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!

3 Easy Tips for Spicing Up Your Games with Mixed Groups

Games! Yes, SLPs love to play games with their students, but there is a good reason for this. Students who come to speech/language therapy walk in the door with a very mixed set of skill strengths and weaknesses, learning problems and strengths, as well as IEP goals, all of which need to be remediated in a minimal amount of time each week.

3 easy game tips for speech/language therapy
There is no curriculum to be taught that ties the group together, unlike their classroom, so a variety of activities are needed that lets each student be part of a group and get enough practice to learn at their own rate. Games, crafts and other activities fit the bill perfectly.

Beyond the planning needs of the SLP is the need to have the students use their newly attained speech and language skills in as natural an environment as possible.  

When students are able to use their skills in a structured activity with lots of feedback, the SLP checks to see if they can continue to use the skill when they aren’t focusing specifically on their speech and language. 

If they maintain it during a fun activity, chances are the teacher and parents may see the skill being used as well.


How to do this? For a new SLP, this often feels like juggling practice. It helps at first to have a group data sheet so you aren’t juggling paperwork while modeling and eliciting speech/language skills, as well as monitoring behaviors in the group.  

If you haven’t found a group data sheet that works well for you, check out this blog post. There’s a freebie download as well as links to other free data sheets on TpT. If you'd like some ideas for monitoring the bigger picture, check out this blog post.

3 easy game tips for speech/language therapy
Board games aren’t the only way to bring a group together and address all of these variables. Kids love games of all types! Some of my most successful games have been ones that I have put together from varied household items and junk that was lying around.

Tic-Tac-Toe!

Plastic egg cartons make great open-ended tic-tac-toe tossing games! Pick up some themed erasers, puffballs, or any type of lightweight item to throw. After each response, students get to toss one in, trying to get three in a row!

Construction!

Go to a yard sale to find some inexpensive building toys. Pictured is a monster set I found. Students get another piece to add on after each correct response. This motivates and keeps little hands busy while waiting for a turn!

Tossing Games!

Packing peanuts are fun to toss because they are surprisingly unpredictable yet won’t hurt anyone. I combined them with a toy hoop and a box to contain the game. Kids love it!

Look around your house and see what you can turn into a game! What is your favorite 'junk' to use?

My Journey to the World of an SLP

How did you decide to become an SLP? I’m joining with The Frenzied SLPs to tell you our stories of what led us to this path in life. I’m sure that there are as many different stories as there are SLPs!

The journey to be an SLP- A Frenzied SLP Link-up- Looks-Like-Language
My interest in speech therapy started at a very young age. I was in elementary school when I had a young cousin who was unintelligible to everyone in my extended family, except for my aunt and I! It got me thinking that maybe I had a special skill.

Time passed, and I remained interested in working with children. I ran a small summer camp for local kids with a friend, babysat and volunteered my time with disabled children while in middle/high school. However, I entered my undergraduate years planning to become a reading specialist, combining my love of books and children. 

Then I realized that there was no undergraduate major for reading, at the same time that I was highly recommended to take an introductory course on speech and language development. I was fascinated with all of the information that I learned that semester, and my major was decided!

Being an overachiever, I took quite a few education classes and double majored in psychology, as well.  When it came time for a Master’s degree, I decided to continue with speech/language pathology. I’m very glad that I did! I must say that, in my long career, at times I have felt swamped with too much to do and overwhelmed with paper work, but I have never been bored!

Each student I have worked with has had me learning as much as I was remediating! Every child is unique, learning in a different way and bringing their individual strengths and weaknesses to the learning curve. From infants to high school and regular education to special needs, I’ve had the privilege to touch many lives for the better!


What is your story? Please share in the comments!

Planning Made Easier- Quick Tips for SLPs

Planning.. Is that a problem for you? I know a lot of SLPs and SPED teachers who think that is one of the biggest job problems, right after all of the paperwork. In fact, most of them say they'd like to leave the school system as soon as they reach full retirement age and then work somewhere else. They don't know what specific kind of job they want, but they all agree that it has to be one that does not require planning!


Making Planning Easier- Tips for SLPs from Looks-Like-Language
Of course, we can all plan for the week, but what can be done to make the process quicker and easier? My time spent planning has gotten easier over the years, so here are my tips in case they are helpful for you. If you are just starting out, you might as well face the fact that planning will take considerable time. However, there are ways that can make it quicker for next year!


Organize Your Caseload


First, I start with a master list of my students and goal areas that I made when determining groups at the beginning of the year. Click here if you want to see how I use it. While I do this on paper to keep a copy at home, a photo of it will work as well. I'm sure there must be some app out there that will do this, too. If so, please share!


Organize Materials


I keep my thematic materials in page protectors in a binder. Label the binders by theme or skill with this freebie!


Making Planning Easier- Tips for SLPs from Looks-Like-Language
When I need to plan for the month ahead, I look in the binder as the first step, pulling out any materials I have already made that can be adapted for the current year's students and goals. I also pull out a few open ended materials that are just plain fun. 

Try hanging them up on a bulletin board so your students can see them, too! Often I will switch my planned activity around when a student requests one of these activities, as long as I can still accomplish the goal, since students learn better when they are invested.


Keep Notes


One of the tips that really helps me is to jot down notes if I have figured out an especially creative or fun way to adapt a material to meet two wildly different goals. Do you have some groups that are like that? I have some where the kids actually have no goals in common! They just are available at the same time and can be at the same table together! These kind of groups make for some creative planning. Meeting 4-6 different goals in one hour a week with no overlaps gets you thinking about different ways to use the materials!


Making Planning Easier- Tips for SLPs from Looks-Like-Language

Search TpT the Quick Way!

Once I've pulled out the materials that I think will work for my current caseload and goals, I'm off to TpT to check out what freebies or paid products are available to fill in my other needs. Having this wonderful resource is amazing! Before TpT, I had to spend so many more hours planning and making materials. I didn't have the money to buy commercially available materials, and they just needed to be modified tremendously, anyway!  

It is very easy to refine your search on TpT, making it quick and easy! First, enter your skill or theme, in this case, Thanksgiving. Then choose your subject. If you click 'specialty,' you have the the choice of speech therapy.  Then enter your price range. If you want to look at freebies first, go under the member sponsored ads and click on 'sort by' to get 'most recently.'  This will let you start your search with the most recently posted freebies and work your way back in time, saving you from seeing sets that you may ave already downloaded. Quick and easy!


Two Fun Freebies!

I did exactly this in my search and came up with these two fun freebies to use this year!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Turkey-Costumes-Bingo-Freebie-2218325
Turkey Costume Bingo from Communication Blessings is a fun way to bridge from Halloween to Thanksgiving, as well as being a fun activity to complement many turkey books! 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Print-n-Play-Thanksgiving-FREEBIE-967080
It is always great to have an open ended game around! This set from Gold Country SLP is fun and easy! It is also black and white, making photocopying easier!

If you like these ideas, be sure to download my FREE editable binder spine labels to make your life easier!

Work Collaboratively with More Success and Less Stress!


4 Tips for SLPs- Making it work! And one time it didn't! Looks-Like-Language with The Frenzied SLPs
Working with our students can sometimes be easier, in a way, than working with our colleagues! I'm joining up with The Frenzied SLPs to give some hints we picked up over the years for working in collegial relationships.

Collaborating with teachers can cover a range of experiences. I find it usually helps if you are able to choose which teachers to work with initially and when to be present in the classroom, so that you have some feeling of ease about how to address the IEP goals before walking in the door. 

For example, in elementary school I was comfortable with addressing all of the linguistic concepts needed for math word problems in the classroom, but I don't feel that way about joining a middle school algebra class!

Even when you have a working relationship of mutual respect with a teacher, it takes some time to develop a co-teaching style that you both are comfortable with. Since this journey is different with every teacher you will work with, I'll just give a few points to consider.



Collaborate with more success and less stress! Look Like Language

1. Try to have a short discussion with the teacher to find out when she will be most comfortable having you in. For example, she might feel less stress having you in at the end of the week when her content has been covered and she is doing activities to review and pull it all together. 


Alternatively, she may love to have you in at the beginning of the week when she is introducing vocabulary and basic concepts.  It all depends on her teaching styles, your comfort level with the subject area, and the needs of the student.

2. Be prepared to do more observation than intervention in the very beginning. Watch the teacher's teaching style, figure out how you can address your goals during that time period without causing a major disruption in her routines, and be sure to find out her comfort level with throwing out comments! 


Some teachers don't mind having you join in and speak, while others are very uncomfortable having their flow be disturbed, preferring that you be more involved at a specific point during the time. Coming up with visual supports and other strategies for the student to use, with minimal discussion, can be helpful in this situation.

3. Realize that, especially in the beginning, you won't necessarily feel that the same amount of personal intervention with your student has taken place. Your first priority is to build a relationship with the teacher and observe how the student's language needs are impacting his ability to do well in the classroom. 


Once you have established these goals, the interventions you put in place will be more likely to be supported and used by the classroom staff even when you aren't in the room, making up for the slower start.

4. Be flexible! Working with your coworkers demands the same skill set you use to adapt the work and the flow of the therapy session for each of your students. You have to fit yourself into the spot where they are and try to move forward together.


Do you like all of the ways you have to work collaboratively with others? What is your least favorite? Mine, quite honestly, was having student interns. I just didn't know what to do with myself while watching therapy all day long!




10 Fun and Easy Halloween Games: Challenge at the Target Dollar Spot


Target dollar finds are great for fun and easy Halloween themed therapy games that work on student IEP goals! It’s even better when you can freshen up and re-use something you already own by combining the old and new materials. Can you meet the challenge and come up with 10 different speech/language therapy activities using your own Target Dollar Spot finds?

Have fun with 10 different Halloween activities for varied speech/language therapy goals using just 3 items!


NEW: Number Clings from the Target Dollar Store

OLD: A Halloween Countdown Box from a Starbucks sales bin


1. Articulation -Window Sticky Game.

   • Roll a die and say a word/phrase/sentence with the target sounds that many times correctly.
   • Then open the box with the same number.
   • Take the cling number and throw it at the window, trying to get it to stick.
   • The student with the most number clings stuck to the window wins.


2. Articulation – Clean Up the Sticky Window Game.

   • Roll a die to see which number cling you will get to take off the window.
   • Try to say a short story with the same number of target sound words used correctly to take off that number and put it back in the box.
   • The student who collected the most cling numbers wins.

3. Vocabulary Word Knowledge.

    • Put vocabulary words on slips of paper, putting one in each box.
    • Roll a die to see which box to open and take out the word.
    • Tell that number of details about the vocabulary word: definitions, a sentence, synonyms, antonyms, part of speech, things associated with it, function, etc.
    • If you can give the correct number of pieces of information, throw the same number at the window.
    • If it falls off, it goes back on the sheet for someone else to use.

4. Making Inferences.

    • Put pictures/words for the inference items on the front of the boxes.
    • Place the number clings inside the boxes, but don't worry about matching the numbers.
    • Read the inference cards from the Halloween Costume Guessing Game, the Halloween Inference Game, or use your own inferences.
    • The first student to make the correct inference about what is being described gets to open the box with the matching picture/word and take out the number cling to throw.
    • Count that many students around the group to see who has the next turn.
    • Play until time is up or the cards are done.


5. Answer WH Questions.

• Place the number clings in a box with the matching number.
• The students roll the die to find out how many questions need to be answered. The student gets to open the box if all of the answers were correct.
• If not, the next student takes a turn.
• The number clings wait on the table in front of the students who earned them until all of the boxes have been opened.
• After ready, set, go, it is a race to see who is the first student who can get all of their numbers to cling to the window first.

Have fun with 10 different Halloween activities for varied speech/language therapy goals using just 3 items!

6. Correct Sentences.

• Fill the boxes with Halloween words/pictures for actions and objects
• Students take turns walking to the window to take off a number cling and open the matching box.
• The student has to tell a sentence or short story using the words/pictures from the box, including the target structure that is being worked on. (singular/plural, verb tense, pronoun, etc.) to keep the box.
• If incorrect, the words/pictures and box go back into the haunted house, the cling goes back on the wall and the next student takes a turn.
• Students try to get the most boxes in front of them to win the game.

7. Narratives- Tell a Short Story.

• Place a Halloween character and the matching number cling inside the box.
• Students roll a die to determine which box to open and tell a story with a beginning, middle and end or all of the basic story grammar parts using the character from the box.
• Then the student can throw the number cling at the window.
• They get a score by adding the number of story parts plus the number on their cling.
• See who has the greatest score after each student has had a turn.

8. Following directions: next to, beside, over, under, above, right side, left side.


• Place one number cling randomly in each box and cover the box with a Halloween picture.
• Give the student directions to find the correct box.
• If the students followed your directions and named the correct item, they get the number cling inside the box to throw at the window.

9. Describing Halloween Items.

• Place a Halloween word/picture in each of the boxes.
• Students take turns choosing which box to open and take out the word/picture without showing anyone.
• They give as many clues as needed, describing the Halloween item with using the label, until someone can guess what it is.
• Then they throw one of the number clings at the window. If it falls off, you keep it.
• When all of the boxes are done, see if the students’ total score of all of the clings on the window beats your score(clings which fell off.)

10. Asking WH questions.

• Place a Halloween word/picture in each of the boxes.
• Students take turns choosing which box to open and take out the word/picture without showing anyone.
• They ask questions whose answer will be that Halloween item until one of the other students in the group answers correctly.
• If more than one question is needed, the student has to use a different WH question word each time until someone can answer. Then they get to throw a number cling.
• The number clings are thrown in order and the game ends when all have been thrown.

Have fun with 10 different Halloween activities for varied speech/language therapy goals using just 3 items!
You May Be Asking….

1. What if moving around like this is too chaotic?
      Although students often have been sitting still for too long and some will work better when given a chance to move around, if your students need to be seated, try these ideas:
👻 Have them collect the static cling numbers first, 
      then take turns after the work is done to throw 
      them at the window.
👻 Have just one student at a time get up to throw.
👻 Place a container in the center of the table to throw the clings into so they can stay seated.
👻 Collect small Halloween plastic pieces to fidget with instead of clings that they can rip apart.
👻Earn tokens on a Halloween themed board to get some free time when work is done.

2. What if I don’t have a countdown box like that?
👻 Cut openings in the top of a shoebox lid glued on to thick paper.
👻 Use small containers  in place of the box.
👻 Use a variety of Halloween containers instead.
👻 Use the cute freebie boxes that are available at ‘It Looks Like Language to Me’ or in the ‘It's Looking Like Language’ monthly email. (Just sign up on the pop-up!)
Free download when you join the LLL FB group or newsletter!

3. What if I don’t have number clings?
👻Use Halloween window clings.
👻Use soft magnetic pieces on a magnet board.
👻Use small Halloween objects to toss in a Halloween candy container.

Did this post get your creative juices flowing? What ideas did you come up with?

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