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
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.
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!
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:
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!
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!
I firmly believe that the life of an SLP should be musically documented daily. It would keep things interesting, right? Anyways, I have a new compilation of songs that SLPs must sing to their speech students. If you want some more fun Songs SLP Should Sing you can check out my blog post HERE (love #9) and HERE (#2 sing it the first month of school).
Sometimes our emotions in the therapy room are better emulated in song. I hope you love my latest recommendations and I encourage you to belt those tunes out at work. It will keep ya in a way better mood during therapy, I promise.
Songs SLPs Should Sing To Their Speech Students
1. Whoop there it is – Tag Team
This song should be reserved any time a student makes a sound for the VERY first time. It is the perfect student feedback when they hear ya sing “whoomp there it is.”
2. We Can Work It Out- The Beatles
Whenever things are a bit tricky in speech therapy, you can bust out this song with your student.
3. Dust Yourself Off And Try Again
Sometimes our students fail in therapy. They share a wrong answer, say the wrong thing or don’t get the right placement for their speech sound. When this happens, you can remind them that when they fail, it is okay! You just have to try again.
4. I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas
To get a positive mood flowing in your speech room, you can sing “I gotta feeling, that today’s gonna be a good, good day.”
5. Emotions by Mariah Carey
Whenever you are feeling an “Emotion” about your students, you can bust out “You got me feeling emotions.” Or you can sing this right before you play “emotion charades” lol.
6. Try by Pink
Sing this song to your students when you need to encourage them to try, even when it is tough! “You gotta get up and try, try, try.”
7. This Is How We Do It by Montell Jordan
Anytime you are teaching a new skill or reviewing the behavioral expectations, you can start it out with “This is how we do”!
8. Say by John Mayer
To encourage your students to use their words, express themselves or to share their opinions or feelings, you can sing a little John Mayer to them. “Say what you need to say. Say what you need to say.”
9. I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Beatles
When you need to hold your students hands on the way to speech, you can sing “I want to hold your hand.” as you lock hands. I always have a few students that NEED to be holding hands or else they may wander off.
10. Somethin’ Bad by Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert
This might be a song you sing in your head. Our SLP intuition is pretty strong. We know when a behavior is about to escalate or when your best laid plans are going to crumble. When you feel like “somethin’ bad about happen”, just hum this song in your head or out loud.
What songs would you sing at work to your speech students?
Working as a SPED team can be hard at times. One day, we’re feeling confident and proud in our jobs and the next, we feel inadequate. Some days, I feel like a giant failure. And there are days when I do fail. Over the years though, I have found that the best SPED teams are the ones comprised of educators who strive to connect, show respect, have empathy, and encourage each other to do better. Today, I wanted to share 10 Ted Talks For Your SPED Team that can help inspire and get your team more connected.
I know that I need inspiration to keep fighting the good fight to help my students become better communicators and learners. I have found that certain Ted Talks have helped me to keep going when I was down in the dumps. As a SPED team we have to have each others backs. Today, I wanted to share 10 Ted Talks For Your SPED team to watch to help build your partnership.
10 Ted Talks For Your SPED Team
1. The Power Of Vulnerability by Brene Brown is a great Ted Talk that shares about the power of vulnerability and having empathy for others. So often, we need this skill with our IEP team and with the families we work with during the year.
2. Everyday Leadership by Drew Dudley is a great reminder how we can be leaders every day just by being present and sharing our gifts with others. I know sometimes I can get down and turn to negativity. We forget that we can impact each other just by an encouraging word, a Starbuck’s coffee or listening to our teammates.
3. The Myth of Average by Todd Rose shares some very interesting views on education and how we should be engineering lessons for our students. It is a great reminder that we shouldn’t be teaching to the average student! I loved watching this one.
5. A Guerilla Gardener In South Central LA by Ron Finley – shares his story about how he made a food forest in front of his yard to help better his community. He inspired me with his story because Ron saw a problem, got tired and took action. So often, we want someone else to take care of the mess. When we step in with the small daily actions, we can see change.
8. How To Speak So That People Want To Listen by Julian Treasure shares some very good information about how to get people to listen to us. We want parents to follow our recommendations. SLPs want teachers to try strategies in the classrooms to help students with communication. SPED teachers want support from their administration and general education teachers.
9. What Kids Wish Their Teachers Knew by Kyle Schwartz talks about how we can better listen to our students. Our children with speech and language impairments may struggle with communicating their ideas. Sometimes we overlook them, get frustrated with their behaviors or discount that they have something share that is important. This reminded me that my students are complex little humans who can teach me how to better connect and serve them.
SLPs during the first week of school can be, well…..interesting. We have to be flexible those first couple of weeks back because things just change at a moments notice. Who am I kidding!? We have to be flexible ALL. YEAR. LONG. Although, that first week of school can be increasingly difficult to be flexible when transitioning back to managing a caseload. For some of you, a GIANT caseload.
There are many emotions an SLP goes through during the first week of school. I thought, “What person could express those SLP emotions than Tom Cruise?”. Some of my favorite movies from him are Jerry McGuire, A Few Good Men, Far and Away and Minority report.
SLPs During The 1st Week Of School
It is always a little more fun to talk about the successes and challenges we face in the speech world through a movie clip!
1. When the SLP finishes their speech schedule for the year.
2. Being told that you have to move all your stuff to a new room because they needed your space for something more important like a lab, or storage for curriculum or who knows what else.
3. Trying to convince the teachers to let you take there kids at a certain day or time for speech services.
4. The SLP trying to find out how LARGE their caseload is REALLY going to be this year.
5. The SLP trying to find someone who will listen to them about needing supplies, tests, resources, trainings, etc.
6. The SLP trying to explain to their middle school students that you are there to help them improve their speech and language skills.
7. When your Starbuck’s coffee completes you, so you can do your job proficiently that first month back.
8. Reminding your students that you are back and they have speech services.
9. When an SLP is on their 8th draft of their speech schedule and a teacher or admin wants to change the schedule.
10. Making the rounds to all the teachers to share about their student’s speech and language goals for the year.
Well, there ya have it. Thank you Tom Cruise for helping me explain the life of a busy SLP to those that get it. What other emotions, successes, challenges do you face the first week back to school as an SLP?
I don’t think I have met an SLP or any educator for that matter that has said, “Stress. That never happens to me.” Working as a school SLP is very stressful. Raise your hand if you feel like a “stressed out SLP”!? Today, I wanted to talk about chronic stress on the SLP and how it can effect our well being and job performance. Some of the biggest “stresses” with the job of an SLP is the paperwork, managing IEP’s, planning and conducting therapy and progress monitoring all of your students on your caseload. There have been days when I have wanted to cry, hide and go get my job back at Starbuck’s.
Acute stress vs. chronic stress
Stress is how our body and brain reacts to any demand that is placed on us. SLPs have lots of demands placed on them, hence, why we are stressed lol. Acute stress is caused by those unpredictable events or situations that happen outside of our control. When we experience acute stress, our bodies release hormones to help our bodies/brains deal with the situation. For example, we may have acute stress from running an intense IEP meeting or having to write three speech reports in a week.
Chronic stress is caused from situations and events that are repeatedly happening to us, resulting in the release of the stress hormones. Many scientists feel that the human body was not designed to endure constant stress. When our bodies over produce the stress hormone, it can have negative affects on our bodies. Examples of chronic stress could be going through a divorce, while having to manage a caseload of 70 with many IEP meetings, not having supportive co-workers and trying to raise two children on your own.
When To Know You Have Chronic Stress
Stress is a funny term because as an SLP community, I think we often associate stress as a negative impact on our lives. Research shows that stress can be good if it helps us to be more productive. It is when we have hit our level of “overwhelm” that stress begins to negatively impact us. There is a fine balance of allowing stress in our jobs and personal lives. When we do not manage our stress, it can impact our lives significantly. Furthermore, stress is very personal to the individual. That being said, stress varies from person to person and that feeling of “overwhelm” may look different from one SLP to another.
Below is a list of different symptoms that people with chronic stress may be exhibiting. This may help you gauge if you are managing your stress well. Exhibiting many of these symptoms may mean that you are dealing with chronic stress in your life.
Why is chronic Stress Harmful
Chronic stress impacts our mind and body. It can begin to rob us of the physical and emotional things we want to enjoy in life.
How Chronic Stress Impacted Me
I took some time this year to reflect on the BIG stresses in my life and made an action plan for how I was going to manage the stress until the end of the school year. I know that MUCH of my stress were external factors that were out of my control and I needed to find a better way to survive. When I looked at the list of symptoms, I as exhibiting some insomnia, memory issues, mild depression and physical body aches and pains. I loved reading this post about the 5 Year Burn Out from the Queen’s Speech. It really gave me some good perspective about my job as an SLP and as a person.
Solutions To Help Reduce Chronic Stress
Advocate for your needs. Let your employer know that you are overwhelmed and need assistance.
Acting as if you can complete all the job tasks in a reasonable work day only makes administration think YOU can do the job successfully.
Exercise at least 3 times a week. This has helped me release my stress and manage my weight and eating better. I have more energy for my job and my focus has improved.
Limited coffee or energy drinks. I will admit that I have not given up coffee, but I reduced my intake of caffeine. When the effects of caffeine wear off, you can feel sleepy and sluggish.
Boost your mood. I have a music ready to play at the end of the day or when I have to cook dinner. Find something that helps boost your mood.
Work on getting a good night’s rest. I try to turn off the electronics an hour before bed and read a book and/or the bible. Sleep makes all the difference and stimulating your brain with TV or computer doesn’t help your body get ready for sleep.
Get organized. Invest time to set up systems and ways for your to stay on top of everything in your job and life. When you plan ahead, you reduce a lot of stress.
SLPs need to remember to take care of themselves
Most SLPs got into this field because they wanted to help people. We are naturally giving spirits and often put others first before ourselves. I think it is a very admirable quality, but when we don’t remember ourselves, we chip away at that giving, loving spirit. You don’t know how hard it has been for me to put these next steps of advice into place, but I have and continue to work on these things.
Let your YES be YES and your NO be NO. Don’t commit to something that internally you don’t have the time to complete. People pleasing will get you in a negative mindset and causes you to busy up your life. You can read about my 10 Phrases Every SLP should say at work to help with setting boundaries at work.
Seek counseling or some sort of support group. I attended some counseling sessions to help with the stress in my life and also went to a bible study that was geared towards drawing me back to relying on God for support in times of trials and STRESS.
Do something YOU enjoy every day……I take a hot shower to help ease my mind, hang with my kids, chill with my hubby, and listen to music when I need to revive my spirit.
Laugh….I am trying to find the joy of laughter in my students, my kids, on youtube, talking with friends, reading funny books and watching movies that will give me a laugh. Laughter relieves stress, so put more in your life!!
When your current STRESS isn’t going away any time soon
Accept what you can or cannot do, cry, whine, and moan for a few minutes with a friend. Then, make a plan for how you are going to get through the stress. Don’t let your workload stay the same for next year!! Make the necessary changes now even if that means looking for new employment. With the help from your admin, you may be able to or reduce or change your assignment. This are all easier said that done, so make sure you have great friends that are there for you along the way!
How do you manage stress? What advice could you give to an incoming CFY for how to start their career off right?
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