One of the biggest challenges I face is how to make my sessions academically relevant. In my five years of working with middle and high school students, I tried it all. When I first started, I spent hours creating my own materials focused on skills my students needed. However, I often found my sessions offered little or no connection with the skills they covered in their classes. I also discovered my students couldn’t transfer skills they learned with me into the classroom.
I eventually found successful ways to incorporate academic materials and topics into my sessions, and use them as a way to target the skills my students need. This process all starts with teacher collaboration.
SLPs benefit in numerous ways when collaborating with the teachers in their school. A major advantage is always knowing their students are working on in class. In addition, the terminology I use during my sessions aligns with what students already heard. For example, if the English team uses a specific mnemonic for paragraph-writing, why confuse the kids by giving them something else to memorize?
In addition, I get ideas for materials to use in treatment. When students learn about nonfiction, for example, I base the materials I choose during those sessions on nonfiction as well. I also incorporate terms and strategies to help them access those materials.
SLPs work with so many grades, subjects and students, so I know this approach might seem overwhelming. I usually focus on collaborating with English Language Arts teachers, because the skills they cover relate closely to ours. In addition, those skills transfer to many other subjects.
I suggest these methods when reaching out to teachers about using academically related materials in sessions:
- Email teachers: I try to email teachers often and ask them to send me quick snippets of what they’re covering in class. If possible, I ask them to leave worksheets in my mailbox or give me an idea of upcoming skills and units.
- Visit classrooms: Take a minute to pop into classrooms and ask for materials in person. This provides a chance to look around the room and check out posters, skills or vocabulary hanging on walls. I usually take a pictures with my phone!
- Planning meetings: This takes the most time, but perhaps once a month ask to sit in on lesson-planning meetings.
- Push-in: Choose a day to switch one of your pull-out sessions to a push-in. This gives you an opportunity to see what students work on in class. It’s also a good way to assess how they keep up in the classroom. Are they participating? Completing assignments? Answering questions?
I hope some of these tips work for you! I promise they save on planning time as well as help motivate students to use skills learning in speech-language sessions.
Gabriella Schecter, MS, CCC-SLP, is a full-time SLP working in a grade 6-12 school. She posts regularly on Instagram @middleschoolSLP, sharing ideas and activities for this age group. Check out her blog or contact her at MiddleschoolSLP@gmail.com.