Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rory's Story Cubes: an interactive and playful approach to graphic organizers and language development

Mudge received a package of Rory's Story Cubes for his birthday, and of course therapeutic and educational ideas flooded my head.

Developed by The Creativity Hub 10 years ago, each set of Story Cubes comes with a variety of nine dice with pictures upon them.  The player rolls the dice, then creates a story based on the picture cues.  There are also 3 dice accessory packs to increase or guide creativity.
Here are some ways to incorporate Story Cubes into the therapeutic, educational, or home based repertoire.

1.  Build language:  If you know a Speech and Language Pathologist, then you may have heard the acronym M.L.U. which is Mean Length Utterance (a way to calculate language productivity in children).  By prompting story telling in a semi-structured setting using Story Cubes, a therapist, parent or educator could support the increase of a child's M.L.U.

2. Guided Writing: You could modify the dice with color coded dots or coloring the dice themselves, assigning them to different parts of the sentence.  The Red Dice = subject; Green Dice= predicate; or Puprple = Noun; Blue = Verb; etc….  Now place a strip of color coded paper on the student's desk.  Now the traditional graphic organizer has turned into an interactive and playful approach.  Just roll, build a sentence and write. 

3. Modify and Accommodate as needed. By limiting the number of dice used, changes the expectations of the story or sentence. Rory's Story Cubes even come in a MAX version in which the cubes are larger for easier grasp.

Now if you don't have Rory's Story Cubes, be creative and make your own.  Using building blocks you probably already have in the play room, glue pictures of familiar people, places, and objects to ignite imaginative language. Or if you have access to Boardmaker or another picture support system, print out the concepts and words you want the children to work on, and voila, an easy, playful approach to language development.

I also found another way to enjoy the story building.  Rory's Story Cubes are even more on-the-go as an app available in the iTunes store for $1.99.  I haven't played with it yet, but I think it is in my phone's future.

Rory's Story Cubes are available on Amazon, but I have also seen them at Target and other specialty toy shops.  They come in the 4 main varieties which include Original, Actions, Voyages, and MAX.  It's a quick and easy take along, that can fit into the purse or therapy bag.  Definitely a good size bang for the buck.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Never Buy Pancake Mix Again!

I found a great recipe from Nigella Lawson one day when I ran out of the good ole' Aunt Jemima.  And it was completely worth it.  Not only did it create fluffy and delicious pancakes, I knew what went into them and could modify as I like, specifically using a whole wheat flour. And I haven't calculated it yet, but I am sure I am saving money instead of dishing out $4.29 a box.  I used a stand mixer to blend the dry ingredients to ensure good distribution, but you don't have to.

In a large bowl combine:
4 cups flour ( I used King Arthur's White Whole Wheat)
3 tbsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
Store in air tight container.  I happened to have a click-top lidded Sterilite.  Then, for easy reference, I taped on the instructions for how to make the pancakes so I don't have to look it up every time.

When ready to use:
1 cup dry mix
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup mini choc chips, dried fruit, or fresh fruit (optional)
Just with any pancakes, on a hot griddle or in my case Buzz Lightyear Pancake Maker (which apparently cannot be found anymore), scoop, pour, let mixture bubble, flip, and enjoy.  Each batch makes about 25 small pancakes, using a tablespoon as the scoop.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Breakfast Cookies

We struggle to get protein into the kids at breakfast.  They love nuts, for which we are lucky, but don't necessarily care for them first thing in the morning.  Usually, we make a weeks worth of Banana Chocolate Chip muffins but even that doesn't have much in the protein department.

I looked and looked for a recipe but didn't find what I wanted, so I created my own: Everything but the Kitchen Sink Breakfast Cookie

Preheat oven to 375.

Blend until smooth:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup organic unsalted, unsweetened creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

In second bowl combine:
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet.

Then Fold in:
1 cup chopped nut (whatever you like, I had pecans and almonds in the pantry)
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried fruit (optional)

Place 1 ounce (I use a cookie scoop any time I make cookies but it is basically a heaping tablespoon) scoops onto a Parchment Paper Lined cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes. Then cool on rack.  Throw into an air tight container when cooled or freeze :)

Now, I don't know the calorie counts or exact nutritional value, but it has to be better than Eggo Waffles...