4 Tips: Finding What Works for Mixed Speech/Language 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 the 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!

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