Monday, March 25, 2019

Using the PowerPoint Pen Tool

The PowerPoint pen tool can be used to mark up any text provided in an Animated Step-by-Step resource, allowing a skillful teacher to highlight key literacy components as she reads the text.  The pen tool is especially helpful when using Animated Step-by-Step Literacy Resources that have 'fill in the blank' literacy components (e.g., Mystery Animals, Mystery Fruit &Vegetables, CVC Mystery Balls,  Beat the Clock, Eletelephony, Betty Botter and the 'alternate versions' of various poems such as Miss Polly's Dolly). Check out the Big Literacy Bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers. Obviously if you are displaying your ASbyS on an interactive whiteboard you would be using the pen tools of that platform, e.g., Smart Notebook, Activinspire.

Using the PowerPoint pen tool:

When your PowerPoint resource is in slide show mode, you can use the regular cursor to activate the page animations. When you need to write on the page, enter command p on your keyboard and the pen tool will be substituted for the arrow cursor. 

If you control-click on the page (right click on Windows) while in slide show mode, you can access Pointer Options that allow you to change the color of the pen. (Note: a benefit for individuals with color blindness)

To exit the pen tool while in slide show mode, select the escape button (esc = upper left corner of keyboard on a mac). The pen cursor reverts to an arrow cursor.

I recently used the pen tool while playing Mystery Animals with three, typically developing girls (ages 3, 5 and 8). The youngest (Aubry) participated by announcing the color of the ball that rolled on the page ....  the 5 year old (Isla) and the 8 year old (Eve) used the animal sound effects and the numbers of blanks provided for the mystery animal's name to help them problem solve the identity of the mystery animal. Once the ball opened and the mystery animal was revealed, the girls proceeded to sound out its name and fill in the letters.  I was in charge of using the pen tool to document the letters. Eventually Eve took the helm to write in the letters. 

I was heartened by the fact that everyone was engaged and that pen tool really helped to make the resource even more engaging. 

…’til the next post …  

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Case for Dual=Representation Core Symbols

Many early childhood classrooms are using a Core + Fringe format during their classroom routines (Circle Time, Story Time, Arts & Crafts, Science etc.) In so doing they are ensuring that their Aided Language Stimulation is providing students with a fuller range of communicative functions ... not just focusing on 'wants and needs'. 

I've just posted (Teachers Pay Teachers), several sets of Dual=Representation Core SymbolsThese PCS symbol sets (four versions reflecting different color coding systems) are intended for use on a classroom Facilitator/Modeling Board and would be supplemented with activity-specific fringe symbols (not included).

For Example:

During the mealtime breakfast/lunch routine, a Facilitator uses the modeling board to conduct Aided Language Stimulation(ALgS) as she oversees the group mealtime routine. Added fringe symbols might include eating tools (BOWL, SPOON, KNIFE, CUP, PLACEMAT, PLATE, NAPKIN), menu-specific food items (WATER, APPLE JUICE, CEREAL, MILK, BANANA) additional verbs (POUR, CUT, SPILL/UH OH) and additional adjectives/adverbs (CAREFUL, HUNGRY, THIRSTY). 

During the lunch routine,  the fringe vocabulary might reflect the CHICKEN, PEAS & CARROTS, and FRUIT CUP on the menu that day.  

During Arts & Crafts the fringe vocabulary would reflect the BAGGIE, PIPE CLEANER, SEQUINS, RIBBON, WINGS, BODY, ANTENNAE needed to make that BAGGIE BUTTERFLY art project. 

The Core Symbols in these resources are constructed as Dual=Representation Symbols, i.e. one side of the symbol might display the picture symbol, the flip side might reflect the enlarged printed word to provide a greater literacy agenda. D=R symbols have the distinct advantage of allowing you to straddle two levels/types of representation when conducting your lesson. This is especially helpful if you are dealing with a 'mixed ability' classroom, i.e., a classroom in which student abilities span a challenging broad range. 

Fringe symbols often reflect three formats:  Picture Symbol=Printed Word   or   Picture Symbol=Photo   or  Picture Symbol=HC symbol. 

In some classrooms there might not be a need for detachable Dual=Representation Symbols, so the core symbols on the base display are laminated permanently to the base board or alternately they have been constructed as a Staples Banner.

You could also use the Staples Banner concept to create a text-based base for your detachable symbols.


Aided Language Stimulation (ALgS) is conducted by pointing to these core symbols (either permanent or detachable) on the base display (using the Facilitator Board zone) and added detachable fringe symbols on the far right of that banner. 

Aided Language Stimulation, however, can be conducted across four zones (Facilitator Board Zone, Facilitator Vest Zone, Hand Held Zone and Student Expressive Zone). A Facilitator differentially 'weights' these four zones, based on the developmental level(s) of students in the class. If your students are 'cognitively young' with emerging joint attention skills, you might opt to primarily use the 'hand held zone' as it allows you to place the symbol in the child's visual field. The Facilitator Board is now being used as an option for organizing the symbols for quick pull off. Eventually the Vest Display Zone might be added to accommodate two- or three- symbol phrases. 

In some classrooms I am using the picture symbol, backed with its corresponding printed word. Sometimes I'm showing the printed word side first to allow students to puzzle over the word … the card is then flipped to confirm whether they were correct. In other classrooms, I am primarily using the picture symbols side, but  I periodically flip to the printed word side to provide some literacy stimulation during the activity ('literacy flip'). 

If I have a child with a significant visual impairment … a child who might benefit from high contrast symbols … I might opt to use the regular symbols (for the benefit of the group)  backed with High Contrast symbols (for the benefit of the child with VI). This allows me to periodically show the high contrast symbol (hand held) 'up close and personal' in the child's preferred visual field or to create a small phrase on a velcro receptive black board. 

There certainly is a variety of color coding systems out there … and that is the reason there are 4 versions offered on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Version 1: Goossens, Crain & Elder – white figures 

Version 2: Goossens, Crain & Elder -  color figures

Version 3: Mayer Johnson 

Version 4: No color code.

High contrast– color figures on a black background have been included with all 4 versions. 

Choose the system that works best for your students and your agency.

My color coding biases have a lot to do with the ease of conducting Aided Language Stimulation:
I prefer to color code the core (rather than leaving it uncolored) as I feel the color coding helps me conduct ALgS across a field of 48 symbols. I often don't color code the fringe which does help to make a nice distinction between what is the 'unchanging core' and what is the 'changing fringe'. 

I do prefer to color code the background of the card (rather than 'ringing' the symbol with color). The former makes Aided Language Stimulation easier, while the latter makes the display feel more visually busy (obviously, my bias). 

Yes, yes, yes, I know ....  the grammatical category of a word can vary with context (perhaps the case for not color coding), but I find the primary purpose of the color coding is to help navigate the grid more efficiently when conducting Aided Language Stimulation.  

As your core symbols should be 'built to last', print these pdf files on heavy weight paper or alternately print on regular weight paper and use heavier laminate. Don't forget to leave a 1/8" border of laminate around the symbol to protect the symbol against fluids and splitting.
…’til the next post …  

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

Roller Communication Displays

Commodity Code Rollers (AM Industries of GA, Inc.) are used in grocery check-out lanes by cashiers and customers using self checkout. They are 4" in diameter and come in various lengths, i.e., 12", 14", 16", 18".

I recall seeing a similar low tech option being used in the 'early days'  of AAC (the 1970s ... yes it is hard to believe)…. and yes that was long before the advent of all the wonderful technology currently available to families. 

The Commodity Code Roller is intriquing as it holds potential for allowing students to use more limited space to access a larger vocabulary array … just spin to the symbol(s) you wish to communicate. The layout is limited only by your imagination. Need larger symbols ... no problem. Need more space between rows ... can do. When conducting Aided Language Stimulation the communication partner rolls the display to symbols as needed.

By way of example, consider having 48 core words + photo faces of significant people on your roller communication display.

For some students, the communication array can be further expanded by adding fringe vocabulary on an eye gaze frame.

A resource providing step-by-step instructions for Constructing an Eye- Gaze Frame  using CPVC plastic pipe is available through Teachers Pay Teachers.

Obviously the roller display option is not for everyone … but it may make a big difference for that one student for whom a good fit has been elusive.

As I've mentioned many times before … in AAC it's all about accumulating a 'big bag of tricks'. 


AM Industries of GA, Inc. 
Buford Georgia 30519

…’til the next post … 

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

Monday, February 18, 2019

In the Hands of a Skilled Teacher ...

Chaya Sara is a wonderful intuitive teacher. She has a great understanding of her students developmental level and does a great job of presenting engaging content in a variety of ways

She is currently using the 6 Little Monkeys Vest Display as part of her Circle Time Routine.

She then added the 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the bed Book by Eileen Christelow during her Story Time.

Chaya Sara also has access to two iPad versions of 6 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed  that can be used for one-on-one intervention. The high contrast version is designed to address the needs of two students in her class with visual challenges. 

When I last visited her class. she had added a lovely extension activity for 6 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. The six children in her class were seated legs tucked under the edge of a duvet filled with large pieces of foam (upholstery left overs). Chaya Sara had cleverly scanned and enlarged  individual pictures of each monkey from the book (now 9" tall) and had attached them to a board covered with velcro-receptive, indoor-outdoor carpet  ... allowing the monkeys to jump on the 'bed' as a unit. They can also be easily removed from the board when they 'fall and bump their heads'. Chaya Sara's students have emerging joint attention skills so the symbols are presented ON the props, rather than on an additional communication board, e.g., each monkey has a number on its front and on its back are the symbols, (bumped) HEAD and OW!

As the chant progresses, the monkeys are removed one-by-one from the carpet board, leaving additional space to add 3"symbols to further support the chant, Mama CALLED DOCTOR and the DOCTOR SAID …  

A simple voice output communication device with the message "No more monkeys jumping on the bed' can be velcroed to the flip side of the carpet board allowing the teacher to seamlessly offer the time-dependent repetitive line to be be activated by her students.

This strategy of incorporating the symbols on the props helps to consolidate the visual focus ... especially important when children's joint attention skills are evolving. This activity also lends itself to replacing existing monkey faces with student photo faces.  The chant now becomes 'Five little kiddies jumping on the bed' and engagement is further enhanced!

This activity is repeated over several days/weeks.  Using this activity as a template,  similar activities can be introduced over the course of the school year. For example:

 5 Little Snowmen
The duvet now becomes the snow covered hills
A large sun graphic is attached to the front of a flashlight to support the lyrics 'out comes the sun'. 
There are three vest display versions availabl (PCS, SymbolStix, VI) to support this curricular unit.
There are four Animated Step-by-Steps® versions available (Regular, PCS, SymbolStix, VI)

The white duvet is now covered by a green sheet or blanket to simulate the green hills.

5 Green & Speckled Frogs
The white duvet is now covered by a blue sheet or blanket to simulate the blue water. A gym bolster is added as 'the log'.  A mister with warm water can be used to simulate the splash as each frog jumps into the water. 

5 Fat Turkeys  ...  6 Little Gingerbreads ...  5 Little Pumpkins    You get the idea. 

In the hands of a skilled teacher .... content is repeated in a variety of interactive formats ... creating a rich learning environment that is both therapeutic and fun. 

…’til the next post …  

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

Monday, February 11, 2019

Limiting the Core

iPad compatible, Core + Fringe Voice-Output PowerPoint Displays are a great vehicle for giving  preschool classroom staff practice in conducting Aided Language Stimulation.  There are currently several Voice-Output PowerPoint displays designed to support language training (available through Teachers Pay Teachers TpT). Both SymbolStix and PCS versions are available. 

Initially, you may wish to make training easier for staff by offering fewer core symbols.
You will NOT be eliminating these cells; instead, you will be altering the transparency of these cells causing them to appear as blank, black cells. 

Here are the steps for altering cell transparency:

  • Select the cell/picture that you wish to 'make disappear'. 
  • Under Format on the menu bar … select Format Object  select the Picture tab… select Picture Transparency  …. move the transparency marker to 100% and presto the symbol magically disappears … the cell turns black. Repeat this procedure for all cells you wish to 'make disappear' temporarily.

  • The audio is still attached to the cell. To 'silence' the cell  … right click on the blackened cell … select Action Settings… Uncheck the Play Sound box. Now if you or the student accidentally activates a 'black cell', no sound will be produced.  

Eventually you will need to gradually re-introduce the full array of core symbols. This can be accomplished by adjusting the transparency slider back to 0% and re-checking the play sound box. The cell is still linked to the correct audio!

Note: You can also easily achieve differentiated instruction by making hard copies of either full and reduced core displays.  Print them out. Laminate them. Assign displays to the group members according to need.

Aside: A more generic version of  a digital Core-48 display (PCS, SymbolStix) is also available through TpT. This more basic version lends itself to quickly adding symbols harvested from Animated Step-by-Steps allowing you to provide symbol support for lessons involving Animated Step-by-Steps. A previous blog post (Using Core-48 Displays with ASbyS) provides detailed information for 'harvesting' symbols. 

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

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Adding Student Faces to Voice-Output Core-48 PowerPoint Displays

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), as the name implies, reflects a continuum of intervention options for a broad spectrum of students.

Alternative: At one end of the continuum are students for whom the symbols (with or without voice-output) serve as their main voice. These are students for whom you MUST develop a robust communication system, one that can provide these children with a comprehensive means of communicating across a variety of contexts. 

Augmentative: At the other end of the continuum are children for whom the symbol support serves to augment their existing communication repertoire. This includes students for whom spoken communication is emerging … the symbols are being used as a strategy for moving language along a developmental continuum. In essence, we are using the symbols to help make language more concrete or visible for the students we serve, with the hope of accelerating acquisition of language.

The Voice-Output Core-48 Displays are PowerPoint-based displays designed for use on an iPad
(although they can be used on an interactive whiteboard). 

             Pizza Party Display                   Best Friends- Doll Dress Up Display              Bake & Decorate Cupcake             

Nine Voice-Output Core-48 PowerPoint displays, appropriate for use with an iPad, android tablet or Interactive Whiteboard, are currently available through Teachers Pay Teachers.
As previously noted, they are intended to serve as a vehicle for training language.

Baby Food & Bottle Play Set
Bake & Decorate Cupcake Play Set
Best Friends Magnetic Dress Up Play Set
Birthday Cake Play Sets
Pizza Part Play Set
Sandwich Making Play Set
Scoop & Stack Ice Cream Cone Play Set
Slice 'n Bake Cookies Play Set
Vet Play Set

There are 4 versions of this resource reflecting 4 different color coding systems:

  • Goossens', Crain & Elder - white figures on a color-coded background (depicted in this post)
  • Goossens', Crain & Elder - colored figures on a color-coded background
  • Mayer Johnson - colored figures on a color-coded background
  • No Color Code - colored figures
Bake & Decorate Cupcakes - Alternate Color Coding Systems

On the iPad, this resource is made possible by the Microsoft PowerPoint app, a free resource that can be downloaded from the apps store. The files are stored on either your Google Drive or DropBox which is then linked to the app. For further information on linking, please review the following blog post.   These Voice-Output Core-48 Displays are intended to augment language training using the Melissa and Doug Play Kits. Please know they are NOT intended as a substitute for developing a more robust communication system using various more appropriate apps (e.g., Proloquo2Go, Word Power, Gateway).

The Core-48 vocabulary remains the same across all nine play sets, while fringe vocabulary reflects the specific vocabulary needed to communicate while engaged in that activity. Each display has three and sometime four linked pages that reflect general categories … Friends/Family/Pronouns … Numbers/Colors/Shapes and Letters/Keyboard (Querty layout) … and sometimes Body Parts. These category pages are applicable to all play set displays. An arrow in the lower left corner of the category display will send the program back to the home page (page 1).

Each cell on a display is a single picture/cell that produces audio when touched.  The Friends/Family/ Pronouns offers blanks where photo faces of your students can be substituted using the Change Picture feature of PowerPoint. The blank cells are currently set up with 'silence'.  You will be using a sound editing program called Audacity to create audio files for these cells using a 'child's voice' , i.e., you record your own voice, then alter the pitch to create a child's voice. 

This 01-21-19 post provides step-by-step information on how to create voice-output 'student cells' to add to your Friends/Family/Pronouns page.
  •       On the Friends/Family/Pronouns page, add the text for the names of your students (and your therapists, space permitting).  Insert your cursor into the xxxxx text and type over the text to insert names. Do not delete the xxxxx text as this technique ensures the font and text size will match that used throughout the resource. 

  • Drag and drop photo faces of your students into their labeled cells. To create the photo faces with  a transparent background, please refer to the following blog post

  • Before assigning audio to these cells you must turn the cell+name+photo into a single image to which you will assign audio. Hold down the shift key while selecting these three components … (with all three components highlighted) select copy… then select paste  … then select the  little box in the  lower right corner … choose  paste as picture from the drop down list. A single combined image will appear in the middle of the page. You may need to use the cropping tool  to ensure that the boundaries of the image do not overlap on the adjacent cells. Repeat this process for all the names you wish to add to the Friends/Family/Pronouns Page

  • Open Audacity (free program that can be downloaded from the internet).  Record in a single file all the names you wish to add to the page. Optimize the loudness by selecting Amplify  (under Effects on menu bar; don't forget to check the box allow clipping).Emulate a child's voice by selecting Change pitch  (e.g., type in + 20% or +25% depending upon the age of the students you are serving). One by one, cut each name out of this big file and paste it into its own new individual file … export it as a .wav file and name it to help you find it in the future For more information please refer to the following blog post:
  •       Back on the Friends/Family/Pronouns page, right click (control-click on Mac) on the cell. Select Action Settings… Check Play sound box … Go to the bottom of the list to select Other Sound … navigate to where you have saved your name audio files and select the file that you wish to attach to that student face cell. Repeat this process until audio has been assigned to all the photo face cells.

      Hope this information proves helpful.

      Have fun using your iPad or interactive whiteboard to conduct 'language rich' pretend play using the Melissa & Doug Play Sets.

…’til the next post … 

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