The Communication Window Has Moved!

20 Nov

Exciting news! I have outgrown my free WordPress website so it is time to move! So excited to unveil my new web address and website:

If you follow me or have this web address bookmarked, please change over to the new web address. I’m so excited to have new features and more control over everything on the new site. No more random ads and lots more functionality!

This website will stay up for a few more days until it starts forwarding to the new site. I hope everyone loves the new site as much as I do. Feel free to leave feedback on anything you like or dislike about the new site.

I also have a new logo! Click on it to head over to the new site!

Communication Window Logo Long

What is Tier Two and Academic Vocabulary?

17 Nov

What is Tier Two Vocabulary and why is it so important to focus on when teaching vocabulary?

The term Tier Two Vocabulary refers to one of the three “tiers” of vocabulary outlined by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan in their books “Bringing words to life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction” and “Creating robust vocabulary: Frequently asked questions and extended examples”. The tiers represent an excellent system for differentiating between different types of vocabulary.

The three tiers are:

  • Tier One: words used in everyday speech, usually learned in early grades, typically the least challenging for native speakers but will be more challenging for English language learner (e.g., small, mother, run)
  • Tier Two (also referred to as general academic words in the Common Core Standard): high-frequency, more likely to appear in written material than in everyday speech, words that appear across many different kinds of texts (e.g., informational, technical, and literary), and often represent subtle or precise ways to say simpler things (e.g., mention instead of say, consider instead of think)
  • Tier Three: low-frequency, specialized words that are specific to a domain (e.g., solar system, continent); more common in informational texts than in literature; often explicitly defined in the text or taught by the teacher who is focusing on that particular content

Tiers of Vocabulary Graphic - Tier Two

While all tiers are important, teaching Tier Two words can have a tremendous impact on comprehension because of their usefulness in multiple contexts and across a variety of content areas. If a student learns a Tier Two word that will be found across multiple content areas they are learning, this will have a large positive impact on their comprehension in all areas, whereas a Tier Three word specific to a content area would only be relevant to that area.

Teaching Tier Two vocabulary words can often slip through the cracks since they are not unique to a particular content area. They are typically not explicitly defined in the texts which they appear and are less likely to be defined by contextual cues in the text. This makes it even more difficult for students who may have weak vocabulary skills, speech and language delays, or are English language learners to learn these vital words.

There is no one list of Tier Two words to teach. Every curriculum unit will have different Tier Two words so one way to identify Tier Two words is to pull out the texts that will be used in a unit, make lists of vocabulary used in the texts and then sort the words into the different tiers. Pick the Tier Two words that seem most applicable to your child or group of children. There are also some pre-made lists and materials available if that is easier.

If you are interested in a pre-made Tier Two Vocabulary Curriculum Packet check out either my Tier Two Vocabulary Activity Pack for Second and Third Grade or my Tier Two Vocabulary Activity Pack for Fourth and Fifth Grade.

In a future blog post, I will focus on strategies for teaching the Tier Two vocabulary that you have identified!

Tier Two Vocabulary CurriculumTier Two Vocabulary for 4th and 5th Graders

Thanksgiving Book for Elementary Speech Therapy

13 Nov

TurkeyTroubleWhen prepping activities for my elementary speech therapy kids for November I realized that I didn’t have any Thanksgiving or fall themed books that are appropriate for that age group. I started looking around for a book to buy and settled on “Turkey Trouble” by Wendi Silvano.

I am very happy with my purchase! My kids have found this book hilarious and it is perfect for targeting several different language goals. The book is about a turkey who is trying to avoid being eaten for Thanksgiving, so it attempts to disguise itself as other animals around the farm. Each time it tries a new disguise, one of the farm animals tells him why it is not a good enough costume (i.e. he is too skinny to be a cow, too clean to be a pig). I won’t spoil the ending, but the final costume he comes up with is a winner!

I am using the book to work on sequencing and found a nice freebie on Teachers Pay Teachers that includes a sequencing worksheet. It can be found at this link: Turkey Trouble Comprehensive Pack.

The book also offers many opportunities to make predictions and answer “why” questions like “Why didn’t the turkey’s cow costume work?”

I definitely recommend this book for elementary speech therapy in November!

My PlayHome App for Speech Therapy Review

13 Nov

My PlayHome is a fun iPad app that is essentially an interactive dollhouse. It is $3.99 for the full version and there is also a Lite version that is free so you can try it out to see some of the capabilities.

The app has several different screens that depict various rooms in a house including a backyard. In each room, there are dozens of objects that can be manipulated and used in different ways. There are also a variety of family members that can be added to scenes. There are family members of various ethnicity which is a nice feature. Below is a screenshot of the kitchen scene.

my playhome screenshot

You can move the people around in the room and have them interact with objects in the room. Many of the objects have simple animations when you touch them or put them in the correct spot on a person (i.e. putting an apple in front of a person’s mouth causes bites to be taken from the apple, tap the faucet to turn it on and water comes out, put a person on a swing and make them swing). The animations are really great for capturing kid’s attention and keeping them interested in the app.

Most of my preschoolers have been able to figure out most of the simple animations but have needed help to figure out some of the more advanced ones (i.e. putting the boy on the trampoline and making him jump). It also takes some work to get my preschoolers to slow down and get the most language input and expression because they just want to quickly get everything moving and touch everything.

Once you get the child to slow down there are lots of language goals that you can work on with this app! I have worked on pronouns, verbs, and “wh” questions just to name a few. There is also a lot of great, relevant vocabulary in the app. I usually do not use it as a primary activity in my speech therapy sessions, but more as a reinforcer that is still contains lots of opportunities to practice language skills. One negative would be that kids do seem to get bored of it after playing it 2-3 times so I don’t pull it out too often.

Overall, I have found that My PlayHome is a worthwhile app to own for speech therapy for preschoolers and lower elementary students.  I am able to work on several language goals in a fun way with my preschoolers using the app.


  • Lots of fun, engaging animations
  • Ability to work on many language goals – pronouns, verbs, “wh” questions
  • Age appropriate for preschool through early elementary
  • Low cost


  • Some animations are hard for kids to figure out
  • Occasional bugs in animations
  • Would be difficult for kids with fine motor difficulties
  • Kids get bored after playing with it a few times

Teaching Answering Where Questions for Preschool or Autism – Adapted Books

12 Nov

It was a three day weekend, so I got busy finishing up two projects for working on answering “where” questions with my preschoolers with autism. I find that many of my preschoolers who are beginning to grasp answering “wh” questions get stuck after learning how to answer “What is it?” and “What is he/she/it doing?” questions.  As with many concepts, providing visuals for language delayed preschoolers or students with autism can be a big help when teaching answering “wh” questions. With that in mind, I created two printable packs for working on answering “where” questions that are loaded with visual supports. One pack has an animal theme and the other has a vehicle theme.

Both packs contain the same styles of activities:

  • An adapted book with visuals
  • A printable, coloring book with visuals
  • Printable puzzles with visuals
  • Worksheet with visuals

Where Questions Vehicles Adapted Book and ActivitiesWhere Questions Animals Adapted Book
The adapted books each feature 5 different “where” answers. The animal book focuses on animal homes (jungle, web, nest, pond, and farm) and the vehicles book focuses on places where the vehicles go (road, train tracks, sky, ocean, and outer space).

You can see an example of what the “Where Do the Vehicles Go?” book looks like when put together below on the left and a preview page showing some of the elements of the “Where Do the Animals Live?” book on the right below.

Where Questions Vehicles Adapted Book Animal Homes Book preview page

Just print, cut the pages on the dotted lines, laminate, add a bit of velcro and you are ready to go. I used a metal ring to hold the book together but plastic binding would work great too. I use the books during whole group circle time in my preschool classes and during pull-out speech therapy. The kids have been loving them!

To work on carryover, each pack also includes a black and white printable book with line drawings so kids can color the vehicles and animals. My classes use these during their center time and send them home so parents can see what their child is working on in school.

Animal Homes Printable page 2

Vehicle Places Printable page 3

The packs also include printable puzzles for matching the vehicle/animal with where they belong and a worksheet.

The packs are available on Teachers Pay Teachers. Click on the links below to head over there!

Where Questions for Preschool and Autism Adapted Book and Activities Pack – Animals

Where Questions for Preschool and Autism Adapted Book and Activities Pack – Vehicles

Free Thanksgiving or Fall Articulation Activities

7 Nov

My free Thanksgiving or Fall themed articulation activities for /s/, /z/, and /r/ are now up on Teachers Pay Teachers. Click here to get them.

It includes Thanksgiving/fall themed lists of 30 words for /s/, /z/, and /r/. I use the lists for the whole month and have my students highlight 10 words each week as their words to practice that week and do as homework.

It also includes a bingo game that has Thanksgiving/fall words that have both an /s/ or /z/ and an /r/ sound so it is perfect for mixed articulation groups.


Regular and Irregular Past Tense Verbs Combo Pack

3 Nov

Past Tense Verbs CoverI’m so excited to get started using my Amazing Verbs Regular and Irregular Past Tense Verbs Combo Pack with my kids this week! I have several students working on past tense verbs on my caseload. I have had a hard time finding an organized way to teach both regular and irregular verbs to my kids because some are readers and some are non-readers. They also get bored very easily so I quickly exhausted my past tense activities and worksheets. This pack is my solution to those problems. It is 62 pages, so no chance of running out of activities!

The whole pack has a fun superhero theme and is organized into a regular past tense verbs,  irregular past tense verbs, and mixed regular/irregular past tense verbs. There are 20 regular and 20 irregular past tense verbs targeted.

For both regular and irregular past tense verbs there are pre/post tests, worksheets, sorting mats, game cards, and bingo!

Past Tense Worksheet PreviewPast Tense Sorting Mat Preview

One of my favorite parts of the packet are the Silly Actions Game Cards. The game cards give a funny action to do (“Paint a picture of your face in the air”, “Lick the biggest ice cream cone in the world”). After the student does the funny action, they have to tell what they did using the verb (i.e. “I painted a picture of my face”, “I licked the biggest ice cream cone in the world”).

Past Tense Game Cards Preview

Click on the contents page below to see everything that is included.

Past Tense Contents Preview

Over at Teachers Pay Teachers you can download a free preview that shows more of the activities. Here is the link to the Super Verbs Regular and Irregular Past Tense Verbs Combo Pack on Teachers Pay Teachers. It is on sale for the first 3 days!

Thanksgiving and Fall Free TPT Finds for Speech Therapy

31 Oct

November is almost here! That means putting away all my Halloween activities and pulling out Thanksgiving and fall themed activities. Once again, Teachers Pay Teachers has been a treasure trove of free activities that I can use in speech therapy this month.

First up, Thanksgiving Bingo Create Your Own Luck from Jason’s Online Classroom. What I love about this bingo board set is that kids get to make their own bingo boards with the cute pictures. I use the “creating” of the bingo boards time to target following and giving directions (i.e. “first glue the pumpkin, then glue the scarecrow”, “glue the turkey under the apples). Once the bingo boards are created, it is easy to target several language or articulation goals while playing. I will pull out a picture and ask a “wh” question as the clue (i.e. “What month is Thanksgiving in?”) or for kids that are working on describing I will have them pull out a picture and have them give a clue (i.e. this is something that changes color and falls from trees).

Next, is  the Thanksgiving Roll A Turkey Freebie. I love this style of game because you can work on any goal while playing it. It is similar to the Roll a Scarecrow game that I wrote about in my Halloween Freebies Post.

I also found two nice freebies for prepositions (Thanksgiving Preposition Concept Matching Game) and following directions (Thanksgiving Following Directions Freebie).

Finally, for my students that are working on describing similarities and differences I found the Thanksgiving Compare Contrast Cards.

I am working on a Thanksgiving/fall articulation freebie that I will hopefully be able to get posted soon!

Update:  My S/Z/R Sound Thanksgiving/Fall Freebie is now up on TPT. Click here to get it. It includes word lists and bingo games.

Language Development and the 30 million “word gap”

17 Oct

Recently in the news there has been several stories about the research of psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley about the huge discrepancies between the language and interaction experiences of children from high income families vs. low income families. The news stories reference a “30 million word gap”, which is the gap between the number of words a low income child will hear by the time he/she is 3 years old versus the number of words a high income child will hear. Follow-up studies have shown that this gap has tremendous impact on vocabulary, language development, and reading comprehension during the school age years.

I think the most important information to be gleaned from the studies is not that we need to be focusing on the amount of words a child hears before age 3 but on the quality of the interactions and conversations that parents/caregivers are having with their small children.

I recommend these two articles for reading more about how to provide the best quality interactions and language stimulation for young children:

Good Talk: Raising Smart Learners Through Rich Conversations from MindShift

Stop Talking – and Start Listening To – Your Baby from Time

Both have excellent information and sources of additional information.

Halloween Articulation Word Search Freebies

9 Oct

My articulation students always seem to enjoy word searches and I like using them in therapy because they are a quiet activity a student can work on while I am working with another student on their sound. Tonight I created a couple Halloween themed articulation word searches for my /r/ and /s/ kids that I can use in the coming weeks. I called them “Spooky Word Searches” in case you cannot refer to Halloween at your school or prefer not too.

Here is a preview of the /r/ word search:

Halloween Articulation ActivityThe word searches are available for FREE on Teachers Pay Teachers here.