Showing posts with label SLP Organization. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SLP Organization. Show all posts

3 Tips for Taking Care of Paperwork so Creative 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 paperwork 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

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 lifesavers 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.


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.  

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! 


3 Quick Tips to Make Mixed Groups that Work!

Do you feel qualms about how to make speech/language therapy work when know you have mixed groups? Does figuring out student grouping get you stressed?

It may feel like a juggling act, but these tips actually work!

Try using these tips to make your SLP life easier!

1. Accept that you will have mixed groups!

While sometimes you may be fortunate enough to have compatible groups with the same goals, this will likely be rare in the schools. On the bright side, mixed groups do have some benefits!

👀 Mixed groups can grow your skills as an SLP, encouraging you to learn to adapt activities in a variety of ways.

👀 In mixed groups, you can use your students’ strengths to help them interact with others.

👀 Especially with students who have behavioral difficulties, your groups will be more successful when the students like to be with each other.

Pair goals that can be elicited together in your therapy activities.

2. Think about how this year’s goals could pair up.

Picture the types of activities you like to use in your therapy sessions. Which speech/language goals are easy to elicit?

If you can elicit articulation goals with a particular activity/material set during one session and adapt the activity the next session for language goals, you can work with a mixed group! Just modify how each child in the group is participating!

Some easy to do pairings include:

Receptive/Expressive Vocabulary paired with Sentence Structure : Using the same vocabulary pictures and activities, students can find /label words while the others produce sentences or practice syntax.

WH Questions paired with Sentence Structure: Using the same materials, start with one set of students answering questions to give appropriate information while the other students answer using correct sentences (whatever their specific target is.)

When the activity is easy, have the first group of students ask the questions of the others!

Or play a Jeopardy version where the sentence goals students give an answer and the WH group has to think of a question.

Inferences paired with Narrative Goals:  Literacy activities are great for language in general, but specifically, it is easy to ask one set of students about story grammar/plot first to get the details, then follow up with having the other students pull the information together and make an inference.
Think about your mixed groups during meetings geared for teachers.

3.  Make an organization for goal sets that work well together.

Try to fit all of the information you have just figured out on one sheet of paper to have as an easy reference while scheduling. Divide a page into sections, leaving enough room to pencil in student names for possible groups.

It is okay to place a name in more than one section! Sometimes it is easier to manage diverse goals when students have different partners on different days.

On the back, do the same thing for students who come individually or goals that you haven’t figured out how to pair up yet.

Keep this organization sheet in a page protector or other organizer and use it for getting out materials, planning activities, figuring out what you need to buy, and scheduling!

I have gotten up to 15+ schedule revisions in some years where it never settled down, needing this organization sheet all year long. What is the maximum number of schedule changes you’ve had in one year?

A Color Coded Method to End Scheduling Madness!

Scheduling for speech/language therapy can lead to madness! Just joking, but it can be a true pain. I’ve tried many ways to schedule over the years and this color-coded system has worked best. Give it a try!

Scheduling Tips Using Color

With this method, you use small colored sticky notes and a page protector, but it will work with just a paper, pencil, and any size sticky notes that you are willing to cut to size. Here’s how to do it.

Use the LLL color coded sticky note scheduling method!

👀 Take a look at your students’ goals and figure out your groups.

👀 Once you have your groups in mind, get your colored sticky notes ready! Either buy small ones or cut the sticky parts down to the size of the slots on your schedule.

👀 Write the names of your students on the colored sticky notes that match their team color (even if just arbitrarily assigned based on having schedules in common.  A Team= yellow,  3rd grade= blue, for example.)

👀 Make a color-coded sticky for every session you need to schedule to ensure that you don’t accidentally skip a session while scheduling. It is also very useful when making schedule changes.

Erasing penciled in student names can lead to losing track of a session.

👀 Make a master schedule of time slots where the students are NOT available. The colored slots on the schedule indicate this.

👀 Putting in information about where the students are those periods can be helpful later on if you have to schedule a makeup session.

👀 Also fill in periods you are allowed to take students, but it isn’t worth the hassle unless necessary. 

👀 If you do any block scheduling or push in times that have little flexibility, fill these in on your schedule now, too.

Use the LLL color coded sticky note scheduling method!

One of an SLP’s worst tasks: SCHEDULING!

Take the sticky notes and place them on your schedule, following these rules:

👀 Never place a sticky on the same colored spot.

👀 Fill in all the colored spots first, leaving the white spots (with more flexibility) open until the end.

👀 Place all of the group slots first, starting with your groups that have the most limited openings and the largest sized groups.

👀 Next, do your students who have the most individual sessions, so you can spread them out over the week.

👀 Then, fill in the rest of the sticky notes while humming your good luck mantra!

Keep putting your sticky notes on until your schedule is filled, If you get this done without encountering a problem, you win the Scheduler of the Year Award! That never happened to me. (SIGH!)

Never match the sticky note to the same colored spot!

Scheduling Problems:

Inevitably, there is a spot left where someone doesn’t fit.

👀 Take a photo now! Sometimes, a sequence of changes works and your problem is solved.

👀 Other times, you start making changes and it just gets worse, so you will need the photo to go back to where you were close to being done.

👀 Then picking a different sticky note to try to make the switch usually works. 

👀 In the worst-case scenario, pull off some of the stickies for your easier to group slots and stick them on the side of the schedule.

👀 Find new slots for your hard to schedule kids and then go back and fill in the easier to schedule kids.

👀 One of the best aspects of scheduling using sticky notes is that you won't end up losing track of any sessions while figuring out the scheduling snafu!

Now that your schedule works, put it in a page protector so that none of the sticky notes can accidentally fall off. Go make a photocopy to work from and keep your sticky original intact. It will come in handy when the teachers’ or your students’ schedules get changed!

Last, but very important, go home and de-stress at the end of the day. I find that a glass of wine with dinner works wonders!

How do you de-stress after scheduling?

9 Practical Tips to an Organized Speech Room You will Love!

Do you ever feel that if you don’t have your speech room organized before students start school that the year will be a long, downhill slide? If you don't love your space, it affects your mood whenever you walk in the door.

And if you have multiple schools, the effect is just magnified!

9 Practical Tips to a Speech Room You will Love!

Since time is so precious at the beginning of the school year, here are some practical tips to think about before you even enter the building. Going in with a plan for priorities can help you get off to a good start more quickly!

Organizing Furniture

👀 Seat students where they can see a bulletin board with posters of the strategies you will be teaching. It is great for helping them to use the strategies more independently over the year.

👀 Place your chair in a position where you can reach the phone (for help if needed) or door (for students who are runners) before your students can leave your room. If you don’t have a rolling desk chair, consider getting one as it makes reaching students and supplies so much easier.

👀 Have a low file drawer, or even better, a rolling cart, within arm’s reach of where you are sitting. This is the place to keep basic supplies, log notes, books and other therapy items that you are currently using.

👀  Put your computer in a place where the students can easily see online activities from their seats or be able to pull their chairs over to it. This makes accessing online resources as part of your therapy easier.


9 Practical Tips to a Speech Room You will Love!

Consider individual student needs

👀 Some students are better able to work in defined areas with boundaries. You may be able to easily rearrange one chair to a better location if you plan ahead.

👀 If your room size allows, it is great to have a single desk for kids who come individually and need boundaries. Place it where there is a wall at their back and/or side and they have an undistracted view, if possible.

👀 Windows tend to be more distracting than wall decorations because of the movements you catch out of the corner of your eyes.

👀 If your room is small, you have boundaries built-in! You just might need to give your table a push in one direction or another to make it work.

👀 In a perfect world (LOL) there would be a rug or bean bag chair symbolizing a quiet area, with a ‘BREAK’ symbol near it, allowing you to prompt your student to request a break when they start looking stressed or begin getting up from the table.

👀 Nonverbal students with motor planning problems may need to practice using communication boards or picture exchanges with locations on the table changed. I found this out, to my chagrin, when a student could only exchange a symbol if I was sitting across from him. Real life does not have static positions!

9 Practical Tips to a Speech Room You will Love!
 Organizing Materials

There are so many ways to store materials!  For my tips on how to store worksheets and TpT materials, check out this post.

Shelving is the best bet for games and toys. If you don’t have built-in classroom shelving, inexpensive plastic shelves that come apart easily for summer storage work well.

👀 For young or easily distracted kids, a cover for the shelves is helpful to eliminate distractions and show that it is work time. Fabric, like felt or a sheet, works well as you can pull them aside to make the toys visible during reinforcement or free request time.

👀 You can also quickly place a board with symbols of the available choices on the cover for students to request the one they want. If you say, “Sure, go get it.” after the request, you can see if they are functionally discriminating the symbol system.

Bins have many uses!

👀 Keep a bin of the books, activities, and worksheets you are currently using within easy reach (on top of your short filing cabinet or in your rolling cart.

👀 If your caseload is diverse, have one bin for the younger/lower level materials and another for the older/higher level materials.

👀 This makes it easier to quickly grab what you need, to adjust activities for mixed levels, or add a quick activity to end the session.

9 Practical Tips to a Speech Room You will Love!

Containers! I just love containers!

👀 Keep a container in easy reach with school supplies you frequently use.

👀 Use colorful seasonal boxes or containers with a fun open-ended thematic game to use as a review activity to start the next session.

👀 Put some thematic toys for younger kids or challenge activities for older kids in visible containers. Sooner or later, someone will get curious and ask about it!

👀 This makes it useful for unprompted requesting, questioning, quick language samples, checking different skills than you are currently addressing, or just for a bit of fun!

👀 Having a variety of fun thematic activities available helps pull mixed groups together! The photo shows how I did this one fall.

👀 The activities included funny apples describing cards, sorting boards to check flexibility in categorizing skills, and a describing poster that looks great on bulletin boards.

What is your best tip for organizing your speech room?
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