Classroom Activities – Word Search

Word Search puzzles are a great way to improve language learning, and literacy (the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently, and think critically about the written word).

Are you learning to read English?  The fun activities will help you improve remembering word meanings, and correct spelling.

Word search puzzles can be about a topic (Winter Word Search) or about a spelling or pronunciation rule (EA Word Search).

Word search books are easy to find online, or at drugstores and dollar stores, in the book/magazine section.  Good luck and Keep Learning!


When “ice” is Not Nice

When Ice is Not NiceWhen learning English, does the pronunciation of English words frustrate you?  If it does, you are not alone.  Most English learners find it confusing that English does not have a close sound- symbol correspondence.  That is the pronunciation does not closely relate to the spelling of words.  Have you noticed the pronunciation of words spelled with “-ice”?

We have words like police where the ending is “ees”.

rice, nice, price, spice and device where the ending is “ice”.

service, practice and office where the ending is “iss”.

and licorice where the ending is “ish”.

Be careful – “i” is often added to “o” or “u” to change the vowel sound so these “ice” words never sound like “ees”, ‘ice”, “iss” or “ish” –

  • voice
  • choice
  • rejoice
  • juice
  • sluice

Pronunciation Tip:  I recommend lots of listening!  Increase the time you spend actively listening to spoken English – TV, radio, books on CD, internet websites with English listening labs, etc.   

Positives & Negatives of Autism Spectrum

Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have a lot of trouble with social thinking.  They are weak in the areas of knowing how to behave around others, knowing what to expect during communication and knowing how to get along with others.   Students with ASD are all different.  There is no one-size-fits-all for symptoms, challenges, strengths or  interests.  Nor is there one-size fits-all for therapy techniques that help. Social thinking has been researched and treated successfully for years using techniques by Tony Attwood, Michelle Garcia Winner and others.

Are they prone to harm others, or themselves?  Absolutely not!  They do have more frustrations than most typically-developing students.  Their brains work differently. ASD & Facial EspressionsWhere most kids use their eyes to gather information that helps them communicate, ASD students usually miss those kind of cues, like facial expressions.  They may miss tone of voice, and therefore miss irony and sarcasm. They often have trouble understanding that everyone else DOES NOT KNOW what they know.  They may plunge into their story and assume the listener knows exactly what they are talking about.

They may take language literally.  “Just a minute” might be interpreted as “60 seconds”. When plans change, that may have adverse reactions because , to them, it seems like the plan in place was what was promised, and changing the plan (even for a good reason) seems like breaking a promise.

sensesSensory sensitivities often accompany ASD.  Sounds are too loud, lights are too bright, fabrics are too scratchy!  Can you imagine being uncomfortable much of the time and not getting relief for an assault on senses everyday.  It makes one feel pretty agitated.  Combine all these things and you’ll find ASD is hard to live with.

But ASD students have strengths like superior focus and determination with things they enjoy.  They think outside the box, so they are innovators.  They can learn social skills with specific instruction and motivation.  Research shows that ASD students have skills such as identifying patterns and memory recall that they excel at. Such skills can be a strength in the sciences and other career fields.

And we are a richer society because of these interesting individuals (people like Albert Einstein and Bill Gates). In our family, I  have an ASD dad and an ASD son.  And I wouldn’t trade them in for anything!

Read more about the advantages of autism here.


Don’t Wish This Time Away

I have a friend who is a young mother.  Her first baby is one month old.  We recently visited so I could bring her a meal and see the baby.  She confessed she was tired, and it was unsatisfying caring for this little baby who didn’t really respond to her, or smile yet.  I understood and remembered when my children were little.  But my two children are all grown up now – a young men and young woman, really.  That time they were little was so brief.  Each stage of development – infancy, toddlerhood, pre-school, school-aged, etc. – was a special time with enjoyable moments and treasured memories.  It will never come again.  “Don’t wish this time away,” I counseled my friend.  You have only so much time on this earth.  Don’t squander your time – it will never come again.

don't wish this time away

I recommend you pay attention to your life.  Treasure it.  Be present in the lives of your children, for all too soon, they grow up and you may wish to have back those lovely moments that you were so eager to wish away.

This poem says it better than I:

Mother, O’ Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth.
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking…..
….The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
~ Ruth Hulbert Hamilton

Fun Activites for Fine Motor Skills

Drawing, writing, keyboarding and playing an instrument all require fine motor skills.  To help your child develop his fine motor skills try activities like:

fun activities for developing fine motor skills

  • coloring of any kind – crayons, markers, colored pencils
  • snipping with scissors (does your child favor his left hand?  Get left-handed scissors, available at office or educational supply stores)
  • playing with play-doh or modeling clay
  • building with Legos
  • baking – working with dough, pressing, rolling, cutting out shapes
  • decorating cookies with frosting, coarse sugars, or sprinkles
  • using a Magna-Doodle
  • doing jiqsaw puzzles with thick pieces
  • doing art projects like gluing torn bits of tissue paper, seeds, or buttons on a paper shape or design (use a cotton swab with white glue to make it more challenging)
  • decorating with stickers (small ones give the best workout)
  • using chopsticks (start with the attached chopsticks, then graduate to separated ones)
  • using a holepunch to punch out home-made lacing cards (then lace the cards)
  • building “food buildings” (toothpicks and small foods like marshmallows or grapes)
  • stringing beads (too hard? -use pipecleaner instead of a string or yarn)
  • creating perler bead art on pattern boards (for older kids)

Set aside a “table top” playtime to bond with your child, have fun and help develop fine motor skills.



Christmas Lesson

Christmas is a popular holiday in the United States.  There is often a lot of commercialism associated with it.  Manufacturers work hard to get you to buy their products.  There is much talk about Santa and getting presents.  Both young and old get swept up in the excitement of Christmastime.  If the only thing you know about Christmas is it’s the time that Santa comes, you may want to learn more about the true meaning of Christmas.

The True Meaning of ChristmasChristmas is the holiday that Christians remember the birth of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago.  We believe Jesus was God’s own son and he came to earth to save us from our sins, and show us how to live a life where we love and care for others.  Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger (a feeding trough for animals) because there was no room for them in Bethlehem.  Angels sang in the sky that night and shepherds visited the baby Jesus.  Wise men came from the East to worship the baby and bring him gifts.

Many Christian churches hold Candlelight Services on Christmas Eve. They tell the story of Jesus from the Bible, and sing Christmas hymns and carols.

Learn more about Christmas in the United States with this worksheet Holiday Lesson handout – Christmas

Christmas Lesson Comprehension questions here.

Fall Cooking Group Ideas

rice_krispie_treatsAt our school we are having a blast with group lessons that involve food preparation! Many students with autism and other disabilities benefit from working with others during structured lessons. Food lessons are practical (everyone needs to eat!) and they are fun! With food prep lessons (also called “cooking group”) I teach:

  • vocabulary development
  • reading or attending to visual schedules
  • math (measurement)
  • following directions
  • sequencing
  • and cleanup!

Here are some successful lessons that we have done in the classroom:

  • Rice Krispie Treats Rice Krispies cereal, marshmallows, butter. You can make this in the microwave (many classrooms have a microwave oven).
  • Apple Smiles – apple slices peanut butter and mini marshmallows. It’s a mouth (a speech pathologist favorite!)
  • Yogurt Parfaits – Layer yogurt and granola in a cup. Use tall clear plastic cups to get the visual effect of the layers.
  • Muddy Buddies chocolate chips, peanut butter, butter, vanilla powdered sugar and Chex cereal. Another microwave item, and use a large zip lock bag to mix it all together – almost no mess!

Try food preparation lessons.  I think you (and the students) will really enjoy them. Click on these links for other cooking group ideas  Winter Cooking Group,  Spring Cooking Group,  Summer Cooking Group.



Middle T Sounds Like D

MiddleTSoundslikeDI heard teachers use these words today at ESL class:

  • sweater
  • letter
  • water

The only problem was teachers were not using common reduced pronunciation. The teachers all clearly pronounced a sharp T sound in the middle.  However that’s not how we say them in normal conversation.  When T is in the middle of the word, and the stress is on the first syllable, we reduce the T sound to be more like a D:

  • sweater  (sweader) – I’m wearing a red sweader.
  • letter (leder) – That word starts with the ledder B.
  • water  (wader)- Give me a glass of wader.

Listen to the words and sentences with common reductions (the way most American English speakers say them).

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Make this change and you’ll achieve more American English pronunciation.

American L and R

American L is made in the FRONT of the mouth:  To make American /l/ we tap the tip of the tongue up against the bumpy spot behind the teeth.  The tongue tip stays in the front of the mouth.  Try saying “La La La” while you touch that spot with your tongue and pull away each time.

American R is made in the BACK of the mouth:  To make American /r/ we pull the whole tongue back and up.  We touch the back of our tongue to inside the upper back teeth on the right and left.  Hold the tongue tight and tense and make the sound “Arr” ( like a pirate), or try it with the word “ear” and strongly emphasizing the /r/ sound at the end.

how to pronounce American L and R

My understanding is that Asian languages have a similar sound to American /l/ and /r/, however it is made with the tongue moving to the middle of the mouth.  This middle sound is unfamiliar to American ears and is often interpreted as an error (/l/ when it should be /r/, or /r/ when it should be /l/, but it is really a different sound altogether).  Readers:  if I am wrong about this please let me know in the comment box below.  I really appreciate your feedback.  Thanks so much.

Want to practice /r/?  To get to the correct sound, start with “arr” or “ear” and then say a word that starts with “r”

  • arr+red
  • arr+right
  • arr+rip
  • ear+road
  • ear+rake
  • ear+race

Next get your tongue in the position to say “arr” or “ear” but don’t say it, and just say the /r/ word by itself

  • red
  • right
  • rip
  • road
  • rake
  • race

DO NOT PRACTICE any /r/ words that have /l/ in them!  It’s usually too difficult at this stage.