Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Build a Train

In a few weeks, I will be presenting at ASHA 2014 in Orlando, FL.  I’m very excited because, let's be honest, I love sharing and I will be talking about a lot of the information I write about on this blog.   Even though this particular app is not a new app to my collection, I thought I might post about it since I will be talking about it and showing videos of students using this app during my upcoming presentation.

 Build a train is a great free app that allows for kids to construct virtual trains and then set them out onto a choice of tracks.  As soon as you start the app, the building begins.  Even the very get go, there’s tons of opportunity to use descriptive language while building the train: "Blue train with yellow", the "red caboose," "the green engine."  Students tap on each train, or swipe through trains to see more choices.   You can select a location (winter, volcano, island… NOTE: some are for purchase) and off you go!

Once the train in on the track, we have to “make it go.”  There is a dial on the side that can be used to make it “go fast,” or “go slow.” But! A key step in this process is that I require a communication exchange before allowing the student to have access to the iPad to control the train.  I use this topical board to help facilitate language use for my students that have difficulty initiating the use of novel sentence structures. 

If you are interested in more information about how I use board like these, you can find it here. This one in particular was one of my earlier boards.  In a nutshell, here is how I use it. I have the app on the iPad in one hand. On the table in front of the student and myself  I leave this topical communication board.  I might ask a general question to the student such as “what should we do now?”  If the student does not answer, I might prompt the answer by pointing to some reasonable words such as “I + choose+ train” or "train + go."  I will model the phrase verbally as well.  I expect the student to attempt a similar phrase (with or without my pointing).  Once they do, I praise and allow them to play with the train in the manner they described. Sometimes I have kids that say one thing and reach for a different area on the iPad. In this case, I pull the iPad back and redirect them to the board and model the phrase they are attempting to do (e.g. "Oh, it looks like you meant to say 'horn go,'" (with pointing to each word as it is said).  "Let's do the horn," (while point to horn icon).  

Eventually, I fade my gestural prompts with the boards and the student can use the visuals (with or without pointing) to help him/her respond more independently. I find boards like these particularly helpful when working with kids with autism when trying to use novel language outside of "I want train please."  They provide visual support, limit the vocabulary so that it is on topic (and less overwhelming) and help guide the student to use new sentence structures.

Some of the other key phrases I target while using this app include both core and fringe words. Examples are:
  • Make horn go
  •  Do bell
  • Make train go fast/slow
  • Different track
  • Do different track
  • I choose track
  • I play more
  • I choose more train
  • I/you change train/track
My favorite core word to use with this board is “turn” because it can be used with two distinct meanings:
  • My/your turn
  • Turn on/off light
My friend developed her own board based on her student's motivations. Although the concept was the same, her board contained different vocabulary. Her particular student was motivated by pick up boxes.  She also preferred to focus on the vocabulary for "night" and "day" rather than referring to the "lights."

For free, I highly recommend you give it a try. Then you can tell me all about how it works for you at ASHA! Hope to see you at there!

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