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!)

Fly by the seat of your pants

Every Monday morning, my co-SLP and I run an hour long session with a group of 7 language delayed students.  They have a variety of disabilities, including intellectual disability and autism.  They are in a self-contained class, but they are all verbal and very fun! We normally take turns talking about what we did over the weekend, listening, asking questions, and relating to each other.

Well today, there were only 4 students.  Our discussion went very quickly – even with mother’s day being yesterday!  Most just “made/gave cards” (haha). 

With about ten minutes left, no time to start a game, and nothing at the ready otherwise, we decided to show them a picture.  I had actually just gotten my engagement pictures back from the photographer, and my colleague had just seen them on Saturday.  I involved my dog in them (of course!) so I thought the students would love the photos with him.

You’ve probably seen it before (on Pinterest, like I did).  We used this as sort of a barrier game – I sat in front of the computer with all of the students while Nina, my co-SLP, was behind the computer and “not able to see”.  I had the students describe to her what they saw.  We got SO. MUCH. LANGUAGE. out of them!

student: “3 hands…”
SLP: “Are they all hands?”

SLP: “Where are the hands?”
student: “on top…..?”
SLP: “Yes, they are on top of each other.  You can call that ‘stacked’.”

student: “a paw.”
SLP: “Is it a lion’s paw? How do you know?”

We also showed them these two:

It says “HE asked”, not “me”.  It’s just a bad angle…

By the way, Justin proposed using Georgetown Cupcakes (red velvet!) so that’s why we included them here. 

(to try and get her to describe to Nina that only our legs were visible):
SLP:  “Is Miss Polley smiling?”
student: “Yes.”
SLP: “Oh, yeah?  How do you know?”
student: “because she’s happy!”
(Can’t really fault her on that one.  How sweet?!)

SLP: “Where’s the dog?”
student: “On the ground.”
SLP: “On the ground behind Miss Polley?”
student: “in the grass”
***I didn’t know this student didn’t know “between”.  Now I do!

student: “Cupcakes!”
SLP: “Is that all?”
student: “and hands.”
SLP: “4 hands?”
student: “no, 2!”
SLP: “Where are the hands?  On top of the cupcakes?”
student: “No, in front of the cupcakes!”

What have you done in a pinch that turned out great???

Winter Wishful Thinking – Giveaway!

Just like every other teacher (in most states) I pray for snow days.  However, as a former New Yorker now living in what I consider a “Southern” state (VA), I adore in the fact that I do not have to deal with 15 degree mornings, scraping the ice off my car before work (when I’m already running late), and tracking in dirty, brown slush everywhere I go.  It’s a very real inner struggle.  This week in therapy, I am mixing the best of both worlds!

The other SLP at my school found this awesome “instant snow” kit at Hallmark.  During the after Christmas sale, it was only $0.99!

This is what the packaging looked like.  It was originally $5.  I wouldn’t have paid that much, but it is definitely worth the dollar!
The powder (or “snow”) came in this tube, which was taped to the cardboard pictured above.  Please excuse the fruit bowl.  Use what you have…

This group is full of students from self-contained classrooms; their primary disorders include autism and intellectual disability.  My colleague and I share the group and we see them for a full hour.  We usually talk about our weekends and then do something fun and language rich for the rest of the session.  We started out seeing them for the usual half hour, but always had to end at a crucial and fun point in our weekend conversation so we upped it to a full hour session.  And I’m SO glad we did!  At the beginning of the session, we told them we were going to make something.  We gave them one clue that it was not something you eat and then had them guess.  One student guessed hot chocolate.  Another one, with poor initiation, guess we’d be making a Kleenex (there was a box of them next to her.).  This is why I love my job.

After we talked about our weekend, asking questions and formulating grammatically correct sentences, we gave the students a few more clues about what we were making.  We wrote each one on a post-it and laid them out on the table.

The clues were: “white”, “do not eat it”, “see it in winter” and “cold”.

They were able to synthesize all of this information and guess snow (one said “ice” – not bad).  Woo hoo!

Here are the students touching the powder while it was in my hand.  We described how it felt.  Most of them said, “warm”.  I think they were surprised that it wasn’t ice cold but honestly, they just felt the warmth of my hands. I guess the pretend aspect of this was a little too abstract.  It was a pretty coarse powder, so I shared that I thought it felt like sand.

To make the snow, all you have to do is mix it with water.  We had the students tell us step-by-step what to do:
Take off the cap; pour the powder in the bowl; go get water; pour the water in the bowl.

How cute is her blue nail polish?!

We gave each student a chance to dump a little of the powder in the bowl.  Then, while my colleague brought one of the students to go get water, I helped the rest of the group make predictions about where they were going to get the water; the water fountain or the bathroom.

We also talked about the “empty” tube we had.  We had a second package of “instant snow” so we contrasted the two tubes.  We also talked about what the word “instant” meant.

As we poured the water in, the powder grew to this awesome, fluffy consistency!  If you happen to do this with your own students, I’d suggest using REALLY cold water, only to give it more of an illusion of cold snow.

We talked about all of the things you can do in the snow – make snowballs, build snowmen, make a snow angel, etc. Then we passed the bowl around and let each student have a fun sensory experience touching the snow.

This student said, “Look!  I’m making a finger angel!”  So adorable!
attempting a snowball

As we recapped, we used regular and irregular past tense verbs to discuss how we made the snow.  They each used an adjective to describe the snow and how it felt.  We touched on SO many basic concepts, too.  They really LOVED this activity!  And for only 99 cents!  ❤

I’ve also recently added two new winter/Valentine’s themed products to my TPT store.  They are Valentine’s Wh- Questions & Valentine’s Listening and Describing.

The Wh-questions one is pretty self-explanatory.  It includes all 5 Wh- questions and How.  There are 8 of each question type, for a total of 48 questions in all.  Students collect their cards on their envelope.

Here’s a peak at a few of the cards:

The next is Valentine‘s Listening and Describing, which is very much like my Gingerbread Listening and Describing.  If you liked that pack, you’ll love this one!  And what kid doesn’t love a funny little monster now and then???  The pack targets conditional directions,exclusionary listening, listening for details, written descriptions, describing verbally, and negation.


In the first section, each student will get a monster.  They are all a little different and all pretty darn cute. There are two of each type of monster, just in a different color.  There are 10 different monsters in all!

 To play, give a conditional direction (or read one from the list of sample prompts).  Students must do what the direction says, according to their monster’s characteristics.  I’ve given a huge list of sample prompts, or you can come up with your own!  I also made all of the actions that the students need to take nonverbal (and mostly quiet) so that it is not disruptive and  you can tell if they did it correctly or not.  If they were all counting, saying their name, etc, it would make it a little hard!

After you’ve done the conditional directions part, students can write about their monsters.  They must give as specific a description as they can, since the monsters are all so similar.  I’ve included two different writing pages: a blank one and the one below.

Comes with an “answer key” so you can guide your students to the right answer.

I think it would be fun to read these aloud and have the rest of the students guess which monster is being described.  Or, hang them in the hall for everyone to guess!

Next is listening for details!  Students must use all the clues to decide which character you are describing.  The picture below will ideally be used as a mat (do not cut apart).  However, if your students need a smaller field or can handle a larger one, cutting it apart would work too!

Put this mat in the middle of the table for all to see or print one for each player.  If everyone has one, they can use a dry erase marker to eliminate the characters that you are not describing and use process of elimination to determine which you are talking about.  There are 4 mats, with 6 pictures each, for 24 total pictures.  Each picture comes with a unique list of clues for you to read.  All of them are organized according to numbers so there is no confusion.  Here’s just a sample.

I hope you enjoy these activities!  For a chance to win your choice of one of my Valentine’s packs, enter via the Rafflecopter below!
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Thanks for reading! Now go to your nearest Hallmark store and raid their “instant snow” department! 😉
~Denise

Gingerbread Language Pack

I recently updated one of my students’ goals to include following conditional directions.  While working on it last week, I realized that he is capable of following them when I am speaking to just him, but when they are given in a group, he loses this ability.  This prompted me to make my latest activity – Gingerbread Language pack! 

In it, I target the following receptive and expressive skills:
following conditional directions
exclusionary listening
listening for details
written descriptions
describing verbally
There are 6 different mats/gingerbread men to give to students.  These can be duplicated if you have more than 6 students in your group.
Each gingerbread man has different buttons, eyes, noses, mouths, and other accessories.  I also provide a list of conditional directions.  Your options are certainly not limited to this list!  You can make them easier or harder.  I’ve included 2 steps in mine (i.e. “If your gingerbread man is holding 1 lollipop, clap your hands.  If not, touch your nose.”).  I’ve made all of the tasks involved non-verbal, so they can be done in a group and still maintain a level of composure among the group.  If they all started singing their ABCs or counting to 10, it would get a little crazy!
These same mats can be used for describing.  This can be done verbally or with the writing sheets provided.  I have provided a blank version and a scaffolded version.  These versions allow for different ability levels to participate in the same task.  Can the other students guess which gingerbread man is being described?  You could write the correct answer (a number) in the corner, cover it with a post-it, and write “Lift for Answer” on the post-it. 
The next group of tasks involves listening for details and exclusionary listening.  Print a mat of pictures for each student and laminate it.  As you read the descriptions (out of order) and students must decide which gingerbread man is being described.  They can use a dry-erase marker to cross out, using process of elimination to find out which gingerbread man you are describing.  You could also decrease the field to make it less difficult.
And now, time for an impromptu giveaway of this latest Language Pack!  Enter using Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

~Denise