Books Make Mixed Group Therapy Easy! Tips and a Freebie!

One of the common problems that SLPs have is in figuring out how to best manage the needs of mixed groups in therapy. If you are just joining me in this series, you will want to check out this post about using games as the cohesive element for mixed groups since it has a freebie download for taking group data. The second post in this series gives tips for figuring out ways to pair up goals in activities for a smoother flow.

My favorite way to make mixed groups work is by centering therapy around a great book! When I worked in preschool, it was easy to find a book that coordinated with the theme (usually seasonal) that the teacher was using in the classroom.

Books for Mixed Group Therapy- Looks-Like-Language
Now that I am in middle school, with lower functioning kids, it is not quite as easy. I’ve tried using classroom books, but there’s too much my students don’t understand and the pace is too fast for therapy twice a week to keep up.  

This year, I’ve been using books by Chris Van Allsburg and my students have loved them! The plot is in depth enough to address multiple goals, the books are short enough to do in a few sessions, and the pictures are fantastic! They are beautifully drawn and not babyish, so the books work great for older kids.

To get started with a new book, this is how I organize myself.
  • Read through the book and figure out where I can take breaks. With simple sequential narratives and younger attention spans, that is the beginning, middle and end of the story plot.
  • With longer books, like the ones I am using this year, I divide them up into complete episodes, if it is possible.  
  • Starting with my most mixed group, or my most behaviorally difficult group, I fill in my organizer with the group goals and think about how I can elicit the speech/language targets from each student.
  • I write a set of questions I can ask at various points in the story section to get each student participating at short intervals of the story. This is a helpful strategy to keep students with short attention spans, poor working memory, or processing problems engaged. It is also helpful for tired SLP overload!

Story Planning for Mixed Groups- with a freebie! Looks-Like-Language
Articulation goals are the easiest: Just identify the words, phrases or sentences in the section that you want your student to read. If there aren’t enough, make a question list that will elicit those words again.

Question goals: I have had great success with pairing questions with story grammar element symbols. The visual cue really helps my students spend less time processing the question, so they have a chance to look back in the text to find the answer. 

Grammar goals: Figure out sentences that these students can retell with their target structures, pictures that they can describe in a sentence with their targets, or questions they can ask/answer to work on their goal.

Sequence/story retell goals: Pause at sections for students to recap the story.

When there are goals that I can’t fit into the actual story telling, I save some time to have an activity related to the book and that goal at the end of the session.

To make it even easier, fill out this information on sticky notes! You can pull them off the  FREE organizer and stick them right in the book on the page they match!  Click here to download the freebie and get your mixed group book themes started now.

I promise, if you can figure out your most difficult group and your most common goals, the whole process will get so much easier as you continue to use the book throughout your week!
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