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Middle School linky party

Hey~ welcome to the Frenzied SLP blog party on Middle School Materials and Motivators! I've worked with middle level learners for 17 years and love this population! From the awkwardness to the crazy drama- these kids want nothing more than to be understood.  
Did you know that the middle school student goes through the most physical, emotional, and social development during the tween years?  I feel so fortunate to be a part of this impressionable time of my students' lives and want to share with you my top 5 keys to motivate your students!  
1. Make connections: Take genuine interest in your students.  Get to know their likes, hopes, and dreams. Connect learning to students' interests and make it relevant to their lives.  I've helped a student write rap songs (best apraxia progress), aided another student with her lines in the play, taught mnemonic devices to help upper grade students pass hunter's safety courses and driving tests. Students show up ready to learn when you care enough to make connections. 
2. Make it okay to fail: I am purposely goofy with my students.  I share so many stories of how I messed up, struggled, and failed that my students know it's okay be be themselves in my room. They are not afraid to take risks and understand that perseverance is more important than perfection.  
We work on growth mindset (based on the book Mindset). My students know their positive character traits and hear language that helps them to make progress.   
3. Incorporate movement: Our students' bones, muscles, and organs are growing at an accelerated rate. Students are awkward with these body changes, and they even have fluctuations in their basal metabolism. This can cause extreme restlessness at times and listlessness at other times. I'm lucky to work at a school that incorporates middle school philosophy. We have advisories, recess, block scheduling, and teach to the whole learner. We know that movement is critical to learning. My students may use brain breaks, dribble a basketball to multi-syllabic words, walk outside to incorporate EET tasks, or simply follow physical directions. You won't believe the difference a 2-minute movement break makes in attitude and focus.  
4. Keep it cool: Be aware and respectful of the stigma that goes hand-in-hand with special ed services. Sorry peeps, coming to speech isn't considered cool in middle school. But, you can do some things to make it semi-cool and fun. Check out my most popular blog post for tips on reducing special ed stigma HERE.  
5. Be creative:  Middle schoolers like to have fun. Motivate your students by incorporating lots of senses. Play games, create projects, listen to music, cook, and bring in new creative materials.  I have a lot of materials in my TpT store created specifically for my middle school students. Check out some of my best-sellers below: 
I had a real hard time narrowing down my many middle school products so I narrowed it down to my best-sellers.  

Topic Text incorporates sparkly smart phones with social pragmatic turn-taking, topic maintenance, and active listening skills. We always run out of time playing this very engaging game.  Like most of my products, this one includes social language rubrics for students to self monitor progress and SLPs to chart growth. 
 Taking Perspective is my all time best seller. It's a meta-cognitive activity which helps students to understand others emotions and identify what someone may be thinking or feeling in a given situation.  You will find work sample pages, rubrics, an emotion bank, and many situations for students to analyze. I have many perspective taking activities in my store, including one that specifically targets social media and the impact posts, likes, comments can have on others: Safebook HERE
 Here are a couple loves of mine that I ALWAYS pull out for my students and they NEVER get old.

So relax and have fun with your middle schoolers. And remember that you are an important part of their lives during these critical years.  
Check out the other link-ups for more tips and product ideas.  

Step-by-step guide for painting wood furniture

I have been putting off painting some furniture because I feared the process and dreaded the work that I thought would be involved.  Well, like many things in life, thinking about doing it was much harder than actually doing the work.  The process wasn't complicated and the drying time didn't take long at all.  I was so pleased with the final results.

I have two different projects that I'm going to be showcasing here.  First, I have a set of dressers for my daughter's bedroom.  They were a dark wood and we wanted white.

  My second project was freshening up this old beat up shelving unit in my office.  
Screwdriver, medium (80 – 120 grit) sanding wedge, Zinsser Cover Stain Primer, latex paint color of choice, Floetrol, 2” angled quality paintbrush, water based polyurethane protectant. 

Clean off dust and dirt from the furniture piece and
remove drawers, knobs, and legs. Put sheets under the piece.  Sand if you must.  If you have uneven wood, scratches, shiny finish, you will want to sand.  The goal is to rough up the piece so that the primer will adhere.  I sanded my dresser set, but did not sand the wooden shelf for my office because the wood was pretty dull.  

I believe the trick to this project is to use the Zinsser Cover Stain Primer (gold label).  It is like a glue primer that adheres any surface without sanding.  So if you hate sanding like I do, you can skip the messy dust and go straight for this fast-drying primer.  

If you used the bonding primer, you will not need to sand before paining.  I used a semi gloss latex paint and added Floetrol (according to instructions) and applied two coats.  The Floetrol is a conditioner which extends the paint and minimizes paint lines which leaves a more professional look.  
Because these are high traffic pieces of furniture, I sealed the paint job.    Use only a gloss water-based polycrylic sealer. Be sure to paint with the grain of the wood and seal the top twice for durability.  
Check out that shine! 
I took my dresser legs outside to prime, paint, and seal.  

Ta Da!  Here are the finished pieces.  The matching tall dresser came out so nice and my office shelving unit got an extra big makeover as I added chevron liner.  
Click HERE to see more photos of my speech space!     
There you have it, my step by step for a lasting paint job on wood furniture.  So stop thinking and just do it!  You won't be sorry. 

Pirate Linky Party

Thanks for hosting this fun linky party Tracy at Gold Country SLP.  I'm a little late in the game because I just released my first pirate product!    
Pirates for upper grades is perfect fun to engage your older students.  It uses inferencing and context clues to learn new vocabulary words while students attempt to fill their treasure chests and avoid the pirates.  Check it out HERE

I have the following pirate activities in my cart!
Have fun and head back to Gold Country SLP's page for more link up activities.