What It Takes to Get SLPs and Teachers Working Hand-in-Hand

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Lately, I feel there is a division between classroom teachers and speech-language pathologists in the schools: an “us” and “them” mentality. Working parallel to one another hoping to reach the same goal is not what is best for our students. While it is true that the professions are separate, they do share a goal—student progress. I believe collaboration is the key to achieving that mutual goal.

Here are a few of the most common situations in which SLPs and teachers have opportunities to collaborate for the benefit of students, and some tips for those situations.

When a student begins to receive speech-language treatment.

The SLP can:

  • Offer a few minutes to sit down with teachers and walk them through the student’s IEP. Explain the terminology, how speech-language treatment goals will be addressed in the therapy room, and how the classroom teacher can help to target those same goals when the student is in his or her room.
  • Encourage teachers to speak candidly with speech students. The students are in the classroom more than the therapy room. They will progress further when they are supported and encouraged to use speech-language skills and techniques in all environments.

The teacher can:

  • Ask for an opportunity to view a therapy session in person or via a recording. Note hand signals and specific wording the therapist employs. Carefully listen for the correct speech sound productions. Witnessing some of the successful techniques will help when targeting these same needs in the classroom.
  • Support the SLP’s work in the classroom. Students will be motivated to use good speech and language skills when they are aware of shared expectations between the teacher and the SLP.

When the team is gathered for an IEP meeting.

The SLP can:

  • Provide teachers with a short list of items to think about prior to the meeting.
  • Encourage teachers to list areas of observed improvement or areas of need, and reference this list during the meeting.

The teacher can:

  • Speak out about concerns. Some classroom teachers seem to feel they do not know enough about speech-language treatment to comment on progress during IEP meetings. Teacher input contains vital information. Students do not always present speech-language issues in small-group settings.
  • Share in the ownership of the student’s speech/language success. The teacher is an integral part of the IEP team.

When students miss curriculum content because of pull-out services.

The SLP can:

  • Involve teachers as much as possible when creating a speech schedule. A little flexibility here can go a very long way. Be willing to adjust the schedule as needed. For example, push into the classroom for speech one week instead of pulling out, if appropriate.
  • Provide a full (HIPPA-compliant) schedule to teachers highlighting openings for make-up sessions. Keep this schedule updated as the year progresses. You can access a copy of what I use here.

The teacher can:

  • Ask the SLP if having access to lesson plans might be beneficial. Make the lesson plans available to the SLP in advance of the speech sessions.
  • Send classroom materials to be used in treatment sessions. Have a new unit in science? Send vocabulary words with your student to speech. Need help with an oral presentation for English? Send the rough draft to speech. Having trouble with basic concepts or following directions in math class? Let the SLP know. All of these things can be worked into a speech session.

Teachers and SLPs serve the needs of students in different ways, but we are all working on expanding children’s knowledge and skills. When we are cognizant of our colleagues’ needs and comfortable in our roles on the team, collaboration will be the start of something amazing: tremendous student progress.

 

Ashley G. Bonkofsky, MS, CCC-SLP, is a private-practice and school-based SLP in Utah, where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Air Force. She enjoys creating materials for teachers and SLPs and is the author of the blog Sweet Speech (sweetspeech.org). She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; and 16, School-Based Issues.

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.

Favorite Resources: Fiction and Non-Fiction Texts

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School based SLPs often look to align their intervention goals with academic content standards to increase student success in the classroom. Many of these goals align with English Language Arts standards. Goals for vocabulary, comprehension, and articulation can be targeted easily using fiction and non-fiction texts. Using reading passages is a perfect way to support reading skills and curriculum. It’s also an easy way to incorporate current events or seasonal information as well. I wanted to share four different resources I used for my caseload this year.

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1. Newsela.com
Newsela is a site that takes regular news articles and changes the lexile level for a variety of readers. You can select the article, then pull it up on your screen. On the right side of the screen you can select a variety of lexile levels from 3rd grade up to the regular adult version.This is perfect for mixed groups.
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I love to use it for middle schoolers reading at lower lexile levels.
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We also use these in my articulation groups. This 7th grade student went through and highlighted each /r/ word.
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As he reads the page, I marked each sound with a +/-. Then we go back and work on the words he missed. This resource is free.
2. ReadWorks.org
ReadWorks is another fantastic free resource. I love their units for seasonal reading. Sign up for a free membership. You can search using the calendar at the bottom of the home page. There are resources for Kindergarten and up.
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They even have whole units for free for common books you already have on the shelf! Take time to search through and find units that are made to teach specific skills.
3. ReadingA-Z.com 
Many  districts pay for teachers and SLPs to have access to ReadingA-Z.com. I use it a lot and would recommend it to any SLP working with school aged students. I also have access to VocabularyA-Z. Let me show you some favorite resources within it.
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Leveled books used to be the meat of ReadingAZ. Lately they have added a whole lot more, but these are still my Go-To!
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Once you open a leveled book, you have many options. Print the book, share on a Smartboard, or print additional worksheets.
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I love the vocabulary connections most of all.  Since we have a subscription to VocabularyA-Z there are sets of  vocabulary lessons for EVERY BOOK!
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This is such a huge time saver for me. It takes the planning out of vocabulary practice!
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There are special lessons for ELL/ESL. These are great for language learners and for daily living skills units.  There are printable books that focus on feelings, vocabulary (vegetables, money, etc.), and places (neighborhood, school).
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The website also includes decodable books.  They are divided by sounds and even blends. These are  great for articulation practice.
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One section of ReadingAZ features comic books. Lots of my reluctant readers /language delayed  kids love comic books.
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The last feature I frequently use is the write your own story books. Most of the lower leveled books are available in the ‘write your own’ format. You can either print the regular book or print the wordless book. This is an easy way to progress monitor a variety of grammar and narrative skills. Of course it’s great for direct instruction, too! If you’re working on retell you can read the story with the words first and then use the ‘write your own’ version to support retell.
ReadingAZ is a paid subscription. Look into the free trial if you haven’t used it before.
4. N2Y.com
News-2-You is a symbol based weekly newspaper. It’s my ‘go-to’ for daily living skills classes and autism classrooms. I love the predictability and the symbol support. You can also download many levels of  instruction.
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This is the ‘regular version.
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The simplified version has less text.
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This is the ‘higher’ version (but still not the highest offered.)
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Did you know they have a spanish edition?
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I love the pre-made communication boards and the recipes included. I use the app frequently with my students.N2Y is a subscription based program. You would not be disappointed if you purchased it. I promise!
Those four resources are websites I use every week to support my instruction.  SLPs can use them as part of their instruction or as a way to provide homework, align their intervention goals with academic content standards in order to increase student success in the classroom.

Jenna Rayburn, MA, CCC-SLP. is a school based speech-language pathologist from Columbus, Ohio. She writes at her blog, Speech Room News. You can follow her on facebooktwitter, instragram and pinterest.