My speech room received an upgrade this year, so I wanted to share what I am doing with some of the extra space I have. Some of these practices are to help with social distancing due to COVID-19, while others are here to stay permanently.
Interactive Bulletin Board: 🌟This year I’m using a numbered organizer for all of my students to have their own supplies. Inside they have crayons, glue stick, and reward punch card. Hopefully this helps cut down on germs!🌟I’m using @aperfectblendteaching interactive language board to target a wide range of language skills. This is perfect to discuss while we are putting on our hand sanitizer.
SLP Style: 🌟Love my new SLP lanyard from @igotchewshop Use code GINGERSPEECHIE for 10% off 🌟 Together Again face mask from @shopdisney 🌟 PTA provided buttons so our kiddos can see our faces!
Sensory Corner: 🌟Sensory area for my students this year. There are pillows with different textures, sensory bottles, and other sensory items for students. 🌟In order to keep students safe, I have my Clean Me bucket. This is for fidget toys, headphones, and other things that need cleaned once used. I might not always have time to clean them right away, but when I do have time I can clean them for other students to use. Grab your decal here to make your own!
Color Coded Stations: 🌟Colored stools paired with a dot on the table help keep students in their area during therapy. This also allows students to know where to go for speech/language centers.
I want to start off this blog post by saying I do not do teletherapy full time, but I do want to share my background with you. In graduate school I had two clients through teletherapy, ages 9 and 4. I also did my graduate thesis over perceptions of telepractice in the school setting, and I did a poster presentation on this at my state conference. Previously I did VIPKID which teaches Chinese children English over the internet. That is where I learned how to keep students motivated and engaged. If you would like to see some other great SLPs who do this full time check out Lady in the Box, Whimsical SLP, and Stacy Crouse on Instagram or TPT.
Motivation & Engagement
Recently I wrote a post on ways to keep your students engaged during therapy sessions (you can check it out here). I never thought I would have to be writing again so soon on how I do this through teletheraphy. My main go to product? Find A Star (FAS) activities. Not only does it help keep your students motivated, but it also helps keep you on track time wise. Stars are hidden under pictures and numbers. Students must find all 5 stars before the session is over. I normally like to have they choose a number/card every few minutes. I use the pictures on the cards to ask questions, and prompt further language. Students are being rewarded, while still targeting their goals! I let students choose numbers/images based on their ability to stay focused, not on their ability to perform a goal area correctly. This keeps the sessions positive, and the FAS something to look forward to.
Something else I use a lot to get students engaged are props. That can be something that you have already around the house, or something you find on Amazon. My go to props are giant eyes, ears, and microphone that I printed off and laminated. The students usually laugh at the over sized props when I put them on my face. I use them to indicate to students that I need their eyes and ears on me if they are getting distracted. The microphone is perfect for the students who need some prompting to talk. Remember that for most of our students this may be strange to them talking to a computer.
Now this may be different for every person. Make sure that you have a space that you can set aside to do your therapy sessions. Have an old corner of your house that you don’t use? Great! I find it easier, and less stressful, if I have a dedicated space to work at rather than setting up my station everyday. This allows me time to not worry about setting time aside for setting up my work station everyday. Now I understand not everyone can do this, but think outside the box! Finally, use backdrops to your advantage. Maybe put the FAS on the wall behind you as a reminder to keep your students focused. I also have a blanket on my lap as I like often get cold if I am sitting in one place for too long. remember to take breaks, and get up and move around! If you can set up your computer on a platform you can stand at that is even better.
Just because therapy is now done through the computer, that doesn’t mean you can’t still do the things you normally do. If you like doing themes to keep yourself centered (like me) then keep doing that! If you are a bit more individualized, keep doing that! Therapy is as unique as you and me (and that’s ok).
What if your student can’t stay seated? Send them on a scavenger hunt around their house for certain items. If they are a student who will wander off and never return, set a timer for them! You can also do charades with the students, or brain breaks using videos like Go Noodle.
What if your students doesn’t talk? Remember receptive communication and auditory bombardment that we were taught in school? Yes, that is perfect for a time like this! Students may not understand for a little bit that you are the same person asking them to do the same things they do at school. You are no longer in the environment they are use to, you are now inside their homes.
What if I freeze!? That is bound to happen at some point! Have a list of questions you can ask the student. This can make you ready for any situation, and help warm both you and your student up for the day.
Messing Up, Boundaries, & Grace
You are human. You will mess up, and that is okay. It can be a bit stressful knowing that the parent is their while you are doing your sessions. Remember, you are the professional. Trust your schooling, trust your experience, and trust your gut. Your students may run away, or cry, or not talk at all the first few sessions, and that happens! Remember what it is like when you see a new student face to face, that can be hard too. If a parent is trying to take over a session, do not be afraid to ask them for less input during your sessions. That also works in the opposite way, maybe your parents think that teletherapy is free babysitting. If you need a parent to stay in the room, tell them that. Taking out the physical proximity that face to face therapy brings only means you need to increase your communication with the parents. Going from therapy at school, where you see the parents once a year at IEP meetings, to seeing them every week is not only new for you, but also for them. Give yourself grace.
If no one has told you today, thank you for all that you are doing.
Motivation 🎯 We all need a reason to do what we do everyday. Yes, I love my job, but extrinsically the money is what motivates me to come to work on the days I really don’t want to. Now you may be thinking, “Elizabeth, I do it for the happiness it brings me”, and that’s okay too! You getting that intrinsic feeling may be enough, but I know I need a bit more sometimes.
Well, our students aren’t that different! Different students require different levels of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to work hard during therapy. Some students are okay with a good job or thumbs up, but others need a bit more (and that’s ok)! Let’s put ourselves in their shoes… You may be pulling them out or pushing in on a time they don’t really enjoy. You are pushing them to get better at something they struggle with, so they may feel a bit apprehensive to mess up. Not I know that’s not ALL students, but it is human nature to need to be motivated.
These are just some of the ways I am currently motivating my students extrinsically during therapy. Some take some prep, while others are just a Target run away!
Mini Erasers: Small & easy to use. Perfect to put over target sounds, vocabulary words, or even just to have for good behavior. Themed erasers illicit language too! I get mine at Target or you can buy in bulk on their website. I have seen them available at other stores too!
Smash Mat: I get asked a lot about what it is used for, and the answer is anything! Great to pair with mini erasers or play dough to cover pictures. I like to pair them with my sensory bin cards, when they pull that picture it get covered. I have these available with every themed articulation coloring sheet on my TPT!
Popper: Easily themed for units. Students can pop them at picture cards or use it as a reward for so many things done. I have found these at Target sometimes, but Amazon has a large inventory too!
Play-dough: My students can’t get enough of this sensory item! Great for smashing on cards or smash mats. Bonus free time at the end of therapy! I am a stickler with my play-dough though, NO mixing colors. 5 Below has some cheap play-dough tools that I picked up at the start of the year too.
Whatever motivates your students, whether it be words of affirmation, candy, or something above keep it fresh! I would love to hear what you use to motivate your students by commenting below! Also, check out some of the past ways I motivate my students.
Most of my middle school speech and language sessions are homework or classwork related. I find myself helping students with topics from longitude and latitude to math proofs to water cycles. As SLPs and teachers we have to remember that these students are still KIDS! Kids love games, and taking sometime to build relationship with them will end up helping our students in the long run. Bonus if the games also target their IEP goals!
Below are my top 5 games I use in therapy or on game days. Do you have a favorite game that didn’t make the list? Comment below. All links are affiliate links.
Bubble Talk is very similar to Apple to Apples, but you use pictures as the prompt. Students take turns being the judge of the captions students decide upon for each picture prompt. It’s perfect for turn taking, conversation level articulation, inferencing, and describing. You can even use these pictures for other therapy sessions as there are 150 colored pictures included. There are a few pictures that people may not be a huge fan of, but I choose the picture for every round. You can use this game for 10 minutes at the end of a session, or make it last the entire time!
Pickles to Penguins
I originally heard about this game from another SLP in my district who works with 5th and 6th graders. Honestly I think you can use it with any grade, as it is really open ended. The main game is all about how you can connect two cards together. You always have a main card in the center, and you try to get rid of your cards by connecting them to the card in the center. I end up making up my own rules to target my students’ goals for the day. PERFECT for EET goals or expanding MLU as students have to explain how the two cards are similar. There are other ways to play the game that are included in the rules. Most of the pictures are real pictures, and even the ones that are animate do not look “childish”. I find that my older students will not participate in games if they feel it is young for them. You get hundreds of picture cards which can be used for therapy too. For it’s price you could just use the cards as articulation cards!
Do you need a new vocabulary or inferencing game? Then you need to grab Blurt! It has two different levels of cards which are perfect for a variety of ages and abilities. Students read hints for the vocabulary word the other student identifies the vocabulary word. I think what makes this game different than other games like this, are the two levels of cards. Blurt! game does not take up a lot of space either, and can easily store in your therapy bag for the day! It simple and easy to play. Perfect for fun Friday.
This game is great for your larger groups, as the more people you have playing, the more fun it gets! I use this with my push in social skill groups to show perspective. Each round lasts about 10 minutes. Every person is given something to draw on their notepad in dry erase marker. Once you draw the word you pass it onto the next person and they guess what it is. From there you pass it onto the next person who draws what the guess is. This continues on until the notepad returns to the first person. Telestrations is like a drawn version of telephone. When you are done you can go back through and see how the picture was passed on correctly or incorrectly and exactly how the breakdown occurred. I enjoy this because sometimes my students with social language deficits need to see how things occur, and not just be told. **Also a fun game to play with family and friends!
This game is a classic, but my students LOVE to play it. I can target goals from articulation to categories, to social skills all with this one game. I put a twist on mine, and have students only focus on one category at a time with one letter. This allows the game to slow down a bit, and for a deeper conversation to be had about each category. In a given session we may only get through three categories, but we go very in depth. I always tell my students to “stretch their brain” to push past the first few things they know. Giving them time to focus on one category at a time allows them to build up the confidence that they do know, or know more than they think, when just given a bit of extra time.