Putting the BOOM into Differentiation

reprinted with permission from Minds in Bloom (first published Feb. 18, 2018)

by Belinda Givens of BVG SLP

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We’ve all been there: small group intensive instruction and every student in the group is on a different level. You have a student who is answering all the questions, eager to participate and excited about learning. Then, there is the student who gets it but doesn’t really feel confident participating because they are not quite sure of their responses. And, of course, there’s a student (or two) who is completely lost and, instead of asking for clarification, tries to defer the attention away from themselves by exhibiting distracting behaviors to interfere with others. This is the challenge that we frequently face, and our mission is to differentiate or modify our lessons in such a way that we capture and motivate every student in the group. We want to provide a level of rigor that challenges our highest scholar while still presenting the material in a manner that intrigues, motivates, and encourages our lowest level scholar to begin to connect the dots.

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From my personal experience, I have come to realize that I get the best outcomes from my students when they are having fun and actively interacting with the content. Kids today love technology, and by incorporating it into my lessons, my students come alive and get excited about learning. I strongly feel that learning should be fun in order to keep students motivated and to ultimately foster a long love of learning. When I think back to my school-age years, the teachers that I remember most are the ones who were creative and who put forth their best efforts to offer a learning environment that was full of fun and engaging resources. Fast forward to the 21st-century classroom, and it is absolutely imperative to stay on the cutting edge of technology – from digital interactive notebooks to digital self-grading task cards, there are infinite possibilities to differentiate your instruction digitally, while captivating and motivating your students.

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The discovery of Boom Cards™ has really been a game changer for me and my small group sessions. If you haven’t heard of Boom Cards yet, then trust me when I tell you that they are exploding into the world of education! My students are so eager and excited by them that they have even started to request them for homework. When we as educators can excite our students to a level that they are enthusiastic about learning, we have hit the jackpot, and that’s the way I feel when my students begin to request homework. Boom Cards are digital interactive task cards that display on SMARTboards for whole group instruction, on computers, tablets, and iPads for small group lessons, and on smartphones for independent reinforcement. I have been busy creating Boom Cards to address a wide range of language and literacy concepts in a fun and interactive way. Below is a quick peek at one of my decks:

What I really appreciate most about Boom Cards is the fact that they are presented to my students in small, digestible bites, they have visual cues built in to aid in comprehension, and they incorporate technology, which is very motivating. They also can be read aloud to students who need extra support, or you can challenge your students to demonstrate their ability to read, comprehend, and independently complete the task on each card. I also love the fact that my students receive immediate feedback, and the cards are self-grading! This saves me a tremendous amount of time with progress monitoring and allows me to easily pinpoint the areas that my students are struggling with most so I can offer increased repetitions and opportunities to master specific skills.

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Within small groups, I facilitate my Boom Cards™ lessons in such a way that every student is challenged regardless of their skill level. The interactive nature of the cards (point and click, drag and drop, and fill-in-the-blanks) naturally reinforce learning in a way that keeps my students motivated, and I spend the entire session focused on targeting important concepts and don’t have to devote time to external reward systems.  When my students are excited, it certainly shows in the area that matters most, and that is better measurable outcomes.  The increased attention level demonstrated by my students when using Boom Cards results in improved carryover from one session to the next, and therefore, we spend less time reviewing and more time on compounded growth.

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Whether you are a classroom teacher, an ESE teacher, or a Speech-Language Pathologist, we all share a common thread – we want to see growth and progress in all of our students. As a reading-endorsed Speech-Language Pathologist, my passion is language and literacy.  I make a conscious effort to incorporate literacy into every session to maximize the time I have with my students.  With the level of rigor that is expected from them in today’s classroom, I want to ensure that they thoroughly understand that what we do in our small group sessions is to better equip them with the tools they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond. For this reason, I have started a complete series of Boom Cards that target a wide variety of language and literacy concepts in each deck.  My Sequencing and Story Retell Boom Cards series is designed to address sequencing, identification of story elements, answering wh- questions, auditory comprehension, reading comprehension, vocabulary, use of context clues, and story retell. They are differentiated to encourage active participation from all students in a fun and engaging way.

To help build the foundation for strong readers, I also have several Boom Cards™ decks that address important introductory skills, including rhyming words, phonemic awareness, sight words, synonyms, antonyms, and much more!  Every deck that I create is designed with a focus on differentiation and can be used during whole group lessons, small group intensive instruction, 1:1 sessions, or independent assessment. To find more of my digital interactive lessons, please visit my Boom Learning store HERE.

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Belinda Vickers Givens, MA, CCC-SLP has been an American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) Certified Speech-Language Pathologist for 11 years.  She is licensed in FL, CA, WA, and VT and is a member of ASHA’s Special Interest Group 18 for Telepractice.  She currently works as a teletherapist serving PreK-12th grade students.  She holds her B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Education from Florida State University and her M.A. in Communicative Sciences and Disorders from the University of Central Florida.  While pursuing her Master’s degree, she also earned an endorsement in Reading from UCF.

She is the co-owner of Infinity Rehabilitation, LLC with her husband, who is an Occupational Therapist.  She is the creator and owner of BVG SLP, which specializes in creating no-prep, no-print digital materials that are great for use in whole group, in small groups, within teletherapy platforms, or in face-to-face therapy.  She is passionate about literacy and has written a children’s book (The Adventures of DemDem the Garbage Truck: Watch Out for the Bumps).  She tries to incorporate literacy into the majority of her therapy sessions. She also sells resources in her Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Belinda is the mother to three amazing young boys and enjoys taking road trips, reading, crafting, and exploring.  She has been married for 15 years and resides with her family in Central Florida. You can keep up with Belinda at her website, on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Pinterest.

Teacher Talk: Technology & Teaching

Today we are talking with Karen Busch and Belinda Vickers Givens.

Boom: Technology has entered the classroom with a vengeance. What has been your experience with technology in the classroom?

Karen: Without prioritizing technology funding, you can’t successfully integrate technology. My last year in the classroom was 2014-2015. My kindergarten classroom had three desktop computers and a smartboard that was no longer smart due to an installation error. We had one computer lab for just under 1,000 students. Kindergarten to third classrooms could sign up for once-a-week 30-minute lab sessions. Fourth through sixth shared a rolling lab.

When our kids had to take NWEA Maps tests, the computer lab would be unavailable for three weeks to accommodate all the classrooms. The first two times our kinders took the test was really hard. The kids had no idea how to drag and drop or which mouse button to click. It took forever to get them all logged in. School had just started and they couldn’t even recognize the letters in their name yet.

The year I left, we adopted My Math. The presenter showed us how you could use a tablet and smartboard to monitor and teach while walking around the classroom. We all sighed. A district representative was in the room and we begged her… can’t we AT LEAST get ONE teacher tablet per classroom? The answer was, simply, “There is no money for that at this time.”

Teacher Helping Male Elementary Pupil In Computer ClassBelinda: I currently work as a Speech Teletherapist which allows me to remotely serve students PK-12 via a secure internet connection. When I was in the public school setting, I LOVED incorporating technology into my therapy sessions but was limited to the use of my iPad. Now that my students are being seen via the computer, the sky is the limit when it comes to technology. I personally have been busy creating fun, engaging, interactive digital materials to use within a teletherapy platform. I find that when I incorporate the interests of my students into our sessions, outcomes are better, so everything I create is inspired by my students and used during our sessions. Teletherapy is a growing service delivery model and for this reason, there is certainly an increasing demand for digital resources.

Boom: Why should schools prioritize technology adoption?

Karen: Kids are comfortable with touch screen technology. They’re always using their parents’ and older siblings’ smart phone or tablet. Additionally, we didn’t like being tied down to the front of the classroom. We wanted the freedom to walk amongst our students while teaching and displaying on the smart board.

Belinda: I want what’s best for my students. In the 21st-century classroom, technology is an absolute must to effectively prepare our students for careers. The reality is kids love technology and I use this to my advantage. Learning should be fun, engaging, and challenging. I’m able to keep my students engaged and capitalize on their strengths while addressing their weakness through the use of technology.

Boom: Karen, based on your experience, what shouldn’t schools do?

Karen: They shouldn’t prevent teachers from using technology. We couldn’t even use our personal tablets because our district blocked us from connecting ANYTHING, even our cell phones, to their internet Wi-Fi.  We can’t teach our kids how to use a mouse, a keyboard, or how to navigate online or inside apps or web pages without access to computers. My district let their teachers and, more importantly, their students down.

Boom: Belinda, you have students who must have technology to participate. How do you use that to improve outcomes?

Belinda: I have a number of “go to” apps in my inventory and in the past, I would utilize iPads to incorporate them into my face-to-face sessions. Now through the use of teletherapy platforms, I’m less limited and I’m able to share my screen with my students to use a wide variety of educational apps. When my students are engaged, their outcomes are always better. When I customize my sessions to incorporate their interests, I have seen increased gains in a shorter amount of time.

Boom: Both of you have recently started creating Boom Cards teaching resources. What needs do you think they meet?

Karen: I think they meet the need of having kids get the practice and intervention they need with immediate feedback. If my district had enough PCs for all students, then Boom Cards would also meet the needs of allowing my students to practice drag and drop and which button to click with the mouse when selecting an answer.

Belinda: Boom Cards are a fun, interactive way to engage my students. Not to mention that they are self-grading and fully customizable! I can address so many targets and my students really enjoy them.

Boom: Karen, if you were in the classroom today, how would you use Boom Cards?

Karen: I would use them on the desktop PCs when we visited the computer lab once weekly. I would also use them on my smart board and allow kids to take turns selecting the answers by using my laptop which was hooked up to the board. Ideally, I would have enough desktops, tablets, or other devices in the classroom to have at least a group of five or more kids using the Boom Cards during RTI to work on their individual needs. I miss the classroom. 


Belinda is a Speech Language Pathologist. Practicing for 11 years, she is licensed in Florida, California, Washington, and Vermont. She currently is a teletherapist serving pre-K to twelfth-grade students. She is the co-owner of Infinity Rehabilitation, LLC and the creator and owner of BVG SLP, which creates digital therapy materials for use either for teletherapy or face-to-face therapy. Passionate about literacy, Belinda wrote The Adventures of Demdem the Garbage Truck: Watch Out For the Bumps. You can get her Boom Cards decks at a discount with her bundle.

Karen Busch taught elementary for 16 years at three different schools within the same large district in Southern California  Her principal wanted more non-fiction reading activities. Karen found the five and six years old in her kindergarten class didn’t have the attention span to sit through a non-fiction read aloud. Determined to meet their needs, Karen would create easy-to-read non-fiction Powerpoint slide shows for her students to read each day in class. Her team loved them so much they urged her to open a store at Teachers Pay Teachers and sell them. Although this is her third year out of the classroom, creating helps her stay connected to teaching. She has recently started creating Boom Cards resources. For fall, try her Beginning Sounds October theme (includes sounds).

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