A school year often starts by getting acquainted with new students. You may know nothing about them except for a check mark indicating special education services on the registration records. Often the record hasn’t been updated for a year and isn’t very accurate. If you hit the jackpot, you might actually get a record containing a current evaluation and the last progress report.
I love when parents have kept all the paperwork and can give you updated paperwork from the previous school. In some cases, technology has improved the ability to get current records by linking records across schools. Sometimes it takes weeks before everything comes together. Meanwhile, you need to figure out what your students need so you can form your schedule and help teachers meet the needs in their classrooms.
To start out the new year, I usually take out one of my conversation ice breakers. It gets students talking and gives you an idea of where to start with them in the coming year. One of my favorites is a suction cup ball you often find at Target, The Dollar Store, Walmart, or any party favors section of a store. You could also use a dice or spinner with numbers.
I really like the suction ball. Everyone likes to throw a ball at a target and it is quite engaging even for reluctant students.
You then have them help you write questions and number them. Here are some examples: 1. Did you take a road trip during the summer? 2. Did you learn anything fun? 3. Did you get anything new? 4. Did you eat any fun foods? 5. Did you see any movies? 6. Did you read any books?
I draw a target on a white board with an erasable marker making a few rings and target areas. I label the rings with numbers 1-6.
Students take turns throwing the ball at the target and answering the questions according to the area hit. Fellow students are then asked to think up a follow up question according to the answer and topic.
I like this activity because students of any age and ability can do it. I have plenty of opportunities to observe their speech and language skills. I can observe students in a mixed group and see how they interact. I can use this activity to see how a student answers questions, stays on topic, and contributes to a topic that has already been started. It goes fairly quickly because turns do not take long.
I hope you have a good beginning to your new school year.
It is that time of year when new SLPS are beginning or will soon begin their 1st SLP experiences. Since I don’t have an assignment to start the new school year, I am finding myself getting quite nostalgic about the whole thing. This time of year I can’t help but reflect back and marvel that I survived it all. I also have to laugh about some of the craziness. I know some things have improved over the years, but a lot remains the same, for instance scheduling has always been a nightmare.
We often want to be accomodating to our teachers and administration. Unfortunately, we often become the default for tasks “somebody” has to do. People don’t know what we do so we become the “somebody”. In some states, SLPs are considered licensed teaching positions and are assigned duties such as recess, lunchroom, and before and after school dismissal monitoring. Of course this doesn’t take into consideration that we accomodate all grade levels in our schedule and therefore use all hours of the day for working with students and having parent meetings. This gets even more complicated if you are in more then one school and more than one school assigns you duties. It is important to become assertive about your duties and set up your schedule early on before you get overloaded. Make a nice copy of that schedule and keep it handy. I’ve had to use my schedule to justify not being assigned a duty. You may need to remind an administrator that you need that time to see students and using your time to do recess duty is not cost effective for special education funds.
After many frustrating years of scheduling I found a few hacks to make it easier. Most teachers have to produce a class schedule early on. I asked teachers at our first staff meeting to provide a copy of their schedule with circled times when I can see students. I would then have the full schedule of each teacher and possible therapy times. The office or attendance system often provided the student list by assigned teachers. This with the teacher schedule gave me the information to set up my schedule. I would then make a tentative schedule. I then emailed or talked to those teachers about the assigned times for their students. This way we needed less correspondence to get things rolling and they could respond by email.
I try to schedule students together according to their goals but this doesn’t always work out. After many years, I found out this wasn’t as important as I first thought. It was easier to schedule students from the same grade levels or classrooms. In most cases therapy could be adapted to meet multiple needs in a group. Since grade levels were often in the same halls or wings I could get students to alert the next group when it was their time to come or I could work in a classroom with multiple students. i found less wasted time with this method.
Don’t forget to give yourself testing and paperwork times. It’s tempting to use that for student therapy time to make smaller groups, but don’t. It is an area that is sensitive to a lot of people to include parents, teachers and administrators. You need that time to complete assessments in a timely manner.
I found one of the hardest things was having an actual lunch break. It was Murphy’s Law that my lunch time would be prime time for therapy time for multiple groups. My lunch was often at the end of the school day before running off to a meeting.
I hope you found some tidbits to use in this post. I hope everyone has a good start to their school year.