ASHAFit for the Holidays

holiday-weight-gain-eating-christmas-season-ecards-someecards

Well, if you’re from the USA you’ve probably just stuffed yourself with Thanksgiving dinner(s). If, like me, you did not, you still don’t get off scott free, since you’re about to be bombarded with all sorts of goodies at work and other places for the holidays. Whether or not you celebrate those holidays won’t matter when someone brings in yummy cookies and you’re peckish.

The last diet bet was the first time someone didn’t make their goal – so I’ve got some $ to roll over. This means that, even if everyone makes their goal this time around, there will be a bit of extra money to distribute. Win-win, people!!

Quick is best for motivation so let’s do 6 weeks again and 3.5% of body weight again. It’s doable, but requires some small amount of dedication on our parts. Again, if you can keep up a bit of diet and exercise discipline for 6 weeks, you’re more likely to be able to keep that momentum after this challenge is done (because you’re making a long term/permanent change, right??).

This is short notice because I got lazy with my blog post. But I want to get started sooner than later. So there will be 2 start/end dates – you can start this weekend or next weekend. There will be no last starting date, but you obviously have a better chance of making your bet the sooner you start in the 6 weeks. This means the whole thing won’t close until 2 weeks after New Year’s, but we who start sooner can be patient 🙂

The Details

Goal: lose 3.5% of your body weight

Timeframe: 6 weeks of EITHER Nov 29-Jan 10  OR Dec 6 – Jan 17.

Cost: $5 per week for a grand total of $30 in the pot at time of entry

Benefit: losing weight and being healthier! But, of course, everyone who makes the goal (with photo evidence) will split the pot and there’s a little bonus as well.

Rules: In order to split the pot at the end, besides losing the correct amount, you must

  1. Send in a photo of your numbers on the scale as well as a full length picture of yourself standing on the scale. We’d also appreciate if you submit your numbers to the form to make data collection faster and easier. It’s awesome if you can get creative and work both in at the same time by doing an above the head selfie but you have to be fast on the timing with the pic sometimes, depending on your scale. The code word (see below) and your weight on the scale both legible in the photo. Photos can be submitted at any time to start the challenge but obviously if you get them done this weekend you stand a better chance of making your goal.
  2. You MUST weigh in EVERY week to claim the prize at the end. Weighing in to this form is quick and easy! (it’s the same link/form every week). This is because many of you get lazy but regularly weighing in keeps you honest and more likely to succeed.
  3. You must send $30 US to my pay pal and will not be entered into the contest until you do so. Slptanya at gmail dot com. Everyone (including me) submits US funds to keep it fair and even when splitting the pot at the end (cuz we’re all gonna make it!!).
  4. You must submit your final photo, with a code word to be announced the last week, by no later than January 12th for early start or January 19th for late start. If you somehow make this goal before your end date, you’d best maintain it!

CODE WORDS:
Nov 29th start date: HOLIDAYS

December 6 start date: FAMILY

I would also STRONGLY suggest that you write down what you eat everyday to help you with this challenge. Also, if you really want to make your bet, write it down in MyFitnessPal and be friends with the others in this challenge. If you know someone might be looking over your shoulder, you’re more likely to make better choices. Even if it’s just Katie or me. We promise to share back so you can see what we eat too (actually, everyone can always see what Katie eats, cuz she’s brave/committed like that!).

Email us your pictures to fit4ASHA at gmail dot com. Katie and I are looking forward to cheering all of you on in your fitness goals!!

Fast and Furiouser

funny-diet-quotes

(I do not support the lack of apostrophes to mark possessive in this caption)

Ok, it’s been a while and I’m noticing that, for myself, it’s way past time for another dietbet! I think quick is best for motivation so let’s redo our Fast and Furious from last time and do 6 weeks again and 3.5% of body weight again. It’s doable, but requires some small amount of dedication on our parts. Again, if you can keep up a bit of diet and exercise discipline for 6 weeks, you’re more likely to be able to keep that momentum after this challenge is done (because you’re making a long term/permanent change, right??). Also, I’m starting it now. Right now. I have been putting this off long enough and SO HAVE YOU!!! So, just at Canadian Thanksgiving to start and just before American Thanksgiving to end. (My plan is to give you a week off and start again right after American Thanksgiving to get another push until Christmas).

The Details

Goal: lose 3.5% of your body weight

Timeframe: 6 weeks (October 12 to November 22)

Cost: $5 per week for a grand total of $30 in the pot at time of entry

Benefit: losing weight and being healthier! But, of course, everyone who makes the goal (with photo evidence) will split the pot. C’mon, folks, NO REASON to not all break even this time!

Rules: In order to split the pot at the end, besides losing the correct amount, you must

  1. Send in a photo of your numbers on the scale as well as a full length picture of yourself standing on the scale. We’d also appreciate if you submit your numbers to the form to make data collection faster and easier. It’s awesome if you can get creative and work both in at the same time by doing an above the head selfie but you have to be fast on the timing with the pic sometimes, depending on your scale. The code word for your initial picture will be FALL – have this word and your weight on the scale both legible in the photo. Photos can be submitted at any time to start the challenge but obviously if you get them done this weekend you stand a better chance of making your goal.
  2. You MUST weigh in EVERY week to claim the prize at the end. Weighing in to this form is quick and easy! This is because many of you get lazy but regularly weighing in keeps you honest and more likely to succeed. I wasn’t kidding when I said we can all break even!
  3. You must send $30 US to my pay pal and will not be entered into the contest until you do so. Slptanya at gmail dot com. Everyone (including me) submits US funds to keep it fair when splitting the pot at the end (cuz we’re all gonna make it!!).
  4. You must submit your final photo, with a code word to be announced the last week, by no later than November 24th. If you somehow make this goal before November 24th, you’d best maintain it!

Email us your pictures to fit4ASHA at gmail dot com. Katie and I are looking forward to cheering all of you on in your fitness goals!!

Classroom phonological awareness instruction and literacy outcomes in the first year of school

For #ResearchTuesday I went in search of some current research on phonological awareness (PA) skill development as part of learning to read. I did a quick search and found an article that was PERFECT for what our department has been thinking about and working on lately; helping teachers understand how PA skills are important to reading skills and are different from phonics. I was not surprised but very pleased to see that one of my favourite researchers in the world, Gail Gillon, was involved. Any of you who know me know that she and Laura Justice are my two personal literacy heroes in life. Anyhow, I digress.

Just so we’re clear from the outset: PA skills occur only while listening and speaking and basically entail if a person understands that language is built upon sounds (phonemes) and that these can be combined and recombined to make new meaning (words). Notice that PA skills are not letter-sound correspondence – that is phonics. Phonemic awareness is under phonological awareness and captures tasks at the phoneme level.

literacy pyramid

The introduction has a very nice review of several literacy interventions that include PA skills. They discuss how these interventions vary from broad (including many different aspects of literacy such as whole word, phonics, print/book concepts, and PA skills) to narrow (focusing on only one aspect of reading skills), and also range in intensity and duration. They propose that for classroom teachers to be able to employ a certain intervention to a whole classroom, it is better if it is short in duration and intensity (e.g. less than 2 hours a week).

The researchers note that the usual classroom curriculum for literacy in New Zealand (where the study occurred) is focused on whole language and phonics, but does not have a focus on PA skills.

This study has 2 hypotheses:

  • Children exposed to teacher-delivered PA instruction at the phoneme level for 20 hours over a 10-week period in the classroom will demonstrate significantly higher phoneme awareness, reading, and spelling skills and that this will be sustained to the end of the year (compared to children who receive the usual literacy curriculum only)
  • Children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) will demonstrate significant improvements in phoneme awareness, reading, and spelling following this same instruction but may show less growth than typically developing (TD) children.

Method 

129 children aged 5;0 to 5;2 were included in classrooms with 12 different teachers at various different schools with average SES. Two teachers from different schools were trained in the PA program and their students formed group A (n=18) and group B (n=16) and the other 10 teachers performed the usual reading curriculum in their classrooms (n=95) as a control group. Four children in group A and 3 children in group B presented with SLI based on standardized assessment.

They used a quasi experimental design because it’s too difficulty to control for everything in a classroom environment. In New Zealand, 4 school terms are broken into 10-week sessions. Term 1 everyone received regular literacy instruction. Term 2, group A had PA instruction and B and C had regular. Term 3, group B had PA instruction and Groups A and C were regular. In Term 4 everyone had regular literacy instruction again.

The teachers doing PA instruction were trained first in the background theory of the program, then in the program guide with resources and activities. The lead researcher co-taught the PA program with the teachers for the first 4 weeks and then the teachers were independent for weeks 6-10. All in, it was 8 hours of instruction for the teachers.

All students were tested for language, articulation, non-verbal intelligence, reading ability, and PA skills at the beginning of the school year. PA, reading, and spelling skills were informally measured at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. There was no difference between participants at the beginning of the school year.

The program

The PAT (Gillon, 2000) was adapted for classroom use. It covers onset-rime knowledge as well as sound recognition, isolation, segmentation, blending, and linking speech to print (phonics). They adapted the program to fit in with the classroom resources (books, topics) and by giving the teachers the instruction time, including how to make tasks easier or harder depending on a student’s skill level. This way, students would still be exposed to multiple PA tasks, but only be challenged at their own skill level for optimal skill development. Teachers did four 30 minute PA sessions per week in the class alongside whole language and Jolly Phonics instruction (the regular program).

Two important things to note here are 1) the PA program comprised about 20% of total in-class literacy instruction time per week and 2) other than one week on onset-rime knowledge, most of the time (9/10 weeks) focused on PA skills at the phoneme level and not word or syllable level.

Results

The students who had PA instruction in their class for 10 weeks (a short time, really) did do significantly better on reading and spelling compared to the children who did the typical whole language and phonics approach. By the end of the school year (age 6) only around 6% of the PA instruction students performed below age-expected level in word decoding. Compare this to 26% of the control group and you see a big difference for such a small change. Similarly, 6% of the PA groups were below age-expected level in reading comprehension compared to 31.5% of the control group. This change in how teachers approached reading instruction resulted in a 20% reduction in students with reading difficulties by the end of kindergarten. This difference in performance lasted at least 6 months after PA instruction stopped. The researchers stressed 2 factors about this – it was a short period of intense instruction delivered effectively in the classroom setting and it focused on the phoneme level, which is critical to early reading skills.

Additionally, the students with SLI demonstrated significant gains on all PA, reading, and spelling measures but they showed less ability to transfer phoneme knowledge to an untrained PA task compared to the TD children. Specifically, the children with SLI showed greater gains in initial sound identification and onset-rhyme than TD children, which likely speaks to their need for explicit teaching on phoneme-level skills. Otherwise, there was no big change or difference in onset-rime knowledge for any of the other students in the study.

The TD students with PA instruction had significantly higher gains in reading and spelling compared to students with SLI, suggesting the SLI students may need ongoing support to apply their enhanced PA skills. However, the children with SLI performed at a similar reading and spelling level to the children in the comparison group. This strongly suggested that children with SLI who have PA skill development as part of their early literacy instruction are positively influenced in their reading outcomes, even though they are at increased risk for a reading disorder. Small sample size of the SLI group is a limitation to the generalizability of these findings, however.

Small sample size, quasi experimental research design, and teacher/student individuality factors are limitations of this study, but I would posit that it is far more realistically designed than typical clinical studies in which you can control for most variables. Therefore, I (personally) suspect that these results would be replicable in other classroom environments with at least similar results.

How does this relate to my practice?

It relates to me very highly in that we are attempting to add a phonological awareness component to all students (SLI) on the therapy caseload, with specific goals for each student based on assessment results with the Pro-PA. So that means these students at increased risk are getting focused PA instruction. However, I set goals the way I would expect typically developing students to achieve these skills – starting with larger chunks (rhyme, syllables) and moving to phoneme level. Perhaps I should reconsider this and put more priority on phoneme-level goals for these students.

Which is interesting this should come up since I’ve lately been thinking along these lines somewhat already. In a conversation I had with a CDA, I suggested she leave rhyme for a while (the student REALLY wasn’t getting it) and focus on sound isolation instead since it is more specifically helpful/relatable to reading skills than rhyming is. Also, many students who have reading difficulty on caseload but have had PA intervention seem to be able to do most of the PA skills I assess (most of which are at phoneme level, including substituting the first sound) and yet continue not to be able to identify or produce rhyme. But that’s a different research paper to discuss.

This also relates to my current practice because it strongly suggests that I can help all students with reading if I can help teachers understand the link and power between PA skills and reading and spelling skills. This is a common theme in our department and we’ve been talking to teachers about PA skills for some time now. I often ask teachers about reading skills when I am about to assess a student and the conversation almost always goes like this:

Me: How are Billy’s phonological awareness skills?

Teachers: Pretty good – he knows all the sound-letter correspondences.

Me: Ah, OK – uh – thanks.

Then I have to make a mental note that that teacher does not know the difference between phonics and phonological awareness. Actually, I’ve realigned my mental note to be those teachers who DO understand the difference; it’s a shorter list. This happens in almost all cases. I have frequent conversations with teachers and resource teachers (special education teachers) about the specific phonological awareness skills of students on my caseload and am consistently surprised by their lack of knowledge and the sorts of questions I get about it. Teachers seem mostly to think of phonics, not PA, and typically only think of rhyme and possibly first sound identification as the extent of PA skills. This is confirmed to me every time I look at games, apps, and TPT materials designed to work on early reading skills. So, this research will further help our department educate teachers on the important role PA skills play in reading acquisition and to empower teachers to make a big difference for their students.

What do you think about this? Do you work with teachers who do a lot of PA or not? Do you even know what teachers you work with are doing as part of their classroom literacy instruction? Do you have thoughts or resources to help teachers with literacy instruction? I’d love to hear what you are doing in your practice!

Carson, K., Gillon, G, & Boustead, T. (2013). Classroom phonological awareness instruction and literacy outcomes in the first year of school. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 44,147-160.

ASHAFit Biggest Loser III – Summer Edition

The ASHAFit Biggest Loser II challenge went well. Congratulations to Danielle who won, losing over 7% of her body fat in only 8 weeks! She won $50 and she feels better too. Lots of people did really great and even some lost a bit who are near their goal and have been having a hard time losing those last few pounds. 

Summer is upon us and if you’re like me, you get lots of great exercise but eat a few too many ice creams to cancel out the fitness. So, I’m running another one, starting June 28 and going until August 16 (8 weeks again). We’ll all be on vacation here and there, but maybe this will help motivate us to make better choices and more careful splurges

Same rules as before:

1. $5 entrance fee by paypal (to my email address; slptanya at gmail dot com)

2. Send me your weight (in text) as well as a picture of your scale reading for the first day (June 28)

3. Send me your weight numbers every Saturday (just the numbers, no picture).

4. I’ll post the full details of everyone’s cumulative loss every week or two (ideally every week but sometimes too many ppl don’t send me weigh-in numbers)

5. Send me the numbers EVERY WEEKEND please – it’s too hard for me to chase you down. Maybe do what Katie does – put a reminder in your phone/calendar.

Who’s in for another?  ALL are welcome!! Leave a comment, tweet me (@SLPTanya) or email me: slptanya at gmail dot com.

ASHAFit Biggest Loser: Take II

I lost a lot of weight on the last BL I ran. In fact, I lost 19 lbs in that 14 weeks and I won.  And then I got lazy and have gained back a bit of it. It was a long winter with many temptations to stay in and add to your personal insulation with fattening foods. Spring is here and summer is coming – who’s in to do it again?? I learned a few things with the last one. For instance:

  1. 14 weeks is WAY too long to run it. Even I had lost motivation by 10 weeks or so.
  2. People need skin in the game or they aren’t as motivated.
  3. Mondays are a terrible day to weigh-in!

So, here’s what I’m proposing. It will start anytime you want to this week and end in 8 weeks on Saturday, June 14th. Anyone who joins must put up $5 (to me through PayPal) and it’s winner take all. Lego-man-working-out-550x366  Image retrieved here.

Also, instead of emailing everyone who’s competing every week with the top 5 people and the percentage of weight they’ve lost, I will be posting EVERYONE’s cumulative loss every week (in an email). Not your actual weight; the percentage of weight that you lost. This way you have even more skin in the game than $5 – your pride! Weigh ins will be every Saturday (or at the very least sometime that weekend). Please don’t make me track you down – I don’t have time for that.

Many of you are wondering: Why are you starting this now on Easter/Passover weekend? All that yummy food and discounted chocolate is such a lovely temptation! To that I respond: Exactly! Plus I’ve been meaning to start this for a month and I just have to start it already and lock down my eating habits. If it makes you feel better, we’ll all have challenges over the course of 8 weeks. I’m moving houses (can we say take out?) and I have my and my daughter’s birthdays in that 8 weeks. This has been the busiest winter of my life but there is always an excuse not to start healthier living, right?

If you’re in with me (and you can join any time) send me a picture of your weight on the scale and some form of the date (smartphone, newspaper whatever). No need to send a picture every week, just the number (I’ll trust ya) until the end. If you win, you need to send me another such picture to claim the prize. I plan to start Sunday, because I’m a procrastinating sadist, apparently. You are free to wait until Monday but weigh-ins will be every Saturday until mid June. After you’ve sent me that, you must send me $5 via Pay Pal (same email address).

Who’s in?? Email me slptanya at gmail dot com.

UPDATE: OK I didn’t start until today, Tuesday the 22nd. Yup, I ate Easter candy. There it is. Anyone joining ‘late’ isn’t really late!

ASHAFit Biggest Loser

Image

DigitalBusStop.com

OK, I admit it. I fell off the wagon just a little bit completely. I did the planks (mostly) and sometimes did the pushups. I watched what I ate and exercised a lot with my bootcamp video game. I lost 15 lbs and I was feeling much stronger and fitter for sure. Then, life changed. I fell off the wagon. I haven’t really gained much back (2-3 lbs) since I fell off, but I’m not as fit, I’m not eating as healthy, and I’m no longer losing the baby weight. I’ve done some walking and biking and yoga, but I haven’t worked out properly since… May?

It’s time to get back on the wagon and I think I’ve found a fun way to do it.

We’ve used #ASHAFit13 on Twitter and Facebook to encourage each other and model our exercise and good choices as extra support. Let’s keep using it for that but let’s go a step further. I need more to keep myself motivated and thinking beyond today’s ice cream. I was talking about it with my friend, Mary Huston, and we came up with an idea.

If you also want to lose weight, consider joining a little game Mary and I are launching: our ASHAFit biggest loser challenge.

When does it start/end?

It will start Monday, August 5th, or whenever you feel like starting (though you’ll want to start as close to that date as possible to win). The winner is whoever lost the most weight body fat percentage by Monday, November 11th (the Monday before the ASHA conference in Chicago).  That’s 14 weeks so remember, it’s a slow race meant to change your lifestyle to a healthier one for keeps!

What do you have to do?

There are 2 ways you can play.

A)   Play for a fabulous prize – you must submit to me, by email (slptanya at gmail dot com), a picture of your weight as you stand on the scale with the date you are standing on it. This way I will know 1) it’s your real weight and 2) it’s current. You can use the day’s paper or take a screenshot with your device so there’s a time stamp on it. I will NOT share your weight with ANYONE. EVER. Only your overall loss. You’ll obviously have to submit a similar picture (on the same scale) at the very end as well.

B)   Play for fame only – You can just report what you’ve lost over time and play along but you cannot qualify for the prize without proof you’ve lost that weight through the photo. So if you’re uncomfortable with me knowing your weight, I get it. You can still try to beat us all and you can claim a title for your efforts (and more importantly, a healthier you!).  Consider taking the time stamped pic on Monday anyhow, just in case you change your mind later.

Whether playing for $ or fame, you are welcome to post how much you’ve lost every Monday as motivation for yourself and others, but this is not required.

 What can you win?

The title of losing the most in 14 weeks, for starters. A healthier lifestyle that should be a real habit by November, for more. And Mary and I are both contributing $25 to the prize for a total of $50.

Yup – soft, ethereal, internet transferred cash. You could choose to make it a gift card or dinner/drinks at ASHA or whatever, if you prefer. I don’t think $50 is too much as a Starbucks gift card, either 😉

What if you’re not going to ASHA or don’t even know what ASHA is (e.g. not an SLP or AUD)?

No problem. Anyone and everyone is welcome to play!

What if I (Tanya)win?

Well, I know I’m running this thing, but I’d like a shot at winning. It’s kind of the whole point of doing it. I highly doubt I can beat Mary, but I’m gonna give it a shot. So if I win, I’ll have a 3rd party from the Twitter community who’s not involved in the game look at my before and after weight pictures to prove I won. Let me know if you don’t think that’s enough (and remember that I can only actually win half the prize haha).

Who’s in??? Let me know in the comments if you’re in or if I forgot to outline any important details.

Mr. Reader winner!

mr reader

Just a quick post to let you know that the winner of the Mr. Reader app (generously donated by Sean Sweeney) is Denise Durbin – congrats Denise. Thanks to everyone for their comments and for reading – hopefully you found some new bloggers or got to know some old ones better 🙂