Home Schools How to Set Up and Run a Curriculum-Based Session

How to Set Up and Run a Curriculum-Based Session

by Scott Prath
Group Of Elementary Age Schoolchildren Reading In Class With Teacher

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series on curriculum-based intervention. Read part one: “4 Reasons to Use Curriculum-Based Intervention.

Speech-language pathologists can reduce planning time and successfully move children through their goals using curriculum-based intervention. But the questions remain: How do you do it efficiently and what does it look like?

Let’s talk about why curriculum-based intervention is so powerful and then jump in to a minute-by-minute example of how you can make it a reality.

Curriculum-based intervention succeeds for three main reasons:

  1. We don’t make assumptions about a student’s prior knowledge because we know what topics teachers cover in class. This really helps with children in poverty or coming from diverse backgrounds. 
  2. We create multiple opportunities for students to practice concepts in sessions, school and at home via homework.
  3. We don’t waste precious time re-creating lesson plans and materials year after year because we tap into what teachers already put together.

Now let me share how to plan curriculum-based sessions:

Ask your students’ teachers about the topic of the week.

Aligning intervention themes with classroom topics increases exposure and use of vocabulary. It also provides a framework for students to practice their new language skills. Identify the current academic topic for the week—oceans, for example. Some schools post all of their lesson plans digitally and you may be able to gain access to 100 percent of the content from the comfort of your speech room.

Check out library books on the topic.

You need books to simultaneously address speech and language goals. You also need real pictures in case your students lack familiarity with the topic. Pick up at least one storybook and several nonfiction books on the topic.

Create or find activities related to the topic.

Good: Do not reinvent the wheel. You probably already own materials related to the topic and the internet is full of them. You will cover topics at the same time as the teacher, so there is carryover into the classroom, teachers see you reinforcing their lessons, and homework conversations also relate to your activities.

Better: Find the theme but also identify ways you can address several goals and more easily organize treatment groups. Here is an example using the topic “autumn”:

Goal Activity
/s/ scarecrow, squirrel, sprout, seed, surprise
/r/ acorn, rake, tree, run, rich, roll, race, rip
/l/ leaf, squirrel, leap, lay, leaves, learn, laugh, lake
Narrative Goals

Books for literacy-based intervention

We’re going on a leaf hunt

Leaf Man

I See Fall (Veo el otoño)

Leaves in Fall (Las hojas en otoño)

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

Repetition Goals (songs) Weather Song

Autumn Leaves are Falling Down

Leaves on the Tree

Way High up in an Apple Tree

Five Little Pumpkins




Utterance expansion

Size activities with leaves

Pumpkin life cycle

Pumpkin Play Doh

Paper bag scarecrow

Leaf sort

Following Directions Following directions to plant, harvest decorate a pumpkin

Best: Identify the theme (good), address multiple goals (better), and use books, materials, printables, cut-outs, field trips—or anything directly related to your students’ class work. This reduces your planning and photocopying time. This tells the teacher you respect their work. And these materials go home in students’ backpack, so parents can discuss them with their child.

Session timing: 30 minutes at a glance

Book discovery (circle time activities): 2 minutes

Book discovery gives you an opportunity to see what a child already knows and introduces the topic so you all start the session on the same page. Place a number of books on the topic around the table. Encourage students to freely pick any book, look through, comment, trade, and show friends what they see. Tell them they have two minutes. At the end, let students choose one book to look through (non-fiction) or read (fiction).

Pre-activity setup: 5 minutes

Students love being the line leader or door opener for a day. Offer them responsibility and use pre-activity setups to practice following directions and taking turns. Explain what they need to do, show an example, and ask for helpers to gather materials. Increase difficulty by including numbers, a specific order or descriptions of the materials.

Activity: 15-20 minutes

Home in on specific communication goals by working together and then targeting individual goals while others work on minor tasks. Allow successful students to demonstrate to friends how to say a sound, follow instructions or complete a task.

Post-activity review (clean up, homework): 5 minutes

Just like the pre-activity set-up, post-activity review creates receptive language activities, teaches responsibility and ownership, and ensures you’re immediately ready for your next session.

Ask the initial helpers to gather and put away materials. Ask each student to present their work and say something about it, then carry it to their backpack, folder or cubbie. As a bonus and to encourage communication with the family, reward students for returning a signed parent letter.

Also, after several years of trials in the schools of Central Texas, we published materials that are available in the ASHA store to members at a discount.


Scott Prath, MA, CCC-SLP, is vice president of Bilinguistics in Austin, Texas. Check out books and apps he authored and co-authored, including Curriculum-based Speech Therapy Activities Volume 1 and Volume 2. Prath also supports SLPs through SLPImpact and is a lead writer for The Speech Therapy Blog. Reach out to him there or at www.bilinguistics.com.



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