By: Kelly Hall
Dear SLPs, this small little tool is about to change the way you do speech therapy!
It's small enough to fit in your purse.
It's versatile enough that you could assign practically any speech therapy task to it.
It encourages movement and playfulness while also supporting a structured session.
And, last but not least: it can be used as a visual to support student learning and to reinforce attention and participation.
So, what am I talking about?
You may be surprised...
Carpet markers are typically found in the classroom setting. They are used to designate seating arrangements on the floor.
However, I am about to show you why these little stars should come off the floor and instead should find a permanent home in your speech therapy tool bag!
I've spent the past week using them with my students: preschool through elementary. I've used them on the floor and at the table. I've used them in individual sessions as well as with my small groups. And, let me tell you...every session, I targeted a different goal and every session...they were a hit!
Curious what those sessions looked like?
Great, because I'm about to give you just a few examples of how I've used them with my students. I want you to imagine each child that I describe. Think about whether they sound familiar to someone on your caseload.
Ok...ready to see how these stars can be used in speech therapy?
You're about to see your 4-year old articulation student. He's got lots of energy and often wiggles out of his seat within a few minutes.
You really want to have a child-centered session but often find it hard to get those high repetitions that you need to get!
Your goal is to get at least 200 repetitions out of him before the session finishes but he tends to become task-avoidant after about about 50 repetitions.
So here is where the stars come in. Tell your student that you are going to create a shape on the floor together.
Pick a target word and every time he says that word, you give him a star. Once he has collected all the stars, you both go down to the floor to create your shape.
Let's say you make a big circle. Every time either of you places a star on the floor, you say that target word. These stars come in a package of 30.
Once all the stars are out, you take turns stepping on each star. Every time you take a step, you say the target word.
Your child will LOVE doing this and will ask to do it again and again. Walk the circle path slowly, then walk it quickly. Use your voice to make the other person move. When your student say the target word, you move. Likewise, when you say the target word, your student moves.
When it is time to go, save the last few minutes to clean up together. Pull each star off the carpet and say the target word. Take all the stars back to the table and sort them into color piles. Practice saying the target word at different volumes as you sort the stars.
This session will get you such HIGH repetitions and is guaranteed to be FUN for both you and your student.
Ready to see another example?
Let's move on...
You're about to see a 7-year old fluency student. He is dysfluent 10% of the time and typically begins stuttering on the first word of a sentence. He has been learning fluency strategies and is having success at the table top. You want to start generalizing his fluency skills to different places around the room.
Option #1: Create a line of stars and have your student travel across it by saying each word fluently.
He can move across by saying one word per star or by saying a complete sentence as he moves across. If he becomes dysfluent at any point have him indicate which star he was dysfluent on. Have him travel back to the beginning and correct his dysfluency.
Option #2: Create two parallel lines of stars. One line could be all red stars and the other could be all blue stars. Designate one line to be for fluent speech and designate the other line to be where you practice intentional dysfluent speech. Use the same set of words to practice for both lines. So for example, when your student is on the red star line, he is going to say each word with intentional fluency. When he is on the blue star line, he will be intentionally dysfluent on the same set of words. This activity will build your students confidence as they gain more control of when they are dysfluent versus fluent.
Option #3: Create 4 parallel lines of stars, each line should be made up of one color. Designate each line to be a different fluency strategy. For example, one line could be where your student will practice easy onset, another for stretching, another for bouncing, etc. Have your student start at the bottom of one line and practice 5 words at a time using one fluency strategy. Once they get to the top of that line have them move to the next line to practice a different fluency strategy. This activity will help them feel more comfortable using a variety of fluency strategies at once.
Ok, now let's move on again....next category to use these stars for is:
You're about to work with a small group of 8-year old students. These students are working on using complete sentences with a minimum of 6-8 words.
Set 6-8 stars out on the table in a horizontal line. With your students seated at the table, tell them you are going to play a game together.
The goal of the game is to create the longest sentence. You will need a deck of task cards or interesting pictures.
On each child's turn, show her a picture. Ask her to state what she sees (using a complete sentence) or describe what she sees (using a complete sentence).
As your student describes the picture, have her place her hand on one star at a time for every word that she uses. The stars will serve as a visual for your student, to see how many words she has used to describe that picture.
Each student takes a turn describing the same picture. Whomever described the picture with the best sentence will get to keep the stars from that round. Because your children are in a group, they will naturally become more competitive with each other and this will naturally push them to attempt to use longer sentences as they describe the target pictures.
Ok, one more example to go. Are you ready?
You have a group of three 6-year old students working on pragmatic language skills. They are working on naturally sustaining 3-4 turn conversations.
Your students struggle to remember to use meaningful follow-up comments or to ask on-topic follow-up questions.
Often, you observe their conversations as unbalanced, with one student taking more turns than the other.
Use the stars as a visual and as a natural reinforcement for practicing meaningful conversation skills.
Designate two "conversation partners", with the third student being the "conversation judge."
The conversation judge will give a star to each child for every turn that they take.
At the end of the round, the conversation partners will compare the amount of stars that they received; and, as a group you can briefly discuss why they received that amount. Students will naturally want to get more stars with each round of participation. Remind them that each star represents an important part of the conversation; and, that they should have a somewhat similar amount to their peer by the end of the round. If one student ends up with significantly more or less that means that the conversation wasn't balanced.
At the end of the conversation round, have the two communication partners create a shape together from the stars that they received. Since these stars have a velcro backside they can be pieced together in fun patterns. If your students are like mine, they will really enjoy making these patterns together and they will ask to do this activity again and again.
There are so many ways we can do to easier help our kids in learning and these carpet markers are just one of the many tools we can use flexibly use either for classroom organization or in this case, in speech therapy. Hope you enjoyed just a few of the examples of how these stars are used and hope this will be helpful too in your own sessions.
Kelly Hall is a speech language pathologist in Los Angeles and been helping kids with special needs to learn to speak and use language to express themselves effectively.
For more ways to use these stars be sure to check out Kelly's latest video tutorials on Instagram : @puhtuhkuh_kelly
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I didn’t know much about speech therapy but I just learned so much! I can see how this would be an attractive activity for kids and so effective at the same time! Great ideas.
My son had speech therapy for a few years when he was just a toddler. These are such fun activities for the children!
Hi Courtney! It really is a nifty and flexible tool! :)
I love the idea of using stars as a visual reminder of how long the sentence is. It’s so helpful to have that immediate feedback of progress.