Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Concept of Activity/Play Kits

I've always loved working with preschool students 'in the classroom'. That being said, the task of assembling the props needed for an 'impromptu' pretend play language session consumed more time than the actual interaction with the student(s). In response to this dilemma, I began encouraging classrooms and Speech-Language Pathology Departments to assemble theme based Activity/Play Kits.  Imagine … a labeled bin …with all the necessary props in one place … all the fringe symbols needed to supplement your core display (various sizes and formats) … and Core-48 symbol displays (electronic and non-electronic)!  It is a concept that works great for preschool children, but it can also embrace age-appropriate themes such as nail care and process art for older students.  Over the years I've assembled quite a few of these 'Activity/Play Kits' and have found them to be an excellent vehicle for training support staff to conduct Aided Language Stimulation.

Activity Bins                                               

Core-48 Display + Fringe/Supplemental Symbols

The fringe/supplemental symbols in the Activity/Play Kits are always rendered as Dual=Representation Symbols. One set of Dual=Rep symbols has the picture symbol on one side and the photo of the prop on its flip side (Picture Symbol=Photo). There is also a set with the picture symbol on one side and the enlarged printed word on the opposite side (Picture Symbol=Printed Word). To ensure that every child's needs are met, there is also a set of high contrast Dual=Rep symbols (figure outlined in white on a black background) designed to better address the needs of students with visual challenges (HC Picture Symbol=Photo; HC Picture Symbol=Printed Word).

As I am using photos of the actual props, the process of replicating the kits in future classrooms was often a real challenge. We were often faced with the dilemma of finding toys that were an exact match for the symbols that we created ... or alternately we had to re-create Dual=Rep symbols to support the new props.

Ultimately (better late, than never), I realized that the Melissa & Doug Play Sets were the perfect solution to this dilemma. These durable, reasonably priced kits are omnipresent in toy stores and are sold online through a multitude of companies. They have been in existence since 1988 and seem to have the longevity that is perfect for adding kits to future classrooms.

Contents of an Activity Kit

·     clear plastic bin with a lid (16 quarts; about 17" X 10" in size). 
    Activity/Play Kit bins are placed on a shelf in the classroom or therapy room.

·       color-coded label is attached to one (or both ends if you desire) of the bin using clear contact paper or clear packing tape. 

·       All the toy props for that activity are included in the bin. As some kits have similar props, e.g., the candles in the cupcake decorating set and the birthday cake kit, some teams use permanent colored markers or tiny sticker dots to differentially color code the items belonging to each kit (colored in keeping with the color of the ringed label) For example, the label above is ringed in blue.

·     Dual=Representation fringe symbols that can be added to a display of high frequency Core Symbols. Although all symbols sets are created upfront, you may opt to include only the set appropriate to your current students … storing the 'extra' sets for use in a future classroom of students requiring a different level of representation.

There are four sets of 3" Dual=Representation Symbols.

a.     Picture Symbol=Photo of Prop              b.  Picture Symbol=Printed Word

c.     HC Picture Symbol=Photo of Prop     d. HC Picture Symbol=Printed Word   
The high contrast symbols are designed to address the needs of students with visual challenges. They do seem to be a preferred mode for some students on the autism spectrum. 

There are two sets of approx. 2" Dual=Representation Symbols.

a.     Picture Symbol=Photo of Prop      b.  Picture Symbol=Printed Word


·     The 3" Fringe Symbols can be used to supplement a large Core-48 Facilitator/Modeling board. This format is ideal for conducting large group play activities (e.g., involving two to three children) in which you are using Aided Language Stimulation while modeling pretend play skills. After a preliminary upfront introduction to the materials and their use, the children are left to play independently. As the symbols are Dual=Representation Symbols, it is easier for the Facilitator to straddle two levels of representation when conducting a group activity in a 'mixed ability classroom'. 

·     The 2" Fringe Symbols are used to supplement a Core-48 Non-Electronic Display, 18" X 10".  The resource available through Teachers Pay Teachers is 18" X 10", but you can print the files at a smaller % to create a smaller display (e.g. a display more appropriate to the needs of a specific child or one that will  fit inside your bin).  This smaller Core-48 display is ideal for one-on-one or paired intervention. The Core-48 Non-Electronic Display resource file is used to print out the display in quadrants that are then glued to a base of black 'poster' or 'railroad' board. The base can reflect printed words/symbols and can be constructed to support detachable Dual=Rep symbols to allow differentiated instruction. Don't forget to allow space on the far right to add two vertical rows of adhesive black loop velcro to which the  2" detachable 'fringe' symbols can be attached.  This resource contains symbols to support several color coding systems (Goossens', Crain & Elder ...
      a) colored figures or b) white figures; Mayer Johnson; Colored figures with no color coding)

Symbol Storage

The large 3" symbols are stored in labeled clear ziplock bags or string envelopes. If you use the latter, the envelopes can be velcroed to the underside of the bin lid.

The smaller 2" symbols (both sets) are velcroed to a laminated grey scale sheet that is inserted into a clear page protector sheet. These 'loaded' sheets can then be held together with a metal ring  or they can be inserted into a thin, 3-inch ring binder. 

Implementing AAC can be a very labor intensive process. By implementing the Activity/Play Kit concept, educational and therapeutic staff can easily provide quality language and AAC training.
To view the current titles in the TpT store, please  link to
A bundled resource is also available that offers fringe symbols for 9 Melissa & Doug Play Sets + the Core-48 Non-Electronic Display resource at a reduced price.

Here's to making life easier in 2019 by implementing the Activity/Play Kit Concept using the Melissa and Doug Play Sets. 

'til the next post ... 

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©2019  Carol Goossens', Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator

Saturday, December 8, 2018

PowerPoint YouTube Video Launch

YouTube is a wonderful source for content that can be used in classrooms. Recently I've noticed several classrooms using YouTube videos to provide their students with a much needed movement break. If a teacher uses several YouTube videos, however, the time required to find and launch a specific video may create problematic 'wait time'.

With this is mind, I've been using PowerPoint to seamlessly launch frequently-used YouTube videos in the classroom! The following is an example of a YouTube launch created for a classroom. This format works great on most interactive whiteboards (allowing students to approach the board and make a selection) or in smaller classes it can be facilitator-assisted on the classroom computer. 

The launch is basically a PowerPoint page with 12 buttons, each depicting a different YouTube video (visuals are achieved through screen shots). 

When the teacher clicks on one of the 12 buttons, it announces the choice (sound file created in Audacity and imported) and navigates to a second page that depicts an enlarged version of your choice (ensures that everyone in the group can hear and see the choice)

To program a button to go to another page
Right click on the target button/cell
Select Action Settings
Select Hyperlink to …
Select the specific slide where the enlarged version resides (in this example the enlarged version of Get Your Body Moving is on slide 5 of my document).

This enlarged version helps the students auditorily and visually prepare for the video to come. The enlarged cell is programmed with the internet URL for that specific YouTube video, Get Your Body Moving. When you click on the cell, PowerPoint opens the YouTube video on the internet. 

To program a button to open a URL
Right click on the button 
Select Action Settings (bottom of the list)
Select Hyperlink to …
Select URL and paste the specific URL for that YouTube video into the box (when you are on the page where your YouTube video resides, you can spot the URL as it starts with https://)

Yay! … but … you and your students must now to 'sit through' an annoying ad  ... and you must select the full screen icon to display the video in full screen mode. Oh ... if only we could make it open in Full Screen mode ... Joe Spanberger (Director of Information Systems at the Kennedy Children's Center in NYC) to the rescue!!!!! Joe suggested and discovered how to alter the URL to automatically open the video in full screen mode. Thank you, Joe!!!

To alter the URL to open the YouTube video in full screen mode
Use the following URL and replace the bracketed green text with the video ID[replace bracketed text with video ID]?rel=0 

What part of the original URL is the video ID?      (the text after v= is the video ID)
Chicken Dance   
Meatballs & Banana

Here's what the altered/new URL would look like:
Chicken Dance   
Meatballs & Banana 
Can't Stop the Feeling

After viewing the video, close down the page and press the blue arrow to navigate back to the choice page. 

What may not be evident is the fact that there is a black rectangle positioned behind the arrow and the enlarged image. This black rectangle is programmed with inert 'silence' that prevents PowerPoint from moving on to the next page if any area other than the arrow or enlarged picture is accidentally touched

This PowerPoint launch design can accommodate a host of topics:
  • If you are conducting a program-wide theme focused on Nursery Rhymes or Fairy Tales, you could create a launch to organize YouTube videos to support that theme. 
  • Conducting a unit on Apples & Pumpkins? There is a wealth of content on YouTube for that topic. 
  • You have a student that is obsessed with Dinosaurs? I see a Dinosaur launch in your future.

Visit the Bloom Where You're Planted Store on Teachers Pay Teachers to download a FREE sample resource called PowerPoint YouTube Launch.  Although it may not reflect your YouTube choices, it can certainly serve as a template. 

Now go forth boldly and make life easier in the classroom!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Alphabet Resource

Alphabet is a resource designed for children with Visual Impairments. On the surface it  seems simple, but it can be customized to offer so much more.  

This resource presents three versions:

Version 1 - one letter per page/slide

Version 2 - several letters per page/slide … reflecting the groupings of the traditional 'ABC Alphabet Song'. Touch the letter and the letter name is announced.

Version 3 - several letters per page/slide … reflecting the groupings of the traditional song

      but with illustrated faces that can be easily swapped for photo faces of your students. 
  • Frank's photo face is substituted next to the letter F
  • Assad's photo face is substituted next to the letter A
  • Miriam's photo face is substituted next to the letter M
  • Roger's photo face is substituted next to the letter R
  • Zuni's photo face is substituted next to the letter Z
  • Bethany's photo face is substituted next to the letter B
      To Substitute Faces
      To substitute Frank's photo face for the illustrated face next to the F (right click on the illustrated face … select Change Picture…. navigate to where the substitute face resides on your computer.  Presto! As illustrated below, the illustrated face has been substituted with the photo face of your student.
As an aside, all other graphics on the page are programmed with 'silence'. This ensures that touching anywhere else on the page does not prematurely move you to the next page. To move to the next page you must click on/ touch the page arrow. 

You may wish to 'program' the  imported photo face to announce the student's name. 
Touch the letter and it announces the letter name; touch the photo face and it announces the child's name.

You can create audio name files for your students using a free app called Audacity. You can even change your voice recording into a child's voice by changing the pitch level by 15 or 20%. (Effect … Change Pitch). A previous blog post  ( provides detailed information for achieving this goal. To import this audio, right click on the photo face … select Action Settings…. select Other Sound (at the bottom of the audio list) and navigate to the new audio file that you wish to import. 

Students sharing the same first letter in their name
If more than one child has a name starting with the same letter, e.g. Frank & Franny, you will need to duplicate the head + body next to the letter, move it, then replace the duplicated photo face with Franny's face. Now you have two children next to the F letter, Franny and Frank. 

Don't forget, this resource can be displayed on the 'big screen' (interactive whiteboard, large screen TV using Apple TV) or the 'small screen' (computer monitor, iPad/Android tablet using the free Microsoft PowerPoint app). 

There is also a Alphabet Vest Display Version! 

Please visit the Bloom Where You're Planted Store on the Teachers Pay Teachers site to view these products (use link button in upper right)

…’til the next post …  (new posts every Monday)

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©2018 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator

Monday, October 29, 2018

Incorporating Props Using the Melissa & Doug Play Sets

Animated Step-by-Steps® lend themselves beautifully to structured pretend play.  Read and animate the page together, then act out what you just read and saw, using play materials that support the activity. When using the symbol-supported versions (i.e., Picture Communication Symbols, SymbolStix) the symbols are available to provide Aided Language Stimulation!

I've always loved the Melissa & Doug wooden play sets (  .... and as luck would have it, many of them dove-tail beautifully with Animated Step-by-Steps® resources.
(play set images derived from the Melissa & Doug website)

                                                                                               Perfect Pasta Play Set

                                                                                    Bake & Decorate Cupcake Set

                                                                                           Baby Food & Bottle Set

                                                                                                 Catch & Count Fishing Game

                                                                                                      Make-a-Cake Mixer Set
                                                                                               Keys & Cars Rescue Garage

                                                                                            Birthday Party Play Set

                                                                                                  Cutting Fruit Set

                                                                               Magnetic Wooden Dress Up Dolls

                                                                                                           Flip & Serve Pancake Set

                                                                                                                  Smoothie Maker Blender Set

                                                                                           Scoop & Stack Ice Cream Cone Play Set

                                                                                                 Make & Serve Apple Pie Set

                                                                                                          Bread & Butter Toast Set

                                                                                                     Slice & Toss Salad Set
                                                                                                                  Bake & Serve Brownie Set    
                                                                                                                   Wooden Farm Magnets
                                                                                                    Baking Play Set
                                                                                                                  Top & Bake Pizza Counter

                                                                                             Farm Friends Set
                                                                                  Play Time Produce
                                                                                  Fruit Set
                                                                                   Vegetables Set

                                                                                                      Slice & Bake Cookie Set

                                                                                                                       Slice & Sort Wooden Eggs
                                                                                                                       Sandwich Making Set  
                                                                                     Animal Sound Puzzles

                                                                                                3 Little Pigs Play Set
                                                                                                Alphabet Sound Puzzle
                                                                          Spin Art
                                                                                                   Wooden Checkers 
                                                                                          Snowman Stacker
                                                                               Wooden Dinosaur Magnets
                                                                                          Wooden Animal Sound Puzzles
                                                                                           Animal Rescue Shape Sorting Task

As you know from a previous blog post, you can easily 'harvest' symbols from your Animated Step-by-Steps® and add them to the fringe/supplemental zone of the Core 48 PowerPoint Display. 

It's all about having fun  ... and learning lots of skills in the process!

…’til the next post …  

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©2018 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator