4 SLP Tips: Speech, Language and Social Skills Mixed Groups

Working with students at different levels, with different goals and learning styles, all in the same group, can be very challenging for a beginning therapist. Believe me, even experienced clinicians continue to have to work at making very diverse groups be cohesive!

There are some things you can do, however, to make mixed groups not only achievable but fun! Try out these tips.

Tip: Use a central theme to connect students' work.

        1. Use a central theme.

Find a central theme and have students in the group participate in the same activity. Picture books and wordless videos are great to use with students of many ages.

I was concerned, at first, about using materials that were much more simplistic than the grade level books my students on the spectrum were having to struggle through in the classroom, thinking the kids would complain that they were “too babyish.” So, I decided to show my groups choices of higher and lower level stories and to my surprise, they all picked the picture books!

Now, if your students are closer to grade level, or are struggling with that growing up period where they are very sensitive about their learning differences, you would be better off adapting materials that are being used in the classroom.

In the case of my students, who were working on language for story plots, there were so many new vocabulary words, multiple story details, and inferential reasoning required,  that they didn’t understand enough of the story to actually build the language skills they needed.

2.  Review the materials with specific goals in mind.

Prepare by figuring out how to elicit a variety of goals with the materials.
Read the book or story ahead of time to determine which IEP goals could be elicited with each member of the group to guide your discussions.

I know this sounds time-consuming, and it can be intensive at first, but it will soon flow! At the beginning of the school year, I used post-it notes to organize the goals of each student in the group so I was sure to address them in the session, but it became second nature as I got to know each student better.

Think about  how the various goals in the group relate to each other, and how best to involve each student while reading the story so that a kind of discussion develops about the plot line.

For example:

* The student working on inferences can use the cover picture to infer what the story is about.
* The student working on sentence structures can summarize and rephrase the plot action.
* The student working on sequence can summarize both parts after the next section is read.
* The student working on inference skills can then tell the group what she thinks is going on.

Get the idea? This way the book becomes a group discussion, too, as students will start to offer their ideas.

3. Use graphic organizers and reading strategies.

Find a great organizer for each skill you need to work on.
Reading comprehension is a whole degree in itself, but the more you understand about how students learn to read, the more improvements in comprehension your students will make as you use stories orally! It is a great topic for your CEUs if you have a language impaired caseload.

Check out this link for the most complete free set of reading comprehension organizers I have ever come across.  Don’t you just love it?

When you have different graphic organizers for each student to follow up the story, it also helps guide you during the story to reach each student’s needs.

You also are less likely to get complaints about who got hard work and who got ‘baby’ work. They are all reading the same story and completing an organizer afterward. 

When you are really organized, you might even have a related game or activity for them all. Then they don’t notice as much that they answered different kinds of questions, or that one student wrote sentences on the organizer while another drew a picture. It really works!

4. Use materials that are ready-made for mixed groups.

Using quality ready made materials allows you to work on managing the group interactions.
I remember reading tips myself and thinking that it made sense, but however do you do that? There are so many components to working with groups, starting with behavioral control, that we all need to build a repertoire of ‘tricks’ to use while working with kids.

Using a ready-made material set that has multiple components for mixed groups built in can make your sessions go so much more smoothly while you get the basics of group dynamics under control.  

While we have to address each student’s therapy goals individually, the purpose of groups is also to foster communication between the students. When you don’t have to concentrate on how to adapt the materials, it is much easier to  keep the flow of activities moving, have some fun, and get students talking to each other during the session.

Articulation, narratives, and social skills are just a few of the goals that can be addressed with Multiple Perspectives for Problem Solving.
One of my buyer's favorites for mixed articulation and language groups are Social Skills: Multiple Perspectives for Problem Solving sets.

There are two stories each for L, R, and S sounds that let you address social skills (problem-solving and social inferences) at the same time as language skills (story comprehension questions, narrative retell and sequencing, summarizing, and sentence structure for explaining.)

I don't know about you, but I could never have managed to work on all of those skills on the fly! So be sure to click here to check it out!

Sharing the Love! 5 Easy Tips for Mixed Skill Groups

5 Tips for Mixed Skill Groups! Looks-Like-Language
Quick tips can be so helpful!  Whether the information is new to you, jogs your memory, so you can now apply something you already knew, or helps you to see something in a different light, your students benefit! I hope that something in my IG tip series resonated with you!  

I've circled back around to my topic of mixed groups! It is a reality that we deal with every day, with more success on some days than others.

Books for Mixed Groups! Looks-Like-Language
If your mixed group isn't working, try looking at the combination of student personalities and goals that you have in the group. Maybe an unusual combination will work better for you! For more ideas, check this post.

Books and SLPs go together! Looks-Like-Language
Before you change your schedule around, try using some great books to bring your group together!  

The first time I use a book with a group that has a variety of goals, I read through it and place a sticky note on the edge of the page to remind myself where I can pause to elicit answers from each of the students in the group. As I become more familiar with the book and the various skills I can use it for, I no longer need the sticky notes.

For more ideas, read this post.

Try a little conversation! Looks-Like-Language
Maybe you just need to foster interactions between your students a little more to get a group more cohesive, especially if you have any students with social language needs in the group. 

I regularly start my groups by encouraging them to have to have a conversation. Not only does it give me a few moments to write the attendance and take a quick peek at how they did the previous session, it lets me listen to how they are using their speech/language skills naturally!  For more ideas on how to use interactions between the students in a session, check out this post.

Have a fun back-up plan ready! Looks-Like-Language
When all else fails, have some fun activities that allow for taking turns ready to go at a moment's notice! It may not make the group gel, but you can work on each child's skills separately to get through the session if there is an activity in common. 

Bubbles, playdoh and puzzles will save you with a younger crowd. Elementary to middle school level kids will usually play a board game,  a card game like UNO, or watch a video clip and talk about it. Need more ideas? Read here.

To really make your life easier, get together sets of materials that can be easily used for mixed groups.  Find a central theme with a variety of activities for different skills that can be used during a week or month. You can scrounge the internet to pull together your own sets, but if you don't want to spend the time doing it or need a little help along the way, check out TpT! I will feature some of my sets that work on multiple skills this month to show you how it can be done.

What makes your mixed groups most difficult for you?

7 Speech/Language Therapy Tips for Multiply Impaired Preschoolers

Have you been following my daily tips on IG this winter? If not, no worries! I'm recapping them here. 

Make preschool therapy easier with a week's worth of tips from Looks Like Language!
I've worked with kids from below the 1%ile to the 10th %ile for a while now, but I had a lot to learn when I first got started. Maybe you know all of the information I've been sharing, but I thought there might be some SLPs out there who don't generally work with such impaired students and might like to see what I've learned the hard way!

If you missed the last post about teaching kindness, be sure to catch it here since it was a blog hop with links to lots of freebies you can download!

Be sure to check out the tips for autism and for unintelligibility, too!

Make preschool speech/language therapy easier with these tips!
Now for preschool tips. It has been a while since I worked in the full day preschool, but I loved that population! The kids had lots of needs and took a lot of energy, but they were so cute! It is a vital time to provide therapy since you can have such a big impact!

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!


Preschoolers, in general, don't have very long attention spans. When you combine this with other learning problems, you'd be wise to have a lot of back up ideas for each session!

Bubbles, playdoh, and favorite toys seem to be items that all preschool SLPs keep on hand.

For my main therapy plan, though, I always tried to incorporate a book as my central theme to develop literacy skills while eliciting language. I tried to find books related to my theme with big pictures and simple repetitive text and plan hands-on activities related to the plot as my go to's. It worked!

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!


Having toys related to the story serves several purposes. More practice with the vocabulary, sentence structures, or sounds in the words occurs in a natural way. Playing the plot of the story helps kids to understand the language in the book while building play schemas.

Connecting books with play helps kids see that books are fun, which is helpful for developing literacy skills. When students understand the language and plot, they become more interested in the book and will attend longer! It is a win-win all around.

Have I convinced you yet? Start shopping garage sales, thrift shops and, of course, the dollar bins at Target to pick up hands-on items that relate to your favorite therapy books!

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!


It is so helpful when the books have a repetitive refrain! That is the basic level for understanding and retelling story narratives.  Students will remember the refrain and join in, giving that extra practice for speech sounds and language goals.  It is easy to play, as it often involves one main activity with lots of characters.

Additionally, at this level, the pictures usually match the text exactly, so that your kids will see what they hear and comprehend it more quickly.

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!


If you are working in a home setting, using a central therapy theme of  'around the house' is a no-brainer. It will help the child be able to communicate better with the family and will let you build carryover with the parents so easily by demonstrating what to say to elicit the skills as part of the daily home routine.

In my area, schools switched away from center-based therapy to home-based therapy many years ago just so that the parents could be involved and carry over the skills automatically.

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!


If you are working with young children who go to a preschool, you can't go wrong using seasonal themes. Every preschool I've ever visited uses seasonal/time events as part of their curriculum. So many skills can be worked on through basic season, holiday and category themes. Time is such a difficult concept for students with learning problems to comprehend!

If you really want carryover, try to tie what you are doing in with the theme the preschool teacher is using that week/month.  There will be so many opportunities for practice, and it will help your students be more active participants in the activities!


I touched on play skills before, but I can't stress enough how important it is to look at a student's play skills along with their communication skills. If you see a student with advanced play skills but little verbalization, I would bet you will find that they have more expressive language problems than receptive!

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!
My students in preschool were delayed in multiple areas, so I found it to be a wonderful therapy technique to work on language, articulation and play skills at the same time.  It takes a little practice to figure out what you can elicit with the toys you have on hand, but hands-on activities are so important for little ones!

The iPad has provided a multitude of fun activities that truly capture children's attention, but it is still important to see what level of play skills your student has. Higher level students are not as big of a concern, but students with multiple problems will not gain a variety of cause-effect and higher level cognitive and language skills only from touching or pressing on a flat surface, from my experience. Balance the apps with the hands on!

Preschool tips from Looks-Like-Language!

To CRAFT? Or not?

This one may be controversial to you since we all love our craftivities, but please read on!  Higher level preschoolers, with mild delays in a minimal number of areas, will learn when provided the right kind of stimulation no matter what the activity.

When working with lower functioning preschoolers who have multiple areas of need, making a craft is the icing on the cake that is so fun to use to generalize the skills you have been addressing!

When students are very impaired, all of the fine motor skills involved in doing crafts can involve so much of their attention and processing skills that they are not able to do that and learn the language at the same time.  Having these students do a craft after they have learned to label, request and understand the language forms involved- well, that is fun and a great way to generalize!

Working with preschoolers, you can never have enough visuals! Did you get these FREE room picture labels at my store yet? If not, click here! It is free!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...