Three Easy Ways to Collaborate with Teachers

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Like many of you, as a school speech-language pathologist, I left graduate school ready and excited to jump into classrooms. I realized the benefits of reaching my students in their own environment and so I set out to reach them there by “educating” teachers on speech and language. And then… reality hit. With all the added responsibilities, how do I go about adding one more task to my ever-growing list and collaborate with teachers?

Are you like me? Often, school SLPs feel lost when it comes to reaching their students in the classroom. Typically, we fall into one of two camps. Either we feel the need to completely take over the classroom lesson to “teach” the teacher something about language or we become too afraid of looking like a “know-it-all” and so do not offer any suggestions. Neither of these offers a solution. Here are three easy ways to collaborate with teachers that provide a balance between the two:

1. Provide a monthly newsletter. This is one of the easiest ways to stay in touch with teachers. If you have monthly themes, give them an idea of what you’re working on. Provide a “vocabulary word of the month,” a tip on how to serve students in their classrooms, a good resource or website, or even a practice sheet stapled to your newsletter for teachers to provide to students. Teachers will appreciate the time you took to reach out to them and will also gain information on both their students and how we service them.

2. Give a student snapshot to your teachers. This is most beneficial at the start of the school year. Unfortunately, with all of our responsibilities, important information is often not communicated and students’ services often suffer as a result. Relay any accommodations on students’ Individual Education Program (IEP) that the teacher is responsible for providing in the classroom and make sure they understand what each one means. It is also helpful to provide an overview of the goals you are working on with their students. For example, a simple statement such as “During Johnny’s speech and language session, he is working on increasing his vocabulary and reading comprehension,” would give the teacher an idea of what he works on with you.

3. Hop into the classroom during independent reading. Many classrooms now schedule a chunk of time devoted to practicing independent reading and writing skills. My district uses a structure for this called “The Daily 5” created by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. When I walk into a classroom during Daily 5, I can immediately sit with students and listen to reading, ask questions about what they are reading, teach vocabulary and assess and monitor articulation skills while reading. What does this type of intervention mean for us as SLPs? We can easily monitor and work on skills within the classroom setting all while requiring minimal if any planning time. This type of intervention also sets the tone for easily working with the teacher on their turf without taking over the entire classroom.

I hope this next school year finds you rested and ready to try new ideas. Reaching out to teachers often feels like one more to-do, and can fall to the bottom of our priorities. By making a goal each year of trying just one new idea, it can seem less overwhelming. I guarantee it: by reaching out to our students in their environment, we will be making a huge impact on their lives.

Nicole Allison, MA, CCC-SLP, has a passion for creating materials that benefit the school SLP, especially when it comes to data collection and the Common Core State Standards. She currently works in a public school as the only SLP (yes, that’s right, all 13 grades and loving them) and is the author of the blog Allison’s Speech Peeps (speechpeeps.com). She also serves on The Ohio School Speech Pathology Educational Audiology Coalition as secretary. Her and her husband recently had a baby and are loving parenthood. She can be reached at nrallison@gmail.com.

Welcome to Kid Confidential: Let’s Play!

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(photo credit)

Welcome to the first installment of Kid Confidential, a monthly column where Maria Del Duca, M.S. CCC-SLP will be discussing all topics related to speech, language and child development. 

First off, let me say that I am not a researcher, I’m an observer.  I’m just a clinician like you using Evidence Based Practice (EBP) and trial and error to make my way in the world of language development.  I do not claim to be an expert, but I have had a hodge-podge of experiences and have worked with amazing clinicians and educators who have taught me along the way.

Through my years of experience and my constant need for information I have exhausted the minds of those with whom I have worked.  I have badgered them with a barrage of questions about why and how they were doing what they were doing.  Most of the time, I have found teachers and therapists willing to share their knowledge with me.  So today, I’m paying it forward.  Let’s talk play skills!

I don’t know about you, but upon completing graduate school I knew a whole lot about normal language acquisition, how to read, understand and review a research article, and how to administer and interpret numerous standardized tests, but I knew nothing about play skills.  Of course looking back at it now, this seems a bit ridiculous when we think of the number of children on our caseloads that are younger than five years of age.  But at the time, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Research shows us that play really is the work of a child.  We understand that play skills affect cognition, pragmatics and language development.  According to Pretend Play: The Magical Benefits of Role Play, by One Step Ahead:

Pretend play facilitates growth in more than just the areas mentioned above.  Encouraging a child to participate in pretend play positively affects:

  • Imaginative thinking and exploration
  • Abstract thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Life skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Communication development
  • Social Skills development
  • Use of “Theory of Mind” (understanding/taking another’s perspective)
  • Understanding of safety
  • Self-confidence and a high self-esteem

We know we should assess play skills in young children.  But do we know what developmental play skills look like when we see them?  According to the Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum: Best Practices in Early Childhood Education, otherwise known as “the EC bible” in the world of early childhood educators, there are three distinct types and five social stages of play children typically exhibit between birth and age five (Kostelnik, Soderman, and Phipps Whiren).  Do you know what they are?  Read all about them in the tables below.

Slide1 Slide2You can download your copy of the above tables here.

I would be remiss if I did not share a word of caution when assessing play skills.  There are many cultures that do not value the child-centered, independent play of our western culture.  In order to differentially diagnose deficit versus difference we must keep in mind any cultural differences of the child’s family.  For more information on this topic, read Multicultural Considerations in Assessment of Play by Tatyana Elleseff MA CCC-SLP.

So now we know what typical play skills look like.  How do you assess play skills?  What are your favorite materials to use?  What topics do you want to see discussed here on Kid Confidential?

Don’t be afraid to share your ideas by commenting below.  And remember…“Knowledge is power” (Sir Francis Bacon)!

Reference

Kostelnik, Marjorie, Anne Soderman, and Alice Phipps Whiren. Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum: Best Practices in Early Childhood Education. 5. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2011. Print

 

Maria Del Duca, M.S. CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in southern, Arizona.  She owns a private practice, Communication Station: Speech Therapy, PLLC, and has a speech and language blog under the same name.  Maria received her master’s degree from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.  She has been practicing as an ASHA certified member since 2003 and is an affiliate of Special Interest Group 16, School-Based Issues.  She has experience in various settings such as private practice, hospital and school environments and has practiced speech pathology in NJ, MD, KS and now AZ.  Maria has a passion for early childhood, autism spectrum disorders, rare syndromes, and childhood Apraxia of speech.  For more information, visit her blog or find her on Facebook