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.