Improv · Inclusion · Performances · Pragmatics and Social Skills · Summer Speech · The Human Connection

Comedy Tonight: Freestyle Love Supreme

Hi readers! If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I had the opportunity to see the unbelievable improv musical comedy crew Freestyle Love Supreme in DC. If you’re not familiar with Freestyle Love Supreme, here’s how their website describes them:

FLS is a freestyle (hence the name), improvisational, hip-hop comedy show. Every night the performers take suggestions from the audience and spin them into instantaneous riffs and full-length musical numbers. Every night is different: no two shows are the same. We don’t know what we’re rapping about until YOU tell us!”

The crew has a rotating cast of characters, but I was fortunate enough to see Anthony Veneziale aka Two-Touch, Chris Sullivan aka Shockwave (whom I have interviewed about beatboxing here), Andrew Bancroft aka Jelly Donut, Ian Weinberger aka Burger Time, and Chris Jackson aka C-Jack.

Photo Credit:

You might be wondering why a blog with a focus on speech pathology and Broadway is writing about her night at an improv comedy show. This group of talented performers put together an experience that is founded on trust, the power of yes, and open communication. If I could take my students working on social pragmatics to see anything, it would be this. The performers were entertaining each other as much as they were making the audience laugh. The audience was as much a part of the show as the people on stage.

If you’re familiar with this group you know that the entire evening is built on the relationship between the performers and the audience members. How is that different from any other performance I’ve seen? Great question reader–this show only works if the audience and performers can work together. It was the coolest experience I’ve had of an audience being fully present and actively engaging with the folks onstage. There was no fourth wall, everyone was there to have a good time, especially the performers, and it was such a relaxed atmosphere, you felt like you were in a room full of people you already knew. Unlike a scripted show, each performance in completely unique to its audience.

This got me thinking about conversational speech and pragmatics, and how they are unique to the people participating in them. Sure, you can tell someone about a conversation you had with a friends, but it’s never the same as being there. That was exemplified by the friendship between the performers and by how inclusive they were with the audience and between one another. The exchanges are quick but meaningful, funny without picking on anyone, and easy to follow but entertaining. This is what I want all of my students to know about interpersonal skills and conversing with one another. There is no room for ego in this group, and all topics and ideas get treated equally, the same way they should in any conversation. The transitions were logical and smooth, which many of my students are also working towards. I couldn’t help but notice all of these parallels and had to share them with my readers.

The best news I can share with you? Freestyle Love Supreme is going to broadway for 16 weeks beginning September 13, 2019, and you can get tickets at I cannot encourage you to see this enough if you’re able. If not, there are some episodes of this crew doing what they do best on Amazon Prime, but be in that room and feel a part of the community of the audience if you can–there’s nothing like it. This week, I challenge you to engage in a conversation and stay in it–no distractions, no tech, no interruptions. Stay as in tune and present with your conversational partner as possible, and just have fun.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

Articulation · Grammar · Language Comprehension · Pragmatics and Social Skills · Summer Speech · Vocabulary

And If We Gain Our Independence: Fourth of July Speech and Language Activities

Hey all! I hope all of my readers are enjoying the beginnings of their summer. I just got back from vacation and will shortly begin doing summer speech. This post will be on the shorter side, but I thought I’d share some Fourth of July themed speech activities involving little to no prep, and can be some solid family fun, not just summer practice.

  • Descriptive day journal

    This is a fun activity that engages all of the senses, encourages language expansion, and some writing practice. In a notebook or on a piece of paper, write about your experiences through sensory experience. For example, “I saw bright, sparkly blue fireworks. I heard loud music and booming fireworks. I felt the soft grass under my blanket. I tasted sweet red, white, and blue popsicles. I smelled hot dogs cooking on the grill.” This is an activity that can be adjusted to fit your day and allow for more details and encourage family discussion and sharing, turn taking, and active listening skills.

  • Menu sequencing

    Planning for a special meal on this holiday? Ask your child what could be included on the menu. After you’ve done that, have the child explain why that food should be included, and how to prepare it. This allows for asking and answering questions to be practiced, sequencing of food prep, and for the child to take on a leadership role in helping plan the meal. Going to a party instead? Ask for predictions of what will be on the menu, and why your child thinks that way.

  • Research the day

    Why not dig deeper and do some investigating on the founding of the United States? I like to do this with my younger students, and it’s a good break inside on a hot day. Using books or the computer, I have the student answer who, what, when, where, why, and how questions for the day by using kid-friendly research sites. After that, I let them research whatever they’re interested in learning about regarding the holiday. This works on asking and answering questions, language comprehension, expanding utterance length and turn taking skills.

  • Patriotic I Spy

    What can you spot that’s red white and blue? Can you spot something patriotic using your speech sound? This is an easy game to play anywhere to target articulation, expressive language and pragmatic language. You can use the holiday as your theme, or play the game as originally intended.

What are your go-to Fourth of July activities? Are there any in this list you’ll be trying? Let me know in comments–sharing your ideas expands everyone’s activity toolbox. This week, I challenge you to spend time with others, unplugged from technology. That’s how I intend to spend my holiday, and I hope you have a great week!

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

Grammar · Language Comprehension · Pragmatics and Social Skills · Summer Speech · The Human Connection · Vocabulary

Summertime And The Livin’ Is Easy

As you amazing readers are viewing this post, I am enjoying my summer break. It was my first year juggling multiple schools, learning new age groups and programs, and learning to respect and be educated by new students and colleagues. It certainly wasn’t an easy year, but definitely one that was worthwhile.
My students are beyond ready and excited for summer, whether they have no plans or a packed summer schedule. Some are attending camps, both recreational and academic, others are enjoying time with their families. While I don’t send home structured homework or practice for my students over the summer, I always recommend a few things to my students and my families. I’ll be sharing those with you today.
  • Keep Reading!
There is a clear connection between language and literacy, language comprehension, vocabulary, grammatical knowledge, etc. I encourage my students to complete whatever summer reading they may be required to do in addition to reading for pleasure. I still learn all sorts of new vocabulary and turns of phrase from the books I read year-round. I encourage them to ask questions about what they’re reading to enrich their understanding and encourage advocacy on their part.
  • Speak Up!
Talk to your family and friends. Engage in conversation on subjects you find interesting and subjects that are new to you. Educate others on what you know, and ask questions about what’s new to you. Learn and understand new perspectives, and share your own. Involve your families, friends, and folks in your lives across generations. The more you ask of people outside of your immediate perspective, the broader your worldview will become. Participating in these conversations increases length of utterance, encourages clarity in asking questions and increasing language comprehension, involves vocabulary building, and social skills interactions.
  • Go Play! 
Make your own games. Get creative. Learn your friends and family member’s favorite games. Pretend play is a great way to practice expressive language, turn-taking, social skills, perspective taking, language comprehension, and individual creativity.I loved making up my own dramatic play as a kid and have used such strategies in my own therapeutic sessions when appropriate. This also encourages the human connection and allows for so much interpersonal growth.
Those are some of my summer recommendations. I’m sure I’ll be expanding on these as the summer goes on. Let me know which you plan to try and what your summer plans are in comments.
Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP
Broadway · Summer Speech · The Human Connection

Summertime: Summer Speech to Keep You Cool

August is a month that manages to move both quickly and slowly. As I start to think about what I need to do for the upcoming year, I’ve put together some activities that are especially fitting for the season. We’re going to use imaginative play and conversation skills to keep us cool and get ready for school. All of these are Broadway themed, because that made the activities more fun to create.

Vanilla Ice Cream Shop

This activity can be used for direction following, requesting, sequencing, or conversational skills. Make up a menu for an ice cream shop, or any store of your choosing. Go all out with markers and paper–make it as fancy or relaxed as you’d like. Make sure you greet your customer and politely ask them what they’d like. Feel free to make suggestions, or add commentary like “That sounds great!” or “What else would you like with that?” This activity also encourages appropriate conclusions to interactions with others.

Happiness is Metaphors

This activity has a focus on metaphors, but can be used with any figurative language. Make a list or poem about what is making you happy this summer using similes, metaphors, hyperbole, puns, or figurative language. Share your thoughts as a family and this creates not only a challenge for creativity but allows for a walk down memory lane for the summer. Speaking of which….

Memory Retelling

We all remember having to talk about our summer vacation on the first day of school. Why not make it a summer exercise. Do it as a family. Don’t limit it to this summer, go back as far as you want. Add details, use your five senses, compare and contrast your memory of the vent with a family member.

My Favorite Things School Year Anticipation Activity

Let’s look forward to the school year. Talk about what you’re most looking forward to. Make a list. Compare it to what you thought you’d enjoy from the year before. This targets grammatical structures and utterance length

Under The Sea Categorizing

Choose your favorite categories–movies, activities, foods, shows you’ve seen and see how many items you can name under that category. This can teach synonyms and antonyms implicitly, as well as comparing and contrasting.

I challenge you to come up with your own Broadway themed speech and language activities to keep you cool this summer.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

Inclusion · Summer Speech · The Human Connection

Those Kids Will Live and Breathe Right On The Page: Shows to Empower

I have always believed that shows of any kind, and art of any kind, can teach us anything. There are a few shows I believe came into my life when I needed the messages they provided. Since I believe summer is a great time to experience theatre (any time is a great time to experience theatre), but I find myself looking for motivation during the summer. I have compiled a list of musicals I believe all children and adults should see to empower themselves and expand their perspectives.

  • Newsies
    Newsies is one of the most empowering shows I’ve seen. It boasts about the power that the next generation has. That children have a right to be heard and we, as adults, should listen. When i saw this show in 2012, I left the theatre filled with such hope and believing that I could accomplish anything. All people should know this feeling.
  • Seussical
    Is there a show that better showcases the power of imagination? This work shows a diverse cast of characters and personalities, and allows its audience to experience the perspectives of others and a good deal of empathy as well. The lessons taught throughout this musical are important for those of all ages.
  • Wicked
    This is the first musical that taught me there is room enough for everyone. There is not a negative to being your own person. Each of us is unique, and our abilities should be celebrated, not dismissed. As a bit of an outsider myself, I loved how Elphaba learned to embrace her talents and her own identity,as did others. This is something I believe every child should learn.
  • Hairspray
    Inclusion is what we all want for our children, regardless of circumstance. We want all students to be equal in all aspects of life, and what better musical to teach such a lesson? It’s also a fantastic showing of self-confidence on the part of Tracy.
  • The Secret Garden
    This show is brilliant at sharing the message of bringing light where there is darkness. As I have my own work on choosing to be positive in tough situations, this show exemplifies how this can be done at any age and under any circumstance. It also shows the value of relationships across age and familial attachment, as well as a family unit working together to improve their situation.
  • Frozen
    The family first message in this production can’t be beat. The love between the sisters is palpable, and the strength of friendships, long-lasting or newly formed, is one of the most valuable supports we have.

My challenge to you this week is to look for ways to empower yoursel or your children. This can be through the arts, as a family, an activity of your choosing. Just take a moment to appreciate how strong you are. Let me know how you choose to do so in comments!

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

Summer Speech

Retreating and Reading Every Treatise on the Shelf: Summer Reading

Summer reading can be a double-edged sword. Kids want to take a break from anything resemble academics (I get it), but I believe books are the fastest adn cheapest vacations we’ll ever have. Nothing can transport you faster into another life or another world entirely. Though this list isn’t extensive, I thought I’d share some of my favorite reads this year that relate to theatre.

  • Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini
    In my eager anticipation of the new production of the musical Be More Chill, I decided to get myself acquainted with its source material. As an avid bookworm, I thought this was a great read. As an educator, I think it gives interesting insights into the life of a high school student. It can be easy to forget how big and important everything feels in that stage of life, and I appreciated the reminder. It gave me a new perspective with which to approach my students. It’s very witty and well-written, and provides proof that what’s on the mind of the next generation is important and valid.
  • Drama High: The Incredible Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater by Michael Sokolove
    If you watched Rise last season, I would strongly encourage you to read this book. It provided the foundation for the television series, and an in-depth insight into the high school drama teacher behind it all. I had never wished to be in a class as much as I had wanted to be in Mr. Volpe’s classes. He may be one of the most passionate teachers I’ve ever read about, and he was completely committed to his students. We are given the very unique perspective of hearing about this teacher from his students at the time this book is being written, and from his former student, author Michael Sokolove. If you really want to know why arts education is important in our schools, read this book.
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany
    This was a re-read for me. Like anyone else, I can’t get tickets to this show, so for now it is living in my mind as I read it myself. If you’re ready to return to Hogwarts, I encourage you to find your way back through Tiffany’s work #KeepTheSecrets
  • Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning by Leslie Odom Jr.
    I don’t have the adequate vocabulary to express how much I enjoyed this book. I believe it should be required reading for all ages. This book has the perfect balance of validating the dream, the failure, the work, and the lessons learned. I’ve applied some of it’s messages to my elementary students, but that’s the beauty of this book. It’s applicable to all ages, areas of interest, careers, and phases of life.
  • Better Nate Than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle
    Another re-read for me! I love these books, and so do my students 11 and older. When I told them the next book in the series would be out in September, we all got excited about a summer re-read! Nate is a thirteen year old Broadway fanatic from Jankburg, Pennsylvania. His knowledge of Broadway flops never cease to amaze me. He and his best friend Libby devise a plan for Nate to attend an upcoming audition for a Broadway show. What happens next? Read the books to find out, you’ll enjoy every minute! This series has lent itself to a variety of speech room lessons, which leads me to my next summer read….
  • Life is Like a Musical: How to Live, Love, and Lead Like a Star by Tim Federle
    Oh, look! Tim Federle has two (technically three?) appearances on this list. This book was not only hysterical and one of my favorite reads this year, but it is a personal favorite overall. This book has resulted in both aha! moments and “we’ve all been there” moments, as told through theatre anecdotes from the author himself. In addition to author, Federle’s credentials include co-writing the animated feature Ferdinand, co-writing the Broadway musical adaptation of Tuck Everlasting, and has performed on Broadway in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Little Mermaid, and Billy Elliot: The Musical.

My challenge to you is to read something that resonates with you. Pick books you think you’ll enjoy, or books you never thought you’d read. Take the time to really understand the perspective of the author, subject, or main character. They are serving the story’s purpose for you to learn something new about the topic and yourself.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

Summer Speech · The Human Connection

Good For You: Why Self Care Isn’t Selfish

In this summer of transition, I find myself following two very simple rules. 1) Everything I do needs to be good for me, and 2) I only do what I enjoy to reset and begin with a clean slate. After years at one school, I am looking to set some healthy habits for myself. The easiest time for me to do this so that they carry over into the school year is the summer. Some of these are goals. Some of these are practices. All of these are a restart button for myself, and can be incorporated as such for anyone.

  1. Expanding my interests.
    Up until this summer, I knew next to nothing about sports. My students’ interests often intrigue me to explore them independently. I’m learning about baseball, and getting to bond with good friends and my father over the sport. Those are added bonuses I didn’t see coming, and I’m grateful.
  2. Getting back to what I love most.
    As I’ve mentioned in several posts, I am obsessed with the art form of dance. I’ve committed myself to drop in classes for the summer, and I’ve never felt more like myself (or more sore). I begin each class with a moment of gratitude, with my hands on the floor while I stretch, and I think of how fortunate I am that my body is able to move in a way that brings me joy, that I can return to classes, and that I cut out this period of time for myself.
  3. Journaling.
    When words move from thoughts to pen to paper, my mind frees up. I get my feelings out, and I am able to let go of whatever unnecessary baggage I’m carrying. I tend to write about what inspires me and how I can keep that inspiration alive and well within me. I find this especially important once I return to the academic setting in the fall.
  4. Staying in contact with those who are important to me.
    I enjoy spending time with those who value me as much as I value them. I prefer to do this in person, and if I can’t manage that, I call people. This is far more effective than text. This includes family and friends.
  5. Treating my body with the respect it deserves.
    In the summer, I find it’s easier to criticize my body. This is not great, so I’ve turned that into respecting my body. I get to eat all of the fruits and vegetables that are at their peak in the season, including cotton candy grapes and leafy greens. When it’s a truly rough day and I finding it hard to respect my body, I treat myself to some at home pampering, focusing on skincare and relaxing any tension I’m feeling.
  6. Feeling out the day.
    Every day, I like to see where the day is directing me, instead of dictating the day. This freedom is extremely relaxing to me. It takes the pressure out of my summer and gives me options. Do I want to spend the day reading? Out with friends? Don’t get me wrong, I like my days where everything is planned, but I’m far more Type B during the summer.
  7. Making time for mindlessness.
    Every summer I find a show to binge-watch during the summer when I completely want to turn my brain off. Sometimes I fall down a YouTube rabbit hole, sometimes it’s a Disney marathon, sometimes it’s a full series on Netflix or Hulu to occupy my brain.
  8. Upgrade my space.
    No, not my home, but my new therapy room. I want to completely overhaul what I’ve done in years past and change up all my themes and decor. There’s no better way to incorporate a fresh start than a new look. I go to Pinterest for ideas, but I’m not a Pinterest SLP–much more of an Amazon Prime SLP.
  9. Expanding my knowledge in the kitchen.
    Having so many summer days to myself gives me time to explore new recipes and healthier options to old favorites. And I get to try friends’ ideas we’ve been swapping all year. All of this will lead to easier meal prep during the academic year.
  10. Operating from optimism.
    This past school year, I found myself operating from a place of pessimism. I’m trying to change my narrative by changing my perspective. This will help me healthily and clearly operate at my optimal skill set throughout the summer and carry this practice into the next school year.

My challenge for you this week is to set some practices into motion for yourself that will make you feel good or are good for you, whatever that may be. Enjoy yourself, enjoy the sunshine, enjoy the present. I look forward to hearing about these practices in comments.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

Inclusion · Summer Speech

I Put Myself Back In The Narrative

Who said summer reading was just for students? I am a complete and total bookworm, and I have gone through quite a few books during my summer vacation. Here’s what I’ve loved reading this summer. For plot summaries, I have included the book’s respective pages on Goodreads. This post will focus on why I enjoyed the book and the age range of whom I’d recommend it.

  • Look Again by Lisa Scottoline
    • Summary:
    • Why I enjoyed it: This book is a real page-turner and kept me thinking. It taught me that in all circumstances to trust your instincts. Your moral compass will always lead you down the right path.
    • Target audience: college age and up
  • Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
    • Summary:
    • Why I enjoyed it: A student recommended that I read this book two years ago because she was reading it, and she thought I’d like it. She was right. While it definitely relates to my job, it does a great job of honing in on the importance of inclusion, a support system, and the power of communication. We are all unique, and the world only gets one of each of us, and this book shares the value of self-acceptance.
    • Target audience: 5th grade and up
  • All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel
    • Summary:
    • Why I enjoyed it: This isn’t something I’d read without recommendation, but Christy Altomare recommended this one to her fans. This book taugh me about the importance of the here and now and being present in the moment. It is okay to just be, in fact, it’s really enjoyable.
    • Target audience: 18 and up
  • The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
    • Summary:
    • Why I enjoyed it: A story told by many perspectives. It’s important as a reader, and a person, to acknowledge that there’s more than one side to every story. John Green said it’s important to “imagine people complexly,” and he hit the nail on the head.
    • Target audience: 18 and up
  • The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman
    • Summary:
    • Why I enjoyed it: I enjoyed the stark contrasts between the characters, and the writing was so beautiful I felt as if I was on the island where the story takes place. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and this book reminded me why over and over again.
    • Target audience: 18 and up

My challenge to you this week is to read something, a book, magazine, online article, that you wouldn’t normally pick up yourself. Did you read any amazing books this summer? I’m always looking for suggestions so leave your recommendations in comments!

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP


Articulation · Language Comprehension · Summer Speech · The Human Connection · Vocabulary

Too Darn Hot

Now that it’s summer, I’ve had many parents ask me about what kids can do over the summer for speech maintenance. Personally, unless the student will regress, I don’t encourage speech during summer break, or any break. I come from the school of “let kids be kids.” They’re in such a rush to grow up, and this is the time of year when no academic demands are placed on them. That said, speech can be practiced without explicit therapeutic instruction during this time. This is what I would recommend.

  • Play pretend
    Every time a child plays pretend, they learn how to take the perspective of another. They learn to switch between being themselves and taking on the mindset of another. Kids do this without realizing it–careful, don’t tell them it’s speech or they’ll run back to the iPad. Bonus points if they’re creating their own characters and world and backstory–we’re raising the next generation of thespians.
  • I spy with my speech sound
    For my articulation kiddos, a game of “I Spy” always does the trick. To give them a clue as it gets more difficult, tell them the ir speech sound is somewhere in the item you’ve spied. When they pick the item, have them choose one wit their speech sound. As you play, let the child focus on the production of the target sound. This is a speech room favorite.
  • Tongue Twisters
    Also great for my articulation students. This gives them practice without having to be correct. They can get the rhyme and words wrong, because they’re still practicing their sound! Pick your favorites and have a great time!
  • Summer reading
    I am a bookworm, and I know most schools assign summer reading. In addition to completing the reading assignment, ask about the book. Favorite part, what was boring, which character is most like the student? This is a great check-in for language comprehension.
  • Make up your own games with your friends
    This exercises the creativity muscles in your brain! How do you teach kids to be flexible and follow the rules? Games. Especially when they have the freedom to create it around their interests with their family and friends. This also teaches temporal sequencing, and encourages retelling when the game is over.
  • Write a letter
    I spent many summers at camps, and we wrote letters home. Have your child write a letter or email to his teacher, a friend, a family member. This is a great way for your child to share what the highlights of the school year were, or the excitement only summer can hold has in the future. This is also a great way to look at sentence length and structure, grammar and subject-verb agreement, as well as verb tense.

I hope these tips for summer speech are useful to you. My challenge for you this week is to implement one of these tips or one of your own in place of screen time for the family. Summer memories are often the sweetest–make the most of them.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP