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!
This week I wanted to share about some resources that will help you with doing teletherapy with your middle school students. It has been a few years since I have worked with those ladies and gents, but I remember it like it was yesterday. For many years, I worked at a middle school and to get these friends excited about seeing me was a daily challenge sometimes.
Distance Learning Resources for Middle School
News-O-Matic is an app for your iPad that is offering free subscriptions until June 30th for families and teachers. I love that there are daily articles and students can choose what they want to read about. There are different levels, and it can be translated into Spanish. You can read more about the app HERE.
Jeopardy Labs or Jeopardy PowerPoint were two digital materials I used to create custom Jeopardy games for my students. If you get the PowerPoint version, just make sure to “save as” and re-title the version. You can make a fluency one, articulation, vocabulary, and social language to then use in teletherapy or assign in Google Classroom. Jeopardy Labs is a cool tool because you can use games already created by other users. So, you could share the workload with your other fellow middle school SLPs and each creates a game and then share.
UseYouTubeto use for wordless shorts, Simon’s Cat videos,America’s Funniest Videosor your other favorite channels to engage learning. If you need a social pragmatic Google Slide with all the videos, make a copy of mineHERE. I LOVE wordless short videos too. You can target so many skills with those, so mixed groups are easier with these types of videos.
Some of my favorite wordless videos to use are Simon’s Cat videos. They are so versatile because they are mini video comics, short in length, and always entertaining. You can read more about these videos HERE.
Using EdPuzzle with your Middle School Students
EdPuzzleis a website that you can take a video and add in questions for your student to answer while watching the video. This allows you to track their comprehension. It will pause the video when you embed a question. Plus, you can search for other lessons already created and assign them to students on Google Classroom. You can see a tutorial about how to create your own EdPuzzle video on my YouTube channel. Speech Time Fun also has some EdPuzzle videos already prepped for you that can be used in teletherapy sessions.
Check out this YouTube video to see how you can use your favorite videos to create lessons for your middle school teletherapy sessions.
Free Websites to Use for Your Middle School Teletherapy
If you haven’t used NewsELA or ReadWorks, you seriously need to go check them out. You can find FREE articles that are at your student’s age level and interest to use in therapy.
Pick a topic that your student’s want to discuss. On one side of the screen put the visual support for asking questions or making comments. On the other side, adjust your website tab and upload the resource using your Kami Chrome extension. This extension allows you to annotate on the PDF. Share your entire screen. While the students are discussing the topic you can give visual feedback about their body language, questions/comments, talking too much or too little. This gives them the visual feedback they need to self monitor their social pragmatics in a conversational setting.
You can use Flipgrid to have your students respond with a facial expression, practice answering a question while staying on topic, or work on answering and asking questions with you as a distance learning activity. Watch the tutorial above to see how you can get started with this tool.
What Digital Materials Do You Use for Middle School Teletherapy Lessons?
What digital tools do you use with your middle school students?
Do you have any favorite Chrome extensions that help you in your teletherapy sessions?
I would love to know of any digital programs, YouTube videos or games that you have found to be engaging for your students. Share in the comments!
Treating the /r/ phoneme can be tricky, tiresome and just plain annoying for both the clinician and student! I haven’t met an SLP in the elementary, middle school or high school level that doesn’t need more speech therapy materials for r.
The best advice I got from a veteran SLP when I asked how to teach a child to say /r/ was “just grab a pair of gloves, a tongue depressor and hope for the best!”
Dwight Schrute sums up most SLP’s feelings about the /r/ phoneme in his office video clip! He says “R is one of the most menacing of sounds! That’s why they call it murder and not muck duck!” My thoughts exactly Dwight. Here is a post by SLP Natalie Snyders about getting a good /r/. There is also some really good ideas from Playing With Words 365 about teaching the /r/ phoneme.
2. Figuratively speeching has a great articulation placemat set that is great for sending home for additional practice. It provides activities for the whole week on one sheet with letters included to send home!
3. Primary Punch has some wonderful home practice worksheets that are print n’ go!
4. Erik Raj has these super fun Mini homework sheets for articulation. They have great silly questions with the /r/ phoneme that students can discuss at home. Great resource for working on carry over! Plus, it doesn’t waste lots of paper. I will have my students try to discuss the question with a friend, the teacher and a parent.
Speech Therapy Materials For /R/
5. My print n’ go flashcards have been very useful in my speech room. You can either print up, hole punch and hold on a key ring or staple together. I started putting my flashcards in plastic cover protectors and having students cross off the words as they say their /r/ sound. Makes for easy therapy prep and LOTS of practice. I store in a three hole punch folder, so I can send home with the student if I want them to practice over the weekend.
6. Sublime Speech has these handy Articulation Strips for /r/ that are great to work on /r/ at the word and single sentence level. They are easy to store and have visual cues on the strips to help with reminding students to think about their /r/.
7. Miss V’s Speech World has a great 52 Weekly /r/ homework worksheets product that makes planning home practice activities a breeze!! They last for the entire week and have creative fun activities for the students to complete.
8. Dollar Challenge Articulation Activity from Speech Room News is a great activity to get students to get 100 trials per session. She includes /r/ initial, r-blends and vocalic r sheets as well as homework sheets!!
9. Articulation Secret Codes from Kiwi Speech are fun worksheets that keep the students engaged while you are drilling with each student in the group. These are great for home practice activities too!
10. Busy Bee Speech has a great product to help with working on generalizing speech sounds into spontaneous speech. Her Articulation Carry-Over Activities are perfect for therapy sessions or sending home to work on structured conversation.
What resources do you use and love for treating the /r/ phoneme? I would love to add some more resources to my therapy materials stash. Did I mention that I have 10 kids working on /r/ this year?
I use the vocabulary terms expected and unexpected behaviors from Social Thinking to identify behaviors students are exhibited in different social situations. Expected and unexpected behaviors allows me to acknowledge and praise my students when they are being “expected” for the situation as well as directly let them know when they are being unexpected without lecturing them for 2 minutes about why something is not okay to do.
Last year at the middle school, I primarily used expected vs. unexpected terms with my social emotional students as well as my students with social skill deficits. They learned the terms very quickly; however, when I would verbally point out their behavior (both good and not so good), I got two responses. I either received defensive comments and student denial about the action/words/tone of the behavior or continued behavior in which I was verbally monitoring their behavior throughout the entire session.
As I would further explain how my students behavior was making me feel, I was met with resistance, rude overtures and sometimes escalated behaviors. Most people don’t like to be told they are being unexpected! The struggle with our students with social skill deficits is that they do not naturally pick up on social cues to adjust their behavior independently. SOMEONE has to call them out, so they can learn to survive in the world. Most jobs rely heavily on being able to successfully interactive with other people and if you fail at that, it doesn’t matter if you are an amazing at your job because people remember how they feel rather than the actual job that was performed.
I decided that I would implement a visual monitoring system, so that I could take informal data about the percentage of time the student was exhibiting expected behavior, provide a visual cue (so, I could reduce verbal cues aka lectures), and use as an incentive to point out successes with expected behaviors. Download my easy template HERE or just click on the photo above. I just glued to construction paper and laminated, so I could use a dry erase marker with it.
During the session, I let the student know that I will be visually tracking their behavior. If they have more unexpected behaviors than expected, they do not earn their incentive (for my higher students, I did 5 stars = hot cheetos, jolly rancher, ipad time, game, etc). As I see behaviors, I mark expected or unexpected. If they are being unexpected, I mark unexpected and ignore undesirably comments/behaviors. I quickly try to mark expected to show the student that I am notice both good and bad behaviors.
With one student in particular, every time I tried to explain that his comments were sounding very rude, I would get a big argument about how he was not doing A,B, or C. I got the okay from parents to address his behaviors with the terms kind words/tone vs. rude words/tone. This student would either use rude words or he would say something in a very rude tone for very minimal things such as “I don’t want to play a game” or “I will not seat over there.” I did the exact same system and did not verbally engage the student when I marked rude comments. He quickly figured out that he had to adjust his behavior to kind because he really didn’t like seeing marks on the rude side. This worked for most of my students, but some students may escalate in behavior if they see the “negative” side, so that is something to consider when using this.
How do you work on self monitoring skills? I would love to add more tools in my toolbox!
Breaking down social situations and the skills needed to be successful in those situations can be difficult. Social language is very complex and one wrong move can destroy a social exchange. Today, I wanted to show you how you can use social behavior mapping in speech therapy to teach perspective taking and how a person’s behavior affects others.
I am a BIG fan of materials that are easy to store, require little to no prep and can be used flexibly in therapy. Today, I am going to share a great resource from Social Thinking. If you aren’t familiar with the social thinking curriculum, I would recommend buying their Thinking About You, Thinking About Me book or Think Social! book to get started. They are awesome resources that will help enhance your social skills therapy! Today, I am going to be sharing about there Social Behavior Mapping Poster.
Some of the vocabulary taught with this curriculum, uses the terms expected behavior and unexpected behavior. In different social contexts, we have to adjust our behavior, so that we are being expected because we want people to have pleasant, good thoughts about us. For example, when we are watching a football game, it is expected to scream and cheer loudly at the television. However, if we did that behavior at a library, we would be exhibiting unexpected behaviors because what is expected at the library is for everyone to whisper or stay quiet while looking for books.
For our students with social skill deficits, understanding how their “expected” and “unexpected” behaviors affect people is very difficult. They struggle with picking up on non-verbal cues, tone of voice and interpreting ambiguous/sarcastic verbal messages. Some of my students struggle with “seeing” how their behavior affects others as well as understanding that you have to change your behavior in different contexts.
This poster allows the therapist or student to write information on the poster with a dry erase marker, so you can use it all the time. This allows the therapist to tailor the lesson to specific situations the student may need to process through.
What the Social Behavior Mapping Poster Includes
There are four columns with different questions to answer about the behaviors. Here is what is listed in the four columns:
My behavior that is expected/unexpected for the situation
Others feelings about our behaviors
How others treat me based on how they feel about my behavior
How I feel based on how I am treated in the situation
You can chose a general situation such as “lunch time” and map out behaviors that are general to all students, or you can tailor the behavior mapping specific to what the student is exhibiting during that time. I have done both because I have some students that become very resistant and escalated in behavior when I point out their not so great behavior.
I love how we can analyze the different feelings/emotions others may feel as well as how the person may be feeling. We can compare/contrast the affects of expected/unexpected behavior and then think of ways to use more expected behavior in that situation. I am also able to incorporate “thinking bubbles vs. talking bubbles” with this lesson as well.
The only downfall of using a dry erase poster is that you don’t have anything tangible to send home with parents or to give to teachers. So, a quick fix I thought of was snapping a photo with your IPAD or phone and emailing it to parents/teachers!
This poster is only $13!! What a deal! I have found working at the middle school that less is more in terms of materials and this helped me tremendously with planning effective therapy. This is a great tool to use as a warm up if you are having students practice having expected behaviors when playing a game, having a conversation, working in a group, etc. It gets their brains ready to be social thinkers. Do you have this poster? What do you love about using it?
Social Thinking wants to give one of MY followers a Social Behavior Mapping Poster!!! Enter below to win.
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