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! 

How to Organize Your Themed Therapy Materials

How to Organize Your Themed Therapy Materials

Raise your hand if you start the year off strong with organization, and by the end of September you find yourself scouring through laundry piles of resources and worksheets. I know I can’t be the only one out there! I decided to get serious about organizing my themed therapy materials using a system that would last the whole school year. Here are some ways you can organize themed therapy materials so you don’t have to constantly find your self thinking “I swear I put that articulation packet in this folder…..”

Organize Themed Therapy Materials Using a Crate

One thing I invested in is these file storage crates. They are so easy to find and such a game changer.  You can find these file storage crates at Staples, Target, Walmart, or Amazon. As you can see in the picture, I label each file folder with my themes. When I’m looking for a particular themed activity, I’ll know exactly where to look in the crate which saves me a ton of time. This is especially helpful for organizing themed therapy materials for my whole classroom or push-in activities. When I first started organizing with crates, I quickly realized the file folders were essential! Without them, my materials turned into another pile, but this time they were in a crate instead of my desk!

Use Zip Pouches to Organize Themed Therapy Materials

This blog post will tell you all the best tips for organizing your themed therapy materials, so you can quickly find the activities you need!

Along with the crates, I also love to use these zip or pocket pouches. Like the crates, they are super easy to find and a great organizational investment. These zip pouches are perfect for those themed activities that require a lot of components. For example, crafts, core word squares, books, and sentence strips. It’s super easy to keep all of the themed components in one place with these pouches. They are also very quick to grab and easy to carry from class to class.

A quick tip: if you are interested in buying these pouches, I would recommend going for more durable, plastic ones. These help keep your materials from bending or creasing, and they don’t “flop” as much for easier storage.

Organize Your Story Themed Materials in a Scrapbook Box

This blog post will tell you all the best tips for organizing your themed therapy materials, so you can quickly find the activities you need!

Scrapbook boxes are a great tool to organize themed materials and lesson plans. These boxes are wide and deep enough to store your theme related books and the companion activities. I love these scrapbook boxes because I can use them to store the books I want, the activities, any pouches I have for my loose cards and materials, craft examples I want to use, and all of my visual supports. They are so easy to label, grab, use, and reorganize at the end of my day. I’ve cut down so much time on my planning and organizing once I started using these scrapbook boxes.

Check out my video on Facebook or Instagram to see what my scrapbook box and pouch organizational systems look like using an ocean theme!

Use Bags and Bins to Keep Sensory Bins Neat

One thing I love to incorporate into my therapy are themed sensory bins. However, these sensory bins and the loose materials I put in them can get super messy and time consuming to organize. Using gallon-sized baggies and a storage bin has helped keep my sensory bin materials neat. First, I store the loose cards or small toys I’ll be using in my sensory bin in a gallon-sized zip lock baggie. Then, I store the “sensory” materials in their own zip lock baggies as well. I place all of these baggies in a storage bin. Then, when it’s time to assemble my sensory bin, I can simply pick the therapy targets/cards/toys I need, the sensory material I want to use, and place them all in my sensory bin.

More Ways to Get Organized!

This blog post will tell you all the best tips for organizing your themed therapy materials, so you can quickly find the activities you need!

Looking for more ways to get your office or your materials organized? Take a look at my 7 Tips for Organization.

If you’re an SLP that has an articulation/phonology heavy caseload, then you’ll want to take a peak at my previous blog post where I talk about setting up articulation folders to help with organization.

I love seeing how other SLP’s get organized and what works best for them. Let me know in the comments your favorite way to stay organized throughout your school year!

Monster Speech Therapy Materials That Are Fun!

Monster Speech Therapy Materials That Are Fun!

If you are new to planning therapy around themes, then you will love all the ideas in this blog post. Today, I am sharing about monster speech therapy materials that are fun for your students. I think you will like using them, too!

 

To plan therapy around a theme, you simply pick a topic or a book that you want to use in therapy. Then, you find books and activities that will support your theme. By using a theme, you can heavily target specific vocabulary used with that theme. Amazon affiliate links are included for your convenience.

Using monsters as your next theme is perfect for increasing engagement with your students, because most kids seem to love talking about those silly creatures.

Monster Books You Can Use in Speech Therapy

There are a ton of great monster-themed books. You can work on story retell, vocabulary, answering wh- questions, describing, grammar, and social skills using books. I listed some of my faves below and what target areas you can focus on. 

The Color Monster by Anna Llenas is great for teaching emotions.

How to Catch a Monster by Adam Wallace can target vocabulary and story retell.

Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley is great for students working on simple vocabulary and language.

The Monster Who Lost His Mean by Tiffany Strelitz Haber can be used for social skills and also has opportunities to work on phonological awareness skills. 

Monsters Love School by Mike Austin has a ton of unique verbs to target while reading the story.

Little Shop of Monsters by R.L.Stine has so many great adjectives and describing words to introduce to your students.

 

What are your favorite monster-themed books to use in your therapy sessions? Share in the comments. Please let me know what skills you target, too!

Build-A-Monster Speech Therapy App

 

Making your very own silly monster is very motivating for children! Your students will love creating their own monster using the Sago Mini Monsters App. This app is under $5, so it is affordable for you SLPs on a budget.

 

With this Mini Monsters app, you can target the following skills:

-Initiating requests and comments

-Working on describing skills

-Targeting verbs

– Practicing sequencing steps to make the monster

 Watch a YouTube tutorial to see the monster app in action. How would you use this app in therapy? Let me know in the comments!

 

Target Following Directions and Prepositions with Silly Monsters

Have your students make their own monster puppets with the FREE monster puppet printables in my TPT store. Use popsicle sticks (Amazon affiliate links included) and tape to create fun monster therapy materials.

You can work on following directions and using prepositions with your monster puppets. 

With your monster puppets, you can also work on has/have and “who” questions. Place the monsters on the table and put mini objects next to the monsters. Students can explain what each monster has with a grammatically correct sentences.

Ask your students “Who has ____?” or give clues about an item and have your students identify “who” has the item. 

 

Reinforcer Games For Mixed Groups

When I have a group working on different goals, one way I keep the students engaged is by having a generic game to play in between turns.

If you want to use a monster theme in your mixed group, then you can use this roll and color monster game that is a FREE printable in my store. You just print the sheets and grab a die and the stimulus items your students need to work on in speech therapy. Whatever number the student rolls on the die is how many monsters they get to color. Whoever colors all of their monsters first wins!

Learning Resources has a Twist and Match Monsters game that is great to use as a reinforcer for any goal. You can have some fun describing the monsters as you play, too.

Make Monster Paper Bag Puppets

I saw this paper bag monster puppet idea on I Heart Crafty Things. I thought it would be perfect for my younger students. During the craft you can work on requesting, commenting and the basic concept “on.” Then, your students can use the puppets to work on pretend play, following directions, doing verb actions and more!

You just need paper bags (I found color bags on Amazon), construction paper, scissors, and glue. If you want to use googly eyes, Dollar Tree has packages or you can use these eye stickers that I found on Amazon.

Teach Word Opposites and Adjectives

Work on teaching adjectives with the feed the monster activity. Students can work on describing the items by adjectives, as well as work on verb tenses.

To get some movement going in your therapy room, tape the word opposite monsters around your room. Then, students use the checklist to find the word opposites that the monsters are chomping on. These activities will help your wiggly students stay focused. See the picture below for an example of this word opposite activity! It is all part of my Monster Push-In Language Lesson Plan Guides for K-2 students.

Have your students work on initiating communication, describing, and practicing sequencing with this design a monster file folder activity. Kids will feel motivated to participate knowing that they get some say in what the monster will look like. Need these materials for your K-2 caseload? Grab them in my TPT store. There are a lot more tools included, such as a Google Slides presentation, a newsletter home to parents, book recommendations, YouTube video links, and more!

Need More Monster Speech Therapy Ideas?

In this blog post, I shared some other monster speech therapy ideas you can use with your students. My students especially loved making their own monsters with play dough!

What Monster Speech Therapy Materials Do You Use?

Do you have a fave monster speech therapy material you love to use with your students? I would love to know about it! You know I am all about adding new materials to my speech therapy stash. Let me know your favorite material in the comments. 

Body In The Group With A Gingerbread Man Hunt

Body In The Group With A Gingerbread Man Hunt

During the month of December, I like to keep things festive, yet simple. And I like to use the same theme/book with as many groups as I can. The Gingerbread Man is a theme I use every year with my younger students. We can work on story retelling, vocabulary and perspective taking skills. Check out these activities I did last year to work on improving perspective taking using gingerbread man cookies. I find that the holiday season opens up opportunities for teaching perspective-taking and thinking about others. Today, I wanted to share a Body in the Group lesson I did with my 3-5th Special Day Classroom students using a gingerbread man hunt.

Body in the group activity using a Gingerbread Man Hunt to work on social thinking. #socialthinking #dabblingslp #autism #socialskills #bodyinthegroup #pragmatics #sped

What Is Body In The Group?

Body in the Group is a vocabulary term used from the Social Thinking Curriculum to explain how people demonstrate that they are part of a group conversation or social situation when they physically keep their body in a proximity of the group. When students work on group projects, or talk together on the playground, they show that they are thinking about group members by positioning their bodies nearby.

By teaching our students the concept of having their bodies in the group, we build their social awareness. They can better understand how to show others that they are thinking about them just by where they position their bodies.

What Is Brain In The Group?

Have you ever been in a place where your body is physically sitting in a group, but your brain is far, far away. Not sure why I just thought about my last department meeting? Hmmmmm……

We can teach our students the importance of having both their bodies and their brains in the group in order to show others that they are thinking about them. We show others that our brains are in the group by contributing relevant questions and comments that are on topic with what the speaker is talking about. This concept impacts our students in academic and social situations a LOT! If our students do not have their brains in the group, they miss a lot of information in the conversation. Typically, when my student’s brains aren’t in the group, they make off-topic comments. They will also talk only about their interests. When our brain is out of the group, this makes people feel like we aren’t listening to them. Which translates as rude behavior.

How You Can Work On Body In The Group On A Gingerbread Man Hunt

Has your school ever done a gingerbread man hunt during December? The teacher usually tells the students that there is a gingerbread man on the loose around the school. Students have to read the clues left by the gingerbread man to figure out where he went. It is a pretty fun activity that pairs well with the book!

Teach body in the group to your students with social skill needs by going on a gingerbread man hunt. #dabblingslp #socialthinking #bodyinthegroup #socialskills #sped #speechtherapy

I decided that I wanted to do this activity with my K-2 and 3-5 SDC classrooms. The teachers and staff helped with the activity. I printed up a FREE gingerbread man hunt and bought candy canes as the end of the hunt class surprise.

Teach body in the group to your students with social skill needs by going on a gingerbread man hunt. #dabblingslp #socialthinking #bodyinthegroup #socialskills #sped #speechtherapy

Before we went, I went over the hidden social rules that when we go somewhere as a group, we have to keep our bodies close by, so we stay as a group. We role played standing and walking as a group (no lines with with this activity).

Body in the Group Lesson Plan During The Gingerbread Man Hunt

As we looked for the clues and walked to the new locations to find the next clue, students had to practice staying in the group. You would be amazed how hard this was for some of my students. During the activity, I had to pause as we walked to remind students who had their body in the group and who didn’t. We talked about how others could be feeling when people walked away from the group. Some perspectives you could share with your students are as follows:

  • The teachers worry that you will leave the group.
  • When your body is out of the group, other students will be annoyed that the class has to stop the hunt until your body is back in the group.
  • Teachers and students will think you aren’t interested in doing the hunt if your body leaves the group.
  • Students who walk ahead of the group might make others feel like you aren’t thinking about them. You are only worried about getting to the next location and not waiting for friends.
  • Students may be thinking, “Where is he/she going?”

What other perspectives/skills can you teach your students during this activity?

Work With Older Students and Need Holiday Therapy Resources?

I know a lot of times SLPs working with middle school and high school students struggle with finding themed resources that appeal to their students. The gingerbread man hunt, for example, is a great idea for the younger crowd. I was thinking you could try this same activity, but go on a hunt for a stash of snowballs. Not sure how your students would like it, but I know my middle school students in the mod-severe classrooms would probably get into that type of hunt. With my older students, I use YouTube videos from the Elf movie and Simon’s cat holiday/winter videos. These video clips are great for working on vocabulary, summarizing, perspective taking and predicting! And they are free, low prep and funny (this is the SLP’s dream). Check out those blog posts for how I use them and  to find links to some of the videos. Planning activities for your life skill classrooms? You can make sugar cookies with gingerbread cookie cutters to give to family or friends. Or, pick a gingerbread recipe and prepare the treat for school staff members.

What Holiday Activities Do You Use To Target Social Pragmatics And Body In The Group?

I would love to know what activities and lessons you plan using a winter or holiday theme to work on social pragmatic skills. Share in the comments or email me at feliceclark@thedabblingspeechie.com

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