4 Tips to Make the MOST of your Group Interactions

So much goes on in mixed group sessions that sometimes it can feel like a juggling act, especially for new SLPs. The activity, the materials, the behavior, modeling and eliciting the skills, taking data, and watching the clock to get it all completed! How do we get it done?

Part of what helps me out is the organization I set up at the beginning of the year, which provides a firm foundation. Don’t worry if you are already into the school year as the ideas will still help you out! Check out this post.

Once you have a master sheet of the goals you need to address during the year, think about how they can be worked on together to form your groups. While homogenous groups sound great, it is rare to have them, in my experience, and over time I have come to believe that students benefit from interactions with peers at different levels. It takes a bit of brainstorming to figure out specific activities and goal combinations at first, but soon it will be easier to do!

Pair earlier and later skills to provide models
For example, figuring out what happens when (predicting) is an early cause-effect type of skill that students need to make the connection and answer ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions. When you ask your first student, “What happened when I …?” you are providing a model for the student who will be asked ‘Why?” or “How?’ next.

SLP: What did I do?
Student 1: You moved it.
SLP: What happened when I moved the wand?
Student 2: You made a bubble.
SLP: Yes! I moved the wand and made a bubble. Student 3, how did I get the bubble to come out?
Student 3: You moved it.

Using group interactions to make your job easier! Looks-Like-Language
Pair goals that work together to form a complete skill

With older students, you can elicit information in turns the same way. Take the example of remembering story details combined with sequencing and telling the main idea. After a short story or video clip, the first student could use story elements to remember different details. The second student could tell the important story attempts in sequence, while the third could sum it all up with the main idea. This way, the students are interacting and providing some of the information needed, freeing you up to take data.

Pair articulation needs with language needs
Students who have good language skills but need to work on carryover of their articulation goals can make great partners for students with language problems. The variety of activities you are using, especially books, for language needs can provide many chances for the artic student to use their speech sounds.

Make a set of the WH question words that your language student needs to answer and let your artic student ask a question that has one of the target sound words in it as well. Sometimes students respond well to the creative questions their peers ask! Once the students have started interacting with each other, they are both practicing their skills in a more naturalistic way, which is great for carryover.

Pair receptive needs with expressive needs
Students can be involved together in an activity when one needs to provide pieces of information that demonstrate comprehension while the other one needs to pull all of the information together to express it. Some examples of these pairings could be:
answering questions-> telling information in a grammatically correct sentence
remembering details-> summarizing information
naming items in a category-> choosing the correct category
describing an object -> making an inference

The basic idea behind of all these tips are to have some of the students supply a piece of the information that will provide models or help out the next student, limiting the amount of separate directions and models you have to provide. Using this strategy gets students interacting and using their skills in a more natural way while freeing up a little of your concentration to take data and manage the activity.

When it works, it can be awesome! Good luck!
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