Friday, February 24, 2017

2017 Blog Update

Hey everyone! I hope that your 2017 is off to a great start. Many of you know that I've been blogging at since 2016.  I have some Building Successful Lives news to share with you.  I'm now offering consultative services for speech-language pathologists and educators.  Read all about it on my new website.

You'll learn: 6 Daily Productivity Activities for School-Based SLPs, 7 Work Efficiency Tips, 10 Reasons to Enhance Your SLP Work Efficiency, and so much more.

Stay connected and subscribe to my newsletter to receive exclusive information and resources. Visit my TPT curriculum store for direct access to my informal assessments, progress monitoring tools, pediatric therapy products, resource guides, and inspirational products.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

5 Reasons & Ways to Have an Attitude of Gratitude

As speech-language pathologists, we do so much at work to serve special needs children and families. The work is challenging yet very rewarding when you see the progress made by children with communication disorders, developmental disorders, and/or language based learning disabilities. It is important to remember to keep a positive mindset at work. This is an integral key to enhancing SLP work success. Here are 5 reasons to have an attitude of gratitude:

1. You will feel refreshed when you think about people, things,    
    and events that you are grateful for.

2. It keeps you motivated to continue doing the best you can to
    teach speech/language skills to children and adolescents.

3. Families are often happy to see the benefit of what their children
    are learning in speech & language therapy each week.

4. Over time, teachers observe how the child's speech-language
    skills are generalizing in the classroom and throughout the
    school environment.

5. Children can sense when you are grateful & enjoy working with
    them and many will be more motivated to participate in speech-
    language therapy sessions.

Here are 5 ways to have an attitude of gratitude:
1. Tell someone at work that you appreciate something that he or   
     she has done.

2. Keep a gratitude jar on your desk and write notes about people,
    things, and events that you are grateful for. Try to keep this  
    related to work so that you can truly enhance your SLP work

3. Show appreciation for someone on his or her birthday or
    holidays throughout the year. Give the person a birthday card or
    make a special effort to speak to him or her that day to show
    the person that you care.

4. Reward your speech-language students with fun incentives after
    achieving a goal or working hard in a session. They may earn
    time on your ipad, a sticker, edible treat, game time, etc.

5. Keep inspirational posters in your workspace to remind you to  
    be grateful in all things and at all times.

I hope these tips will be helpful for you when you return to work in January 2017! Have a great rest of the year!


Tamara Anderson

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Effective Informal Assessments & Learning Activities From TPT { Top 20 List }

Over the last three and a half years, I have gathered an extensive collection of informal assessments and learning activities from Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT). Most speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and educators know that TPT is an educational website that has a massive amount of instructional products for elementary through high school aged students. These activities are specially created by SLPs and educators to improve the communication, language, literacy, and overall academic skills of students. I have been an SLP for almost 12 years and have created numerous assessments and therapeutic activities to promote gains in my students' speech-language skills. Some of which are available in my TPT store.  I truly love designing materials for my individual clients when I provide private speech language therapy and my elementary school aged students that I serve each week. Many of my resources are great for use by teachers with their students in the classroom as well to build language and literacy skills. 

I have discovered that when working with children, it is necessary to have fun, engaging, and educationally relevant materials. It is definitely best practice to readily have informal assessments to gather baseline data that measure children's knowledge prior to beginning therapy. This way you can accurately measure their growth and not target skills that they have already mastered. Similarly, it is important to have a variety of meaningful and interactive learning activities that will keep students motivated to learn. So, here is my top 20 list of Effective Informal Assessments & Learning Activities From TPT (Click on the link for direct access to products): 

1)Speech-Language Therapy Informal Assessments Early Language
    *This tool evaluates basic "wh" questions, yes/no questions, 
      divergent categorization (naming items in a category), 
      convergent categorization (naming category)

2) Basic Concepts Baseline Data & Progress Check Activity
   * This activity evaluates spatial and qualitative concepts            
   * There is also an instructional level of activity provided.

3) Vocabulary Progress Monitoring
   * This is an informal assessment that measures students'
      knowledge and expression of semantic processing skills: object 
      function, associations, categories, similarities, differences, 
      synonyms, antonyms, multiple meanings, oral definitions of tier 
     1 words with attributes, oral definitions of tier 3 words 
     (academic), figurative language expressions 

4) Speech Progress Monitoring
     *This is a quick and easy data collection tool that measures 
     speech fluency or occurrence of stuttering as well as speech 

5) Oral Story Retelling Rubric
    *Narrative development is a critical skill that is lacking in many 
      preschool and elementary school aged children. I created this 
      tool to have an informal assessment to measure their oral story 
      retelling skills according to key story elements. It's best to audio
      or video record a child's speaking sample for an accurate 

6) Speech-Language Therapy Curriculum Assessments
    *These are a series of informal assessments that measure 
    receptive E/LA curriculum vocabulary knowledge from the 
    Common Core State Standards.The assessments are in a cloze 
    sentence (fill-in-the blank) format with a word bank. 

7) English/Language Arts Vocabulary Progress Monitoring
     * This is a curriculum vocabulary progress monitoring tool that 
     measures children's expressive E/LA vocabulary skills. There 
    are 10 word lists with 105 total words in the areas of: story 
    vocabulary, types of nouns, types of sentences, parts of 
    sentences, parts of speech, types of literature, types of writing, 
    text features, figurative language, and prefixes. 

8) Guess What? Curriculum Vocabulary Bundle
   * This bundle includes a series of 4 game sets to provide tons of 
   practice for children to learn E/LA curriculum words. To play the 
   game, a person selects a mystery word. Then others in the group 
   use the included semantic maps or question prompts to guess the 
   mystery word. The players take turns selecting a mystery word 
   for others to guess. Kids have fun learning while playing! 

9) English/Language Arts Comprehensive Categorization Bundle
   * Categorization is a language organization skill that helps kids 
   organize vocabulary, ideas, and academic concepts. They need 
   direct instruction in this area to improve their memory, word 
   retrieval, and overall language comprehension and verbal 
   expression. This bundle provides tons of practice with 
   categorization of curriculum vocabulary. There are 4 products  
   included: sorting, memory game, category book, and 
   categorization cards (tier I and tier III words). 

10) English/Language Arts Common Core Standards Vocabulary 
   * This is a task cards bundle that has 180 questions aligned with 
   2nd-5th grade E/LA common core standards. This product is
   great for language therapy or use in the classroom during small 
   group instruction or whole group lessons. Skills address a variety 
   of vocabulary, grammar, and E/LA content questions in a 
   multiple choice format.

11) Back to School Baseline Bundle
     * I use this product to collect baseline data as well as guided 
     practice during speech-language therapy sessions. It includes 
     practice with: synonyms, antonyms, homophones, homographs, 
     irregular plural nouns, irregular past tense verbs, and word 
     associations. I can easily differentiate instruction according to 
     students' learning needs during sessions by varying the questions 

12) Fall Speech-Language Activities Bundle
      * In the fall, I use this bundle frequently for my students to 
        practice fall themed vocabulary according to associations, 
        multiple meaning words, and oral definitions with attributes 
        (Tier I and Tier III terms). Kids can also practice identifying 
        words when read definitions by the SLP or teacher from the 
        included question prompts. The kids enjoy playing the fall                 themed game board all season.  

13) The Mitten Speech-Language Activities
     *In the winter, I use this book companion set with my students 
       in grades 3-5. It includes articulation word lists, wh questions,
       synonyms, antonyms, and tier 2 vocabulary practice. 

14) Valentine's Themed Categories & Associations
     *This is an engaging holiday themed activity to address  2 
       critical language language processing skills: categories and 
       word associations. Kids can verbally name items in categories 
       and word associations as well as write responses on the 
       included writing practice pages. 

15) Winter Land: English/Language Arts Activities
     *My students are always asking to play Winter Land. They love 
       the game board from this product that I glued onto a larger 
       poster board and then laminated. I use it all winter with the 
       categorization task cards included and a variety of other     
       learning questions. 

16) Non-Fiction Language Bundle
        * This bundle is excellent for use during speech-language therapy
        sessions or language arts lessons from February-March or year 
        round. It includes a Historical African American Unit that has 
       7 non-fiction passages, 46 comprehension questions, 70 
       context clues questions (tier 2 vocab),  compare/contrast       
       pages, and 7 word association practice opportunities. The 
       second product is a Historical Irish American Unit that has 6 
       non-fiction passages, 36 comprehension questions, 60 context
       clues questions, compare/contrast pages, and 7 word 
       association practice opportunities. Additional units will be 
       added such as Historical American Women. 

17) Beach Themed Multiple Meanings Memory Activity  
      * Spring and summer are two of my favorite seasons. I created
      this product with beach photographs from my trips to Florida. 
      The learning cards have homophones and homographs 
      vocabulary that can be used to play a memory game. Children 
      can also practice stating definitions of words or using them in 
      sentences to convey the correct meanings. 

18) Beach Themed Monster Trucks- Synonyms & Antonyms
      *Many students struggle with word relationships including 
      synonyms and antonyms. This free activity contains plenty of 
      vocabulary practice for kids on task cards with "monster trucks"
      in the background. These photographs were also taken during a 
      beach trip to Florida. My boy students especially enjoy this 

19) Parent Handouts for Communication Disorders
       * This is a free resource guide that SLPs can give to parents  
       that provides a quick overview of communication disorders. It 
       briefly outlines the difference between speech sound disorders
       and language disorders. It also provides tips to improving 
       speech-language skills including interactive websites. 

20) Speech-Language Therapy Technology Resource Guide
      *This is a complimentary resource guide to help SLPs integrate 
        technology in therapy sessions. This will help vary activities in 
        sessions and keep kids engaged during group sessions. 

I know that this is a long list, but considering I have an extensive amount of products in my personal TPT library, I wanted to make sure that I give you my top 20 list from my TPT store! :) This is a great starting place for a new SLP/teacher or someone who wants some fresh materials to improve the communication, language, literacy, and academic skills of students. 

Have a great remainder of the school year. Perhaps you can use a few of these effective informal assessment and learning activities with your students. I have 15 days remaining with my speech language students this year, but who's counting! :)

Thanks for reading my blog today!  

Tamara Anderson

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Effective Year Round Speech-Language Therapy Materials {Top 15 List}

It's official. This has been my busiest year working in the school system EVER! I have evaluated numerous students, provided direct speech-language therapy services for children in 1st-5th grade, served as one of my district's team leaders, supervised a new SLP for her Georgia license. It's been a great year overall despite it being hectic at times. There are just 19 days remaining for students!

Now that the end of the year is quickly approaching and my plate is not as full, I can reflect a bit about this school year. I always make sure that I have my frequently used materials literally within arms reach on the bookshelf by my therapy table. 

I thought that you would like to know my top 15 effective speech-language therapy materials that I use year round. The students on my caseload have made progress on their IEP objectives using these resources. I purposefully did not include Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) products or iPAD apps because I think those are worthy of a separate post. :) Ok. Here is my top 15 list of effective year round materials categorized by disorder. I've listed the publisher in parentheses if you want to purchase the items (and no I don't work for Super Duper Publications or other 

1) Webber's Jumbo Articulation Book (Super Duper)
*Sometimes it's best to KISS. Keep it so simple. This book is speech gold. It's perfect for therapy and home practice. Plus, I had very few students with articulation or phonology disorders on my caseload so it was a great grab and go activity for speech sound drill work.

Speech Fluency/Pragmatic Language: 
2) What Do You Say...What Do You Do...At School? (Super Duper)
*This is an excellent social skills game board. Kids can learn how to solve problems for real life scenarios.  This game is great for kids to practice speech fluency strategies with oral reading, answering questions, and overall conversation. 

3) The School-Age Child Who Stutters: Working Effectively with Attitudes and Emotions (Stuttering Foundation)
*I LOVE that this product has practical ideas for addressing the emotional aspects for children who stutter. I have several 1st-5th grade students on my caseload who stutter. They use components of this book to add pages to their personal fluency books that we create throughout the year. Their books have a ton of information about stuttering, their feelings, strategies, and therapy practice exercises. 

Semantics/Sentence Building/Grammar:
4) Picturing Vocabulary Cards (Gander Publishing)
*These cards are ideal for labeling Tier I every day vocabulary, working on categorization skills, describing words, identifying attributes, and expressing simple sentences (e.g. I see the _____, I  have the _______). 

5) Webber Photo Cards- Verbs
*The title says it all, but I use these cards ALL the time. My students typically practice present progressive verb sentences with these cards (e.g The boy/girl is ______ + ing).

6) Define & Describe Double Dice Deck (Speech Corner)
*I like that this card deck has real photos of basic nouns. Kids can practice oral definitions with attributes or you place several pictures on the table and have them identify the card based on stated attributes. 

7) Compare & Contrast Double Dice Deck (Speech Corner)
*I like that this card deck has real photos of basic nouns. The students love the "double dice" and selecting the card that matches the shape that they rolled. I use this often without the dice to increase the trials for oral language practice during group therapy when they describe similarities and differences of nouns.

8) Synonyms & Antonyms Double Dice Deck (Speech Corner)
*This deck has tons of Tier I and Tier 2 vocabulary for endless practice. I tend to use these cards if I want to increase the difficulty level for students working on naming synonyms and antonyms. I also like that the cards have pictures along with text for those that need visual cues. 

9) Context Clues in Stories (Super Duper)
*My 3rd-5th grade students need plenty of tier 2 vocabulary practice. This product has 2 levels of cards. One has a short paragraph with a fill in the blank sentence for them to figure out the word from a field of 3 choices. The other has a color coded target word  in a paragraph and a field of 3 choices for them to identify the definition. 

10) Vocabulary Chipper Chat (Super Duper)
My students rarely complete worksheets in therapy sessions or play traditional board games, so they LOVE when they get to play this game. It's amazing how earning tokens after answering learning questions with the added incentive of cleaning up the activity with the included magnetic wand keeps them motivated during a 30 minute session. This product is EXCELLENT to differentiate instruction based on your student's vocabulary objectives! You can choose from these 12 skills: analogies, associations, attributes, categories, compare & contrast, context clues, figurative language, functions, homonyms/homographs, homophones, synonyms & antonyms, verbs

11) Grammar Chipper Chat (Super Duper)
This is a definite favorite activity for my students and ideal for differentiated instruction during group therapy. The kids each enjoy picking an animal themed game/token board. I like the variety of grammar skills that you can target and opportunities for oral language practice. 

12) No Glamour Sequencing Cards (LinguiSystems now Super Duper)
*This product has a variety of colorful picture sequences. I typically give students only 3-4 cards  and have them put them in order. I use these cards for kids to practice comprehension and expression of present, past, and future verb tenses. I pair the cards often with written text to assist them with comprehending/using different sentence structures.  

General Receptive/Expressive Language
13) What is the Main Idea? (Super Duper)
*This resource is great for the majority of students on my caseload. They can practice their auditory comprehension skills by identifying the main idea from a field of 3 choices, retelling brief paragraph, or answering WH questions that you create. 

14) Fiction & Non-Fiction Passages Binder (SLP created)
*I keep a binder of passages organized by reading levels that I can easily select. Many of my students have IEP objectives to increase listening/language comprehension skills when read aloud text and/or provided a copy of text at their instructional reading levels. They also have objectives to identify meanings of tier 2 vocabulary words using context clues from text.  I use the instructional reading levels according to the level determined from reading assessments by their special education teacher. For example, I may have a 4th grade student who is reading at an instructional 2nd grade level. Therefore, I have found that my students improve their language and literacy skills over time when I use articles with specific readability levels. 
*I use websites such as,,, and  to print passages.

15) Fiction & Non-Fiction Books (My personal classroom library)
*Each month, I have a selection of books that I read aloud to my speech-language therapy students. I have seen tremendous progress in the speech and language skills of my students during literature based lessons. This is by far my favorite and most effective way to promote receptive and expressive language growth. My students truly enjoy when I read to them and are eager to name vocabulary, retell stories, identify problem/solution, identify cause/effect, and answer story elements/comprehension questions. They are proud when they correctly answer questions about the story. Most of the students on my caseload also have co-occurring language based learning disability, autism, moderate intellectual disability, and/or ADHD and I can honestly say that they are engaged when I use books in therapy. Make sure that you subscribe to my blog because I'll share a list of my favorite seasonal/monthly books that I use throughout the year. 

I hope that you enjoyed this post and have a few ideas about new products to use or new ways to target teaching speech-language skills using one of these resources that you already have. 

Have a great remainder of the school year for all the school based SLPs! Check out my instagram: bslspeechlanguage for pictures of many of these products. 

Tamara Anderson

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Balancing SLP Life as a School Based SLP {10 Success Tips}

The job of a speech-language pathologist truly varies based on her work setting and it is essential to know how to skillfully balance and complete tasks. For SLPs in the school setting, I have learned ways that make it easier to get the job done with excellence. After all, you need to have the energy, materials, and enthusiasm to provide your students with engaging speech language therapy sessions.  

If school based SLPs only had to complete evaluations and instruct students during therapy sessions, SLP life would be MUCH easier. However, you may start to feel like a professional juggler once you throw in attending special education eligibility meetings,  IEP meetings, re-evaluation meetings, data collection, writing reports, medicaid billing, team meetings, etc.  I have discovered 10 helpful tips that will ensure that you are effectively balancing your SLP life as a school based SLP. No, I don't have a magic wand to make your paperwork or computer work disappear. sorry. The good news is that I have 10 success tips that will help you manage the therapy, paperwork, and meeting aspects of your job. 

1) Gather seasonal/holiday themed materials on Thursdays and Fridays before the season changes or upcoming holiday. Keep them in an accessible place that is near your therapy table. 

*Fiction/non-fiction books (with companions/related activities)
*Speech-language activities from Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT)
*Token boards (fall, winter, spring, summer, holidays)
*Game boards
*Sports games (football, basketball, soccer, baseball)
*Seasonal worksheets for mixed articulation/language goals
*iPad activities 

2) Vary activities in monthly sessions to maintain engagement. 

Students can sense when you are not interested or excited about   an activity. It's okay to switch activities from one that you initially   planned on using that day. Remember to try your best to make sessions meaningful, educationally relevant, yet fun! 

3) Use progress monitoring forms for articulation, speech fluency, and language objectives.  
* Store master copies in a binder near therapy table. 
* Put forms in students' group therapy folder so that you can easily 
   use them on data collection days (e.g. I organize attendance 
   sheets, data sheets, therapy printables in folders per group). 
* Remember that you do NOT have to take therapy data in every 

4) Schedule time to write IEPs and evaluation reports. 

It will hold you accountable with getting paperwork done with less stress. If you didn't get to complete what you planned, just scratch it out in your planner and re-assign it to another day's task list.

5) Arrive to work early or stay late to complete documentation. 

I think it's important to set boundaries between SLP work life and personal life. I recommend that you avoid bringing home student files, IEP work, evaluation reports, or medicaid billing. 

If you have children, you may try arranging for extended childcare 
hours 2 days a week so that you can arrive early or stay late at work to complete documentation. You may be surprised how a slight adjustment will improve your efficiency.  

6) Schedule daily tasks in your planner. 

Write down meeting dates and times. Note changes to usual schedule such as testing student vs. typical therapy session. 

7) Schedule time for lunch (social meeting).

I think that it is important to give yourself at least 30 minutes that does not involve you eating at your desk while checking emails or doing other paperwork. 

8) Schedule time to test students for upcoming speech/language screenings, comprehensive evaluations, and re-evaluations.

Contact SLP testers in your district if they are available to help lighten your testing load. 

9) Learn to politely say no. 
I know that you may want to help serve as a team member on special school projects, committees, and clubs. However, you most likely don't have time to attend these extra meetings.  It's perfectly ok to say no without feeling guilty. 

Instead, you can attend after school events (e.g. concerts, literacy night) to support your students and build rapport with families when you can. 

10) Request to be excused from some meetings.
With parental permission, you can be excused from IEP meetings. Since SLPs typically have high caseloads and often must cancel therapy sessions to attend meetings, it is appropriate to be excused from attending an IEP meeting. However, you should always use your professional judgement when asking to be excused. This will need to be documented in the IEP online documentation or meeting minutes. It is best to send home speech therapy updates and proposed goals & objectives in advance when possible. 

Check out my TPT store for time-saving theme based activities and progress monitoring tools. These resources are engaging therapy materials and will simplify the data collection process with your students! 

Thanks for reading the blog. These tips help me tremendously during the school year. I'm now in the final stretch of the school year, but first it's time for SPRING BREAK! 

Tamara Anderson

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Why Do You Teach Categorization in Speech-Language Therapy ?

Many children with language disorders struggle with understanding the skill of categorization. Pediatric speech-language pathologists frequently write objectives for children to improve their ability to name items in categories, name categories when given items in the group, and identify what items do not belong in a category. SLPs select these objectives in therapy often because a child did not demonstrate mastery of this skill on an assessment. 

Do you really think about why this is such an important language concept for your client with communication disorder to master? As speech-language pathologists, we need to be able to readily explain to parents, special education teachers, and administrators, the reason we are targeting categorization in speech-language therapy as well as the skilled therapy techniques we use to improve this area.  

Children need to learn categorization because it is a critical language processing skill. Semantic or vocabulary processing is a large part of how children understand language and effectively retrieve words. After young children learn to label basic nouns and express their functions (e.g. verbs) during their daily routines, they naturally progress to learn word associations. Categorization is typically the next skill in this developmental hierarchy. 

Children need to learn categorization because when they do, it helps them effectively store new words and information in their brain. In doing so, they connect a new vocabulary word or concept to their schema or pattern of knowledge that they already know. For example, when a child learns the subcategory of desserts his or her brain makes an association because he or she already knows that is a type of food. When an older child learns about the water cycle, he or she can make meaning based on previous knowledge about weather, types of precipitation (rain, sleet, snow, etc.), and/or sequence of events. 

Preschool children and children in grades K-2 with language disorders need to learn various categorization tasks with Tier I vocabulary words. They need to practice divergent naming task or expressing items in categories such as food, clothes, transportation, and shapes. They need to practice convergent naming tasks that require them to say the category name when told examples of items in that category. Similarly, they need to be able to distinguish what item does not match the group during an elicited task. 

Children in grades 3-5 can further their development of categorization by practicing divergent and convergent naming tasks with Tier III academic vocabulary. Since many speech-language pathologists support teaching the language underpinnings of the common core state standards, they can teach their students how to categorize English/Language Arts vocabulary. For example, students can sort parts of speech vocabulary, types of nouns, types of literature terms, or figurative language vocabulary into groups. They can name Tier III words when given a category and state the category when given examples in this group. 

So, what materials do you use to take data, instruct children, and provide language practice opportunities for categorization objectives? I have several items in my TPT store to work on these goals. Some of these include:

1) Categories Data Check- 8 forms to quickly assess Tier I vocab
       * If you own my Vocabulary Progress Monitoring Tool, it will be updated with this  
          expanded category data check. Email me if you have questions at
2) My Speech Language Category Book- sorting Tier III E/LA 
3) E/LA Comprehensive Categorization Bundle- Tier I & III vocab
4) E/LA Vocabulary Memory Concentration Activity

So the next time someone asks you why you teach categorization in speech therapy? You can remind them that you also provide language therapy and then effectively explain your rationale. 

Thanks for reading my blog today! 

Until next time,

Tamara Anderson

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Building Successful Lives Blog Celebration Raffle!

Hey everyone! I hope all of you on the east coast are keeping warm after this weekend's snow storm. Here in Atlanta, there was a light dusting of snow. With all the hype on the news, I decided to get some R & R on Saturday and stay indoors! It was great for a change! Now for the exciting news...

I am excited to tell you about my Building Successful Lives Blog Celebration Raffle. In honor of my 3rd Blogiversary, I will give away 3 products from my TPT store: Tamara Anderson plus an extra one in anticipation of a great year!  You will also have a chance to enter to win 12 other products generously donated from other SLPs. Many of them are also bloggers and they all sell their awesome products via Teachers Pay Teachers. I am honored that they are joining in on this celebration! I created 6 bundles and 6 lucky winners will receive FREE products in celebration of my 3rd year.

You have a chance to win a variety of articulation, speech fluency, receptive/expressive language, grammar, and social skills resources. They include informal assessments, games, no prep printables, and fun speech language therapy materials! 

The raffle starts late tonight and will last until Sunday! Make sure that you tell other speech-language pathologists about my celebration. I blog and make products to share my ideas and resources that I use in speech-language therapy with all of you! I hope that you find the information beneficial! Thanks again for your support of Building Successful Lives (BSL) Speech & Language.

Thanks to all the SLPs who sponsored this raffle! Here is a preview of the prizes!

Tamara Anderson a Rafflecopter giveaway