Are your articulation therapy groups bringing you down? Maybe you started the year with some new apps or fresh ideas that got you through the fall, but now you feel like you're in a rut? In the back of your mind, you know that if you are bored by the memory games with winter-themed articulation cards, your students probably are too!
We've all been there! Here are some ideas for shaking things up and helping kids make progress:
- Take a close look at your schedule. No, really. Let go of all the painful memories you have of birthing the schedule last fall and open yourself up to potential change. Don't worry yet about where to move kids or what to tell teachers. Just give honest consideration to:
- WHAT students are working on - There are always some groups that seemed like a good fit at the beginning of the year, but aren't working so well now. Maybe some students have progressed much faster than others? Or you've had some new referrals that change things. Do you have students who are working on sounds in conversation or generalizing skills they have mastered in structured activities? Put an asterisk by these students - we'll deal with them in a minute.
- WHERE you are seeing students - I like to see students in front of a mirror when they are just learning a sound and need lots of feedback. After students can reliably produce their target sounds in sentences, they may be able to work on these skills in other (less restrictive) environments - could you pull them in the hallway 1:1? Could you see them in class during a read-to-your partner time? Or silent reading, when they could read to you?
- WHO is supporting your students' work on articulation? We all know that 20 (or even 40!) minutes of work per week is not enough on its own to change a habit. Make it a part of your lesson to have kids come up with other people they can share their 'best words' with. Tell teachers what cues have been working a particular student. Email today's most successful words or phrases home to parents or pin them to the outside of a student's backpack.
- HOW are students practicing their target sounds? Are they dependent on you to give them a model, an assignment, or an activity? That probably is not setting them up to think about generalizing their speech work outside the speech room. Have them find target words in their own conversation and stories. Involve them in coming up with their own words to practice, identifying their own 'best words', and making their own materials for home practice. This could be a hands-on art project or some doodling/coloring to do while repeating their targets. Consider allowing students to create their own digital flashcards using a free flashcard app like BitsBoard, that even allows you to email the flashcard deck to parents or teachers when you're done!
- And, what about those students getting close to meeting their goals? The ones targeting their sound in running speech? It may be time to reduce their minutes, and use targeted reminders and planned carry-over activities. My current district addresses reading fluency in upper elementary grades with a short passage that students read to each other each day for a week (6-minute solution). We can set the student up for thinking about his sound outside of 'speech' by reviewing the passage with him on Monday, highlighting target sounds and trouble words, and then listening to a read through later that week. He's reminded of his speech work - on his own! - every time he takes it out. Look for other generalization targets in language that is repeated - a vocabulary unit or science theme.
The new year is a great time to think about things we can do differently. What are you doing to mix up your articulation routine and to move students towards their goals?