Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Scheduling - Tips & Tricks for the Busy SLP

Scheduling - Tips & Tricks for the Busy SLP

I promise scheduling DOES get easier after you have been at a school for at least a year! You’ll already know which kids to group (or avoid grouping) together. And you’ll know which teachers are flexible and those who are, well, not as flexible.  Here is how I go about scheduling when I’m starting at a new school.

Truth: There are SO MANY factors to consider, so there is no such thing as the perfect schedule! 

Previous Schedule?

Did the previous SLP leave a copy of last year’s schedule? If so, that will be your go-to document for grouping. Either way, I always begin by pulling each student individually for a few minutes. Use this time to establish rapport. Observe and make notes about the severity of their problem as well as personality traits. Are they easy going? You can tell if a particular student will work well with others. They can even tell you who they came to speech with last year, so ask them! 

How to Group Your Students

Individual vs. Group Sessions

Be sure to check every student’s IEP to find out whether group or individual sessions are indicated. Severe students should be seen individually, but make sure that is stated on the IEP before you schedule. Hint: I ask every parent to allow me the flexibility of scheduling their child for either individual or group therapy and that is indicated on the IEP.  Keep that in mind as you update each IEP during the school year.

Group by Goals

Yes, this may seem obvious, but maybe not! Refer to your caseload management form discussed in the previous post. Did you make some brief notes about goals? This is where that little bit of information can be SO helpful. Now, group your students working on the /s/. Group your students working on /r/. Consider grade levels. You can reasonably group together primary grade students, but you’ll need to try out your groups before you finalize your schedule. I try to group the KG students together. Usually, there tend to be more kindergartners and that allows more possible group combinations. 

Group by Class

If you are able to group by class it is can be easier to schedule. Many teachers appreciate it when you pull their kids together. It is easier for them to manage one or two pull-out times rather than several. However, it is a challenge to serve a group of students working on different sound targets as well as language goals. Most of the materials I sell on Teachers Pay Teachers are designed for mixed articulation and/or language groups. There is a reason for that! And now you know how I go about grouping kids. I go by CLASS. It can be much more challenging to construct therapy sessions, but an experienced clinician can run their caseload this way. You can learn to do it this way!

Blocking Your Times


The 3M company came out with Post-It notes just in time for the start of my career! Soon, I realized how GREAT these are when used to create a therapy schedule. I write the students' or group names on a sticky note. Then I arrange those on a large piece of paper. That large piece of paper contains the days of the week across the top and the treatment time blocks down the left side. The beauty of using the sticky notes is that you can move them around to create your schedule. 

Other tools that you can use are simple, handwritten lists. Many SLPs are also using Excel documents to create schedules, too. I have also used tables created in powerpoint to create a weekly schedule. I print those out each week. There are other options as well using Google classroom. There are many things to consider when scheduling.

Specials and Assemblies

Remember to find out about specials at your school. I have one school that has SO many specials that it makes scheduling very difficult. In general, I don’t like to pull from specials, especially music and art. We have a fabulous art teacher! In fact, she came in to teach when my (grown) sons were in elementary school. She is SO talented that I don’t want my students to miss an opportunity to experience one of her lessons. Often, our speech and language impaired kids need these right-brained activities, and I don’t want to deprive them of those experiences. We write an exclusionary statement into our IEPs that allows children to stay in the classroom for special specials, but some districts do not allow you to do that.

The other problem is assemblies. You can’t exactly walk into the auditorium when the whole student body is attending and pull kids out. That is why you need to have a school calendar. Maybe your school(s) send out a weekly bulletin that lists the upcoming events. Be sure you are on the email list for those mailings so you will know ahead of time about anything may affect your schedule. Now it’s time to get the schedule in place.

Communicating with Teachers


When I start at a new school, I put a paper notice in each teacher’s mailbox. I introduce myself and list the names of the speech students in their class. Included in this memo is a list of possible speech session times. I always ask them to circle for at least two options. Most teachers will write down any other information about their daily schedule they think you need to know.

Scheduling via Email

You can send out a memo as stated above and simply ask for them to reply with their preferences. Be prepared to send reminders! Some teachers are great about checking email, while others don’t respond. I find this method takes a lot of time, so it is not my preferred way to communicate with teachers.

Scheduling Party

Truth: I have not used this approach, but I had a colleague many years ago who loved to schedule this way. This approach works best when you already know the staff. You can send out a memo inviting all teachers to the staff room at a certain time for scheduling. Have your day divided into 25-30 minute blocks of time. Ask the teachers what they prefer. Tell them will try to accommodate their wishes, but you can't guarantee it. You won’t make everyone happy!

A Phone Call

If the scheduling party, memo and email don’t work, then make a phone call. No answer? Leave a message! Be sure to include your extension. If you are itinerant, let the teacher know when you will be on campus next. They might want to talk in person. 

Scheduling in Person

THIS is my favorite method! It works best because often there are teachers you just can’t reach via the other methods. Seek them out individually. I know you are thinking that this will take forever to accomplish, but you'll find it is time well-spent. Meeting in person will help you gain some insight into the teacher, too. At a new school, I want to meet every teacher, so I head out the door to their classrooms.

Once you have a schedule, be sure to let the teachers know the schedule for their student(s) in writing.


This can be the hardest concept! Be ready to make adjustments to your schedule. Kids move to your school in the middle of the year. Kids move out in the middle of the year. I guarantee you will have to make changes occasionally. Just be sure to stay in touch with the teachers. Like one of my former colleagues once said: “The schedule is temporarily permanent!” Yep, THAT says it all!

Do you have any tips to add? PLEASE comment below!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Happy New {school} Year!

Are you starting a new year at a new school? I have TIPS for you to get your year started on the right foot your very first day on the job!

The Obvious

So, you know where your room is and where the files are but, now what should do you? Have you met the administrative assistant? How about the custodian? They will become your best friends at your new school. Go and find them and introduce yourself!

First Things, First

Time to get a copy of your caseload. Maybe it comes from a computer. Maybe it comes from the files. Either way, that is where you must start. Enter every student’s name as shown on the chart below. Is an IEP coming due soon? Believe it or not, I have seen IEPs due at the beginning of the school year. Yikes! Don’t wait to discover that at the last minute. Note the date the annual review is due as well as the triennial date on the chart where indicated. Highlight anything coming up soon. Now you’ll be ready ahead of time. Like the scouts say, be prepared!

*Psst: Soon I will be making the above form fillable!  Sign up for my newsletter to get exclusive access to it! What does "fillable" mean? That means you will be able to type in the information instead of printing and doing it by hand. Of course, you can still do that too!

Study the IEP

Yes, it seems obvious, but I thought you might want to know how I approach a new file. I always start with the current progress notes. If there is a recent assessment, I read that also. Is this a complex case? Time to seek out the special education teacher. That person will be a wealth of information which will save you tons of time!

Goals & Objectives

Make a brief note of the student’s goals. This isn’t the place to put a lot of details. I usually just note the basic area the student is working on (articulation, receptive language, etc.). Then I might write a very short description of their goals. 

Service Delivery

Now you know what they need to work on, but how, exactly, does that happen? Note the frequency and duration for each student. You will need to check the IEP to determine if they can be grouped. Are the pull-out or push-in? Make sure you note this on your caseload form.

Next Step

Get a complete class list for every teacher and every grade level. Your school’s administrative assistant will help you with this. You must have it in order to locate students and get a schedule set up. Enter both the student’s grade level and the teacher’s name on the form mentioned above.

School Schedule

Don’t try to do anything else until you have a copy of the basic school schedule. Are there multiple lunch periods? What about specials? What are the start and end times? Make sure you have a copy of the schedule ASAP. Again the administrative assistant is your BFF when it comes to getting this information!

School Calendar

Most (but not all) schools will have a detailed calendar set up at the beginning of the school year. Does your school have a calendar? You know who to ask! Why do you need it? It is important to know when parent conferences take place and there might be special events listed that will impact services. Save yourself some time and grab the school’s calendar now!

Get Out of the Speech Room!

I don’t know about you, but I can only do so much paperwork before going cross-eyed. By the time I have filled out the students’ basic information and studied some files, I’m ready for a break. It’s time to go and meet some of the teachers! Yes, it can be a little intimidating to walk into a classroom when you have never met the teacher before. Go and do it! Chances are that they will be very happy to meet you. Most will appreciate that you took the time to track them down. You don’t need to know specifics about their students necessarily. I usually just keep it to small talk. They may share some valuable knowledge or may be too busy to chat much. Go with the flow. 

Managing Multiple Sites (Schools)

Traveling to more than one school can be overwhelming, especially if you are starting a new assignment. If you have multiple sites, you will need to spread the organizational process out over a couple of days, maybe even over several days. Try to avoid pushing yourself to get it all done at once. Yes, I know, you want to do it quickly (I’m like that, too), but taking your time reduces stress. Pace yourself by taking breaks and getting to know a few of the folks on your new campus(es). Do you want to talk more about managing several schools? That will be the topic of another upcoming post.


Look for the next post about scheduling! 

Here’s wishing you a fabulous new school year!

Friday, June 2, 2017

From Trash to Treasure!

Do you work in the schools? Well, school is coming to an end. In fact, today is the last day for me!  Yippee!! Happy dance!!

What makes this last day even better? Arriving to find HUGE piles of books that the school is getting rid of!   FREE for the taking!  Oh yeah! SCORE !

Ya, I know. It's a HOT MESS, but I see a GOLD MINE here!

And here!!

What kinds of books do I look for? Primarily, those that are small in size. As an itinerant SLP, I need books that are portable! The small books below fill the bill!

There were TONS of them! TONS!

Next, I’m interested in themes such as animals, home, school, friends, etc. Speaking of themes, how about books that are great for summer? Here are two that are perfect for this time of year:

What can you do with these? Oh my, you can do a LOT.

Fluency: I use books for fluency students to help establish fluency through reading aloud.

Articulation: You can have articulation students go through the story to find their sounds.

Semantics: How about vocabulary? Yes! Have the student choose a word and tell what they think it means. Then you can reinforce or help them change their concept of the word. Use the text and photos in the book!

Language Formulation (syntax): For expressive language, I use those vocabulary words and ask students to make up a sentence using the word. And you can ask students to describe what they see in the pictures.

Grammar (morphology): Use the photos in the book to address pronouns, verb tenses, etc. 

Literacy (and pre-literacy): Can the young students identify the parts of a book? Maybe they are able to decode. Find out! Use the words in the book to check phoneme blending and segmentation skills. Oh and how about story re-telling? Yes! These books are perfect for working on sequencing and re-tell skills.

Is there a gold mine on your campus? Check around and ask! You never know what treasure there may be just waiting for you to find it!

Happy Summer!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Summer Speech FUN!

Summer time and the livin’ is easy! Do you hear a melody for those words in your head? It’s an old song, but a great one.

And here are some GREAT ideas for summer-themed speech & language products and activities.  For those of us who work in the schools, a much-needed summer break is coming soon. However, many parents, teachers and other staff members express concerns at this time of year. What are those concerns? Most them have to do with kids forgetting or regressing in terms of the skills they have learned in speech this year. What can we do? We can send home homework. We can send home calendars with suggested activities they can do at home. 

Wait, some of us actually WORK in the summer! What about US? We need fun, summer-themed activities to do with kids, too.
Below you will find a list of great products you can use or send home with your students. I have grouped them into categories by age/grade for you to make your shopping easier. A brief description and a link to the product is listed below each category.


Summer Speech Homework Bundle Awesome Articulation Worksheets 2100 Words! (GoldCountrySLP): This black-ink only set has 2100 words. NO prep. I promise! 20 words per page for LOTS of practice. Appropriate for ages 4-10.

Ocean of Words Awesome Articulation Worksheets  (GoldCountrySLP): No prep! 20 words per page. Word lists for progress monitoring included.

Summertime Apraxia (Twin Speech): Apraxia PreK-2nd grade.

Summer-themed No Prep Artic Bundle (Twin Speech): PreK to 7th-artic.

Flip-Flop Articulation Dot Art (Putting Words inYour Mouth): PreK-5th grade. Articulation practice and open-ended activity. Kids decorate flip flops in this fun set.

Mixed (Articulation & Language)

Over in the Meadow Language & Literacy Book Companion (GoldCountrySLP): Grades PreK-2nd. This language and literacy based book companion accompanies a classic, Over in the Meadow, by Ezra Jack Keats. Activities include sequencing cards (2 levels), vocabulary word cards, irregular past tense verbs, regular past tense verbs, following directions (4 levels), association activities and MORE!

Mystery Pictures for Speech & Language – Summer (GoldCountrySLP): NO PREP! Grades 1st-6th. You will get MANY repetitions out of this one-pager! Great for therapy or homework.

Print and Go Summer Camp (Speech Owl): Grades K-3. Addresses articulation as well as receptive and expressive language skills. 

Language Therapy Products

Summer Complex Sentence Builder (GoldCountrySLP): Grades 2-12. Noun, verb, adjective and connector word cards as well as tasks cards. 

Following Complex Directions-Summer 500 (GoldCountrySLP): Grades 2-12. A total of 500 directions! Includes the following types of directions: temporal, conditional, directional, ordinal directions and those containing multiple modifiers. No prep – use your screen!

Summer Figurative Language (SLPRunner): Upper grades.

Busy Book for Speech & Language (Ms. Gardenia's Speech Room): Ages early childhood. Early childhood through elementary, busy book for speech and language-Summer Themed

Regular Plurals: I Have Who Has (Ms. Gardenia's Speech Room): I Have, Who Has for elementary grades.

Summer themed, print-and-go worksheets for practicing various sentence types (simple, compound, complex). Grades 3+

(Looks Like Language): This bundle has fun file folder activities to keep kids communicating!

Hope you have tons of fun in the sun!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

End of the Year Advice

Calling all CFs! For those of you who aren't SLPs, see the bottom of this post for an explanation.*

Are you working in the public school system?

Well, then you already know that the END is coming! You have almost made it but maybe, just maybe you are overwhelmed at the amount of work left to do. 

Here are some tips I am giving my current CF to help her get through the end:

• Cancel sessions NOW to get paperwork ready for May/June IEPs.

• Get ready to write end of the year progress notes NOW.

• Look at your caseload and see if there are any students who can be dismissed. Yes, it is more work to do this now, but you will be helping yourself a lot of time next year by dismissing anyone who is ready NOW.

• Remember state testing is just around the corner for many of your schools. Use that time to catch up!

• Field trips are often scheduled toward the end of the year. Look at the school’s schedule. Are there any field trips coming up? Plan ahead and you will find yourself some spare time here and there to complete assessments and paperwork.

• Class parties happen at this time of year, too. These are opportunities to get other things done. Again, check your school’s schedule so you can plan ahead to use that time effectively!

• Reach out to your clinical supervisor for advice. That is what we are here for!

• You did it! Give yourself a pat on the back! You made it through your first year. It will be much easier next year.

*For those of you outside the  profession of speech-language pathology, a CF is a Clinical Fellow. Our profession requires one year of supervision beyond the Master’s degree (really!). Once completed, the CF is eligible for the Certificate of Clinical Competency (CCC) issued by  ASHA (the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association).