Cindy L. Meester's Blog- Speech Therapy with a Twist

The highs and lows of the Elf on the Shelf

Posted in Uncategorized by Cindy on December 17, 2014
Tags: , ,


I won an Elf on the Shelf kit. I debated about using it at my school. My students are in K-4th grade and 98% are from different cultures. But since I won this kit I thought we could add our own twists to it.

I told each group that we had visitors move into the speech room. We skimmed* through the Elf on the Shelf book and talked about who celebrates Santa and who didn’t. I shared that our elf was a girl so my first group (1st graders) were the lucky ones to name her. Meet Lucy who now hangs out in the speech room.

*(I often just use a books pictures and make it fit my students needs vs. reading it word for word.)



We learned that she has two rules.

  1. She can’t talk to us.
  2. Only adults can touch her otherwise she would lose some of her magic.

She keeps an eye on us to be sure we are all doing our jobs during speech. Yes even me.  If we are not following a direction or getting a little too silly someone often states “Lucy” and surprisingly it works!

I understand the whole Elf on the Shelf can do some really crazy things herself. But not ours she is very well behaved and just likes to keep tabs on what we do in speech.  So here is how we use her. When each group comes in they look for her and need to say “I found her. She is under the desk (or wherever)”  Making a statement that “She is right there” won’t fly in the speech room. The students then get to decide where she should be next. This leads to a lot of practice for prepositions and even a fun game of “hot or cold”.  If you haven’t played hot or cold it’s what you say when you are close (hot) to  Lucy or far away (cold). The best terms we have used are “hot chocolate, icicle, North Pole”  I’m sure you could think of others.

Remember I said we had 2 visitors move in… well meet Steve the Dwarf in the Drawer. And yes the students named him too.  I’m thinking his name came from a character in minecraft.


“Steve” introduced himself this past summer in a clearance section and he begged me to take him home. So being a good SLP I knew I would find a way to use him in therapy. He also comes with a book. I again just skimmed through it with my students and told them that he really doesn’t like Lucy. He doesn’t think these Elves should be watching and reporting to Santa about us, let alone moving in! He lives all year at the house/speech room and hates having his routine interrupted.  

He doesn’t like rules so anyone can touch him but he’s not much of a talker. The students do the same thing spotting and moving him each day too.  He just doesn’t want to be too close to Lucy. He can hide in more places too as he doesn’t need to keep an eye on us. He’s making sure Lucy isn’t too much of a busy body or taking down wrong information about us.


Having two visitors has made this month a fun way to target different IEP goals.

  1. compare/contrast
  2. prepositional concepts
  3. descriptive language
  4. vocabulary
  5. idioms/metaphors
  6. social skills: cooperation/team work

Oh and one more twist – my kit came with the birthday kit also. So students who have birthdays this month were thrilled to see that Lucy dressed up for them. Who knows maybe she will hang around and celebrate more birthdays.


So have you used the Elf in your setting? What twists have you added?




Do you Cariboo?

Posted in Uncategorized by Cindy on November 20, 2014
Tags: , ,


There has been lots of posts on social media about the Cariboo game. Many SLPs are searching for one as the game is out of print. You may be one of the lucky ones to find on on e-bay, garage sale, thrift store, from a neighbor, Amazon (for a ridiculous price) or packed away in your garage. Me? I was one of the lucky ones who paid 3.00 at a thrift store.

It sat in my cabinet at school for some time as I had (gasp) forgotten about it. I added some new balls and it was good to go. But wait! With all the buzz about the game there were ideas on how to use this game. A search on TPT brings up free and inexpensive cards to replace the original cards found in the game. The new cards can target a holiday, books, synonyms, antonyms…. Endless options. I added Halloween cards and all my students (K-4th) loved it and begged to play it again and again.  So we did but with a “twist.”  I stopped reading the clue cards and let them makeup their own clues. And so began my students’ Cariboo obsession and our growing collection of new cimageards.


I added a twist on how I place the new cards on the game. Sliding the cards in and out was taking too much time so I turned to one of my favorite tools- Alene’s tack it over and over glue. I often use this in place of Velcro.



Step one: Remove original cards and place a drop of the glue on each window and wait

Step two: Add new cards on each window and play

Step three: Disvover that the glue works BUT pulls off the doors- oops! The plastic doors + glue were not meant to be permanent friends. So…..

Step one: Place original cards back on each window and then place a drop of glue on the card and wait- I put the glue on the picture side but it might be better to turn the cards over and use the blank sides

Step two: Add new cards and play-  Success!! (The new game cards were laminated- the original cards were not.)

My 4th graders couldn’t wait to practice Multiply Meaning words. My “twist” was having each student choose a word and they could open the door if they knew both meanings. I removed the word only if they knew both meanings. If they could not think of a second meaning they could ask for a clue. One 4th grader asked for a clue for “change” after providing the meaning “change your clothes.” So I put my hand in my pocket and said “I’m jingling something in my pocket.” He guessed a mouse! Yeah we have some work to do yet. 😊



My 4th graders noticed the box cover stated the game was for 3-6 year olds. This made them laugh every time we played. It was like they had an inside joke.

While playing this game with two boys I had to tell them to “stop smelling their balls.” Yeah… it was one of those kind of days. 😁😳🙆

I predict Cariboo will be a go to therapy tool this year with lots of new twists!

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find a Cariboo. Check out Activity Tailor’s ideas for Cariboo Alternatives:  Cariboo Alternatives


BONUS: Here are some cards to use when working on body parts. body parts    There are two pages one with the words and one without. I used the Custom Boards app to create these. Check out all Smarty Ears apps which are on sale during the ASHA convention right now!


Now it’s your turn to leave comments about your twists to Cariboo or another game.








If you have missing parts to a sought after Cariboo game here are some ideas. I can’t take credit as many of these were posted by others at some point in social media.

Missing the KEY then try: golf tee, paper clip, pipe cleaner, pen tip

Missing the BALLS then try: Party areas at discount stores, Party America, dollar stores

UPDATE: I did redo the cards and put the glue dots on the backs of the oruignal cards and like this more. Also a inexpensive subscription to LessonPix is another way to make cards.

App review… ArtikPix Levels+

Posted in Uncategorized by Cindy on November 10, 2014
Tags: , , ,

I use a lot of apps in therapy. I mean a a lot! I just traded in my iPad 2 64 gb for an iPad Air 2 128 gb. But I am still choosey about which apps I put on to use daily with my caseload at school and at the speech clinic. So this one of my “twists” in my blog this year is to post reviews of new or not so new apps that I use. Here is the first one as I climb off my procrastination wagon.


ArtikPix Levels+ is the newest app from Expressive Solutions created by Eric Sailers. I was lucky enough to receive a free copy to review for you (my disclosure). Note: This app requires an iPad running  iOS 7.0 or higher.

I would recommend watching the videos on the link above or below.Watching the video can help you fully appreciate and understand all this app has to offer. embed][/embed]

This  includes 1477 photographs that target 24 decks of sound cards. I was able to move from words to phrases to sentences and to paragraphs with a simple touch on the screen. The different options to practice make the app engaging and extend it’s use over multiple sessions. You may chose to use the word cards as flashcards, matching pairs (word level only) or pick and spin. Data is collected and saved for each session. You are also able to add your own content to personalize sessions.

The initial set up allows you to chose exactly what sounds and levels you want each student/client to work on. This can easily be changed in the edit mode.

Flashcards: This option is what is found on most articutlation apps. The photos change by touching the arrows. The choices of what level to work on is on the bottom- words to paragraphs.


Pick or Spin: This option can be used at the word, phrase, sentence and paragraph level. It is is similar to the flashcard level but with a “twist” or I guess I should say “spin.” The photos appear on a computer screen. You can choose to spin (for a new image) or speak (it speaks the words on the screen).



Matching: This is only available at the word level. When you initially set up your students/clients you can choose to have this at different levels of difficulty- easy, medium or hard. The picture below is set to the medium level with 3 rows of 4 cards. Easy is 2 rows of 3 cards and hard is 4 rows of 5 cards.



Create: This feature allows you to add your own cards. You can add an image from your own photo library or through a link to bing.

This app currently is in the app store for free with the TH deck and in app purchases for other sound decks: Free TH deck.

Here are a couple of  my “twists” for this app.

1. I always use my articulation apps with my fluency and language students/clients. They can practice fluency techniques and vocabulary skills.

2. I plan to make new decks specific to my students for social skills- in the group/ out of the group- think Super Flex ideas.




It’s another school year…. and some new ideas…. hopefully!

Posted in Uncategorized by Cindy on November 10, 2014

I’m back!

I don’t post much over the summer months. It’s a time for me to relax, unwind and enjoy the weather. In MN most schools start school after Labor Day. This year I was determined not to get worried about how many days until I had to go back. So I posted many pictures on Facebook with my feet up and enjoying my lunches and stating that I was still NOT counting the days.  It was a wonderful summer with friends, family a new puppy (Diesel). Even though we downsized two years ago we now have more people and animals (5 dogs, a turtle and a bearded dragon) staying with us.


Now I’m back with my school family and a routine. I miss my deck afternoons but am enjoying reconnecting with students and staff. And now that I’ve waited until November to finish this post we now have snow covering my deck, yard, and everything else!

I promised myself I’d get off this procrastination wagon and pay attention to my blog. So stay tuned for some new twists!





There Was a Speech Teacher Who Swallowed Some Dice

Pat Mervine creator of the web site Speaking of Speech has written another book. This one is titled “There was a speech teacher who swallowed some dice.”


You may be familiar with books like “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly.” There are many different books with this same premise that I utilize in my therapy sessions a lot. Now I have a new one to add to my collection and hopefully you will too!

The book follows the same story line as many of the “I know an old lady who…” books.  But the twist I love is the items are all eaten by a speech therapist!  She eats dice and a variety of other therapy materials.  I don’t want to spoil your dinner the ending but your students will eat it up! The book includes an activity for a speech scavenger hunt and descriptions of what an SLP may use in therapy sessions.

You can gobble up purchase the book on Amazon or from Pat’s website.

I plan on adding my own twists by creating pictures to match the items “swallowed” in the book using my Custom Boards app. The pictures can then be used to retell the story, sequence, play matching  or a go fish game. I’m sure my students will be eating out of my hand when we use this book!


Now it is your turn to add your own twists to this new fun book!


Disclosure: I was provided a digital download to proof and review. The comments are all mine.




S’More fun in our speech room…

Posted in Uncategorized by Cindy on June 4, 2014
Tags: ,

I posted earlier about combining three of my theme units to end the school year. We have been enjoying visiting the Meester Resort.

I shared what we did for our Beach Theme and Bug Theme. Now on to part 3…. it’s time to do a little camping!


I have added a few more items to our scene. I put real paddles, binoculars, fishing poles, tackle box and a toy lantern.

If you read one of my past posts you can see some of things we did HERE.  Now for the twists I added this year….

1.  We made binoculars out of TP tubes and dollar store duct tape. We wrapped the duct tape once around the tubes. Concepts worked on: next to, middle, around, etc. You could add a yarn loop to hang it around your neck. We explored our camping area and our vocabulary pictures using our binoculars. We compared our binoculars to a real set. This is the sheet I sent home: binocular letter home

      image       image

 2. I taped pictures of a canoe and a kayak to the coolers. Now we could “paddle” around and get a different view of the resort and look for wildlife. It was so fun spotting loons, bears, fish jumping, deer, moose and more from our boats! We compared the how the paddles or oars were different.  This was a fun way to work on joint attention and imaginative play.

3. We learned a lot of camping/nature vocabulary.  We used our binoculars to spot pictures after taking turns giving clues.  I used the vocabulary pictures to do a pretest and post test. These are the vocabulary pictures I used: camping 1     camping 2

4. I taped pictures of hikers on the wall. We used sticks, long rulers, walking sticks (mine from home) to go on hikes.

5. I  had pictures of  kids in sleeping bags in the tent. We pretended it was night and “crawled” into our sleeping bags (real ones and we also used a blanket). We listened to night sounds (a CD and our imagination).

6. You can find a lot of lessons and ideas at :  We used the apps and a Chipper book.


7. Making S’mores… if you want to make real ones at school you can microwave your marshmallows for a few seconds. It’s fun to watch them expand. Or you could use marshmallow fluff. Or if you can only have healthy snacks then you can make pretend ones. Check out the picture (at top of page) of the campfire… notice our marshmallow (cotton balls).

8. We used a fishing game that I created you can find it here: and a fishing guide sheet: fishing vocab page.

9. We used magnetic fishing poles to catch articulation word cards (just add a paper clip) and other items. There are a number of fishing games from Super Duper that we used too.

9. I used all the activities to target student goals in both articulation and language. You can do the same skill practice but just add a camping twist.  For example: I used camping words that contained the target sound(s) for students. If they were working on sentences we paired their target word with a camping word. If the student was working on /r/ and the target word was red we used it in a sentence about a red sleeping bag.

Now it’s your turn to add your own twists to these ideas!


I know many of you are done with school. This is my last week before summer vacation!

 I’m ending the year at school by helping pass out free RIF books to students! Always a good way to end the year in a costume!

The Paper Bag Princess and Ms Frizzle are ending the year with big smiles!


“Insecting” things are happening…

Posted in Uncategorized by Cindy on May 20, 2014
Tags: , ,


One of my last posts was about our Beach Theme and this is my part 2 of our three units to end the school year. It’s all about bugs.

 I wrote about bugs as part of a nature unit in an earlier post that you can read HERE.

Here are a few new things that we added this year. bug 1  bug 2

1. Bug vocabulary – I created worksheets using boardmaker.

2. We made an art project with the bug worksheets. This was a way to target, following directions, sequencing, problem solving, prepositional concepts, etc. You will need:

  • Construction paper for the background (I used blue) and green for grass (draw a line to cut up to)
  • Trees- some students drew their own, some colored tongue depressors or a strip of construction paper and glued them on
  • Log- same as the trees- I did break the tongue depressors in half
  • Flowers- some students drew their own and others used the flowers from our bug sheet.
  • Glue the bugs on the tree, under the log, under the grass, on the grass, in the sky, etc.
  • We glued the extras on the back along with the instructions. from the sheets.
  • You can use the bug sheets I created: bug 1   and bug 2


3. We used bug capsules to”grow” a bug. I have found these at Target, Dollar stores,etc.

bug capsules

4. We wore bug masks (from Target dollar spot) while exploring our bug area.

bug collage

5. We even ate bugs!!! ( I bought these on clearance after Halloween but there are often gummy bugs in the candy aisles.)

bugs to eat

6. We read a lot of buggy books and played with some buggy apps.

Here are a few we tried:

 Bugs and Buttons

Bugs and Buttons 2

Bugs and Bubbles

Bugs and Numbers


Bug Games for iPad

Sago Mini Bug Builder

Butterfly Farm

Insect Coloring for kids-lite

Forest Insect Pests in North America

7. Images and Videos- there are a lot online to view about bug life cycles and more. Check out those from National Geographic  or  Science Channel

So now add your own buggy twists!


Tell grandma he REALLY is saying “truck”

Posted in Uncategorized by Cindy on May 3, 2014
Tags: , ,

Many times as a speech language pathologist I have worked with children who are very difficult to understand.  I have even acted as an interpreter for testing with one kiddo so I could help his teacher understand his responses. When they are little some of the sound errors are cute and we may smile and know that they will outgrow it just as fast as their clothes size changes. Maybe you have worked with a child who had difficulty with consonant clusters for /r/ or /s/ and the substitutions can be interesting at times. Hence the title of this blog posting. I have had a few who used /f/ for /tr/ which caused a few gasps from grandparents or other relatives. Those are times I counsel parents and teachers on how to “interpret” and react. It is also a time to remind parents to let grandma know that he/she really is saying “truck.”

I do not know of many books that are written from a child’s perspective who has difficulty with articulation. I have used Hooway For Wodney Wat but that’s the only one I have on my bookshelf.  Now I can add a new book “The Mouth With a Mind of Its Own.”


This is book was written by Pat Mervine . The name may be familiar as she also created the website Speaking of Speech.

Here is a little synopsis:

Matthew is a little boy and his family thinks the way he talks is cute. He is excited to start school and then the difficulties begin.  Matthew can’t say his name correctly so his teacher ends up calling him Mah Yoo.  The story continues with Matthew meeting and working with the speech language pathologist. And not to give the ending away but if you too are an SLP I think you can imagine it.

This 32 page book is one you will want to add to your bookshelf.  There are not many books about speech difficulties geared for kids. Matthew let’s us experience life with a speech disorder through his perspective. It’s a wonderful resource for adults and kids. It could be used to introduce a child beginning speech therapy. I believe it would be a great book for a classroom lesson on differences and acceptance. It’s also here just in time for Better Hearing & Speech Month.

You can order it in print or kindle editions on Amazon  or get an autographed print copy with free shipping from Pat’s website: Pat Mervine’s books.

How will you add your own twist? Let me know.



Disclosure: I was provided a preview digital copy of this book but the review is my honest opinion.

Jump in the water’s just speechy!

Posted in Uncategorized by Cindy on May 2, 2014
Tags: , , ,

My last post showed how I planned to end the school year with 3 units combined.   I put a sign on my door that states this is Meester’s Resort! Check it out: Meester’s Resort

I promised I would elaborate on each unit so here is our Speech Beach area.


I have added a few more items and we have been working away on our speech and language goals while soaking up some sun!

Here’s a quick inventory of what’s on our beach.

1. Sand – I bought this sand from Brookstone. You can read about it here: Beach Sand  The brown paper also represents our beach and helps keep the sand off the carpet. Here we are burying pictures of ourselves. They were first working on he, she, I, has, have, her, his, we sentences by putting some of the beach items on the pictures (He has a shell. I have a dophin. We have fish.)


2. Bucket full of shells and coral. If you don’t have your own collection you can buy a bag at the dollar stores

3. Lounge chairs- I purchased these at the dollar spot at Target a few years ago. I have added sunglasses to the chairs (also from the dollar spot). We can’t play at the beach without our shades!


4. Giant Sand dollar- I made this with my granddaughter out of styrofoam. It turned out pretty cute. You can find directions to make this HERE .


5. Killer whale – this is the background picture that I purchased a dollar store.

6. Tub full of sea creatures- some from the dollar store and others from vacations.

7. Fishing poles with magnets- we catch sea creatures, fish and articulation or vocabulary cards (with attached paperclips).

8. The kids were noticing there wasn’t any “real” water.  So I got some waterbeads (of course from a dollar store) and created our ocean water minus the salt. This time there were blue, green and clear beads so I combined them to make our lake/ocean.  I can hide sea creature erasers, laminated articulation or vocabulary pictures, etc. Or we can just use our hands and dive in!

beads  beads 2

9. In one of the coolers I have more beach games and books.


10. I made vocabulary pages. I have each student take a pretest to see what they can label. When we finish playing at the beach I will give them a post test and see how many they can label. Plus I’ll see if they can provide details about each item too.  ocean words 1   ocean words 2

11. I just bought a plastic table cloth from the dollar store. I’m thinking of games I could play with this….hmmm. Maybe cut it into game boards and toss pom poms (pretend they are beach balls) onto the pictures. We could make it a tic tac toe game. Well who knows what twists   we will come up with!


I wrote about the Ocean/Beach theme before so check it out for some more ideas:  Can you SEA me now?

Now it’s your turn to add your own twist!

Leave a comment on how you may have used a beachy theme.





Don’t bug us when we are camping at the beach….

Posted in Uncategorized by Cindy on April 17, 2014
Tags: , , ,

There are not that many school days left and I wanted to use some more of my theme units. So…. I decided to merge three themes into one and use them until the end of the school year in June.

Bugs   +   Camping   +   Beach   =   Fun way to end the school year

So welcome to our bugs


and camping …..


and our beach!


Sit on our coolers and join in the fun…


I’ll do separate blogs about the adventures you can experience in each area. So stay tuned and in the mean time grab your bug spray, beach towel, favorite beverage and get ready to add your own twists!


P.S. This is what it looked like at my home yesterday…. spring disappeared.  Just another balmy day in MN.


« Previous PageNext Page »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,202 other followers