2 Free Resources for Fun Holiday Help!

Do you get so busy preparing for the holidays that you just can't wait for vacation to arrive? I think our students may pick up on this, as well as feeling like they just can't wait to celebrate!

Click to download the free printable Holiday Matching Game.
Whatever the reason, sticking to the regular routines seems to get harder the closer the holiday gets. A little change in the 'work' level, while still teaching and reviewing skills, may be just what is needed this holiday season.

If you prefer to have printable materials that can be used in any location, you will want to download the updated version of my Open Ended Holiday Matching Game. Just click here to download the first set.

If you get my newsletter, you are in for a treat with double the amount of cards for additional ways to play! So be sure to open your email this week.

Have fun decorating for Christmas with this free interactive game for iPads.
For busy SLPs and parents, using the iPad may be the way to go! If so, you will want to check out the free Christmas Time interactive game for iPads and phones at my TpT store. Kids can play independently to decorate the house for Christmas or turn it into a more structured activity for teletherapy by reviewing work each turn.

Either way, I have you covered! Be sure to stop back weekly for more fun!

3 Tips for Making Sense of IEP Goals

A new student enters your caseload with an IEP and goals already set up for the year. Your first thought may be, “FANTASTIC! One less IEP to do!”  But as you dig in deeper, you begin to wonder what in the world is going on here.
The goals are all done, but they aren’t the kind you write.

Tips for Prioritizing Needs and Using Goals You Didn't Write
Maybe they are so long and in depth that you wonder how anyone could think a superhero SLP would get that done in a year.

Maybe they are so short and simplistic that you feel the student has nothing to gain from it.

Maybe you are just confused about why it was chosen at all.

One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that we should give each other the benefit of the doubt, since there are so many different factors that come into play, depending on where you work, what your experience level is, and what your therapy framework is. 


Most of the time, there is something in a goal that you can work with.

WHERE YOU WORK


Some school districts have IEPs scattered throughout the year. In the month before, you assess the students, whom you already know well after having them on your caseload for a while, and write new goals that continue from the current skill level. Lots of written work, but pretty straightforward.

Some school districts use IEP compendiums, purchased or self-made. The benefit to using computerized IEP goals is that it can cut back on the time you spend re-writing goals. 

Drawbacks can include:
• If the goals are detailed and specific, there may not be enough of them to cover all of your students’ varied needs.
• If the goals are broad, listing every skill needed to be able to do the functional skill in a year’s time, it can feel overwhelming. “I have to accomplish all of this! Are they out of their minds?”

Solutions can include:

• Finding out the way to add a goal that is not currently in the compendium so that your students’ specific need can be met.

• Figuring out which part of the lengthy set of skills shows where your students’ current needs are and addressing that specific section of the goal. Session notes document exactly what is being addressed and the data to document growth. Informal measures taken quarterly can look at the big picture to show that progress is being made toward the overall goal as well.


Some school districts put pressure on providers of special services to provide fewer services, write more goals, have higher levels of success, you name it. This can come about because of administrative pushes, funding issues, audit results, and probably a variety of other causes. This is the reality of therapy in schools. Do your best for your students within the parameters you’ve been given, decide to fight against it or move on to another job.


Use informal assessments and team input to help prioritize needs.

OUR EXPERIENCE LEVEL


With large caseloads, multiple schools, and varying degrees of practical experience, SLPS are doing the best they can. No one went into this field thinking it was a huge money-making career, so assume that we all have our students' interests at heart.

As beginning therapists, we all work on building up our resources: materials,  knowledge of strategies, the variety of student management techniques, ability to handle the overabundance of paperwork, and diversifying our therapy skill sets in general.

Maybe that goal that has you perplexed stems from a subtest score that the participants in the IEP meeting were especially concerned about.

Maybe the new therapist chose similar areas of student need for much of their caseload because they felt secure about helping students make improvements in groups while they learned to handle more diversity.

Maybe that one goal has enough flexibility built in that the therapist was better able to meet diverse group needs!

THERAPY FRAMEWORK


Face it, speech/language therapy covers a multitude of disabilities and skills!  We all have some aspect of communication that we are especially interested in, and that helps to personalize the lens that we use to assess students.

Especially for students with bigger delays and multiple needs! One of the hardest parts of our job is prioritizing what to work on when a student has delays in many skills so that you can have the biggest positive impact in their lives.

TIPS FOR PRIORITIZING NEEDS


Listen!
Listen to everyone on the student’s team to hear what they are all saying about the student’s weaknesses. Parents, who know their child best of all. Teachers, who observe the student in many school contexts, have knowledge of both strengths and weakness, and other students to compare against. Specialists, who bring their specific area knowledge to combine with yours and help the child as a whole.

Observe!
Informal assessment can occur at any time or any place during the school day. Build a relationship with your student’s teachers and find out what their concerns are. Watch the students in the room in between sessions when you are picking up and dropping off. Pay attention to their interactions with peers while you are on your way to the copying machine, or doing bus and lunchroom duties.

Think!
Think about what you know about the child’s language system and how this could be impacting the ability to function in the school. What strengths and weaknesses are a common theme in the team discussion? What communication needs can a part of any behavioral concerns? Is there a pattern showing that improvement in a specific area of communication deficits could help the student at multiple times of the school day? There’s your answer!

BRINGING IN RELATED SKILLS


At some point in the year, you will have reached a point where you feel comfortable with your therapy routines and materials for the specific aspects of students’ goals that you are taking data on since you are seeing progress.

Yes, you will! And every year it gets a bit easier.  But, for me at least, the discomfort level at the beginning of the school year never stopped. Kudos to you if you have managed it! 


When you reach a point that you can look beyond the next week or month, or your student shows that the basic aspects of the IEP goal have been learned, think about bringing in some of those skills that were not a priority at the beginning of the year. Keep on listening, because the student may have another priority need by now.

Or maybe there are some other areas of need that just tie in well with the types of activities the student is experiencing progress with. Some ideas are:

* The student who answers basic WH questions can play teacher and ask you or peers the questions.
* The student with improved memory strategies can apply the skills socially to remember information about peers for better social skills.
* The student who follows directions now can try giving the directions in an activity.
* The student who understands narrative structure in simple stories can use it to expand personal narratives or make them more concise.
* The student who uses expanded sentences in structure can work on social skills and reinforce the expanded sentences in a social activity.

Don’t be too fast to move on to new skills when you can incorporate newly learned skills with other areas of weakness. Combine your therapy expertise and framework with the IEP goals the student came with to meet as many of the student’s communication needs as you can. Your students will benefit!

Enjoy!

Building Thanksgiving Sentences Freebie

Are you looking for a functional and easy activity to finish up your Thanksgiving theme this week? Here it is!

Picture sentence activity for Thanksgiving free from Looks Like Language!
Students will have fun before and after Thanksgiving, making sentences to tell about the holiday and prompting discussions of what their families did this year. Little ones often need pictures to prompt recall of past activities, so this game helps with answering questions and telling short narratives, too.

This week's download has noun-verb-noun prompts, without the color coding, for higher level students, but the same cute pictures.

And it is free! So be sure to download it now. Just click here.

If you missed last week's color-coded version, click here.

And have a lovely Thanksgiving! Enjoy!

Building Sentences about Thanksgiving Freebie

The only thing better than talking about food is eating it! Help your students build sentences to communicate about food activities this Thanksgiving with this easy to use free download.

Since I love to help you out with mixed groups, this free download has two versions so that students at different levels can do the same activity.


Build Thanksgiving Sentences in mixed groups with this free download.
This week's download is the lower level part of the set. The parts of speech for the sentences have color coded borders that coordinate with Proloquo and many other AAC systems. There is color coding on the game cards, as well, to make sequencing the words in the sentences easier.

Not only that, but you can choose whether students need to complete 1, 2, or 3 sentences during the activity, according to their ability levels. 

We all like to talk about foods! It is great also for providing visual supports for after the holiday to help students communicate about what they did at home.

Get your free download here, and be sure to come back next week for the other set!

Enjoy!

Last Minute Halloween Printable for SLPs

Do you ever have nightmares where you are at school and realize that you never finished planning for the week? And your students are getting noisier and starting to move around the room loudly while you are trying to remember what you meant to do? 

And then there's a knock on the door and the principal shows up for a surprise observation?


Monster Describing Free Activity Download!
Phew! Thank goodness it was just a bad dream!
But, seriously, working in a school takes a lot of planning. 

If you are doing some last minute planning for Halloween, I invite you to click here to check out my Pinterest board for some great ideas that will make your life easier! Crafts, books, food ideas, freebies- lots of fun stuff there!

More Halloween fun can be found by visiting my store here.

How about a quick and easy freebie for last minute planning? I have you covered! Just click here. And be sure to sign up for my newsletter!

Enjoy!

A Sweet Halloween Treat for You! Part 3

So, let's be honest with each other, now. How many of the sweet treats you bought for the trick or treaters have gotten past your lips? I can't buy chocolate candies at Halloween for just that reason. Thank goodness I can resist some candy!

Well, this treat has no calories because it consists of free, printable Halloween worksheets for basic skills. This week completes the set unless you have subscribed to my newsletter. My followers got an extra goodie!

You can sign up, too! Just fill in your information on the dreaded pop-up!

Enjoy Halloween!


A Sweet Halloween Treat for You! Part 2

You know the thing about sweets? If you have one treat, you just want another? Well, it's a good thing that I have another Halloween treat for you!
Conplete your free set with the newest download at Looks Like Language!

This packet has basic skills Halloween worksheets that you can download weekly to get a free set. 

When you have one of those days when you are always behind, just have one of these handy to send home as a quick themed review!

Download it here.

You don't work with little ones? Click here to check out the detailed preview for Halloween Costume Picture Activities for Mixed Level Groups. 

See if it is right for you!

Enjoy!

A Sweet Halloween Treat for You!

Halloween is a sweet time of the year in both meanings of the word! And why not get a treat for yourself?


A free little treat to make your life easier this Halloween at Looks Like Language!
If you work with (or have your own) preK kids, then you might like to download these free basic skills worksheets. 

Come back weekly to get the whole set, or sign up for my newsletter to get access to the complete packet in one download!



Are you looking for something more interactive? Click here to check the detailed preview for a no print, no prep activity for Halloween routines!

Enjoy!

3 Tips for Taking Care of Business so the Fun Can Start!


Is the paperwork on your desk piling up higher and higher as you are trying to get the actual creative fun of therapy started? The joke goes, More paperwork, please!” said no SLP - EVER!”

Despite some differences, there is a flow to therapy routines over the course of a school year that can help you prioritize how to spend your time each month and get that dratted paper work done to get you to the creative flow of therapy.

For example, have you ever received a student from another school system with IEP goals that make you wonder? Why does he have this goal? How is working on this going to help him this year? Is this really what he needs in his current classroom placement? My middle schooler, "C," made me wonder these things, yet I had all of the monthly business to take care of, too.

Tips for What To DO- Month by Month



Click on any of the topics if you’d like to read more information on it. You will be taken to another blog post specifically for that topic.

Business for the First Month


Every year, the first month is busy with organizing your materials and therapy space. If you’d like some tips (and horror stories) just click on the topics. Some school systems move SLPs around depending on caseload numbers, but almost every school has you packing up for cleaning over the summer. So each year, you get a chance to revamp your therapy space and get organized.

In some schools, therapists have the same caseloads each year, with changes occurring when new students start at the school and others move on. Other schools, with multiple therapists, give out new caseloads every year. Either way, there are lots of IEP reviews and material purchases (or creation) going on to meet new IEP goals and student needs.

Keeping that paperwork under control
Lots of paperwork! Updating student information, setting up log notes and data sheets, and of course, the dreaded scheduling!

Don’t forget, you also need to set up your room behavioral expectations and make sure that the students you have grouped together fit in some way.

Because of all this paperwork, and having new students and/or new IEP goals, having open ended activities around can be very useful at this time of year. Other life savers  include books, crafts, comic strips, wordless videos, and computer activities.

Business for the Second Month


By now you have probably gone through multiple scheduling changes. If you don’t use post-its for scheduling yet, you should definitely give it a try. SLPs usually need to make schedule changes all year long for a variety of reasons: classroom schedule changes, students coming and going, and IEP related service changes being a few.

Many schools have a back to school night sometime during the fall that SLPS are expected to attend. It is a good idea to think about these general topics ahead of time in case you get asked questions.

•  Do you give homework and how would you like parents to help?
•  Do you have a session make up policy in your school system?
•  How do you stay in touch with parents regarding student progress?
•  What are your room rules and incentives?
•  Have a general discussion of what speech/language therapy involves ready to educate parents. You may be surprised how many really don’t know why their children are coming to you. Excellent free handouts can be found on TpT.
•  Have a statement ready to let parents know that this is not an individual conference, but that you will be happy to talk to them another time regarding their child’s specific needs.
•  Parents always love to see work their students have done. Make a bulletin board in your room for this!

Informal Assessments

Now that you hopefully have some of the basics going steadily along during the school day, the second month is a good time to do some informal assessments to get a better idea of your students’ strengths and weaknesses, both in their IEP areas and general speech/language skills.

Options can include:

•  Language samples
•  Pre/post tests
•  Recordings of speech production
•  Using computer activities for skill assessments
•  Making videos where they explain something they have completed, retell a story or give a narrative about an event.

My verbal students loved recording themselves and knew more about using Quick Time than I did. If you haven’t used it yet, here are some links to get you started.



http://osxdaily.com/2016/12/04/record-video-mac/

CREATIVITY- the Magic of OLA


Planning month by month at the start of a school year
You know all of those additional assignments that SLPs tend to get? It is true, they take us away from that endless pile of paperwork we have to complete, but they also provide an opportunity we might as well take advantage of since we are stuck.

To me, the creative magic of therapy comes with a flow you get when students are really involved, interacting with each other, and getting a chance to improve skills that they really need. Not just what the IEP goal says.

"What?" You might be asking yourself this. Speech/language test results and IEP goals are based on concrete, measurable skills, but life isn't concrete and measurable.

Take "C," a sweet middle school boy who was floundering in a regular education class despite having a good auditory memory, great syntax and sentence structure, and comprehension of facts. He came to my caseload with a goal for following directions, but he could follow 4+ steps and most concepts. I felt the magic begin to happen when I started to figure out what he really needed.

"How?" you might ask.  "OLA!" I say!

Observe. While you are walking to the photocopier, doing bus or lunch duty, or popping into the classroom, observe your students in their natural interactions of the school day.

Listen to what your fellow educators have to say about this student, especially the classroom teacher. They don't look at the student's problems from the same perspective as we have, obviously, but teachers spend a lot of time with your student in a group setting and are your best resource for real life observations. Respect your teachers for the skills they have in managing groups and understanding the larger picture of how your student functions in that group, all while teaching a curriculum and managing their own paperwork. Your therapy will be much more on target!

Act. When you co-ordinate the observations of your fellow educators regarding your student's needs, the observations you have made of how the student functions in the school environment, and your knowledge of communication needs, you can apply all of this information to how you address the IEP goals and the creative flow begins! You may not ever place a number value on it, or write it on a session note, but when you integrate the social, behavioral and communicative needs of your student into your therapy sessions, you will make noticeable changes that impact your student's whole school day.

And my student, "C"? After doing this, I realized that his real problem was being too literal! He didn't follow classroom directions well if they were ambiguous or could be interpreted too literally. So, we worked on following directions by figuring out different meanings of words and sentences, then reasoning out which one the teacher actually meant. Success!


So, don’t let the endless paperwork get you down! Once you have the basics outlined here under control, you can use your knowledge of your students’ needs to start getting creative in therapy! 

The next post will feature some creative ideas for Halloween!
If you have a favorite creative idea of your own, get in touch! I'd love to feature photos of your creative fun on my Pinterest board SPEECH & SPED: Halloween.  Just email me!

Enjoy!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game! Week 4

I'm so glad you came back for the last part of the baseball freebie instead of striking out! Whether you like to do a baseball theme in the spring at season opening, during the long days of summer, or just in time for the World Series, you can address any goals with this open ended set.

Get your free baseball themed open ended freebie to work on any goals!
Followers also get additional pages, giving them more ways to play! If you'd like to be one of my followers, it is super easy. Just fill out the form that pops up on this page.

If you sign up for my newsletter and are really interested in one of the follower monthly sets, just drop me line and I will email you the access link. I'd love to chat with you!

If you missed any of the set, start here. If you just need the week 4 download, click here.

Whatever home team you are rooting for, have fun with this game!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game- Week 3

Hey there, baseball fans! There's still time to have some open ended fun before the season ends!


Free, fun open ended color matching freebie from Looks Like Language!
Catch the newest section of the freebie and have some fun with it! The third section is available to download here.


Fall is a colorful time to build colorful words! Make nixed level groups easier!
Speaking of newest, did you see my newest adapted bool multiple activity set for Fall mixed level groups? 

It builds describing skills using literacy activities and games. Check it out! Click here!


The Worst Speech Rooms Ever! Plus Organization Tips for SLPs


Sharing our ideas makes us stronger, so I reached out to challenge my readers this month to get some of their best tips (and Worst Rooms Ever stories)  to help us get started on the right foot this year! If you want more tips, check out this blog post!

TIPS


Tatiana shares to be sure to have highlighters for color coding and lots of post it notes!
Annie says that she makes back to school less overwhelming by spending 5-10 minutes prepping every day during the summer.
Ashley devised a spreadsheet for her caseload including minutes, goals and IEP dates to be sure that no one is missed when she schedules. Another bonus is that the info is easy to share!
Kate responded, “My organization tip is to START EARLY. The time you spend at the end of May pre-organizing for fall is so worth it! Stock depleted forms, update data sheets, double check your roster and assessment log.”

Thanks for the great tips, as all of these ideas are helpful, but Annie is the contest winner for pure dedication! Congratulations!

THERAPY ROOMS

Having a space that is organized, pretty and functional can make work life so much better! A few of my readers sent pictures of their spaces. You can see their photos, plus more tips, on my Pinterest board SLP & SPED: Organization. If you have a photo to share, email me to be considered for adding to my board!

Organize Your SLP Space ! Plus the worst Therapy Rooms Ever!
Kate is excited to share her beautiful, new therapy room. After being in schools and dealing with whatever room she was assigned to, she now has her own gorgeous space. All of us with school experience understand why she is so thrilled!

Annie has a beautiful and functional bulletin board, which we all love! Check out this set which has beautiful strategy posters that make great bulletin boards!

Kim is still in a school, but she painted her desk to give it a bright and cheery look!

Taking a little time to make your therapy space your own is so important! Walking in to work with something that makes you smile is the best way to start the day. And, if you are comfortable in your space, you will foster interactions with your students that help them feel comfortable there, too.

Kate, your office space is beautiful! You are the winner of the contest and get a packet from me to use in your gorgeous room!

Tell your worst room ever story at Looks Like Language!

THE WORST SPACE EVER!


With our small groups, it seems that SLPs are often the last to get a space to work in a school (and often the worst!)

I invited my readers to share their worst space ever, and these are the responses. (One of the situations is mine!)

Be sure to share your WORST ROOM EVER story in the comments!



  1. My Worst Room Ever was what we dubbed "the Cage."  It was in the basement of the building, and was literally "cage" material that cut it off from the rest of the area.  I shared it with the band/instrument instructor and was constantly having to move all the music stands out of the way on the two days I was there.  There wasn't anywhere to hang pictures or make it more comfortable and a friendly atmosphere for my students.  Luckily I was only there for a semester when another room opened up for my use.                                             
  2. When I was student teaching, once/week we saw students in the custodian's closet, complete with the mop in the rolling bucket or water....and the SMELL!!  At another school, while I was student teaching, we saw students on the stage with the curtains closed but in the rest of the room, the BAND was practicing!!!
  3. More recently, I worked in an Early Learning Center.  I could see students in a room with 8 SLP's desks.  Multiple therapy sessions went on at the same time, teachers came in and out of the room to talk with the SLPs, parents came in, administrators, etc. Or my other choice was to see students at a table in the hallway outside the bathroom and a classroom for early childhood autistic students.
  4. I went to a new school where the principal hated speech paths. He took me to a boy’s bathroom that was IN USE! Really? When I said no thanks, he then led me to a dentist office where there was a dental chair and room to walk around it. Needless to say, I found my own space that year, which was on the floor of a stairway landing.
  5. Worst room experience - when I had to work on the stage at the elementary school while PE was happening in the gym  - only thing separating us was the stage curtain.  I had a very hard time trying to tell if my students were saying their sounds correctly :(
  6. Worst room for me was a previous janitors closet at a middle school. Still had water fixtures exposed, no windows, barely fit 3 students. However, if there would have been a tornado, I would have been set!
  7. I’ve been pretty lucky with rooms, but my first speech room consistently had roaches and roach poop in it :/
  8. Worst room was an electrical closet that could only fit my desk and a file cabinet. I had to search the school to find empty space for the actual therapy session.
These were all spaces I wouldn't want to work in, so I went to a random number generator to decide! Stefanie, congratulations! I hope you have a nice room this year to use your packet from me in!

Speech paths have been offered some pretty terrible spaces to work in! What is your WORST ROOM EVER story?
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