221: Using Tar Heel Reader With Older Speech Students

In this episode of SLP Coffee Talk, Hallie Sherman shares a powerful tool for improving therapy practices: Tar Heel Reader. Get ready to unlock a world of free, accessible books that will enhance literacy, comprehension, articulation, expressive language, and social skills. Learn how to make learning fun, increase vocabulary, and captivate your kids with custom stories. You won't want to miss this episode, which is jam-packed with new therapeutic advice and real-life examples!

Here’s what we learned:

  • How students can use Tar Heel Reader to become authors, empowering them to craft and publish their own stories.
  • Practical tips for integrating Tar Heel Reader into speech therapy sessions  such as creating dynamic classroom activities
  • Utilizing character interactions in Tar Heel to improve articulation, expand vocabulary, and foster social skills.


📝 Website: https://speechtimefun.com/

📝Tar Heel Reader | Books for beginning readers of all ages

🎲✨ Check out the Secondary Secret Podcast here! https://www.speechtimefunpd.com/secret-podcast-signup


Q: What is a bow that can't be tied?

A: A rainbow

SLP Coffee Talk Using Tar Heel Reader with Older Speech Students

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00:00:00 Hallie: Hey there, SLP. You are listening to this podcast, so I know that you love to listen to podcasts. And if that is the case, then I know that you are gonna love my secret private podcast, Secondary Secrets for SLPs. It's six short episodes will have you walking away, feeling refreshed and inspired and ready to take on those challenging secondary speech students. So if you work with grades four through 12, and are in a planning rut or wanting some fresh new ideas to keep your students motivated, make sure you head to speechtimefun.com/secondary secrets. You're not gonna find this podcast in your iTunes podcast search browser. You can only get access by going to that link. So head to it now. 

00:00:53 Hallie: It is six short episodes that you can listen to it in under an hour, like totally Netflix binge-worthy. I made this just for you and I know you are going to love it. SLPs have been telling me already that it has changed their way for working with their older speech students. So head on over again to speechtimefun.com slash secondary secrets or use the link in the show notes and I can't wait to hear what you think. Now let's head on to this week's episode of SLP Coffee Talk.

00:01:29 Hallie: Welcome to SLP Coffee Talk, the podcast designed exclusively for speech language pathologists who work with older students, grades 4 through 12. I am your host, Hallie Sherman, your SLP behind Speech Time Fun, the Speech Retreat Conference, and the SLP Elevate membership. And I'm thrilled to bring you conversations, strategies, and insights that will give you the jolt of inspiration that you need. Whether you're tuning in during your morning commute, on a break in between sessions, or relaxation time. I am here for you each and every week. Let's do this SLPs.

00:02:09 Hallie: Hey, hey, and welcome to another episode of SLP Coffee Talk. Another solo episode for you guys, since I am so excited to share more low prep therapy ideas that you can plan and use in a pinch. I love finding tools, resources out there that makes our jobs and lives so much easier. And I'm gonna be sharing them with you here today. And it is Tar Heel Reader. It is a website.

that is an invaluable resource for SLPs, no matter what age group you work with. We're gonna be sharing ways that you can use it with your older speech students. 

00:02:49 Hallie: This website is an online collection of free, easy to read and accessible books, which covers a wide range of topics and offers opportunities for inclusive education and therapy. And when using Tar Heel Reader in speech with older students, the focus can be to improve literacy skills, comprehension, articulation, expressive language, vocabulary, social skills, and more. There are so many possibilities. It's really super, super easy to use that I can't imagine you not using it. So I'm gonna share with you some examples of how you can use it, and yeah, let's do it. 

00:03:27 Hallie: So one way is we can use it for working on reading comprehension and critical thinking. So you can select a book on any topic of interest to the students that you're working with to keep them engaged. You could ask questions before, during, and after some pre-literacy skills, during reading skills, which is great for working on comprehension, after reading skills to assess their comprehension, go work on prediction, answer high level thinking, summarization, and more. You can encourage students to critique the content, discussing what they liked or they didn't like, and foster critical thinking and expressive language. 

00:04:02 Hallie: For example, you can find books on Legos, Titanic, Batman, Star Wars, you can find things based on your students' interests, and it makes it super, super easy to implement and use. You can print it out or just display it right on the screen. What else can you use this website for? You can work on building vocabulary. You can choose books that introduce new vocabulary skills related to their interests or topics they're learning in their class, themes that they are utilizing, themes that you're using. Instead of SLP Elevate, you can find some supplemental things there.

00:04:32 Hallie: You can discuss the meanings of new words in context and have students use them in sentences or create their own stories using the vocabulary. You can work on figurative language, idioms, and phrases within the context of the stories. For example, you can just search for books and find books on pizza, reptiles, space, and more. Just find anything. You can use it for building background knowledge. You can work on describing within the pictures that are utilized with the stories and more.

00:05:00 Hallie: Okay, what else can you do? You can work on articulation. You can have students read aloud from the books that contain their target sound. They can use the repeated reading of the same book to keep practicing their specific sounds and improving the production over time. You can record the readings to analyze and provide feedback and self-reflect and self-monitor the way they are producing their target sounds. 

00:05:22 Hallie: For example, if you're working on the R sound, I typed in the R in the search bar on Tar Heel Reader and I found a book that was called R is important and then it can be used in a fun way. Okay? So there's just, you can just type in anything and find things bombarded with their articulation sound. 

00:05:38 Hallie: All right, what else can you do? You can work on social skills. You can select stories that involve social interactions or moral dilemmas and discuss the character's perspectives, decisions, and emotions. You can engage students in role-playing activities, such as based on the scenarios from the books to practice appropriate social responses and understanding social cues. You can use the stories as a basis for a group discussion and encourage turn-taking, active listening, and more. You can work on body language based on the characters and the pictures, the real life illustrations that the books have, and you can work on non-verbal language.

00:06:13 Hallie: So for example, you can type in the search bar, and I type, find a book called Conversation Skills. You can find a book called Talking to Friends. You can find a book called Problem Solving. You can find a book that I found called How Do I Feel, Asking for Help and more. All these things are already in their library of books that you can utilize. It's just going to the search bar and typing in what you need, just browsing it ahead of time to make sure it's appropriate and exactly what you need and go. 

00:06:43 Hallie: All right, what else can you do? You can work on storytelling and creative writing. After reading a book, you can ask students to write an alternate ending or a sequel to the story. You can use the themes and the settings and the characters as prompts for them to write their own versions that they can share and more. They can incorporate multimedia projects by having the students create visual aids or digital presentations to accompany the stories and integrating technology into therapy. 

00:07:09 Hallie: And again, you can customize the content for their needs. You can take advantage of Tar Heel Reader's feature that allows users to write and publish their own books on the platform. Okay, so not only can you read books, they can also write the books. So by strategically incorporating Tar Heel Reader into your speech sessions, you can offer your students a wide variety of goals and opportunities in an interactive way, especially your students that are reading at a more basic reading level, and your life skills students, this website is gonna be a game changer for you. 

00:07:47 Hallie: Okay, so what else can you do? You can not only use the books that are there, but you can also, like I said, you can have your students create books. So how do you do that? To create your own stories in Tar Heel Reader, all you have to do is recommend, before starting, decide what goal you're gonna work on that you wanna address through the stories that they're gonna create on Tar Heel Reader. Maybe it's vocabulary, sequencing, art tech, social skills, and more. You can plan the story out with your students. You can give them graphic organizers, come up with your character, setting problem solution. You can decide what theme you wanna utilize. 

00:08:23 Hallie: Are we gonna use Legos? Are we gonna use superheroes? What are we gonna incorporate? And let's work on sentence structure. Maybe a repetitive sentence structure format that they will be utilizing with their story. Maybe coming up with their beginning, middle, and end. How is it gonna go? And then you can craft the text, craft your story. You can write the story, keeping it simple and straightforward.

00:08:46 Hallie: I recommend having them utilize repetitive phrases for maybe articulation practice, introducing new vocabulary, and ensuring that they're learning the narrative structure of sequencing beginning, middle, and end, having a character setting problem solution. I like using the somebody wanted but so then for giving them a framework of a problem and a solution. And again, making sure you're embedding their speech and language goals while creating this story for themselves. 

00:09:16 Hallie: And then you get to select the images. Find relevant images. Tar Heel Reader allows you to search for and add images from Flickr, which is like a Google images type thing. And you can use the images that closely match the story scenes to support their comprehension, engagement, vocabulary, and whatnot. You can use custom images if you want to utilize like drawings that your students make. You can easily upload them and find and embed your own illustrations. 

00:09:48 Hallie: And then you get to publish it. You would have to create an account for Tar Heel Reader to do so. You click choose write, and on the dashboard, click the write option to create a new story. You can input your text and images right there. Follow the prompts to input your story text and add the images. And you can search for the images by keywords related to the story. Then you can review and edit it before publishing with your students. They can reread it and make sure it's everything that they intended. 

00:10:16 Hallie: All the parts are there. And then they get to publish it. Once they are satisfied with the story, they can choose to make it public for others to enjoy or keep it private for just your use. And then you can use it, have students read it aloud to each other, whether they're focusing on articulation, sentence structure, what have you, and then they can discuss it. And then by discussing their story with each other, they can each be working on listening comprehension, social skills, they can do follow-up activities, asking each other questions, follow-up questions. 

00:10:45 Hallie: They can act out the scenes. They can make alternative endings to their stories and more, they're so, they can make a little summary illustrations to retell the stories in their own words. And again, they encourage sharing. They let them share with their peers. Maybe their teacher send it home if you want to. It's a great way to utilize a tool that is available for free to you that will address a wide variety of goals, but will also foster creativity, confidence, a sense of accomplishment for your students, and it's a way to incorporate literacy-based activities with your students that might not be able to handle the more complex text. 

00:11:29 Hallie: And again, because there's so many things on there already. You can find things that are motivating to your students, their interests, their goals, and things that they're working on. Real life pictures, simplified stories with simplified sentence structures, repetitive sentences, things that our students can benefit from. Again, your students that are reading below reading level, your life skills students. And then again, you can utilize this with your younger elementary students as well. 

00:11:57 Hallie: It's a way to, again, I'm all about taking one activity and using with as many groups and goals as possible. So if you can find a story and utilize it with all the students in the group, or multiple groups in your afternoon or day, it makes planning super easy, and it allows you to focus more on the students in front of you versus all the stuff you need to prepare for. I don't want you fearing your mixed groups. I don't want you fearing larger groups. Groups are a way for students to feel comfortable and not alone. It's a way for them to learn from each other, learn from each other and learning that everyone learns differently, but that it's okay. 

00:12:41 Hallie: If we're planning individually, we're gonna burn ourselves out. So by using a tool like Tar Heel Reader, it allows you to really take their goals, take one resource and use it with as many groups and goals as possible. And again, I love incorporating their interests or concepts and finding a literacy-based activity. I like books are such a great way to tackle mixed groups and incorporating interests and allows you to make things fun without always having it to be a game. And using a site like this, this can go over several sessions. 

00:13:17 Hallie: You can find the book, then they can retail there. One whole session can be them utilizing the book. The next session could be them creating their alternative ending for that book or retelling it or making their own follow-up something. And then the next session or week, like them creating their own story can be like a month long of activities. That's okay. Sessions can roll over to each other. It doesn't make you a bad SLP. That makes you working smarter, not harder. And I'm giving you that permission. 

00:13:49 Hallie: All right. So go check out Tar Heel Reader. Let me know. Send me a DM on Instagram, send me an email. I'd love to hear how you guys are utilizing these activities with your students, how these things are impacting you and making your lives easier. And if this is making your life easier, share this episode with a fellow SLP. Cause SLPs that find tips and tricks that are beneficial to them, shares it with others. Don't keep it a secret. All right, have a great week.

00:14:21 Hallie: As always, I'm going to end my episodes with a joke, because jokes are humor and fun and builds rapport. And I love using jokes of the week, as when I'm waiting for my students to enter into the room, it's great to build vocabulary and all that fun stuff. What did the dirt say to the rain? If this keeps up, my name will be in mud.

00:14:43 Hallie: Okay, I did that same joke last week. So I'm gonna give you a new joke. I didn't realize I did the same joke. Okay, what is a bow that can't be tied? A rainbow. Think it's appropriate with April showers bring May flowers. Gotta give you some rain jokes here. All right, everyone, until next week, stay out of trouble.

00:15:13 Hallie: Thanks so much for tuning in to another episode of SLP Coffee Talk. It means the world to me that you're tuning in each and every week and getting the jolt of inspiration you need. You can find all of the links and information mentioned in this episode at my website, speechtimefun.com. Don't forget to follow the show so you don't miss any future episodes. And while you're there… It would mean the world to me if you would take a few seconds and leave me an honest review. See you next week with another episode full of fun and inspiration from one SLP to another. Have fun guys.