Sunday, December 31, 2017

Vest Displays!

I have been using Vest Displays (Songs, Poems and Stories) during Preschool Circle Time for years.
Although they may be labor intensive to construct, they seem to have a long 'shelf life' if constructed with care.

A resource entitled, Guidelines for Constructing Vest Displays provides in depth information on constructing Vest Displays. This resource also includes a PowerPoint Vest Display Template that can be used to construct Vest Displays for your own favorite songs.
As this is a PowerPoint resource, it can be used to provide inservice training. 

Vest Displays are a great way to add visual and symbol support to the Circle Time routine. As they provide a strong central focus, children seem to be more engaged when a vest display is being used to scaffold the songs being sung. Vest Displays are typically 14” tall by 13” wide and are ‘worn’ by the Facilitator on a Velcro-receptive apron or vest ( They consist of a base display (made from black poster/railroad board) and several tiles (5” tall by 13” wide) with symbols representing the lines of the song/poem. The tiles are joined at the bottom with hinged snap rings/plastic comb or spiral binding and are held together at their top center edge with a small patch of Velcro. They are interactive by design, with manipulatives velcroing on to the scene or being moved within the scene.

The vest display format has the distinct advantage of consolidating the visual focus by presenting the communication content in line with the facilitator’s face. Vest Displays seem to be especially helpful for children who are cognitively young or students on the Autism Spectrum. 

Although I love using Animated Step-by-Step Songs (ASbySs) during Circle Time, many preschool classrooms don’t have interactive whiteboards. Animated Step-by-Step Songs are being used in these classrooms … but they are being using at other times during the day with individual or pairs of students seated around the computer monitor or one-on-one with an iPad. They are typically used with a shared remote switch either wired or wireless to trigger the animations. ASbyS have the distinct advantage of providing a greater literacy component while providing page-specific picture symbols that allow classroom staff or families to easily conduct Aided Language Stimulation while singing the display.

In most of my classrooms we are using both low tech vest song displays and high tech Animated Step-by-Step Songs. The duplicity of content seems to be working to our advantage. 

I’ve recently added eight Vest Displays with Picture Communication Symbols (Tobii/Dynavox) to the Bloom Where You’re Planted Store on the Teachers Pay Teachers site. They can be accessed using the Vest Display category on the far left of the store. They are a single .pdf file that includes the graphics for the scene, manipulatives that interface with the scene, the symbol lines that are glued front and back on to the tiles and a chart for pasting symbol lines on your tiles. Some displays also include Dual=Representation symbols that are used with songs that have a slot-filler format, e.g., the animals in Down on Grandpa’s Farm. Dual=Rep symbols are great for promoting differentiated instruction. The materials are printed on legal size paper and are laminated (after they are cut out) to ensure longevity.

A free resource called PowerPoint Song Launch can be downloaded from the TpT site. This resource allows you to offer song choices with voice-output to your students during your Circle Time routine. The student is first required to pick a song from a field of 8 songs. Upon selecting a song the program navigates to a larger version of the choice which announces the song with voice-output when pressed. This resource can be displayed large on your interactive whiteboard or can be imported into the Microsoft PowerPoint app of your iPad. There is also a page with alternate color coding systems that you can substitute (just cut and paste) on to the launch page. They are already loaded with sound.

Hope you enjoy using this new product line during your Circle Time!

…’til the next post … 

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©2017 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Adding Symbols to Your 'Core 48' PowerPoint Display

In a previous post I discussed the ease with which you can ‘harvest’ symbols from your Animated Step-by-Steps® and add them to your ‘Core 48’ PowerPoint Display. It’s a relatively easy way to provide both text & symbol support to a lesson that might not normally have the benefit of these supports. 
      (blog post on harvesting symbols from ASbyS)
      (link to Core 48 displays on the TpT site)

For projects that are not based on Animated Step-by-Steps®, however, you will need to generate fringe symbols 'from scratch'. 

 If for example, you wish to add fringe vocabulary for this octopus art project (, you would need to generate and add activity-specific fringe vocabulary (e.g.,  octopus, legs, eight, cheerios, eyes, mouth, water, blue) to the ‘Core 48’ PowerPoint Display.  

This PowerPoint display might be projected on the interactive whiteboard during a group lesson or it might be displayed on an individual child's iPad

I typically generate my fringe PCS & SymbolStix symbols using a PowerPoint Symbol Template This template is made up of 16 cells with xxxxxxx placeholders that are precisely placed and reflect use of the simple font, comic sans.  You can download this free resource  from the Bloom Where You 're Planted Store on the Teachers Pay Teachers web site. Please note this free resource called PowerPoint Symbol Templates also includes templates for creating 3" Dual=Representation Symbols.
This strategy of using a template with xxxxxxx text place holders assures consistency of font
choice, font size and placement across the many professionals in your organization that might be 
generating similar shared content.

For PCS (Tobii/Dynavox)

1.  Type the text labels for your fringe vocabulary into your PowerPoint Symbol Template. Double
     click on the xxxxxx and type the text you wish to add to the cell (Note: do NOT delete the 
     xxxxxx’s … select and ‘type over’ the placeholder text) 

2.     Gather all the needed fringe symbols on a blank Boardmaker page

3.  Take screen shots of each individual symbol (save to your desktop).
     (In the past I was able to copy and paste symbols directly into PowerPoint but that seems to be no 
      longer possible). I typically use Snapz Pro X for screen shots, but you can certainly use the
      free screen shot capability of your operating system.

4.  Drag each symbol jpeg that you created into their respective cells on the PowerPoint grid 

5.   Each cell + text + symbol  is then selected (holding down the shift key) and is copied and pasted 
     (as a single unit) into the ‘Core 48’ PowerPoint Display. After the symbols  have been pasted on
     the page, you will be converting them into a picture.  If you place your cursor in the right corner
     of the image a clipboard icon will appear with a drop down menu. Select Paste as Picture. The
     cell + text + symbol will change into one consolidated image. The image is now one unit that can
     be sized to .8 inches.

6.   Drag this newly minted and sized (.8) image to the fringe zone and place over one of  the grey
      squares. Repeat the process one-by-one for all the fringe symbols. You can even add images of 
      the final product to facilitate conversational exchange. 

     7.  You can opt to add voice-output to the fringe symbols. For more information on using
          Audacity  to add voice-output to symbols please refer to a previous blog post.

     8.   Save each project as an individual PowerPoint, e.g., Art – Cupcake Liner Octopus Project.  
           Sort your projects into folders such as Food Prep, Art, Stories, Poems/Songs etc. allowing you
           to share the project and re-introduce it the following year. 

For SymbolStix (n2y)

     The process is similar to that described for PCS with the exception of not having to take screen
     shots of the images. 

     Add the text to the symbol cells on the PowerPoint Symbol Template.

     Drag and place symbols downloaded from the SymbolStix online portal into the PowerPoint 
     Symbol Template

     The remaining steps are identical to that previously outlined for PCS. 

Happy symbolizing your fringe zone on your PowerPoint 'Core 48' Display.

…’til the next post …  

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©2017 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator