Talk It Up!Submitted By: Sharon Guthrie, Katharine Nordin, Jennifer McEwen
Our Students: As speech, special education FALS and resource teachers, preschool teachers, and counselors we have the responsibility of reaching over 650 students each day, ranging in ages from preschool to fourth grade. As a Title 1 school (53%) many of our students come to us with numerous disadvantages that affect speech, vocabulary development, language skills, social skills, and ultimately reading. Many of our students have difficulty speaking with us and their peers due to a multitude of reasons. It might be that they have a speech issue, an emotional issue or cultural issue that prevents them from communicating in ways that they may not have been given the chance before.
Our Project: Our students are not always willing or able to communicate their thoughts or feelings with us, or may not feel comfortable speaking aloud in a group setting. Research has shown that socio-economically disadvantaged students start school with thousands fewer words in their lexicon than their middle and upper class counterparts. We are constantly searching for ways to level the playing field. Many of our students are familiar with "talk-back apps", such as "Talking Tom" and friends, which has encouraged a plethora of students to increase their communicative attempts in small group settings and individually. However, others benefit from having tangible, hug-gable objects as opposed to two-dimensional cartoon figures on a screen. We would love to provide our students the opportunity to use a variety of soft "talk-back" toys on a daily basis or as needed. Four our non-verbal or reluctant speakers, these kinds of toys offer a great deal of motivation to participate or attempt to speak. Hearing their utterances repeated back in a sill voice is often extremely engaging. For our emotionally charged students, the counselor may find that offering a "furry friend" to talk to, as opposed to a person, might seem less threatening. For our Pre-K non-readers and Limited English Proficient students, this could be used as a tool to have students practice their newly found skills
Our Students Need: We would love to obtain several plush talk-back toys (and batteries) in order to encourage our students to make communication attempts in a non-threatening and engaging manner.