Hamburgers and McDonalds

Hamburgers_mcDonalds_LessonA fun part of ESL is learning about American culture. Food is a common topic and here’s a free printable for your ESL students about hamburgers and McDonalds.  One great way to top off a food lesson is going out to eat after class, at the restaurant you talked about in class.

Enjoy! Have fun teaching English!

Tongue Thrust Exercises 4

Tongue Thrust Exercises4This is a new post on more exercises we do in the clinic for kids who are coming to speech therapy for tongue thrust.  Next I’ll compile a pdf of all my exercises, so stop back and look for it under “FREE PRINTABLES at the top of the page.  See my earlier posts on tongue thrust exercise here and here and here.

Tongue thrust  (also known as Myofunctional Disorder) is the forward movement of the tongue (often through the teeth) for swallowing.  It’s a natural posture for babies (it serves as a protection from choking).  Most children outgrow it, but a number of children still “tongue thrust” at age 7 or 8 and often need therapy to correct it.  Some adults have tongue thrust.  Children or adults who lisp (for example use TH for S) probably have a tongue thrust and can benefit from speech therapy.  Remember when we talk about “the spot” we meant the alvealor ridge, or bumpy spot right behind the upper front teeth.

Exercises to help tongue strength –

  • Hold tongue up in the “resting position” for 5 minutes, working up to 30 minutes at a time – tongue tip on the spot, mid tongue and back tongue up high against the roof of the mouth. Click for a free printable of the “resting position
  • Tongue Trace – with lips closed, student licks the inside of the lips around in a circle. You can also left to right and right to left, on the upper and lower lip
  • Water pump or Water swishy – with a small amount of water, student swishes the water around in mouth, like mouthwash, for 1 minutes then gathers it all on top of the tongue (I call it “big gather”) and lifts it up for the swallow
  • Tooth Cleaners – use the tongue to “rub” the back molars, several times, upper and lower

Exercises to help lip strength

  • Tongue depressor with pennies – tape pennies to both ends of a tongue depressor.  Student uses lips only to hold the center of the tongue depressor.  Hold for 25 seconds, x3. Start with 2 pennies and work up to 16
  • Tongue trace – close the lips and trace around the inside of the lips with the tongue, keeping the lips together.  Can also trace right to left, and left to right, on the top and bottom lip

Exercises for jaw strength

  • Watch the muscle – with a mirror, have the student bite down and watch the masseter muscle move or bulge (the muscle on the side of the face connecting jaw to
    skull).  Bite 5 times and then rest


Teaching ESL with Poetry 2

teaching_ESL_with_Poetry_2Posting today on a poetry lesson I did for my advanced students. It includes the two poems “First Fig” by Edna St Vincent Millay and “Dreams” by Langston Hughes.

First Fig             Author: Edna St. Vincent Millay

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes and oh, my friends-

It gives a lovely light.

Dreams               Author: Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams

For if they die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.

See the free printable here. Be sure to spend some time on vocabulary, since many poems have advanced language.

Minimize to Maximize – Doing More with Less

I’m a speech language pathologist working from home, and my bookshelf exploded last week!  It was a long time coming, but when you hang on to things like a packrat, your thinking sometimes gets in the way of real organization and true joy.  I’m speaking of the joy you get from having a few treasured possessions surrounding you in an organized and accessible fashion. The joy you get from being minimal.

I left a job in early intervention 3 year ago.  I loved the little ones.  I loved being a part of their early lives, and felt I was making a difference for these children, and their families. But when I got laid off, I brought home ALL my toys, games and materials from working with these little ones.  It was boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff.  As I marched back into the job market, I thought “These things are important and I will use them again”, so I didn’t discard anything. I’ve had some interesting jobs in the last three years, but none of them were in early intervention.  This was the start of my “pile up”.

My paper items piled up too.  My bookshelf quickly filled with files and notebooks of therapy activities.  Music CDs, games, art supplies, toys, and tons of BOOKS!  Conference materials, oral-motor tools, posters, ESL games.  Suddenly all of what was at the office was now in my home.

And this week, I had had enough! I started to PURGE!

Tons of papers went into recycling.  I kept articles and magazines, because I hoped to read them, but they went unopened into the yellow bin.   I was holding on to read them SOMEDAY.  When will that be?  Books went to the box for the library book sale (benefits friends of the library).  Some toys went to the box for Goodwill (although  I kept my favorites). Persian flashcards I made for a 2-year-old went into the trash.  (When will I use those again?)  Same thing for K and G flashcards and tons of other things I used once. Why did I hang on to these for years?  New materials are always being created, and at the click of a mouse, I can find fresh and interesting activities on the internet for every target sound, and every therapy activity.  Multiple copies of ESL lessons went into my bag to go to school on Wednesday.  I’ll offer these to my students, and if they don’t want them, I can always recycle the paper for printing.

I’m chuckling at the items I threw away!  I found yellowed dot-matrix printer paper. You know, the connected paper with the holes in the sides.  This is what we used 25 years ago when printing!  It must have been left over from my grad school days!  I threw away broken jewel cases, CDs (after converting them and putting them on my iTunes).  I threw away contracts and office policy books for companies I no longer work for. I threw away dried-out play-doh, tattered coloring books, and school papers from my children, who are now young adults. Here’s my advice – don’t mix family things in with work stuff, and by all means, save a few school papers, but toss the rest!  I took most of my family things and moved them to another room.  I wanted to make this office “work only”.  decluttered_organized_bookshelfUgly boxes got covered with pretty papers. Items got separated.  I grouped things by topic – autism/social skills, language, ESL, accent modification, myofunctional, etc. The results were truly beautiful!

Now I’m NOT writing to teach you about decluttering or organizing, There are tons of sites that you can read.  I recommend the following:

31 Days to Declutter Your  Home – Rules for Decluttering

Peter Walsh’s Books/DVD/App on Organizing

Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist

But let me say a word about minimizing – Today I am breathing a sigh of relief because I minimized the items on my bookshelf.

By minimizing STUFF, I maximized SPACE. 

By minimizing TASKS (reading, etc.), I maximized TIME.

By minimizing STRESS, I maximized PEACE.

Looking around at the clutter-free zone I created, I have true joy today. I want to have a life where I am maximizing peace, beauty, joy and passion!



Tongue Thrust Therapy – LA LA Songs

LA LA Songs for Tongue Thrust

32 La La Songs for Tongue ThrustOne of the best ways to get kids to practice is by singing songs.  I want my tongue thrust students to get muscle memory for tongue placement for T, D, N and L.  All these sounds have the tongue tip lifting up to the “spot” (the alveolar ridge or bumpy spot behind the upper front teeth).   Have kids sing a common song but instead of the lyrics, for every syllable substitute the sound “LA”.  (You could also have sing the other phonemes)  Start with Happy Birthday.  Everyone knows that song. Make sure they keep their tongue behind their teeth. They could watch in a mirror to check how they’re doing.

Happy birthday to you…

should sound like

La La     La La     La     La….

Change it up so your student won’t get bored.  Here’s a list of songs to practice LA LA songs.  Click here for the free printable.

  • Happy Birthday to You
  • Jingle Bells
  • Old McDonald Had a Farm
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • The ABC Song
  • The Ants Go Marching
  • The Wheels on the Bus
  • I’m a Little Teapot
  • Where is Thumbkin?
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Do You Know the Muffin Man?
  • The Farmer in the Dell
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Did You Ever See a Lassie
  • Three Blind Mice
  • All Around the Mulberry Bush
  • London Bridge
  • My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
  • Say, Say O Playmate
  • Take Me Out to the Ball Game
  • B-I-N-G-O
  • Do Your Ears Hang Low?
  • Ring Around the Rosy
  • Hickory Dickory Dock
  • The Bear Went Over the Mountain
  • The Hokey Pokey
  • It’s Raining, It’s Pouring
  • Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
  • If You’re Happy & You Know It, Clap Your Hands
  • She’s Be Comin’ Round the Mountain When She Comes

Air Hockey in Speech Therapy

TalkTools air hockey gameKids love to play games in speech therapy.  Lately we’ve been playing a lot of air hockey using our breath to push the ping pong ball across the table.  I’m following the ideas in Talk Tools’ Oral Placement Therapy for Speech Clarity and Feeding. This photo is from page 51 of their book, and shows the position of players at the table, and the field of play.

With the student’s head at table level, they use a puff of breath to move the ball. No using hands or bodies to block the ball!  Not much air is needed, but what is needed is abdominal grading and controlled oral air flow. Abdominal grading  is a skill kids need to control the air flow for speaking.  With normal speech production, we inhale a large breath quickly and then use that breath to speak, exhaling it in a slow and controlled manner.  air hockey in speech therapyIf a student is having trouble with controlled airflow, this is a fun and effective therapy activity.

Lip rounding is also targeted with a blowing activity like this.  You can tell your student to use “oo” lips when they blow.  Some students may need to use one hand to block goals.  Others will be able to block by blowing.

Reluctant players like to choose which color ball to use.  Any time you can give an A – B choice, a reluctant student will participate better.  Yes – No choices can be a big shut down of activities!

“Do you want to play air hockey?” “No.”


“We’re gonna play air hockey.  Do you want a red or white ping pong ball?” “I want a red.”

Ping pong balls are inexpensive, and a game of air hockey doesn’t even feel like work, even though everything your student does will be good for him during this activity!students playing air hockey in speech


Gum-Chewing in Speech Therapy

Gum-Chewing TherapyMost schools prohibit gum, mainly because of where the gum ends up after kids chew it.  But I’d like to share the reasons why gum-chewing is so good for many children, and encourage the responsible use of gum as a therapy tool.

Gum chewing provides sensory input.  For students with autism, therapists often work to help a child regulate. That means something is off in the student’s nervous system that makes him or her uncomfortable. Gum-chewing provides the deep pressure a student craves, and when he can chew gum he feels better. When he feels better, he can be available for learning and concentrate on school work and learn social skills. Occupational therapists help children with these skills.  Often there are other sensory activities they provide for the children, like swinging, climbing or jumping on a trampoline to help them regulate.

Students with myofunctional disorders (tongue thrust) also benefit from gum-chewing. Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson of Talk Tools © (her protocol is below) recommends gum chewing to build strength and endurance in the masseter muscle (the muscle connecting the jaw to the skull on the sides of the face). You can see weak masseter muscles in children whose jaws shift around when chewing, smiling or speaking. Some side-to-side movement is normal but when a child juts their jaw forward or moves the jaw in unison with the tongue, this is often due to weak muscles on the sides of the face. Often these children have very round, soft faces, with fat cheeks and low tone. Exercising the cheek and jaw (through chewing, eating/drinking and swallowing) will tone these muscles. You’ll see their faces become more firm, longer and less round. While working on tongue thrust problems, your speech language pathologist is like a personal trainer for your child’s mouth muscles!

Talk Tools © Gum Chewing Protocol:

  • Use the equivalent of ½-piece of chewing gum (Bazooka-size) for this exercise.
  • Begin with 1 minute on the right side, then 1 minute on the left side 1 time per day.
  • Monitor to insure that the gum is being maintained on the back molars for the entire minute.
  • Increase in 1-minute increments until the client is able to chew the gum independently for 15 minutes on each side of the mouth.

Here are some things to remember about gum-chewing:

  • Teach the child to dispose of it properly (wrapped in tissue or a paper towel, and thrown in the trash can).  I actually make sure they can do this before I start gum-chewing therapy.
  • Sugar-less gum is easier to chew in the beginning, and gets harder to chew as you go on.  Sugared gum is harder to chew in the beginning, and gets easier to chew as you go on.  Children with endurance problems may need to chew sugared gum for this reason.
  • Children with dental appliances may need to avoid gum.  In this case you may want to consider a “chewy tube”, a firm tube with a handle, designed for repeated chewing.


More on American R and L

American R and LAmerican 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 both the right and left.  Hold the tongue tight and tense and say “ear” and strongly emphasizing the /r/ sound at the end.

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, so try to get this sound right.Click here for a free printable on American L and R

Click here for a free printable on American L and R

Practice /r/ by saying  “ear” and then say a word that starts with “r”, like this. Then you can fade out the “ear”

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

Practice /l/ by singing a song but substitute /la/ for the words.  “Happy Birthday to You” becomes “La-la, La-la, La, La”  and so on.    The /l/ sound at the beginning and middle of a word is probably easier.  Practice words like: look, like, lake, live, lunch, laugh, ballet, elect, police, color, daily, jelly.


“Hard-Boiled”, pronouncing Long Vowels + L

hard-boiled, a lesson on pronouncing long vowels + LIn English, L after a long vowel usually makes the word into two parts.  We elongate the word and it will sound more like two syllables.

meal (long e) is mee – yul

mail (long a) is ma – yul

hole (long o) is ho – wul

school (long u) is skoo – wul

Now let’s look at “oy”.  This sound is similar to long vowels.  We pronounce oil as oy – yul, foil as foy – yul and boil as boy – yul.

To make it past tense, say hard “boy – yuld” (hard boiled)

So when you or your children are coloring hard boiled eggs for Easter, you’ll know the American English way to pronounce it.

Here’s a free printable practice sheet for pronouncing words with a long vowel + L.