“Tier 1 Collaborative Learning Lessons” and Whole Body Listening Larry!


WBL SchoolWBL Home

The books, Whole Body Listening Larry at School, and Whole Body Listening Larry at Home, have become invaluable resources for my new venture at school this year.  Authors, Kristen Wilson MS-CCC, and Elizabeth Sautter MA-CCC have provided educators an engaging children’s storybook that teaches learners that “listening” is more than just hearing with your ears.  Listening is a holistic process – engaging multiple senses and self-regulating behaviors to help focus your brain and body to be engaged in learning.  These books are fittingly published by Think Social Publishing, Inc – (https://www.socialthinking.com/books-products/products-by-age-range/preschool/whole-body-listening-larry-at-school-detail) – these books align perfectly with the goal of teaching early childhood and young elementary age learners about all the components and social behaviors of good listening skills.

As you review the Common Core Learning Standards under the ELA category of Speaking and Listening for kindergarten and 1st grade learners, you will find standards that directly relate to specifically developing good listening skills in the classroom.  Consider the following standards:

  • Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.  (CCSS.ELA-Literacy SL 1.1)
  • Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion). (CCSS. ELA-Literacy SL 1.1A)
  • Build on others’ talk in conversations by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges. (CCSS ELA-Literacy SL 1.1.B)
Wilson and Sautter’s books, Whole Body Listening Larry at Home, and Whole Body Listening Larry at School are the precise tools an educator needs to explicitly teach the skills discussed in these standards.    These books would be at the top of the list of “anchor read aloud texts” for preschool, kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade classroom teachers, speech-language pathologists, parents, special educators, social workers/school counselors, etc.    Through the experiences of two sibling characters, Leah and Luka – children learn what “paying attention” means, as originated by the work of Susanne Poulette Truesdale and Nita Everly (More information about the original work here: https://www.socialthinking.com/images/stories/WBLL%20Crediting%20SP%20Truesdale%20-%20Final%20for%20ST%20website.pdf
 WBL Senses

Tier 1 – Collaborative Learning Lessons

This year, I have been thinking about how I can bring some of my social skill resources and lessons into general education classrooms.  At my elementary building, we are continuing to reflect and adjust our teaching based on student data and growth – all the while using an Rti framework, implementing proactive positive behavior practices school-wide, and aligning instruction to the Common Core.  This year, I have committed to trying to weave some of my social/emotional strategies into 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade general education classrooms.  I am calling my efforts,Tier 1 – Collaborative Learning Lessons.   “Tier 1” = core instruction for all.  “Collaborative learning” = over the past few years, I have personally noted classroom activities are much more constructivist, interactive, and utilize social communication skills more than ever.  My intention this year is to go into each 1st/2nd/3rd grade classroom once per month and lead the students and teacher through a lesson that promotes positive social interaction necessary for learning in small groups and in the collaborative manner we are moving toward in education.  Stay tuned… I will take you on this journey and see how it pans out.
This month (October) is my first month of lessons.  It was without any hesitation that I chose to use the resources from Wilson and Sautter’s Whole Body Listening Larry series for this first round of lessons.  Each target grade level has learning standards related to active listening – I am finding that teachers are thrilled to find this resource to have in their classrooms to refer to throughout the day, and use the specific language to give feedback to students, “I need you to listen with your eyes”, or “I am noticing that everyone at table group 2 is doing a great job listening with their mouths!”
WBL Poster
   I look forward to adding this resource to my primary classrooms!  Check out this poster available from Think Social Publishing as well!
   Stay tuned for more posts about my venture with Tier 1 Collaborative Learning Lessons!  – Jill

App Review: “Let’s Be Social” by EveryDay Speech


Lets Be Social icon

A couple of months ago, a great new social skills app, Let’s Be Social,  was released by the folks at Everyday Speech.  SLP,  Brittany Lehane, has a growing presence on the web through her blog, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube  and Twitter pages – and the crew at EveryDay Speech launched this fabulous social skills app in January 2014.

Let’s Be Social is an interactive app in a story-question format with 5 categories of social skill learning:  Personal Interactions, Navigating the Community, Social Behavior, Handling Change, and Social Relationships.  Within each of these categories, there are sub-categories focusing on a specific skill area such as:  conversation skills, joining a group, eating at a restaurant, respecting teachers, dealing with disappointment, hurting a friend’s feelings, and understanding jokes – just to name a few.  In all – there are 25 lessons for common social skill learning topics.

My FAVORITE part of the app is the ability to create customized lessons with your own text, stories, images and questions for the user.    You can add a lesson to one of the existing five skill sets listed previously, or you can create a new skill set.  You can add your own images, your own text, and questions for the user to work through.  EveryDay Speech had made is VERY easy to create your own lessons and content.  It truly only takes about 10-15 minutes to create the lesson within the app.   There is even a text-to-speech support for your lessons for students who struggle with reading.   Here is a link to a YouTube demonstration of how easy it is to add your own content:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Fy-2NGCO54

Over the past few months, I have used this app in a couple of different ways with my elementary students.  I have used the pre-designed lessons with my kindergarten – 2nd grade learners in social skill groups.  I have specifically liked the lessons in the Social Behavior and Handling Change categories.  I have also been using the customize feature.  This has been my favorite application for the app.   I have created specific lessons relevant to my older elementary students on the topic of:  taking a joke to far, lying,  good sportsmanship during a track-meet at school, and to teach what “rolling your eyes” means.

The app is priced at $14.99 as of this date at the iTunes App store.   This  is a good value – especially given the ability to create customized lessons.  There are other apps out there to create a customized a “social story” or “video model” that might be useful to teach some of the same concepts.  But  – what makes the Let’s Be Social app unique is  the added value of creating a story with images and also being able to create questions about the story for the user to interact with.   I would highly recommend this app to SLPs, but also to special education teachers, and parents.   I can even see general education teachers in the primary grades using this app at the beginning of the school year to teach some basic social skills and expectations in a fun-interactive way with their class to set the tone for the school year.  In future updates for this app, I would love to see lessons specifically related to handling anger, anxiety, and being excessively silly.  Perhaps a new skill-set about Handling Feelings would be a nice addition.  I would also love to see a feature to upload your own short video in the stories, in place of still images.

So…. be sure to put the Let’s Be Social app on your purchase list for your personal iOS devices, or if you are like me – write it on the post-it note hanging on your computer monitor at school that is titled, “Apps to buy with 2014-2015 SLP budget.”  🙂

Also – EveryDay Speech will be releasing a new app soon – Let’s Use Language.  This interactive app will feature 40 lessons targeting skills in Vocabulary, Sequencing, Categorizing and Opposites.  I’ll have to put this one on my “post-it app shopping list” for next school year too.  🙂  Visit the EveryDay Speech website to enter your email to receive a message when this app is released at http://www.myeverydayspeech.com/lets-use-language/

One last thing – you can find some great blog posts by SLP, Brittany Lehane at:  http://www.myeverydayspeech.com/blog/   She has some great information for SLPs on using Assistive Technology and other “Therapy Thoughts” and ideas for SLPs. 🙂



EveryDay Speech icon




Disclaimer:  The folks at EveryDay Speech gave me a promotional code to try this app.  So, technically…I did not pay for it out of my pocketbook.  But – I would.  It’s that good – definitely worth $14.99 for all the features you get.  I would not have posted a review if I didn’t think so.  🙂  Put it on your shopping list  and check out their website.  Good value for the price 🙂 

Student Log to get baseline of time management needs after school


After school time log

Quick post as a follow-up to yesterday’s post about the Time Management powerpoint for kids….   Here is a log that I have used with students to get an idea of how they are currently managing their time after school….  It’s nothing fancy that you couldn’t quickly create yourself….but why make more work for yourself?

Get it here:  Weekly After School Time Log

– Jill 🙂

Time Management PowerPoint for Kids


Time Management PPt slides screenshot

Hello all – I wanted to share a short PowerPoint I put together to introduce kids to the concept of “Time Management”.   You might use this as an introduction to a unit about executive function skills, perhaps in a study skills class, or even in a life skills class for middle/early high school age kids.  There are 10 slides in PowerPoint.   Slides 1-5 are the presentation slides defining time management at school and home, and slides 6-10 are meant to be printed off in a full-page format, stapled together and presented to the students as a tool to take “notes” on as you go through the initial slides.

Download the tool here:  Time Management ppt for Kids

Enjoy! – Jill

Perspective Taking Skills…with Tacky the Penguin



Tacky and the Emperor book jacket       Have you read the “Tacky the Penguin” books with your students?  Author, Helen Lester and illustrator, Lynn Munsinger have created this endearing little penguin character who, frankly…..has some challenges reading social cues.    I have been working through the Tacky the Penguin books with my students over the past couple of weeks, working on various language skills such as comprehension, comparing/contrasting (with the character, Penguin Pete by Marcus Pfister), story structure/narrative work, and vocabulary.

      One of the books, “Tacky and the Emperor”  particularly lends itself for some opportunities to work on Theory of Mind/perspective taking skills.  I created a guide for you to use with this book when targeting 1st order and 2nd order “false-belief” types of perspective taking questions.  “First-order false belief” tasks refer to understanding what one person might believe/know/think about a another person.  An example from this book might be, “Do Tacky’s companions know that the visiting Emperor is really Tacky?”  “Second-order false belief tasks” refer to one’s ability to infer what one person believes/knows/thinks that another person believes/knows/thinks.”  This adds another layer to the social understanding.  An example of a second-order false belief question from the book might be, “Does the Emperor know that the Penguins found out that Tacky stole the Emperor’s fancy clothes?”  Perspective-taking questions with a socially-ladden theme can be a great way to work on higher level inferential comprehension in text, as well as “theory of mind” skills in learners with social cognitive needs.

Check out the book from your library, and download the question guide here…Try it with your students this week!

Tacky and the Emperor Perspective Taking Questions

Here is a small screen shot of the question guide:

Tacky PT questions




Elephant and Piggie books – and Talking/Thinking Bubbles!



I love, love, love the Elephant and Piggie books by author, Mo Willems!    These books are FABULOUS to use with students working on basic notions of perspective taking.   The simple text, expressive illustrations, and the strategic use of THINKING and TALKING bubbles in the text are perfect for your work with young learners working on social cognitive skills.

I used these books this past fall as my first set of read-aloud books during social skills groups.  We spent many, many group periods with my Kinder – 3rd grade students reading these books, and exploring how expressive the character’s face is, making predictions about how Elephant or Piggie is feeling at the time, and looking in the text for actual thinking and talking bubbles.  At first, for my young students, we were simply identifying the shape of a thinking or talking bubble, and then reviewing the descriptors of what these are (see my previous post on 1/6/2013 for visuals to use for this).  Most of the time, I would spend one 25 minute group period with one book.  The kids got so excited to see which book we would explore that day.  My purpose for using the books was to introduce what Talking and Thinking bubbles might look like in text, as well as to have a simplistic – yet shared social context to explore basic thoughts and feelings.   While exploring each book, I would post questions to students such as:

1)  “What is Piggie thinking right now?”  (If the student makes a noise, sound-effect or re-enacts an emotion with his body, rather than using language to describe the likely thoughts or intentions – prompt them with something like...”Yup – I bet that is what they would do, but what words might be in their thinking bubble?”)

2) “If our author, Mo Willems chose to draw a talking bubble on this page, what do you think Elephant might say?  What words would Piggie say back if he had a talking bubble?”

3) “Look – our author, Mo Willems,  gave his readers a clue about how Elephant is feeling!  Look carefully at the lines by his eyes – what do you think Elephant might be feeling right now?”

4)  “What do you suppose Piggie might do next?  Lets make a smart guess about what Piggie is going to do…”

5)  “Oh boy……look at Elephant’s face and body!  His body is sending us a clue about how he is feeling!  See how his arms look like they are waving around, and his eyes are wide open.  I wonder how he is feeling?   Hmm….Mo Willems didn’t put a talking bubble on this page.  Lets make a talking bubble for Elephant and tape it on this page.  What words would Elephant say right now?”

6)  “Does Piggie know what Elephant is going to do?    Do Piggie and Elephant have the same information in their thinking bubbles?”

These are just a few of the questions I might pose while exploring the books.

I also borrowed the plush stuffies of Elephant and Piggie from our media specialist to use with actual Thinking and Talking bubbles to have students re-tell the stories.  As a Speech-Language Pathologist, as well as their social skill teacher – I am always looking for activities to incorporate receptive/expressive language tasks for kids that are targeting these skills, as well as the social/emotional skills my students are working on.  We would tip a table over on it’s side, sit behind it and create an instant puppet theater!


Watch for another post soon about using the Elephant and Piggie characters to teach about emotions, and connecting language to emotional states.  – Jill

New Descriptors of Talking and Thinking Bubbles


Hello all – I wanted to provide a copy of some slightly revised visuals I have been using lately to introduce “Talking” and “Thinking” bubbles to younger learners, and share an idea for therapy or social skill groups.    These “Bubbles” are simple visuals are essential tools to introduce the basic perspective concept of defining a “thought.”    This year, much of my caseload consists of younger learners on the autism spectrum kindergarten – 2nd grade.  Many of my students (even in the upper elementary grades) are very early in their perspective taking and theory of mind development.   I have found these visuals to be helpful “anchor visuals” to continually refer back to throughout various activities:

Thinking Bubble


Talking Bubble


You can get the PDF link of these visuals here:  Talk and Think Bubbles new

Here is one idea for an activity to use with younger learners to introduce “thoughts” versus “words”, and how thoughts are unknown to others, unless you “pop your thinking bubble so the words can fall into a talk bubble”  (actual language I use with kids.)

IDEA #1:   “My Secret Treat”

Ask kids to think of their favorite treat, or dessert.   Have some pictures of  dessert or treat options available for them to choose from if needed.    Here are some photos if you need them:   Dessert Thinking Bubble pics    Provide multiple copies of the same treat, in case more than 1 child wants to choose that one.   Cut the pictures out and lay them out for the students to look at.   Each child should choose a picture of their treat – keeping it hidden from the other groupmates.  Tell them to hold the picture tightly between their hands, close their eyes and make a picture of this treat in their mind.   Remind  them that it is a secret – don’t say any words.  Just make a secret picture in their brain.  (This task also helps activate non-verbal working memory skills – being able to “hold” a mental image in one’s mind.)

Instruct the students to open their eyes, but to keep hiding their picture in their hands.  Call each student up in front of the group, and  tape the treat picture on the back side of a double-sided thinking bubble.  Here is a template for one if you need it:  Thinking Bubble Print Here    Hold the bubble above the child’s head with the picture facing away from the peers.  Ask the other students to tell you what their classmate’s favorite treat is.  Quickly, point out that… we don’t know!  This information is still in his thinking bubble!  Use the visual described above of the thinking bubble to review what thinking bubbles are.   (An idea in your brain, silent – other people do not know what is in a thinking bubble, etc.)

Tell the child that you are going to “pop their thinking bubble so the words will fall out” and the child can now, “make a talking bubble” to tell the friends what their favorite treat is.  Make a tapping sound on the thinking bubble picture – (or I pretend to pop the bubble with one of those hand/finger pointers that teachers use), remove the taped picture from the backside of the thinking bubble and tape it to a talking bubble (found here if you need it:   Talking Bubble Print Here.)  Hold the talking bubble by the child’s mouth and instruct them to say the word of their favorite treat.    Review the descriptor of a “Talking Bubble”, provided above.

If some children choose the same treat, point out that they were “sharing a thinking bubble” with each other.  When they were making a picture of their favorite treat – they were sharing a thinking bubble by  having the same idea of their favorite dessert.

The BIG TAKE AWAY IDEA is to explain to the students that people usually do not know what is in another person’s thinking bubble.  But, if we “make a talking bubble” (a.k.a.  use our words), other people can find out what you want, and learn about your ideas.  These are important cues and concepts to reinforce with kids in this activity.

Watch for more ideas to use with learners to increase their understanding of thoughts that provides the foundation for further perspective taking skill development.

– Jill 🙂

New Children’s Book to Teach about Resiliency!


Oliver and Hope Book

One of my fabulous 1st grade students shared with me a wonderful children’s book called, Oliver and Hope’s Amusing Adventure.   The authors/publisher describe the story:  At the heart of the Oliver & Hope series is a focus on resiliency. The characters in our stories thrive on creative problem solving and encouragement when encountering life’s challenges. That resiliency is demonstrated at the conclusion of Oliver & Hope’s Amusing Adventure, when the two friends realize that the journey is every bit as exciting as the destination. “

Not only is this a fabulous read aloud book for elementary age children, but this book is created by the talents of folks at the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation.  The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) is a 501c3 charitable organization, supporting UnitedHealth Group’s Mission of “Helping People Live Healthier Lives.”  UHCCF offers grants to help children gain access to medical-related services not covered, of not fully covered, by their commercial health insurance plans.

I encourage you to check out this book, and the UHCCF website.  The group anticipates adding more books to the Oliver and Hope series, focusing on social/emotional health for all children.   Here is the link:  http://www.four51.com/UI/Customer.aspx?autologonid=84ca1676-d37c-4ef4-88df-27d5b5e81470



I’m on Facebook (finally…)


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Paisely Button

Well, I have been sitting here “Liking” so many more Facebook pages of fellow Speech-Language bloggers today as I spend a day off from school blog hopping, Pinteresting, etc.  Well, I finally figured that I should join the Facebook page bandwagon for my professional endeavors.  It took me about 30 minutes to figure out how to do a community Facebook page, rather than a personal Facebook page, but I think I have it (roughly) figured out 🙂

So – find me on Facebook and “Like” me.  Here is the link:  https://www.facebook.com/kuzmaslp

Also, as long as I have your eyes… my Pinterest boards are expanding!  I have 81 boards now, and roughly 65 of them are teaching-related boards.  This past summer, I finally went through my gigantic board that was titled “Social-Emotional Skills” – and broke it up into several boards for more specific skills, such as Perspective Taking, Emotion Management, Body Language/Facial Expressions, Bullying, Listening Behaviors, Friendship Skills, Conversation Skills, Anxiety Resources, Anger Resources, etc.  I have some personal boards on there, but you can select specific boards to follow that fit your professional needs.

You can find my Pinterest boards here:  http://www.pinterest.com/jillkuzma/boards/