Speech Therapy in the Classroom for Older Students

3 Jul


Are you assigned to work with upper grades next school year and wondering how you could work in the classrooms?  Many of us are a bit intimidated to actually do this.  For older students with language processing difficulties, working in the classroom may seem to be the best option. There can be many benefits. It is often a struggle to make therapy relevant for older students and they may  resist being removed from class. It may be a hassle to schedule everyone around academic instruction and you have a lot of students in one particular class. Working in  the classroom allows you to see how the students are functioning in class and you can see how instruction is being presented to the students.  You can consult better with classroom teachers to meet the needs of your students.

However, there are some downsides to the push-in model.   You may not have control over your teaching environment and it may be less than ideal in large classes with limited space. There are the  distractions of other students and you may feel like you are intruding on the classroom teachers space and time. If you don’t get the lesson plans ahead, you may not come adequately prepared for the lesson being presented by the classroom teacher.  It is also difficult to work with more than one student in a class without being your own little group in the back of the classroom.  If you have a high caseload, scheduling can become a  nightmare with inflexible time blocks taken up by single students.

I have experienced mainly  two scenarios with the push-in model.  In one, the Speech Language Pathologist, (SLP) works with a few students in the back of the room and scaffolds what is being presented by the classroom teacher using visuals or breaking it down in segments.  This can be useful for a few students if done discretely. It can also be quite distracting to other students who want to see what is going on and not follow what the classroom teacher is presenting.

In scenario two, the SLP takes over part of  the classroom instruction and co-teaches.  This can be quite effective, especially when the teachers can play off their strengths.  It does require some advance planning and meeting time between teachers.  For the SLP, it may be harder to meet the individual needs of the students you are targeting because you are working with an entire class. I find that taking data is really difficult because your attention is drawn in so many directions.  Often It is hard to sustain this as our caseloads increase through the  school year.  Sometimes you may start with a handful of speech students in a class and then find the students you were targeting moved and you are left with one student in the time slot.

The following are a few methods and activities you may want to try.  These  work best when information is being given in a lecture format such as with social sciences or history.

You can work in the classroom with a small chosen group of students to write notes as information is presented and formulate questions on note or index cards.  This activity can be expanded as a total class activity with some students receiving help and others being independent. It is important to include a question and answer on the card.  The questions and answers can then be gathered and used later in a review activity with the whole class participating.  This process helps students who need a rehearsal of information or information segmented.  It gives students a reason to be engaged and helps those who have difficulty taking notes on relevant information.

I have found game show type activities work well for reviewing at the end of a unit. Once you have it set up it can be used multiple times with little preparation. Now you can bring out the  note cards the students have already prepared and swap them out at the end of each unit you review.

I showcased a Jeopardy activity on a previous post. You can reuse this game by placing letters under the dollar amount cards. You may or may not have categories depending on the topic.  Pile the question cards into draw piles corresponding to the letters and categories if you have them.  You may want to have teams write answers on white boards to avoid blurt outs.  If the question is answered correctly the person or team receives the dollar amount. Don’t forget to put bonus cards in to increase the suspense. For some reason handing out fake money is a real incentive. I hope you have kept it from the previous post.

Idioms of Fortune is another game I have made up.  It can be used as a review game also.  As a bonus it reviews  idiom vocabulary at the same time.  You may want to form teams again as in the previous game and use white boards.

I print out a large illustrated version of an idiom. You may want to have a few of these on hand because sometimes it is figured out sooner than you think.   I set the printer so it prints out the illustration on multiple pages and then tape the pages together to form one large picture.  You can Google idioms and find quite a few.  I used raining cats and dogs from openclipart.org because it did not have restrictions.

This styro-foam poster board I found at the dollar store is turning out to be quite useful. I stuck my idiom picture on it and then tacked index cards on top so that the picture wasn’t visible.  The smaller the cards the more questions that will be needed.  It should look something like this.  Then mark the cards in some fashion.  I put the alphabet on mine. .  

Someone draws a question card and reads it.  This could be an assigned student or the teacher.  A student or team agrees on an answer to present. You may want to use white boards and have the teams write answers.  Again this really helps with the  blurt outs.  If they are right they can choose a card, look at the picture and then take a guess on what  idiom is being illustrated.   The first team to guess is the winner.

This is what it may look like after a few cards are drawn.

You may or may not plan a reward for the winning team. Some students find the competition is enough and don’t care about rewards. You may want to do the opposite type of reward and have the losing team do something silly like sing a nursery rhyme for the other team.  Middle school students seem to  like permission to be silly.  Agree on the terms before starting.

I hope you find these activities useful.  If you have information to add to this topic, please comment.

Adapted Who Shook Hook Game

11 Dec


who shook hook

        Who Shook Hook Adapted Game


I know some of us do pirate themes in our therapy rooms at some point during the school year.  It helps to develop that ARRR you know.  This is a game that would work with that theme.   I found this game unopened  for a few dollars last year at a Goodwill store and decided I couldn’t go too wrong with such an inexpensive game. I see  there are some 2nd hand ones you can order quite reasonably on ebay or amazon.  Keep your eyes open for it at thrift stores or Goodwill.

I used it for a variety of speech goals.  It is good for developing some vocalic r words such as sword, barrel, tweezers, treasure, shark.  It also had quite a few sh, ch  type words such as treasure chest, cash sack, shovel, beach, shark, bridge, and fishing pole.  A lot of the items used in the game were not familiar vocabulary words such as tweezers,  hammock, palm trees, and barrel.  It seemed that everyone knew what a sword was.  Finally, there was a good use of prepositions as there was a shark beneath or below the hammock, the hammock between the palm trees, and Hook hopefully staying above the shark.  You of course can add other task cards to get more drill incorporated.

It is not a game  I would normally have bought. Some of my students have difficulty with small motor skills and this one looked like it could be frustrating for them.  In the game, players  move figures around a track.  They land on squares that tell them to use various tools  to remove treasures from the hammock without letting Capt. Hook fall. I was surprised to find that this game actually worked out quite well.  Hook doesn’t fall off the hammock that easily.  You can hook his heels into the hammock which makes him pretty steady.  You can adjust the difficulty somewhat by his placement.   Most of the students could find a tool that worked for them and the tools were quite motivating. Some students just used a tool to shove the treasure off rather than pick it up.   It was a fast paced game that didn’t end until all the treasures were gathered or Hook fell.  Students enjoyed the challenge of the tools and didn’t get hung up on winning.

I was able to use the game for some of my early language learners so  I made a communication board to go with it.  You may notice that I try to keep my boards quite similar. The pronouns are to the left and connect easily to my core verbs that are usually want, have, get, or put. My middle area after the verbs has the vocabulary that changes and the far right is the my turn, your turn.  This seems to work for me for being consistent and allowing students to find the words they need to  develop short sentences and phrases. I print them out on regular paper and slip them into plastic page covers.  The board is flexible so fits easily into the game box.





Whirly Therapy Fun

1 Apr

20150331_154939I am not sure what they are called, but as a child I called it a Whirly.  They were a great find this last weekend in the Easter basket toys at Walmart.  It would be a good time to look for them.   I  was trying to find new mechanical toys for my early language learners who get engaged by anything that spins and pops.  For $2 you couldn’t go too wrong.  I did wonder how long it would last but it was sturdy enough to make it through a morning of therapy with the younger K through -2nd grade Life skills class.   There is a precaution for aiming it at people and there is the string to watch out for.

 I used it this week and it was a big hit.  It was great for learning  communication intents and making requests.  It gave opportunities to review the concepts  of  around and over.  If the string was pulled strong enough the spinner would stay on the ceiling a few minutes spinning over our heads. The students would give me the Whirly and make requests for fast pulls.  We also practiced a few more prepositions when  finding  the location of that spinner after it came down.   A few of my students needed a person to hold the device while they pulled the string.  This encouraged joint attention to a task. I like it when a toy can offer so much opportunity for natural communication with very little effort.

Here is the communication board I used for the activity.

twirly board

Free Spinners for Game Adaptations

4 Dec

You may have noticed that I like to use spinners to expand the therapy value of some of my games and teach concept vocabulary.  I have some of them as part of my downloads in the vocabulary section.  The spinners in my previous downloads are  black and white and  not very colorful.  I decided to update them with pictures and color to make them more friendly for my non-readers. You can access them on TPT for FREE.  Just click the button.TPT button


The spinners are made from the clear plastic lids you find on products  such as  whipped cream  or oatmeal containers.  A pony  bead, paper fastener and spinner from heavy cardboard or plastic are added. The lids are clear so that the paper form  can be placed underneath and still be seen.  The paper can be replaced from one activity to the next and the same spinner stays intact. Look below to see my showcase of spinners and the games I use with them.

Left and Right Spinner.

This spinner  is used when playing Blockhead or some other block stacking game. It  targets the concepts of left and right.  The spinner has the directions of Left or Right  with a handprint for cuing. Students take turns spinning the spinner and use the hand that is indicated to pick up a block and stack to make a tower.  Point out to the students that when their hands are flattened on the table their left hand will form an L shape with the pointer and thumb. This is another cue they can use to distinguish their left hand from their right hand. I have used this as a table or center activity with table groups of 6 students in a Kindergarten class.




 Size and Shape Spinner:

You need bean bags or soft balls that can be tossed, plastic pails and boxes of various sizes and shapes, and  spinners  with the vocabulary words printed on it.   Have the students  make a big circle with the containers placed in the center.  Instruct the children on how to toss the ball or bean bag safely so no one gets injured.

The spinners travel around the circle.  Students  spin the spinner and toss the bean bag or ball as required  trying to get the bean bag in the appropriate container that matches the word on the spinner.




For the Amount Spinner, I use  a game I made up called “Don’t Fall Through the Ice ”       IMG326

amount spinner

Use the amount spinner, one 2 lb plastic coffee container.  A rubber band that fits around the mouth of the container, tissue paper, marbles, cup to place marbles in water, spinner with vocabulary words.  Instructions:  Put one sheet of tissue paper across the opening of the  2 lb container.  Fasten it down by stretching the rubber band around the top of the opening. You may need an extra set of hands to accomplish this.   It should look like a drum.  Put marbles in the cup and fill with water.  Children take turns spinning the spinner and taking the number of wet marbles indicated.

The students place the marbles on top of the tissue paper top.  The wet marbles will weaken the tissue paper and eventually fall through.  The wetter the marbles the faster they will fall th rough.  If you are using this activity with table groups they can count the marbles and compare who has the most or least marbles.

Don’t Spill the Beans is an other game that can be used with the spinner.


The conversation spinner can be used with any board game that uses a typical number spinner.  It works well with games such as Snakes and Slides or Chutes and Ladders. Students try to follow the prompts on the spinner and give an example.conversation spinner

Poppa’s Pizza Game Adaptation

28 Jul


Poppa's Pizza Topple.

I have some of my therapy games home for the summer since I had grandchildren visiting.  I noticed that I missed putting this one up on the blog.   Poppa’s Pizza Topple is a game I found at a garage sale a few years ago and I think it is still being sold in a few stores. It is a game  my students enjoy no matter what their ability level.  Pizza seems to be a favorite food of most children. I have used this game with students who are working on basic communication skills such as turn taking and making requests.  It can easily be adapted for students with limited verbal abilities by adding a communication board.    It also works well as a simple reinforcement for doing therapy tasks. At the most simple level, just use the pizza crust and have the student request ingredients and place them on the crust.  At the most difficult level, students place the ingredients on an unsteady pizza  crust propped up on Poppa’s finger.  They pick up the ingredients  according to what is rolled on the dice.   I recommend picking this game up and adding it to your collection if you get the chance.

Poppa's Pizza Topple.                                                                         pizza board

I had a request to show the communication board.  I do not have Boardmaker available on my home  computer to open this board. I ended up taking a picture of it. It will give you an idea of the symbols used.

Pop the Pig Game Adaptation

14 Dec

IMG313 (1)This is the time of year when a lot of games are selling for good prices and you may be wondering which ones are good for therapy.   I have adapted Pop the Pig recently.  It really only needed a communication board to add the structure I need.   I use it with students who are working on making basic comments such as I have ______, and I want______.  It is also possible to work on descriptive vocabulary such as size, colors and amounts.   We also work on turn taking and becoming aware of another student’s turn and when they are finished.  The game is really pretty simple.  Students roll the die to choose a colored hamburger.  The student then looks at the bottom to  see how many times they press the pig’s head so it will munch on the hamburger placed in the mouth.  Pressing on the head inflates the rubber tummy until the belt pops open.  It isn’t as dramatic as the advertisement indicates.   However my students seem to enjoy this game and it provides a lot of repetition.  I have them make comments for every turn they take.  It is also good game for general reinforcement.  If you find one at a good price, pick it up.

5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

2 Nov

Goodwill is such a good place to  find cheap games to adapt for therapy.  This was a recent find.

Monkey on the bed

This  type of games works  well for my  students in the Life Skills program.  It keeps them  engaged,  promotes turn taking, and teaches  language with repetition.  Many of my students are working on making comments using sentence frames such as I want,I have, and I need.  They are also working on using descriptive words such as colors, amount and basic prepositions.  I make a communication board available for my verbally challenged students.  I use the visual cues to prompt sentences.  The students I worked with last year are now using the communication boards independently to form 3 word sentences.  Children with autism often get stuck in an echo pattern where they answer questions by repeating the question.  The communication board helps break up that pattern.

This  game also gives opportunity to practice verb + ing sentences.  Students pick a circle card depicting a monkey getting ready for bed and use verbs such as brushing teeth, taking a bath and putting pajamas on.  After describing the picture, the students put a monkey on top of the bed and then spin the spinner.  The student then pushes the button on the bed post the number of times the spinner indicates.  At some point the bed will spring  and the monkeys will fall off. There is a game board that also comes with the game, but my students had fun using it at this basic level and I felt I had control over the pieces.  I found this game had a lot of possibilities for students at different levels.  I’ve thought of making more round disks to add to the variety of verbs that could be picked.

Game Adaptation for Crocodile Dentist

12 Apr

Here are two adaptations for the game Crocodile Dentist.  This is a plastic crocodile that has a spring loaded mouth.  The mouth closes when a certain tooth is pushed down. Kids enjoy the suspense of seeing who is going to get bit.  The trigger tooth changes location each time the mouth is opened. Some of you may already use this game for reinforcement.  I thought you might like to know how you can expand its use a little further.  I use it to expand a student’s verbal output to 2 to 3 word phrases using a communication board and to review prepositions when following directions.


Using permanent markers, I colored the teeth alternating colors.  I used pink, green, and orange because I already had a die that had those colors.  If you don’t have a die you could make a spinner or use colors for a die you have.

For my students with limited verbal abilities, I use the communication board along with the die in a plastic jar.  I have the students shake the die to get the color of tooth they need to push down.  I then model phrases using the communication board while playing the game.  The game creates a lot of opportunities for repetition of phrases such as “I have ….” or “push down green tooth”.  I also reinforce saying “your turn” and “my turn.”   After repetition the students start to say the appropriate phrase when you point to the correct icons as a prompt.  Finally, they may prompt themselves by pointing to the icons and verbalizing.  This is a good way to break up an imitative pattern that often happens when training non-verbal children and uses a natural context for turn taking.

The colors are used in the direction cards also.  Cards were made using the concept vocabulary:  next to, beside, between, right, left, colors, not, side, front, either/or.  Children take turns drawing the cards and following the directions for the tooth to be pushed down.  We play a variation by giving each child three poker chips.  They feed the crocodile a chip if he bites.  The person who feeds all three chips is the winner.   I provided a word program down load because I thought people may need to adjust the color words for their needs. If you have any difficulties with this, leave me a comment.  Print out the cards and have the students pull them out of a bag and then follow the directions while playing the game.

card download here