The Common Core State Standards have changed my life. I know that’s a bold statement to make, but armed with simple resources and the confidence that I really am integrating the curriculum and assessing academic impact, working as a school based speech-language pathologist is suddenly more fulfilling. And yes, we are talking about the same Common Core State Standards. While some teachers seem to be quivering in their boots about the prospects of implementing the Standards, I think speech-language pathologists should be rejoicing.
Now I’m not going to tell you about the oodles of research that went into developing them (for history on Common Core State Standards, go to the CCSS website and look under ELA Appendices A), nor will I lecture about why you should use them (let someone else do that). I’m here to show you why they changed my practice from a speech-language lens and how it has not only improved my treatment but strengthened my clinical skills too.
Sometimes, as therapists, we can find it hard to know what a child should be able to do when all we see are students with delays, disorders and disabilities. What is grade level, age appropriate and just plain old typical can become confusing when you don’t have a set of norms to compare to. With the added pressure on school-based SLPs to be curriculum- related and demonstrate academic impact, it has been a personal relief for me to simply look up a standard and think, “so that is what my student is expected to do.” Even if you aren’t based in a school but work with school-age clients, the Common Core State Standards can still guide your treatment decisions.
The Common Core State Standards can look overwhelming, but the English Language Arts curriculum is probably the most useful for speech-language pathologists. It focuses on reading, writing, listening and speaking and language. What may seem cumbersome at first will soon become ingrained and you will start to see just how our profession and scope of practice is present in almost every learning outcome. A very simple idea of how different areas of speech-language pathology relate to the curriculum is demonstrated below.
Reading: Focuses on the reading continuum from foundational skills to fluency and integration of knowledge. Areas include phonological awareness, answering key details, identifying main ideas, description, comparing and contrasting, sequencing and retelling.
Writing: Focuses on written compositions of a variety of genres (for example, narratives, explanatory and arguments). Areas include sequencing, linking words, description and comprehension.
Speaking and Listening: Focuses on oral and receptive and expressive language skills. Areas include syntax, pragmatics, narrative skills and comprehension.
Language: Focuses on grammatical conventions and vocabulary. Areas include vocabulary acquisition, syntax, morphology and higher-level language skills such as multiple meaning words.
Most SLPs already know just how much of learning is dependent on language and communication skills. So I encourage you to think outside the box and use the Common Core State Standards in a number of different ways:
- Refer to them to write grade level Individualized Education Program goals.
- Use the horizontal/vertical progressions (below) to help with step up/downs in treatment.
- Use the standards to help guide informal assessments. Take a language sample and compare to the standards’ Language section or do some classroom observations to understand academic impact.
- If teachers are still unsure of your role and scope, why not do an in-service and use the standards as a reference. This could help with collaboration, response-to-intervention and moving toward working in the classroom.
You can go straight to the Common Core State Standards site and view the English Language Arts Standards, but keep your eye out for ways other states present the standards. Maine breaks down them down into vertical progressions (view writing, language, speaking and listening) so you can see how each skill develops each year, while Arizona provides the standards in a horizontal progression.
Download the free Common Core State Standards app. I love the ease of swiping through the standards, as it is much faster than flipping through papers. Finally, ASHA’s Common Core State Standards: A Resource for SLPs also includes great information and resources for speech-language pathologists. Be sure to click on “Resources and References” to access articles, blogs and useful sites.
Remember, the Common Core Standards are coming to a school district to you soon, so why not start getting familiar with them now?
Rebecca Visintin, CCC-SLP, is an Australian-trained, school-based speech-language pathologist in Washington state. She has worked in the Australian outback and Samoa and provides information for SLPs working abroad and free therapy resources on her site Adventures in Speech Pathology.