Showing posts with label Mixed Groups. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mixed Groups. Show all posts

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!

Let's Make It a #kindnessnation! Valentines Day Freebie 1
If kindness was ever needed, now is the time! I'm joining the movement at TpT to help spread a little kindness by making it easier for you to plan some activities this month!

I also have joined Classroom Freebies! Don't be fooled by the name- go check it out! Everything is free, and there are a few SLPs on TpT sharing resources there, including my friends Susan Berkowitz and Lisette from Speech Sprouts!

This week, get my open ended freebie from my store. My newsletter followers just got the link to a set of free matching worksheets! If you'd like to join the fun, just sign up using the top bar to get my monthly newsletter. No sharing your email address and no spamming, I promise!

If you download the freebie at my store and it makes you happy, please share the kindness by leaving some nice feedback! Enjoy!

Books Make Mixed Group Therapy Easy!

Books! Most of our students will say that they don’t read and that they don’t like books, but they need this exposure, believe me! Reading (and listening to books) builds general knowledge, vocabulary, linguistic structure, and knowledge of story plot elements.
It is  important for SLPS to support development of literacy skills.

A common problem that SLPs have is figuring out how to best manage the needs of mixed groups in therapy. If you are dealing with this problem, check out this post about using games as the cohesive element for mixed groups also. Or click here for tips on figuring out ways to pair up student goals in activities for a smoother flow.

There are so many books to use in therapy for young children.

It is easy to make mixed groups work by centering therapy around a great book. In preschool, finding a book that coordinated with the theme (usually seasonal) that the teacher was using in the classroom was a piece of cake, but as students get older, it is not quite as easy. 

When I’ve tried using classroom books, there was too much my students didn’t understand and the pace was too fast for therapy twice a week to keep up with the plot.

Then I tried using books by Chris Van Allsburg and my students loved them! Even my middle schoolers who struggled with curriculum! 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 can work for older kids.

Getting Started with a New Book
Tips for how to address varied goals using literacy activities.

• Read through the book and figure out where to take breaks.
• With simple sequential narratives and younger attention spans, that is the beginning, middle, and end of the story plot.
• Divide longer books into complete episodes, if it is possible. 
• Use sticky notes to remember where to take breaks and the kind of speech/language goals that can be elicited at that point.

For older students, look for:
• Interesting pictures, art or photographs that give clues to the plot without ‘giving it away.’
• Stories that have multiple plot episodes to keep your students engaged while still being able to finish an episode in each session.
• Stories which provide background knowledge and vocabulary that supports classroom topics or themes.

Use an Organizer

Organizers are great tools for literacy skills.
Starting with your most mixed group or most behaviorally difficult group, fill in an organizer with the group goals and the targets that you can elicit at that point in the story. 

You can use a story organizer like the one in the picture or write on the organizer you will have your students fill out after the book is done.

Write a set of questions on sticky notes that you can ask at various points while reading to keep each student participating at short intervals of the story. This helpful strategy keeps students with short attention spans, poor working memory, or processing problems engaged. (It is also great for tired SLP overload and memory issues!)

Add in any other goals or student needs you want to have prepared. Some ideas follow.

Tips for Eliciting Goals

Articulation goals:

These are the easiest!
• Just identify the words, phrases or sentences in each section that you want your student to read aloud.
• If there aren’t enough, make a question list that will elicit those words.
• Or challenge your students with a homework assignment where they have to find and pronounce the words with their sounds in a story passage.

Story question goals

• Have you tried using story grammar? My students showed great success when questions were paired with story grammar symbols. The visual cues helped reduce processing time and enabled students to look back in the text for the requested information.
• Try placing the question words or a story element on a popsicle stick for your students to pick out of a can and answer when the story is done.
• Occasionally put in one stick in that has something fun, like a free 2 minutes on the computer, or a no homework pass, and your students will always want to finish the activity!

Grammar goals

Eliciting target structures in sentences is easily achieved.
Have your students:
• tell what just happened with correct sentences.
• describe the story pictures.
• ask a peer a question.

Receptive/expressive language goals

Pause at sections for students to
• sequence the events so far.
• retell the story.
• summarize the last episode.
• tell how a character feels.
• infer what they could be thinking at this point.
• make a prediction about what will happen next.

If you have goals that are difficult to target during the story, try to address them in a follow-up activity at the end of the session.

Have you found a great way to use books to organize mixed groups in speech/language therapy? Be sure to comment!

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.


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!


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?
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