Monday, October 28, 2013

Fokes Sentence Builder-like iPad Apps for Writing

Do you remember the Fokes Sentence Builder?  Okay, I'm not THAT old, but we did have one buried in our clinic's closet in college.  The box didn't look fancy and when you opened it up it was equally unimpressive.  If you took the time, however, to actually read the book and figure out how the little boxes worked, it was a fantastic tool for sentence writing.  Fast forward 10 or so years (okay, I am starting to get older), as I was cleaning out another closet, low and behold, what did I find?  The Fokes Sentence Builder.  Its colorful boxes and sentence markers were all intact.  I hit the SLP jackpot!  Okay, so some of us get a little bit excited.  These things are hard to come by.  I digress.   So, what's the Fokes Sentence Builder?  The Fokes Sentence Builder is a big box with six smaller boxes inside with hundreds of picture (and some words) cards inside that.  Joann Foke's developed a systematic approach to teaching students how to construct sentences for readers and non-readers.  

So that brings us to present time (by the way, the Fokes Sentence Builder came out the same year I was born--1976).  Now we have all of these gadgets and advances that give us instant access to materials.  Many speech therapists continue to use the traditional method of using paper and pencil tasks or flashcards with students as manipulatives to teach sentence writing (structure).  Believe me, I still like to use these, but now that some of us are technology crazy (me), I like to venture out by using the SMART Board, computer, and iPad to teach the same concepts.  What would be great?  ...if there was a Fokes Sentence Builder app.  Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is not.  There are, however, lots of other similar apps and programs out there that can do the same thing.  So, I thought I'd share the 21st century versions of the Fokes Sentence Builder with you.

Sentence Builder $5.99

iPad Apps That Are Similar to the Fokes Sentence Builder

Sentence Builder
This app allows users to practice creating grammatically correct sentences by building them from word wheels.  The app features 100 pictures and also keeps statistics to show progress.

Rainbow Sentences
Rainbow Sentences $7.99
This app is pretty cool in that it color codes the who, what, where, and why parts of the sentence to help the learners understand how basic sentences are put together.  The app has over 150 pictures to use when building sentences.

Clicker Sentences
Crick Software developed this app after its success with its Clicker software developed pre-iPad.  This app is pretty extensive (it also costs quite a bit more) as it allows you to choose from a variety of levels of sentence structure.  One of the cool features is that it allows you to use your own pictures.
Clicker Sentences $26.99
Check out for an incredible resource for 
Apps for Children with Special Needs

Sentence Key: WHO is DOing WHAT
This app, from initial appearances, mimics the Fokes Sentence Builder in the way that it is structured.  Used with Mayer Johnson's Picture Communication Symbols (PCS), this app requires users to construct sentences using picture symbols paired with words.  If you know the Fokes Sentence Builder, you know that this is the second level after "Who + is doing."
Sentence Key: WHO is DOing WHAT $3.99
Now, I haven't had time to play with all of these apps.  I should probably disclose that.  I really wanted to see what was out there to supplement the Fokes Sentence Builder.  This would be great additional practice for students during independent time.  Let me know if you have used these.  What did you like and dislike?  What are your favorite apps that you use for students who are "building" sentences?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

5 Tips to Quicker Communication Device Programming

Here's a quick template I made for the Go Talk Now app.
I had one of those big duh moments the other day.  I'm in the tenth year of my career and for the last eight I've had a heavy emphasis on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) with my students.  With the invention of the iPad and other tablets, AAC has been exposed to the rest of the world, which means more and more students have iPads (oftentimes purchased from parents themselves).  Whether it is an iPad or some other communication device, the most time consuming part is planning and programming the pages.  In all honesty, it takes a lot of my brain power to do this.  I enjoy it, but trying to create and re-create communication pages takes a ton of time.  So here's my big duh. Why don't I hand out paper templates to the classroom teacher and staff to complete?  This will save me lots of time and brain power!  Why haven't I ever done this?  So, what did I do?  I created simple grids (or I printed off pre-made ones from Boardmaker) and added a couple of lines so the teacher could give me extra details.

Here's a home page template that I created with Tobii Communicator.
One of the hardest parts of using a communication device is incorporating it into day to day activities and classroom lessons.  This can be difficult for even the most skilled speech language pathologist.  By having the teacher or the staff complete the template, then they'll know exactly what the student has to say in response to discussion questions.  For example, the other day I had a student who was beginning a lesson on astronauts.  He and I worked together with his Chat PC and programmed key words and potential comments.  The student bought into the idea of using his communication device even more because he was the one who picked out the words and picture symbols.  When we went back to class, his teacher was amazed by what he had done (me too).

Here are 5 tips for quicker AAC Device Programming:

  • Print off templates and have the classroom staff complete ahead of time (preferably a week or so if possible).  It doesn't have to be anything fancy.  Just have them sketch their ideas onto paper.
  • Have the AAC user sit down with you and help pick the vocabulary and picture symbols.
  • Teach the classroom staff and peer helpers (even better) how to program buttons on the fly.
  • Have the AAC user take photos to insert into the device.  I have one student who finds this highly motivating.
  • Send blank templates home for the AAC user's family to complete for everyday communication and special events
What do you think?  What are your biggest challenges when trying to incorporate AAC and communication devices with students in the classroom?

Here's a sample template for you:  Free GoTalk Now Template (9 cells)