Basic Concept Christmas Trees

Last week, my mod-severe autism groups and I started making Christmas Trees.  Most of those students have goals to do with basic concepts of size (short/long and big/little).  When I saw this idea on Pinterest, I knew it was perfect!

I started by buying some packs of cute Christmas scrapbook paper.  I found 8.5×11 size sheets in packs of about 25 sheets for only $5 at Michael’s, so I bought 3 different kinds.  I cut a couple of each type of sheet into strips that are a couple cm wide.  Then, I took a handful of them and cut them 7in, 6in, 5in, and 4in long.  I left some the length they were (8 in – because that’s how wide the paper started out).  I kept the other halves of the 7/6/5 inch pieces and that gave me my shorter strips. 

So, I started out with strips about 2-3 cm wide, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 in. long.  I’m so glad I bought myself a paper cutter at the beginning of the school year!  It was only $25 at BJ’s!

I recommend putting each length in a separate bag or clipping them together some how.  The above mess was a pain to sort through when I first started.

Each student got a green piece of construction paper.

As I went around the table, I placed a field of 3 strips in front of each student: 1 short piece and 2 long or 1 long piece and 2 short. I used this as a receptive task to identify “short” vs “long”.   

To assemble the trees, we began placing the longer strips were on the bottom of the paper and they gradually got shorter as we went up. 

a field of 3 with the prompt “Give me long.”

I did a couple repeated trials of receptive identification of short vs long for each student.

For students who were not working on short vs long, I showed them a few strips in the size that they needed and had them describe to me which paper they wanted.  This targeted adjective+noun phrases, “I want…” sentences, and descriptions, depending on the level of the student.

Because I have about 4 students in a group, and I did many trials of receptive identification for each student, we only got as far as finishing the tree itself. 

I also used my Cricut machine (“Joys of the season” cartridge) and cut ornaments (of varying sizes), stars (in different patterned papers), and presents (of varying sizes).  We will add these elements this week, while discussing concepts of size and location (i.e. “under the tree”, “on top of the tree” & “on the tree”).  We will also add a trunk! 

I will update this post with a picture of some of our completely finished trees at the end of the week, but I wanted to write it in time for you to use it in your speech rooms! 

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!  (Only 5 more days til Winter Break!  Woo hoo!)

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Holiday lights craft

Last week with my Intellectual Disabilities classrooms (where I co-treat with OT) we made thumb print holiday lights.  I’m sure you’ve seen the idea on Pinterest.  Here’s the pin I went off of.

We used one large piece of white construction paper to make a poster per class.  Instead of an ink pad, we used a tray of water color paints (because it’s what we had access to from our art teacher).  I put a couple drops of water on each color and placed the tray in the lid from a cardboard box (from printer paper) so that any drips would be caught in there.

Clearly the box was a good idea.  Not all of that mess is from this project, but that clump in the middle is!

We had students use the photo magnets below to make a choice of what color they’d like to print.  Depending on the student, we gave them a field of between 2-6.  These can be placed on a magnetic whiteboard or on the table, making them easily accessible for a variety of students.  They came from the dollar store, so they’re a cheap, low tech way to make choice-making accessible to a variety of students!

We gave them each 3 chances to do prints.  We used directions like “put finger in (color)”, “put finger on paper”, and some students were even asked to put their finger next to/under/between/above etc. certain colors.  It made for a great following directions activity.  Here is our finished product!

These look SO cute hanging in the halls!  My co-SLP and I also did this activity with our preschoolers.  Their directions were a little more complex and we had them verbalize in phrases/sentences what they were going to do next.  Because they can get antsy, we gave them each a coloring page to do when it was not their turn.  Here’s the one we used.  The site has a bunch of great coloring pages, that could also be used as templates for something.  Here are all of their Christmas options!

The kids really liked this activity and they came out so cute!  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!  How many more days til Winter Break?!

CELF problems?

Do you have students who do poorly on the following directions subtest of the CELF-4?  (Have you heard they’re making changes for the CELF-5?  Well, there is still a following directions subtest and the items involve many of the same concepts.)  I found that finding materials to use with students who struggle with these skills (i.e. temporal concepts, multi-step directions, basic concepts, directions with a LOT of language, etc.) was way too difficult.  I decided to make a leveled following directions packet to systematically teach and probe these skills.

 There are 6 levels of difficulty.  The components of each and the concepts targeted are described in detail on the contents page (shown below).

Levels 1 & 2 correspond to a set of 3 visuals (labeled A, B, & C).  There are 16 directions for each visual A, B, & C.

Some examples of level 2 directions that correspond to visual A.


Levels 3-6 correspond to a set of 12 visuals (labeled D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, & O).

Below are some examples of directions that pertain to the visuals pictured above.  They are for levels 3-6.


The number/letter code at the top left corner of each card shows what level the card is and to which visual it pertains.

I’ve also included a data sheet so you can keep track of the types of errors your students are making.


In total, this download has 432 directions: 216 two step directions and 216 three step directions.  The various levels make this appropriate for a wide variety of students/groups.  The vocabulary pictured is simple: computers, notebooks, numbers, and letters.

I hope this is helpful for you and all of those students who struggle with those complex temporal directions (like on the CELF)!  Find it here.

Fall wrap-up

I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post.  I wish I could tell you that I’ve done something exciting with my time, but it’s honestly nothing I can put my finger on.

I know Fall is almost over, but here are all of the things the OT and I did with our intellectually disabled groups over the past month.

Here we did a sensory acorn craft.  I printed an acorn template from Boardmaker in black and white. (Did you know you can use the black and white library only?  I didn’t until last year!)  We used vanilla pudding for the tops and coffee for the bottoms.  Here are all of the materials we used:

We mounted the acorn onto a brown piece of construction paper.  We painted glue on the top half first and squirted the vanilla pudding powder (out of the bear/honey container) onto it.  This smelled AMAZING!

This guy loved smelling the pudding!

 Next, we painted glue on the bottoms and put the coffee grounds on it.  FYI – I used decaf coffee.  I dare not waste my beloved caffeine on artwork!  (The art teacher overheard me say this and was slightly offended! haha)

Next we glued symbols for “top” and “bottom” to label our acorns.  We also glued symbols for “yellow” and “brown” across from the “top” and “bottom” symbols.  We also worked on writing sight words (for those who were capable) “the” and “is” to make a sentence: The top is yellow.  The bottom is brown.”

I will have you know that many of my students HATED the coffee smell.  One could not stop making the stink face at his project, and when we walked down to his classroom, I caught him hovering his paper over the trash can.  Some very much enjoyed it though.  I didn’t tell them what either smell was before having them smell it.  Watching children smell is possibly one of my favorite things to do.  It’s just too adorable and funny.  The faces at the coffee smell – man, I wish I could have gotten them all on video!

The finished project!

Next, we made hot glue spider webs.  This is mainly an adult-only “craft” – but the language is outstanding! We only did this with our higher functioning ASD and language delayed students – not the mod-severe intellectually disabled population.  (Basically only with kids who can understand the danger of a hot glue gun – and follow the command “don’t touch” seriously.)

This is a great activity for following directions!

You will need a shallow pan (a dark one or a Teflon-coated one would work well for seeing the web), cold/cool water, a glue gun, PLENTY of glue sticks, and spider rings.  We told the students that we needed cold water then had then guess where we might go to get that and how we were going to carry it.

 First, we drew circles (about 4) with glue in the water.

Next, draw 4 straight lines through the circles you’ve drawn.  This is how the whole thing will stick together, so make sure everything connects.

The last step is to take it out of the water (make sure the glue has completely solidified) and add a spider!  We cut the ring part off of the spider rings, then glued in onto the webs.  The students told us where they would like to put their spiders.  Most chose “in the middle”.

After doing the first student’s web, we had each subsequent student tell us exactly what to do.  This worked on sequencing, using specific words, giving instructions, using correct vocabulary, etc.

The kids LOVED their “prize” at the end of this session.  This one was a huge hit!

The package of spider rings that we got had orange and black spiders.  I’ve seen purple, too.  This was a great way to have students make specific requests and use adjective + noun phrases.

For the students who could not do this spider activity, we made an adapted version.  We helped the students draw circles and straight lines with glue, then sprinkled silver glitter on it.  We stapled the spider to a corner of the paper.  These came out very cute, too.  The same language concepts were targeted, just in a safer way!  (Sorry, no picture.  Yet.  I’ll take one Monday at school!)

Fall apple craft

This week in therapy we made apple trees.  We used apples to paint/print with and they came out adorable!  This craft was so simple to do! Here’s a look.

To prepare,  I cut out a “tree” shape from green construction paper.  I also found some cool corrugated cardboard paper stuff in our art supply room, so I cut that in longs strips for the trunk.  This gave us some added texture and ability to talk about “bumpy” vs “smooth”.  I found some fake, decorative apples at the dollar store, so I used those to pre-teach vocabulary and to illustrate how apples can be red or green.  (The dollar store didn’t have yellow pretend apples…)  We put green and red paint in small, shallow tubs and I cut an apple in half.  Make sure to use a sharp knife; the dull, flimsy plastic kind from the cafeteria will make the cut uneven and they won’t print well on the paper.  Not that I know from experience or anything.

 

We did this with our 3 intellectually disabilities (ID) classes back to back.  We did one big tree per class so we wouldn’t be overwhelmed with the number of turns each student needed, since they all require hand over hand.  With the first class, we just had the students using their hands to grab the apple halves out of the paint trays.  This was a BAD idea.  I could barely grip the apple to get it out of the tray (that was just slightly bigger than the circumference of the apple), so how did I expect these students with fine motor deficits to do it?  To fix this problem, we took some adapted forks, with wide, rubber handles, and jammed them into the apple halves.  It worked WONDERFULLY after this!  It’s important to scrape or blot the excess paint off the apples – either using the edge of the paint tray or a paper towel.

With the ID rooms, I had PCS symbols printed out.  Each student made a choice of which color apple they wanted to stamp. 

After each student had a turn, we went around and had each one smell some cinnamon. Then we sprinkled some on the still-wet paint. Last, we glued on the corrugated trunk and our tree was finished! As a little reward and motivator, we had extra apples, sans paint, for the students to snack on! I also had a comprehension wh- question, fill in the blank activity printed (using BoardMaker) but we didn’t have time to complete it. 

I think they came out really cute!

I did the same craft with my high-functioning language group of students with autism.  These students made their own, individual trees because they’re more independent.  I used the same materials.  The students noticed that, although I was holding what looked like a whole apple, it actually had a slice down the middle.  One asked, “How did you cut that apple?”  I used this opportunity to talk about object functions.  We also discussed what you do with an apple and that today we were going to break from the norm and actually paint with an apple!

Next, I laid out the two halves we’d paint with and my fake, green apple.  We talked about ways they’re the same and different and the concepts of “half” and “whole”.  We used multiple attributes to describe the apples: half a red apple & a whole green apple.

I went around and asked who wanted to paint a red apple first.  Here we worked on manners: raising hands, waiting our turn, asking politely for a turn, being patient, etc.

I let the students stamp as many or as few red apples as they wanted. 

 We talked about concepts like: more, less, some, etc.  Then we moved on to green.

 
 
Once we were finished painting, we talked about why we couldn’t eat any of the apples on the table (even though they mentioned wanted to eat the real apple before we started) – two had paint on them and one was pretend.

 

We talked about where the students were putting their apples using a variety of prepositions.  We also touched on some green apples, some red apples, more red than green, more green than red, who had the most total apples, the most green, the most red, etc.  TONS of quantity concepts!

 
With this group, I stapled the the trunks to the tops of the trees for the students.  Turns out, one of my students didn’t know what a stapler was!  I told her, “Stand up, look on the shelf behind you, and hand me the stapler please.”  She stood up and had NO idea what to do after that.  I repeated the direction, she turned around and looked blankly at my shelf with a tape dispenser and a stapler on it.  I really had no idea she didn’t know this common school object.  I did a LOT of repeating the words “stapling” and “stapler” and I attached their tree trunks.  We also worked on the concept of “together”. 
 
For 4 of the 5 students’ trees, I stapled the trunk to the short side of the green paper.  For the last student, I decided to do it on the longer side.  Here we talked about how one of the trees on was tall, the other was short, one was narrow and one was wide. 
 
 
This activity had way more basic concepts than I even thought of when I first started it!  I hope you enjoy it with your students!  🙂  If you’d like to see my OT colleague’s spin on this, check out HER blog here. 🙂