Saturday, August 31, 2013

Scheduling in the Schools...UGH!

It is before 6:00 AM on a SATURDAY and here I am writing about another aspect of our jobs-for those of us who are school-based SLPs. This is my 30th year and I have seen just every possible situation in the school system! This year, I am working at 2 K-6 elementary schools, one of which also houses a state-funded pre-K class AND I have a high school with some very challenging students. I have some tips for you regarding scheduling, though the overall challenge truly does not get any easier with experience (in general). In other words, I have the same challenges that the newer clinicians have--some things just do not change just because one has more experience. So here is my list...

Teacher communication

1) Have the teachers meet you in the staff room one day BEFORE school. You can have a list of all students and your time slots. Assign students to a time slot based on teacher preference.

2) Send each teacher a note with their students(s) listed and ask for time slots they do NOT prefer or that absolutely will not work. I find this more helpful than simply asking what times they do want.

3) Go personally to the teachers who are more challenging to accommodate.  If you have worked for more than a year or two at a particular school, you will know what I am talking about! Sometimes you just have to talk to some of the teachers individually.

Working Around Other Schedules

1) One of my schools has a LOT of extra programs during the day including music, computer lab, PE, a traveling storyteller, etc. This school also has two 40-minute periods during which I can not schedule kids. One of those periods restricts the time I can work with 1st-3rd graders and the other restricts access to 4th-6th graders.  AGHHH! Get the schedules for all of these ahead of time. If you are located near one of the rooms where one or more of these programs take place, pull kids as the end of that scheduled time.  For example, I am next door to the library at one of my schools. I schedule students who are from the class furthest away to they come to speech right after library.  Saves time for everyone. When you are ready to tear your hair out, remember that IEP services take precedence over everything else...our district folks understand this.

2) If any of your students also receives PT or OT, consider doing therapy together WITH those folks.  It is a BLAST!  Last year, our OT came in to the speech room and we worked together with a group of students. Her schedule was insane and I was happy to accommodate both her schedule and the needs of our shared students. I have also worked together with our adaptive PE teacher...what a a hoot! He set up the game or physical activity, I joined in and added the language goals as we all played together.  FUN, FUN, FUN!  I highly recommend you try this!

High Schools and Middle Schools

High schools and middle schools are much more of a challenge. If you serve one or both, you know what I mean. I have significant experience at both.  Class schedules vary widely.  Some schools have a straight-forward multi-period day that does not change from day-to-day. Others, like the high school I currently serve, may have something called a rotating block schedule where four class periods happen on the "A" day and a different set of four class periods happen on a "B" day. The A/B days rotate every other day.  No, I am NOT kidding.  Now, just imagine you have a student who is at the top of his class academically and can only be seen during ONE particular period...on a "B" day in the get my point. Nightmare!!

1) Get to know the school academic counselors! These are the people who schedule classes for your students. If you can talk to them before the end of the school year, they can accommodate you to some degree when looking ahead to the next year. One counselor actually contacted me at the beginning of this school year when looking to change a speech student's schedule. Take this time to get to know these people!

2) At the beginning of the school year, send an e-mail or leave notes in the teacher's boxes explaining who you are, what you do, and which of their student(s) you serve. Even though a high school can be intimidating, you will find most teachers will be accommodating and appreciative of the service you provide. Having this information will also lead to greater flexibility in scheduling and improved communication.

3) Pull from PE class!  Let me tell you that one year I had a middle school PE teacher track me down and verbally tell me off (in front of a student!) for pulling someone out of PE.  Guess what...that was about 20 years ago and I STILL pull kids out of PE whenever possible.  Sorry, but academics take precedence over PE--every time! Pulling students out of academic classes is to be avoided as much as possible! Most parents will totally agree with this approach. Talk to your school administrator (and the student's parents) about this if you have any difficulties.

Grouping Students

I just have to say that at this point, I group students by classroom NOT by disorder. Yes, you must be ready to address multiple goals at once. Frankly, I find that a significant amount time is wasted trying to fetch kids each day with similar goals from different classrooms. It also drives teachers crazy when kids come and go frequently.

In my TpT store, you will find that most of my products are designed to address MULTIPLE goals simultaneously.  Now you know why I design my materials in this manner! My store is located HERE.

Happy Labor Day!!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Medical SLPs.....Here is a tool for those of you... who conduct MBSS (modified barium swallow studies). This idea came from another hospital, but was not used at our local acute care facility. I discussed using this with the folks in the dietary department. They really liked the idea. When I received an order for an MBS and the study has been scheduled, I fax (from home) the following completed form. The dietary staff put the test tray together and it is ready when I go down to pick it up! They LOVE the form.  I LOVE that the tray is ready exactly when I need it! The other benefit to using this form is that is gives them a way to track the use of food for the MBS studies. Once I take the tray into the radiology suite, all I have to do is mix up everything and we are ready to proceed.

You have my permission to copy this....however, if you post it on a blog (or Pinterest or anywhere else), please give a link back to my blog.

Happy testing!


Friday, August 23, 2013

Let's Get Organized!

Many of us have a ton of TpT now that we have all of these do we get organized? Here is a photo of what I do with my materials.

You don't even have to have everything laminated or cut.  Just print out your downloads. Determine what size envelope you will need.  Is there a game board? Are there full-sized worksheets? Maybe you have a set of cards that do not require storage in a large envelope. The next step is to find manila envelopes! I try to have those on hand in two sizes: one size that fits 8.5 X 11 sheets of paper and a smaller size that is roughly half that size. Earlier Jenna over at Speech Room News wrote a post about printing. I print each cover page included with each download-full size if a larger envelope will be needed, half size if a smaller envelope will work.  Next, the cover page is glued onto the appropriate envelope. Finally, I take the envelopes to school to laminate. The personal laminators do not work well for this due to the thickness of the envelopes. Put your materials (ready or not) inside and are good-to-go!  With items that are not yet ready to use, they are at least labeled and in one location when I need them. 

For book companions, or other materials that are theme-related, I used large plastic bags. One of my schools (I'm at THREE), they have a room that is basically a dumping ground. There are many heavy-duty plastic bags left that used to contain materials that are out-dated. I collected a lot of those and you can see below how I use them.  Here is a picture of my materials for the Jan Brett book "The Hat."

Now you are probably thinking: "What does she do with ALL of those envelopes?" Yes, well, the easiest method to organize those is by season or theme. I have bins for each. For the "bigger" seasons, like Christmas, I have more than one bin.  The bins are small enough that I can put one on the back seat of my car and haul it easily from school-to-school. Sometimes, I have to go to three schools in one day, so it has to be portable. If I am working with one theme, say arctic animals, a bin may not be needed.  I have a enough different materials to meet virtually any goal for PS-6th grade and can put those into one large bag. 

So that is organization....for now!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

S...Peachy Feedback Linky Party-Time!

Feedback is wonderful!  For those of us who work so hard to make therapy materials, it is GREAT to get detailed feedback!  We also know it takes a lot of TIME to write out those comments, so we are offering FREEBIES for those who leave great feedback.  I am sooo happy to join in on this...was going to do it on my own, but this is more FUN.  

One of my buyers left some awesome feedback and she will get the item of her choice from my store FREE!   Check out what she said below:

Julie me with your choice from my store!

Thank you to Allison over at SpeechPeeps for setting this up!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back to School FREEBIE !

Many of you enjoyed my Sticky Note Bundle, so I decided to offer one page of it for free!  This will help you all year long. Those of you who work in the school system know how difficult it is to send for your students, so this is a way to make that easier for you. I often send a note with a student from the group I am finishing with to send for the next students(s). Now you won't have to write any more notes!  Just print these out on 2" x 2" sticky notes, add the students names and you are good-to-go.

The FREEBIE is in my TpT store.  Click here ! If you download, please leave feedback!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Corduroy!  No, not the fabric, the BEAR!  If you work with children, you probably know all about Corduroy. He is an adorable, lovable character who is the central character in several books written by author/illustrator Don Freeman. The original Corduroy book was published in 1968. Corduroy is innocent and loving--characteristics that appeal to all--especially children. Freeman wrote two other books, "A Pocket for Corduroy," and "Corduroy Lost and Found." All three books are very appealing both in terms of the characters and the inner messages conveyed.

Books are a favorite tool of speech language pathologists who work with children. The series of Corduroy books are a wonderful resource to engage children in speech and language tasks. With that in mind, I created a book companion, which can be found here:

The packet contains what I consider to be essential elements when using a book for language and speech therapy. One important aspect is the ability to understand the vocabulary used in the book. It can be very difficult to understand a story if a child is unfamiliar with the vocabulary. There are a total of 32 vocabulary cards and definitions.  Eight of the cards are key words with pictures that are essential to comprehending the story. The remaining vocabulary items help refine the details of the story. The second task is sequencing - which I consider to be the heart of teaching with a book. This packet contains eight picture sequencing cards depicting essential elements in the story. I also included a set of frames containing 8 connector words-samples shown below:

The child takes the sequencing cards and can either place them on top of the connector words (which you will cut apart) or below them while USING the words before they describe the card. Many of you already know that children with language difficulties overuse "and" when telling a story. This activity provides an opportunity to teach other, more useful connector words. I would emphasize inclusion of the connector words every time a child retells the story. BTW-this skill transfers over to written language-like many other verbal skills.

This packet also contains 30 comprehension questions derived from the story. You can use these as a simple drill task, or you can use the generic game board included for reinforcement and motivation.

Social skills and pragmatic language have become an important part of speech and language therapy.  The story about Corduroy offers many opportunities to pose situations and questions for children to think about and discuss. A total of 18 questions and scenarios that relate to the story are included.

Children need the opportunity to retell a story in their own words, as stated earlier. There are 11 story props included for use with retelling the story using a role-playing approach. These could also be used with a reader's theater activity.

Many children need practice with straightforward YES/NO questions, so there are 24 included. The cards have icons for children who need a "point-to" format.

Next, there are 2 types of story maps included. One is for children who are not yet ready to write out their answers. This story map contains the basic elements- characters, setting, problem, events, resolution of the problem-all in picture form. The pictures can be used as a cut and paste task, or laminated with velcro attached so they can be re-used. The second story map contains the same basic elements and allows the child to write down answers.

Finally, there is a grammar activity using three characters from the book. The activity focuses on pronouns + has/have verb forms (He has a book, she has a book, etc). Many children have difficulty with this task and this provides an opportunity to practice using characters from the story.

I hope you enjoy this packet!