. With regards to early learning standards, social development if used as a barrier task. Key spatial concepts, skills at following directions and cooperating can be addressed with this resource

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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Sites using Google Earth plug-in: Monster Milktruck and Globe Genie.

Free? Interactive?

Completely. Sites allow you to teleport to a specific spot on Earth. Milktruck is a driving activity; use controls to move. Genie lets you click and drag to view the location.


Both sites offer highly visual way to explore geographic locations.

Educationally Relevant? Speechie?

Can be used in conjunction with geography units (e.g. continents, cities and states). Key spatial concepts (right, left, forward, backward), descriptive skills and schema can be targeted with these activities.

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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Resource: Free? Interactive?

Edheads Weather Activities Completely Kids are presented with a challenge to re-create lost weather charts by following directions and using drag-drop interface.


Visual representations of weather conditions and chart conventions.

Educationally Relevant? Speechie?

Weather is a continuously repeated unit in science curricula of elementary-middle school. Great context for following directions, using weather attributes and categories, geographic concepts.

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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Resource: Free? Interactive? Visual?

Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab Completely Quiz follows listening exercises No, but largely auditory activities can be completed using visualization strategies as prompted by clinician.

Educationally Relevant? Speechie?

Some topics relate to curriuclum areas, relevant to standards around listening and discussing. Wonderful resource for addressing deficits in auditory comprehension (students who score poorly on CELF’s Understanding Spoken Paragraphs or Listening Comprehension Test), using strategies such as visualization, key word generation. Pre-Listening activities prompt helpful discussions, category item generation. Quiz results provide measurable data.

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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Appendix I: Social Thinking Comic Created with Pixton

Ehren, B.J. (2000). Maintaining a therapeutic focus and sharing responsibility for student success: keys to in-classroom speech-language services. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 31, 219-229.

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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Ukrainetz, T.A. (Ed.). (2007). Contextualized Language Intervention: Scaffolding Pre-K-12 Literacy Achievement. Greenville, SC: Thinking Publications

Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP

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