Connecting with the Curriculum

Curriculum Books

For a while there, I had no idea what “IDEA” was and “504” could have been a building for all I knew. And then there were the word associations; “FERPA” made me think of a Sherpa, “HIPAA” of hippos and an “IEP” of the movie ET. Moving from Australia and launching a speech-language pathology career in the American school system was a completely different field to wrap my head around and I had a dilemma.

I had never worked in a school before.  Apart from the acronyms, numerous vocabulary challenges and having to change my naturally accented schwa to the vowel controlled “r” to be understood, everything fell into place except for one thing: the curriculum. The ASHA website for speech pathologists working in the School Setting gave me much needed direction, so I started looking for speech-language curriculum related materials on the Internet.

Then I looked a little more.

And more again… until I gave up.

I couldn’t understand that with Pinterest, TpT stores and school-based SLP blogs inspiring many of us to don our creative hats, that there was not more school based resources out there. I couldn’t help but think “Pirates are pretty cool…. but where do pirates fit into the curriculum?” Why do speech pathology materials constantly revolving around seasons and holidays such as Valentine’s Day, winter and St Patrick’s Day? We know that our students need repetition after repetition after repetition to cement their learning, so why are we introducing our own themes and topics with new vocabulary if it will not help our student’s succeed with the language and knowledge that they are learning in their classroom?

So I want to set a challenge: Really think about the following ASHA guideline, broken into two parts for clarity:

  1. Individualized programs always relate to the schoolwork.
  2. Therefore, materials for treatment are taken from or are directly related to content from classes.

Are you doing this in your school-based practice? If the answer is “no,” then why not set yourself a challenge to be more curriculum focused? Just think that every year you could recycle and add to your language materials like our teachers do! It may be some work in the beginning but you could set yourself up for years of minimal planning and support language in the curriculum at the same time.

Here are some ideas to get you started on how you can add some more curriculum to your therapy practice:

  1. Ask to borrow your grade level teacher’s curriculum handbooks and get acquainted with their themes.
  2. Get a grasp on the Common Core Standards and investigate what skills your students should have in the areas of speaking and listening, language, writing and reading.
  3. Borrow your student’s grade level books from the librarian or classroom teacher and use them in therapy.
  4. Find the website on which your curriculum is based for online games and glossaries.
  5. Ask the grade level teachers for tips on where to find resources or look up their teacher site on the school website. Many teachers provide a list of related and helpful links for parents, so start searching through there.
  6. Contact your favorite speech pathology blogger and ask them to start making materials that are curriculum related.

So take the challenge! Change your practice and connect with your student’s curriculum.

Rebecca Visintin is an Australian trained speech-language pathologist. She is currently working in elementary and middle schools in Washington state after experience in the Australian outback and as the sole speech-language pathologist in Samoa. She provides information for SLPs working abroad and free therapy resources on her site Adventures in Speech Pathology.


  1. says

    Excellent post- I couldn’t agree with you more about educational relevance. The curriculum can be really fun, it just depends on how you approach it. And your point about this being a challenge that can be tackled over time is perfect.

  2. Paula Stone,M.S.,C.C.C.-SLP says

    Whenever possible I like to listen to the classroom teacher instruction and observe student cooperative learning activities. Great conversation starters for when you get to the speech room with your speech students. I also look at the classroom word (vocabulary) board and classroom student jobs. For older students curriculum assignment instructions written on the white board or smart board. I also look at upcoming assignments such as term papers or science projects. Scheduled field trips provide the opportunity to incorporate many language IEP goals and objectives. I find my students are very motivated to work in speech when they can see and understand the classroom-speech therapy connection.

  3. gabriella Shakhnes says

    I totally agree, great post! I work in a MS/HS and I see every day how IMPORTANT it is to make what you’re targeting relevant to the curriculum. My students really do appreciate it (some of them, the other claims it’s like having an extra English class haha). I try as much as I can to incorporate curriculum to at least some of my groups (usually the high skilled kiddos). However, my biggest challenge is that many classroom teachers move faster then my kids are ready. I feel as though a unit done in class is not enough time for my students to acquire a certain skill.

  4. Mm says

    You’re absolutely correct!! I was a special education teacher for 13yrs before becoming an SLP and the majority of activities I’ve found don’t relate to the curriculum. Every school has a curriculum to follow, especially now with the common core standards being used by the majority of states. Ask the administration in your school for a copy of each grades curriculum map and this and the IEP will guide you in making activities. TpT has SLP/CC Standards chart.

  5. says

    Rebecca! What a GREAT, much NEEDED, post! With the increased workload of our school-based SLPs, we need to find ways to make our efforts CUMULATIVE. By aligning the curriculum, we are teaching students the skills they need in their general education classroom. I am also a fan of aligning vocabulary through literacy-based classroom activities. Moreover, I also try to urge the SLPs in my region to have therapy in the gen ed classroom. As SLPs, we are the language experts, and teachers are the content experts (the curriculum). Together, great things happen!! Not only are we building capacity for our speech/language intervention skills, but students are essentially benefiting from our strategies on a continual basis in the classroom. When I align the curriculum and do inclusion-based services, I have had teachers say, “I have never seen so much progress in one year!” Thank YOU so much for bringing attention to this important topic!

  6. says

    Great post, could not agree more!! First of all, this approach to therapy takes away so much planning time. With 60 IEPs to write, new screenings and evaluations every week, and Medicaid to bill, we just don’t have the time to cut and paste crafts anymore. It may be sad, but it’s true. However, I love the classroom approach to therapy. When I go see kids, I either come equipped with a small whiteboard, pen, and eraser to sit with the kiddo and help in class, or I say “take your work and come with me!” Teachers are so thankful for the extra help and the majority of the time our IEP goals fit decently with the curriculum. You do need to be creative at times, though! Don’t be afraid of the classroom, you will learn a lot in there!

  7. says

    Wonderful post! I have several students who are in the same class and their teacher gives me her class newsletter each week so I know the vocabulary she is targeting and the stories the kids will be reading in class. That enables me to target my instruction to the specific needs of these students. It is a huge help. I’ve also obtained a “pacing calendar” so I know exactly which standards are being emphasized each month in every class. Collaboration is not new but it makes our work more relevant.

  8. Shirley Sigmund, M.A. CCC-SLP says

    When I was working as a middle school SLP a few years ago, I kept a copy of each grade’s science textbooks, language arts books, and social studies/ history books. I tied in my speech /language goals with vocab and context from the kids’ textbooks. It made sense to me to pull material from their texts, the teachers appreciated my efforts, and the kids actually were interested in working in our sessions as they found value in the activities. I no longer work in the district as an SLP as I am now a trustee for the district, but I am definitely interested in this topic of SLP’s work and how it connects to the Common Core State Standards.

  9. Cynthia Sudduth says

    Hi all, This is a great post!! I could not agree more. I ask the teachers what story they know they will work on in a month or two. That way I can work with the child so they understand that story and the vocabulary and not just the vocab that is official but the other words that the student does not know. We work on answering questions and act out or draw often there is a geography or map lesson as well as a lesson including a time line. using the curriculum is key to the child’s success!

  10. Meri Labick says

    Is there anyone out there whose district has aligned the curriculum to the common core in writing?