4 Tips To Pick A Theme For Your Caseload

4 Tips To Pick A Theme For Your Caseload

When I first began as an SLP, I started with a large caseload that fluctuated between 72-83 students. There was no time in my day to plan for those individual students. So, my brain immediately went to using theme-based lessons that I could adapt for all of my grade levels. Using theme-based lessons that are easily adapted helped me reduce my planning time (and brain power) by hours! I am heading into my 15th year as an SLP, and using themes continues to be a super helpful strategy! I want to share with you 4 tips for picking a great theme for your caseload!

Tip #1 : Pick A Theme That Is Motivating

Check out these 4 tips to help you pick a great theme for your caseload that can be adapted across all of your grade levels. Save hours of planning time by using themed therapy materials to cover your wide range of goals!

The #1 tip I have for selecting a theme is to make sure it’s something that is high interest and highly motivating for your students. This is a much easier task for my younger students than it is for my older elementary or middle school students. I can usually capture my younger students’ interest for any theme by simply incorporating dinosaurs, legos, or something shiny! My older students are not so easily entertained (as I’m sure many of you understand). Another SLP shared with me a little while ago that she likes to poll her older students about what they are interested in at the beginning of her school year. Her students’ answers help drive her lesson planning and theme selection. This is something that can easily be incorporated into your therapy plans for your first week back.

Why is this my #1 tip? The more we can build our students’ interest in the lessons and themes we are using, the more buy-in we’ll see, which we know leads to more progress

Tip #2: Keep Your Students’ Environment In Mind

When picking a theme, think about what is going to be relevant to your student. What is something your students can relate to or experience in their day-to-day lives? I like to pick themes about the seasons, the environment around my student, on-going classroom topics, etc.

Selecting themes that are personally relevant to my students helps build that connection between therapy and real life (can’t forget about that generalization!). A great theme for this summer would be the Summer Olympics, especially for those of you doing ESY.

Check out these 4 tips to help you pick a great theme for your caseload that can be adapted across all of your grade levels. Save hours of planning time by using themed therapy materials to cover your wide range of goals!

Tip #3: Pick A Theme That Inspires You Too

Check out these 4 tips to help you pick a great theme for your caseload that can be adapted across all of your grade levels. Save hours of planning time by using themed therapy materials to cover your wide range of goals!

The themes you pick should also be inspiring and exciting for you too! Of course, my students’ interests will always trump mine (#therapistlife). However, if you can find themes that are as interesting and motivating to you as they are to your students, then you’re going to kill that session! Your excitement will shine through and therapy will be really fun for you and your student.

For example, I love selecting camping themes because I love going camping and hiking and it’s also a theme that my students love. This makes our camping themed therapy sessions really, genuinely, fun!

Tip #4: Pick A Theme You Can Adapt Across Grades

Picking a theme that you can adapt across multiple grade levels is they key to save yourself planning time. For example, an apple theme is great for younger elementary students, older elementary students, and middle schoolers. This theme can also be adapted for my older student with higher needs or benefit from a very supported classroom. I found that many of my students with this profile had language skills similar to some of my elementary student. I was able to take the same concepts and adapt them with age-appropriate photos and materials that are respectful to those students. Here are some sample activity ideas using an apples theme across different age groups:

Check out these 4 tips to help you pick a great theme for your caseload that can be adapted across all of your grade levels. Save hours of planning time by using themed therapy materials to cover your wide range of goals!
Check out these 4 tips to help you pick a great theme for your caseload that can be adapted across all of your grade levels. Save hours of planning time by using themed therapy materials to cover your wide range of goals!

In A Theme Rut?

If you’re having a hard time picking the right themes for your students, check out my free Themed Therapy Planning Guide. It has over 100 seasonal and non-seasonal therapy theme ideas for you to choose from! This planning guide also comes with an editable lesson plan template you can use to help plan your themed therapy sessions. If you’re still having a tough time finding the right theme for your students, I would also recommend collaborating with other teachers. See what themes are being incorporated in your students’ classrooms that can also be incorporated and worked on in speech therapy! 

Check out these 4 tips to help you pick a great theme for your caseload that can be adapted across all of your grade levels. Save hours of planning time by using themed therapy materials to cover your wide range of goals!

Join The Themed Therapy SLP Membership!

If you’re loving themed therapy planning that can be adapted across grade level to save you hours of planning time, check out the Themed Therapy SLP Membership. With this membership you will receive new themed materials to use with your students every month! To kick-off this challenge, I will be hosting a 5-day theme organizational challenge on Facebook. Join now for a sneak peak into the membership, great organizational tips from other themester SLP’s, and fun giveaways! Click on the photos below to learn more.

This blog post is based on my recent Facebook live called, “What Makes a Great Theme for Your Caseload“. Make sure to check it out! 

Plant Life Cycle Activities for Language Therapy

Plant Life Cycle Activities for Language Therapy

During the spring and summer months an easy theme you can use to cover goals for your younger and older students is the plant life cycle.

When I was working with K-8 students, I would try and think of themes or activities that could be adapted for both age groups because it made easier for me to plan and not feel like my brain was constantly shifting gears when it came to teaching content.

Today, I am going to share resources and activities you can do to teach language using the plant life cycle. 

Planting Sensory Bin for Younger Students

Plant life cycle can be taught using a flower garden sensory bin in speech therapy

Our younger students learn best from exploring and what better way to work on a plant life cycle then with a planting sensory bin.

All you need is a sensory bin filler (i.e., black beans, or real dirt), fake flowers from the Dollar Store or flower Toobs, a shovel, mini watering can, and mini pots for planting the flowers. If you need more spring sensory bin ideas, you can check out this blog HERE.

For SLPs that LOVE sensory bins and enjoy doing a flower theme, you can use this flower sensory bin companion to cover all your goals during play therapy. 

 

Books that Teach the Plant Life Cycle

Another great way to discuss the plant life cycle is through books. This can be a great resource to help work on wh-questions, describing, and building vocabulary in the context of the book. Here are some book recommendations that would help you teach the plant life cycle (Amazon Affiliate links include):

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

Plant the Tiny Seed by Greenwillow Books

From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons

The Amazing Life Cycle of Plants by Kay Barnham 

Videos to Teach Plant Life Cycle’s and Vocabulary

There are a lot of great videos that walk through the plant life cycle for children. What can be great about using videos is that it can visually show students the process. When kids can see it in a video, they will be more likely to stay engaged.

Scishowkids has a great video for discussing the parts of a flower, which has some great tier II vocabulary words to work on such as support, stiff, study, separate, nutrients, collect, healthy, or spread.

You can also have students work on explaining the process for how a seed becomes a plant. Particularly, you can give your students transition words to use to help connect their ideas while explaining the plant life cycle. 

Here are a couple of songs to use with younger students to explain the plant life cycle. If you search “plant life cycle songs” on YouTube, you will find more options!

Plant Life Cycle YouTube Videos to use with older students in speech therapy.

Even More YouTube Videos for Discussing the Plant Life Cycle

Fun Science Demos on YouTube has some good videos that visually show where you can find seeds on a plant. I don’t know about you, but I love watching videos with real people using real-life examples. It helps me to understand the content a lot more thoroughly. You can use these videos to discuss main idea and details as well as answering wh-questions. You could also practice using conjunctions and transition words while summarizing the video. 

YouTube Videos About Plants for Older Students

Plant life cycle activities and resources to help teach language skills in speech therapy

Ted-Ed has a lot of great videos that discuss cool science about how plants grow. These videos more friendly for the older student and you won’t get accused for bringing in kiddie materials. In addition, using plant videos aligns with the science standards for life sciences. Here are a couple of videos I thought middle schoolers would like.

Curriculum to Teach Plant Life Cycle in Language Therapy

Have you ever heard of Mystery Science? It has easy to follow videos that answer a question about a science mystery. Often times, the videos also come with a hands on science experiment. What I love the most about Mystery Science is that it even has videos for each of the steps for completing the project, so it helps our students with receptive language challenges follow directions easier. This could be a great resource for using in your small groups to work on tier II vocabulary, syntax, wh-questions, working together in a group, and summarizing. Furthermore, this could be your next collaborative co-teaching activity for a general education classroom. I am sure you could offer to help with a science lesson in your student’s class and co-teach with the student’s teacher. If you are wondering how to co-teach, here is a blog post breaking down collaborative services.

Mystery Science has two great plant series that can last you up to 2 months of therapy. There is the Power of Flowers series that has four lessons and Plant Adaptations that includes five lessons.

Plant Life Cycle Craft Ideas

Use a fun craft to teach the plant life cycle to help students stay engaged while they learn.

Students really do love making crafts. It can be a great way for them to process the information you are sharing with them. When I do choose to do a craft, I want it to be functional for their goals and the concepts that we are doing. You could do this plant life cycle unit for 2-3 weeks and on the last week, allow your students to craft a flower life cycle craft. If you have a lot of mixed groups, there are templates for different sounds and language targets, so everything is working on their goals.

I also saw a fun craft using two paper plates. You can draw the plant life cycle on one plate and then cut a triangle out of the other plate. Attach the two plates with mini brass paper fasteners. Your students can rotate the plate to share the steps of the plant life cycle.

What Activities and Resources Do You Use for Teaching the Plant Life Cycle?

What resources, crafts, books, or activities do you use to teach the plant life cycle? Share in the comments because I am always on the hunt for more relevant resources.

Using spring vocabulary to teach grammar

Using spring vocabulary to teach grammar

I think we can all say as speech pathologists that planning engaging therapy lessons that cover a lot of goals, and provide meaningful practice can be HARD to do. What if I told you that you could use spring vocabulary to target a LOT of grammar skills and do it for the entire spring season!?

Using spring vocabulary to work on grammar concepts helps provide increased engagements with vocabulary (language-impaired kids need 36 engagements to learn a word), and it helps your students make connections with words that they hear during the spring weather season. In this blog post, I am going to share grammar ideas for your K-2 students, but some can be adapted for upper elementary students too! 

 

Evidence-Based Practices for Grammar

Students with language disorders need to be explicitly taught grammar rules when learning to add new morphemes to a verb or noun. One study found that implicitly and explicitly teaching grammar rules showed significant improvements with the students learning the grammatical forms.

Implicit teaching – giving a lot of exposure of the morpheme without teaching the explanation or rule. So, reading a book to a student with a lot of emphasis on the morpheme is an example of implicitly teaching the grammar rule. During a play activity, the SLP/educator may model a verb tense while playing in hopes the student will begin to use that verb tense.

Explicit teaching – providing direct instruction about the grammar rules and how to use the rule in language.

Tips for how to use spring vocabulary to target grammar skills in speech therapy

Teaching Methods That Will Increase Your Student’s Expressive Grammar Skills

How to use spring vocabulary to teach grammar concepts in speech therapy
  • Teaching the target directly
  • Modeling the target with emphasis
  • Prompting the child to use the target
  • Conversation Recasting the child’s errors on the target – when the SLP models what the child said with the correct grammar and emphasizing the correct morpheme such as “I do like catsssss.” You can read more about this evidence-based practice on this BLOG POST.
  • Providing feedback on the child’s productions

To read more about effective grammar intervention information, you can read my blog post, HERE.

Smith-Lock, K. M., Leitao, S., Lambert, L. & Nickels, L. (2013). Effective intervention for expressive grammar in children with specific language impairment. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 48(3), 265–282.

Easy Ways to Use Spring Vocabulary to Teach Grammar

Use spring vocabulary to teach transition words while comparing and contrasting nouns

With your students, you can work on comparing and contrasting spring-themed nouns. Not only will this help build depth of knowledge with the vocabulary words (i.e, discussing category groups, function, texture, size, shape, location, etc.), you can also work on transition words ‘because,’ ‘although,’ and conjunctions ‘and’ and ‘but.’

You can also work on noun-verb agreement such as “A water bottle has a lid, but a juice box has a seal to punch with a straw when you want to drink it.”

To work on singular and plural noun forms, you can practice when comparing/contrasting words such as hot dog/hamburger.

Hamburgers have a top and bottom bun. Hot dogs have one bun. Hamburgers have a round meat patty and hot dogs have a long stick of meat. 

FREE Compare and Contrast Graphic Organizer

Do you need a visual way to show your students how to compare two nouns? Use this FREE compare and contrast graphic organizer to use with spring nouns.

Here are some good spring noun pairings:

  • garden bag/picnic basket
  • rake/shovel
  • bird/kite
  • bug jar/bug container

If you need more spring compare/contrast cards, there are 18 noun pairings in my spring vocabulary and grammar activities set.

 

Use spring vocabulary to teach grammar skills in speech therapy sessions

Grammar Drill Ideas for Plural Nouns and Third Person Singular

Use spring vocabulary to help your students learn the grammar for marking singular or plural. Make a list of spring items that you may see or use in the springtime. Then, have your students practice marking plurals such as hoses, birds, watering cans, trees, etc.

Another functional drill activity would be to practice third person singular using spring items. Often times, kids like to go bug hunting, so they can talk about what the boy/girl put in the bug jar. For example, you can practice, “He puts three ladybugs in the jar.”

For SLPs that love sensory bins or have a fun jar, use these plastic mini insects (Amazon affiliate link) to have students take turns putting some bugs in the jar. Then, the students can say, “Jeremiah puts a ladybug in the jar.” You can also work on answering “who” questions by asking “Who put in a ladybug?”

If you need spring task cards to work on these skills, they are in my spring grammar and vocabulary sets.

Tips for how to use spring vocabulary to target grammar skills in speech therapy
Tips for how to use spring vocabulary to target grammar skills in speech therapy

Using Spring Vocabulary to Build Grammatically Correct Sentences

Use spring vocabulary in grammatically correct sentences to work on using verbs in functional sentences.

One a piece of paper, you can make a word web with your students to talk about everything that reminds them of spring. After you generate a nice list, have them create grammatically correct sentences with the nouns and verbs. This is a great way to work on past/present verbs, adverbs, prepositional phrases while also working on other skills such as talking about noun-functions, where items are located, and what parts they have. I like having a spring vocabulary poster, so I can talk about everything spring related with my students. It makes the session easy to prep and I know I can cover a lot of goals.

 

Play Grammar Charades with Spring Vocabulary

You can also play charades with your spring vocabulary or spring verbs. This can provide some movement in your session and also allow meaningful practice of grammar targets!

Make a list of spring verbs or gather all your spring verb pictures. Put them in a hat and have students pick a verb. They can act out the verb. Once the group guesses the verb, you can have students practice making sentences with present, past, and future tenses.

 

More Games to Play with Spring Vocabulary

Other fun games you can practice is doing word associations such as with the word ‘blowing’ students can come up with spring vocabulary related to that verb. For example, you can see a kite blowing in the wind, or you can blow bubbles.

Kids also love the game Go Fish, so you can use spring vocabulary or spring verbs as your stimulus items. Another game I like to use is the Flashlight game where you turn off the lights and look for words on the wall. If you own magnetic wands, you can add paper clips to your vocabulary or verb cards, turn them over and have kids select a card. Put a hidden token under one of the cards. The person who finds the token wins! You can read about more magnetic wand ideas HERE.

How Do You Use Spring Vocabulary in Therapy?

I would love to know all the ways you are using spring vocabulary to work on grammar goals. Share your ideas in the comments! If you need more spring speech therapy ideas to use with your mixed groups, check out this replay Facebook LIVE video filled with ideas.

Shared Book Reading Strategies to Build Language

Shared Book Reading Strategies to Build Language

When it comes to planning language therapy, school-based SLPs do not have a lot of time to prep and make materials.

Using shared book reading strategies in speech therapy can be an effective way to plan lessons quickly and implement language intervention techniques that work.

Plus, you can also implement a parent or staff coaching model by showing support staff how to implement shared book reading strategies during classroom instruction. This can help with further generalization of language skills. If you need more information about different collaborative services, check out this BLOG POST.

What Are Shared Book Reading Strategies?

Shared book reading strategies are a set of techniques that adults can use while reading a story to increase a child’s engagement with the story. The goal of using structured interactive book reading techniques is to help enhance the child’s language and literacy skills.

Instead of just reading the book aloud to the child, the adult is uses shared book reading strategies to help the child learn new vocabulary, answer questions about the story, and draw connections with the characters and events.

Using interactive book reading strategies helps struggling readers have support to participate in enjoying the story and it allows children to access books that they may not be able to read on their own.

As speech pathologists, we see students with language impairments on our caseloads. The research shows that when our students oral language improves, their reading comprehension will improve as well!

In fact, there is research that found when language interventions focus on a broad set of oral language skills such as vocabulary, grammar, syntax, narrative skills, and inferencing are linked to showing effective outcomes for student’s reading comprehension.

We can work on all those broad oral language skills using books.

 

shared book reading strategies in speech therapy to build language skills and increase engagement.

Benefits of Shared Book Reading Strategies in Speech Therapy

shared book reading strategies speech therapy ideas to increase language skills

First off, I will just say that if you do not have a ton of time to plan therapy, using books to guide instruction is the way to go! It will save you time planning therapy without losing the effectiveness of the intervention.

Secondly, when you use shared book reading strategies you organically increase student engagement. They are more actively participating during the story, they begin to predict the events in the story, learn that the pictures can provide clues about the story and characters, and it reduces the cognitive demands for processing language.

Using books can be an easy way to incorporate opportunities to work on lots of different skills such as categories, tier II vocabulary, wh-questions, grammar concepts, perspective-taking, and story retell.

And, our students have to use literature in the classroom every day, so if we can enhance their language and ability to follow the events of a story, they will generalize those skills into the classroom setting better.

There is research that shows that when using shared book reading strategies, students learn 1.22 more words on average than when interactive book strategies aren’t used.

shared book reading strategies speech therapy ideas to increase language skills

Types of Shared Book Reading Strategies to Use in Speech Therapy

Before reading the book, you can discuss the title. Have students make predictions about why you chose the book or what they think the story will be about based on the title and picture of the book.

You can also discuss key vocabulary before reading the book to help expose them to concepts or vocabulary they may not have heard before to help with comprehension.

Another easy strategy is to point to the vocabulary in the pictures of the story and provide clear, child-friendly definitions.

Then, during extension activities, you can have the child act out those words and make connections with those target vocabulary words.

Another strategy to build vocabulary is to label pictures in the book, describing the characters while pointing to the pictures or text, and asking questions related to the story.

After reading the book, you can discuss the book with your students. This is when you can ask them to make personal connections with a story. For example, with the book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day, you can ask your students to reflect on a day that wasn’t great. This can be an opportunity to compare/contrast their horrible day to Alexander’s.

This increases the opportunity for students to hear and use the targeted vocabulary from the story.

 

Often times in therapy we may use a book 1-2 times, but with shared book reading, they encourage repeatedly reading stories because it allows students to ask more questions and can talk more about the content as they become more familiar with the story elements.

One way you can increase opportunities for story retell, practicing vocabulary or using verbs from the story is to plan extension activities using toys, sensory bins, visual story maps, etc. I love using my Penguin senosry bin with the book, Tacky the Penguin.

Materials to Help You Implement Shared Book Reading

For all of my whole class and small group therapy sessions, I always use a book to plan my therapy.

I use the shared book reading strategies while I read the book to the group. Then, we discuss the book or review the vocabulary as a group. To keep students engaged, we will break up into group stations in which I have extension activities that align with the book. This allows we to review the vocabulary and verbs from the story.

In all of my push-in unit, I include a Google Slide, a parent newsletter with book suggestions and activities that cover the theme. 

There are also 3-5 activities included for small group. This allows me to use a theme such as the farm, and pick different farm books to use with the students. I can interchange the books in the theme and always have extension activities that align with the vocabulary.

If you need activities to implement shared book reading, I have LOTS of themes. Here is bundle 1 and bundle 2. Check out some of the units and how I use books to facilitate the extension lessons.

Free Story Element Visual Supports

While you read the book, you can work on identifying the story elements with these free story elements visuals. You can put them on popsicle sticks and give each student in the group a couple of story elements to listen for in the book. If you need more ideas with popsicles, head to this BLOG POST. Just click the pink button below to grab your free visuals.

Book Recommendations to Use in Speech Therapy

If you need help with finding books to use in your speech therapy sessions, check out these blog posts:

Diverse Children Books

Summer Books for Speech Therapy

January Read Aloud Books

Top Ten Books for Speech Therapy

Wordless Picture Books for Speech Therapy

Books You Need in Your Speech Library

Beyond the Book- Maya’s Book Nook provides questions, vocabulary to target, and a post-activity to do!

Diverse Books for Speech Therapy by Sweet Southern Speech

Shared Book Reading speech therapy strategies to help increase engagement and build language skills.
Mystery Word Game Your Kids Will Love

Mystery Word Game Your Kids Will Love

This week we played a REALLY fun word game that targeted LOTS of describing skills.  I even found a way to adapt it for some of my articulation students.  Word games for kids are the best way to get engagement with vocabulary building.  When you say “game”, the kids feel like they are having fun and not realizing how much thinking they are doing!  This word game also incorporates inferencing and critical thinking skills.

Word Games For Kids- Mystery Word

 

speech therapy language games for mixed groups

I used picture cards from my HedBanz Game (amazon affiliate link) to help my younger students think of a noun for the mystery word.  There are also these really cool Learning Resources Basic Vocabulary Photo Cards (amazon affiliate link included for your convenience) that would be awesome to use as well!  For my older students, we just brainstormed without pictures.

I made a detective game board to keep track of each player’s points.  You can assign one of the students to be the “points keeper”. These Reusable Dry Erase Pockets are amazing because I only have to print one game sheet to use over and over.

How to play the game

To play this word game, the clinician and/or one of the students in the groups is in charge of choosing a mystery word. Pick a word and write it down where the students cannot see it.

Then, give clue #1 to the group.  So if we picked “donut”. Clue #1 would be “dessert group”.  Each student can take a guess of the mystery word item.  Praise the students who make a “smart guess” for guessing a word that is in the correct category.  Quiz the students if a guess such as “pizza” would be a smart guess and why it would or would not be a smart guess. Give clue #2 such as “You eat it.  You can deep fry it.  You can put frosting on it.”  Allow for students to make a guess.  If a student’s smart guess is correct, then they would earn 4 points.  Continue giving clues until someone in the group guesses correctly.

The person with the most points at the end of the session wins!  Have the student describe the noun in complete sentences after the mystery word has been revealed! 

I adapted this game for my students working on /s/ by having them say the carrier phrase “I guess the item is……….” to work on final /s/.  With my /r/ students, I only picked words that contained /r/! How could you adapt this game to make it funcitonal for your mixed groups? Share in the comments.

speech therapy language games for mixed groups

Use this Speech Therapy Language Game in Teletherapy

speech therapy language games

You can also use this game digitally in your teletherapy sessions using the Google Slides™ presentation included in the free download (click the pink button above to grab.)

You can use the Mystery Word Game as your weekly warmup lesson. Pick a word of the week and students can what the word is based on the clues. Or, you can create many mystery words and have it last as a digital game for weeks!

The Google Slides have linked buttons, so it is easier to navigate the Clue slides during the game. If you are wanting techy tips on how to use Google Slides, check out this YouTube tutorial with all the tips!

Watch the YouTube video below to see how to add images to the Google Slide presentation.

I would love to see your games in action! Make sure to tag me on Instagram @thedabblingspeechie

This game should increase that engagement in your sessions and you don’t have to feel guilty that you are playing a game because it is working on their goals!

Looking for more Google Slide Game Templates? My digital speech and language Google Slide templates include as a Memory, Tic Tac Toe, and 4-in-a-row templates so that you can customize for your caseload. Check it out in my TPT store (there are also templates included to help you plan therapy, organize your materials digitally, and make digital speech and language folders for your students. 

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