#002: How to Get Organized

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Is your speech room a disaster?

In this podcourse, Marisha shares the three-step process she uses when organizing her speech therapy materials, so it’s a great tutorial for how to get organized at any time of year. With a focus on facilitating more meaningful outcomes for students and streamlining the therapy planning process, SLPs will walk away with practical tips and strategies to “work smarter” in their speech therapy sessions.

So, grab your favorite beverage, put your feet up, and listen in.

Key Takeaways

This episode about how to get organized is incredibly insightful and actionable. Here are a few key takeaways:

> 1. Declutter before you organize!
> 2. Prioritize the materials that you currently need for your caseload.
> 3. Find ways to organize those materials in a “smart” way.

Links Mentioned in the Podcast

> The Decluttering Guide (FREEBIE)
> The SLP Now Membership
> Epic (Free digital books for educators!)
> The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (affiliate link)
> Caseload at a Glance (FREEBIE)
> Therapy Tote Tour

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Welcome to the second episode of the podcast. I am really excited to dive in and answer the question of how to get organized as a speech-language pathologist. This is a question that I get all the time, and it's one that I love to answer. Organization is my love language, if you can even consider that a love language, but it's something that I've always really liked to do, and it's something that helps me feel just a little bit more in control when life gets a little bit extra chaotic. It's one that has helped me solve a lot of problems. Like, it helps me be more efficient and get more done and not have to think about all the things all the time.

But I hope that you're trying to get organized for that reason, to solve a problem. Like, you're trying to get organized to make it easier to find what you need for your therapy sessions, or you're trying to get organized so that your therapy room isn't quite so distracting for your students. Now, I don't hope that that's the case for you, but I hope that if you're trying to get organized that it's a reason like that, and that you're not getting organized just because you want an Instagram-worthy speech room, because that's not really going to serve us. It might get you some likes on Instagram, but that's not really the goal, right? We're trying to solve problems to help us become better SLPs, and you don't have to have a beautifully organized, color-coded therapy room to be successful, to be an amazing therapist, and to really impact your students.

If you are setting those organization goals, I just challenge you to take a step back and look at the why. As you're making your goals and you're coming up with your solutions to get more organized, definitely think about what's going to give you the most bang for your buck, because we do not have a lot of time, and our caseloads are always growing. We have such a heavy workload, and the time that we spend towards solutions should be the best use of our time. It can be counterproductive if we're so focused on all of the beautiful color-coded stuff, and if we need it to be exactly perfect. First of all, if your speech room is messy and it's working for you, you can embrace the mess, then own that. That's totally amazing. I actually wish I could be more like that, because I am a little bit of a perfectionist, and I tend to be the type of person that I was just talking about, where I spend too much time focusing on some of those little things.

But I've definitely learned a lot along the way. Sometimes I choose to do all the beautiful color-coded stuff even though it's not going to make me be that much more productive or really step up my therapy game that much, but it just makes me happy. It makes me smile when I walk into my therapy room, so I sometimes choose to spend some of my free time working on those types of things. But I really try to focus on making the most of my time while I'm at school and while I'm supposed to be serving my students, so the extra color-coded stuff just has to be something that I do for fun.

As always, I have a plan and some step-by-step processes to help us get more organized. The three main things that I want to talk about today are, one, decluttering your speech room, because that is a very important first step. I also want to talk about figuring out which materials are the most important for your caseload and how to use that to have an organized room that helps you be more productive in therapy and just makes the process that much easier. Then third, we're going to talk about some of my favorite ways to organize those materials once we have that all figured out. But as you noticed, organization is actually the last thing on the list. There's some work that we have to do ahead of time to make sure that we're being productive in our organization, and we're not falling down that rabbit hole where we're just trying to make pretty things, because we want to make the most use out of our time.

Let's dive into the first topic, which is decluttering. Let's address the elephant in the room. Why even talk about decluttering? It's definitely not a glamorous topic, and it's not something that sounds very fun, but it has been a serious game-changer for me. When I was a CF, I was so excited, because I had tons of therapy materials. You know me, I'm the organization nerd, so I spent a bunch of time at the beginning of the school year getting pretty color-coded organization set up, and everything was super organized when I started.

But it wasn't really organized, because I had everything I could possibly ever need for probably a hundred years of therapy. I just had too many choices, and it really made it harder for me to plan therapy. I couldn't find what I needed, or I was stuck standing in front of the bookshelf looking at like five different workbooks that I could choose from to pick worksheets, and it was just too much for my new clinician brain.

My room was also packed. I noticed that it distracted the kids. We were more focused on the what, like what are we going to play, what book are we going to read, what thing are we going to do, instead of the how, like how am I going to help them become better communicators? It just ended up distracting from what we wanted to accomplish.

I realized this. I realized that I was feeling overwhelmed, and that having that much was distracting for us. I spent some time purging my materials, and it made such a big difference. It was pretty amazing. I still had a lot of materials, but I was feeling a lot better.

But then a few years ahead, I started in a speech room with like no therapy materials. I think I didn't even have Super Duper decks. I had very few things. I maybe had like one game and some paper and paperclips. There was not a lot in the therapy room. I had just moved from a new state, so my personal therapy materials hadn't been delivered yet, except for the few things that I decided to pack in my car. I'm not going to lie, I was a little worried, because I was used to having such a full speech room. I had so many materials at my disposal, even after I did the decluttering in my last district. Yeah, I was worried. I didn't think I would have enough. I just had, like I said, the few staple materials, my favorites, and that was it.

But it turned out that only having a few materials was like a game-changer for me. I was more resourceful, I was more creative, I was more productive in my sessions. We had tons of room to move around. Like, we weren't kind of navigating different bookshelves and piles of materials. We just had ... There was so much empty space. Kids weren't distracted, and I wasn't overwhelmed. I knew I just had this therapy tote of materials, and that's all that I had to choose from. It made it so much easier to plan for therapy and get things done.

That was really a fortunate accident, or I was really able to turn that around. I was really nervous at first, and it ended up being absolutely amazing having an empty speech room. That's good news for those of you who are stressed out about having very few materials, because you're already ahead of the game, because you don't have to do this decluttering step. But for those of you who have more materials, we're going to be diving into how to make this happen, and for those of you who don't have the materials, stay tuned to see the ideas that I had on how to pick your most important materials, because I think those will be very valuable for both situations.

When I had less materials, I wasn't reaching for games or worksheets or card decks. I was a little more motivated to collaborate with teachers and use materials from the curriculum. Those are free, and they're super easy to access when you're in a school setting. I do use the SLP Now membership. I'm the founder of it. But you can totally build your core library of materials using any number of resources. There's so many good ones out there. But I used the SLP Now membership and pulled up materials on my iPad, so I didn't even have to have a lot of papers. I had all of my visuals on there.

I was even able to access books on there, like if I couldn't find what I wanted on the library. Two of my favorite apps for books are Epic!, and you can find that at getepic.com. If you go to the Educator tab, it's on the top of the page, you can sign up with your school email and get free access. I also really like finding books on YouTube. Those are really fun resources. So I was able to ... I didn't need anything for that. I just had my iPad, and even if I didn't have my iPad, I could just pull these things up on my computer. I didn't have to have any of those materials prepped or printed or anything.

I also had just a few reinforcers, like a dice and some highlighters and some of those favorite tools that get students super excited. But that's all I really needed. I didn't need any of my other materials. I didn't need my games, I didn't need my decks of cards. I just had a really core set of materials, and we were having so much fun in therapy, and making so much progress with hardly any materials.

But like I said, a lot of us don't have the, quote-unquote, "luxury" of an empty speech room, so I am doing a quick recap of the process that I used to declutter my super full speech room. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo while I was in my CF, and I was so incredibly inspired. I decided to go all-in, and I just invested a good chunk of time to just unload all of the shelves and do a massive decluttering. I unloaded my desks, my bookshelves, all of the different ... Like, I had a bunch of different bookshelves. I didn't have a closet or anything. But I made the most glorious mess in the world. I wish I had pictures to share, because it was a mess.

But I just unloaded everything, and I used her process to go through my speech room and figure out what I wanted. I sorted the different materials. I put all of the different types of card decks together, all of the art supplies together, all of the papers together, and I categorized things, because I had decks on this shelf, and then the shelf by the door and the shelf by the window, and I had some in my desk. By making sure that I had all of the decks in one place, all of the papers in one place, it was a lot easier, and I noticed that I had duplicates of a lot of things. It was just really helpful to see it all laid out like that.

It could've been super overwhelming to see the ... It looked like my speech room had been in a massive storm, and people always commented when they walked by, but luckily it didn't last a very long time. But it was just so incredibly helpful to be able to see exactly what I have, and then like I said I grouped all of those things together, and I was able to just quickly see everything that I had, and kind of going through all of that.

Oh, and then the paper. I mentioned that I kept the paper ... I tried to put all of the paper together. But I think I had three giant filing cabinets' worth of worksheets, plus all of the ... Well, not three. I think there were two cabinets of worksheets, and then one cabinet that was ... Like, there were IEPs in folders in there from like 10 years ago. So that was a lot.

The biggest thing that I did with the paper was, for the old files, I really wanted to make sure that I had a good system in place for that and that I was following the district's rules on how long you're supposed to keep paper and all of those good things. But I checked in with my district and I figured out which files I could shred, or which files I had to send to special education, and which ones I needed to keep. Then I put together a system, because I think we ... I don't remember the exact rules that they had, but there was something about, I have to keep files for seven years, and then I send them to special education, and if they've been around for longer than that, then I'm supposed to shred them. I don't know. I don't remember the rules, so don't quote me on that. Just check with your special education department and figure out what needs to happen there.

But I came up with a system to figure out how long I needed to keep the files, so then at the end of every school year, I could just get rid of the ones that I didn't need. That ended up freeing up a bunch of space, and it also made it easier, because I was able to get those organized. Sometimes students would move out and then they would come back and all of that, so it just really helped solve that problem, because they were not organized at all, and so I was kind of going to all over the place trying to figure out what was what. But now, with that system, when a new students came in I could quickly check to make sure that they weren't already in my cabinet. That made a big difference, too.

Then when it came to the worksheets, that was a whole other thing. But like I said, I think I did all of the therapy materials that one time, and then I saved the paper for another time, because that was a huge project, and I didn't have enough time to do it all at once. But as I was going through the speech room, I made sure to keep any papers and just stuff them in the file cabinet until I was able to go through those.

But if it's too overwhelming to do your entire speech room at once, you can work in zones. This isn't something that the genius, Marie Kondo, recommends, but you could start with your desk, and then move to the first bookshelf, and then go to your cabinet, or whatever order you want. But you could just write down, "Okay, I want to do this first, then this, then this, then this," and then just cross them out as you make progress. But the only thing is, if you have art supplies in your desk and your cabinet and on your bookshelf and in the whatever other location, then you really want to think about how ... like, maybe think ahead of time where you want to put your art supplies, and then just keep them there until ... Like, as you find them, just put them in that place, and then organize them when you get to that section. But I thought it was really helpful to just unload it all and organize it all, and then decide where it went once I was done going through.

Then the second step is to start going through all of the things. A lot of times, they'll talk about like a three-box method, where you box the things that you want to keep, the things you want to donate, and the things that you need to trash. With therapy materials, there's some things, like random just trash that we can get rid of, but a lot of times in the schools we can't just throw out old therapy materials. I would definitely check before you just start throwing things in the trash.

But I started to go through the materials, and there were some old worksheets and things when I got to the papers that I could throw away. But most of the things ... Like, there were books that were ... I don't know, they must have been almost a hundred years old. Probably not that old, but there were some really old books and some really old therapy materials. But I didn't want to just get rid of them, because I was in a district that the SLPs, we didn't have a budget at the time, and I knew a lot of SLPs weren't in the same situation as me.

I decided to share some of the resources with ... Like, I shared the resources that I didn't want with the other SLPs in my district. I took pictures of all of the materials that I didn't want to keep, and I posted them in a Google Doc, and I just listed ... I just laid a bunch of them out on the floor, and then I took a big picture of a bunch of things, and then I listed the names of the materials. Like, this following directions deck, or the name of this game, or the name of this book. Then shared it with all of the SLPs in my district, and then they writed their ... Writed. They wrote their name next to the things that they wanted.

I cannot tell you how fast that list filled up. They were so excited to get new materials. Pretty much everything got requested or claimed within, I don't know, I felt like it was a matter of minutes. It just went so fast. They were totally on top of it. So then I just packed that stuff up and brought it to the next speech therapy meeting, and everyone got to go home with materials. It was really awesome. It was really fun, and I feel like it kind of boosted everyone's morale, because I was so incredibly excited to be getting rid of those materials, and I was able to share them with other SLPs when they really needed it, which was so amazing. I felt like I could breathe in my therapy room, and I knew that the materials were going to a good place, so I didn't feel quite so guilty about it. It was just a really amazing process altogether.

I actually created a little cheat sheet, because I know it can be so challenging to figure out what you need to keep and get rid of and all of that. So I made a little decision tree to make things easier. If you go to SLPNow.com/too, you can access that free handout to help you go through the process, and hopefully that'll make it a little bit easier.

Then the third step is to ... Like, once you sort all of the things into different boxes, like I had the things I wanted to keep, and I then put them in the place that they need to go. Like, I put all of the art supplies in one place, I put all of the children's books in one place, I put all of the therapy workbooks in one place, put all of the decks in one place. You get the idea. Then I put those things away, and then like I said, I shared the resources, or the materials that I didn't need with the SLPs in my district, and then I got rid of the ones that were okay to throw away. Then that was it. Then I got to celebrate.

But this last step is so incredibly important, because you don't want to just let those things sit around. You really want to take care of them as soon as possible. Yeah, like I said, it was an absolute game-changer for me. It was a small step towards the complete freedom that I felt coming into a totally empty therapy room, but it was just really awesome. Decluttering is a huge first step. Once you do that, you don't need quite so many organizational tools, and just, you don't need so much stuff. You don't need to do all of that crazy organization because you don't have that much stuff. Even if you have a really small speech room, it'll just be so easy to organize because you just don't have that much stuff.

But like I said, there are definitely some benefits to having some good organization systems, so we're going to dive into that in just a moment. Before we dive into all of my favorite organizational tools, I wanted to share some strategies that you can use to figure out what you actually need for your caseload, which goes back to, if you're getting stuck with the decision tree and you're just overthinking it, and it's like, "I don't know what I'm going to need, and I'm just having a hard time purging these materials or decluttering," this will be incredibly helpful for you.

I wanted to take a step back, because one of the most important things that we do in therapy is teach. We teach our students these new skills, and that is such an important part of our therapy process. It's so easy to forget about that when we have ... because we have all of these therapy materials that are geared towards practicing the skill, and it's so easy to skip the initial teaching. We forget that it's such an important part of the process, and there's so much research showing that teaching first increases student understanding, levels of performance. That's an article by Swanson in 2001. There's so many more things that we could reference, but I want to stay super practical here. But it's just remembering that we really need to make sure that we have the materials that we need to teach our students.

One of the best ways that I think that we can teach our students is by using visuals. There's so many benefits to using visuals. There's lots of research, like Shelton 1999, Stoner, Meaden, and Angell in 2014 cite visuals as an effective tool for therapy. They help us structure our sessions. They allow us to increase student independence, because we don't have to do quite so much talking. Students are often ... at least the students that I see are often more visual learnings. They benefit from seeing things visually versus having to process them auditorially.

Visuals are kind of magical, because we can easily fade their use. We can start by really kind of having the visual in the student's face. Not really in the student's face, but we can have it right by the student. We can point to it, we can refer to it, and we can have that be something that we do. Then over time, we can just have the visual on the desk. Then we can move the visual away. We can have the student access the visual independently when he needs it, instead of us cuing him to use it. So it's really amazing for that purpose. Like I said, it makes it so that we don't have to do so much talking, and it really empowers our students. And it's really great for generalization, because they don't need us to be there. We can share the visual with teachers, and it can, like I said, make that generalization that much easier.

I want to share a quick story of how this worked for me. I was working on WH questions with a student, and he was doing really well in the therapy room, and he was really loving the visual that I made for him. I ended up sharing it with the teacher too, because they were doing a lot of worksheets at the time where they had to answer WH questions, and they were doing multiple choice reading comprehension quizzes, and he kept failing them, and kept missing the ... Like, he misunderstood the meaning of the WH word. So he retained details from the story fairly well, but he would answer like a who question with a what. The multiple choice answers were structured in a way where he was able to get away with that, or not really get away with it, where it had a what answer for the who question, and it was just really tricky for him.

So we brought that visual into the classroom and I told the teacher how it worked, and so she was able to give a little bit of prompting. But because I had taught him to use that visual in the therapy room, he was able to use it on his own in the classroom. It was amazing, because the teacher immediately saw the value in that visual, and the student was able to use it. It was just a win-win situation. The teacher even ended up using it with multiple students. It was the best feeling ever. I walked into the classroom, and I did a little happy dance because I saw my student using it, and then I looked around and I saw even more students using the visual, which was so amazing. The teacher had just made some copies of it, and it was just really exciting to see that in action. It really benefited my student, but it also benefited other students in the classroom, which was amazing.

Again, just emphasizing the importance of having those different visuals. It's just a really great way to give feedback, too. If we're working on answering WH questions, and like, I ask who is in the story and he answers with a what, I can point to the who, and have that be a feedback tool, and I don't have to say anything. But it's just a great way to provide that feedback and facilitate success. Then we don't have to have quite so much negative practice. It's a little bit easier to do that cuing. I could've been, in the example I just gave, I could've been more proactive and I could've said, "Who was in the story?" as I'm pointing to the icon that represents who, and then I would be setting that student up for success without having to give any verbal cues. That's a really effective strategy. They're more successful, they're more engaged, and it just has a lot of benefits overall. It just gives us more options in our prompting hierarchy to support the student and set them up for success, which is absolutely amazing.

How do I figure out which visuals I need, which assessments I need, which materials I need to have at the forefront of my therapy room? I do this by mapping out my caseload using a caseload at a glance sheet. You can access my template at SLPNow.com/too, but you can also totally just pull out a piece of paper and draw some lines and make an equally effective caseload at a glance. What I do is, I put the main areas of goals that I'm targeting. I typically do, like, articulation, or speech sound disorders, then I do language, grammar, vocabulary. Some people might cringe at my categories, but they help me organize things and they make sense to my brain. Pick whatever makes the most sense to you. Just pick your broader categories.

That's going down ... Each row has one of those. Then I make columns that have the different grade levels. I might have preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade. Whatever levels of students that you work with. Then I go through my students' goals. I'll start with preschool, and I'll look at Johnny's IEP or Johnny's datasheet, and I'll just map out his goals. Johnny is in preschool and he's working on final consonant deletion and naming antonyms. So I would go to the articulation row and put it in the preschool column, and I would just write K, and then I would put a 1 next to it. Then I would also go down to the vocabulary row under the preschool column, and write down, "Antonyms." Then if I go to the next IEP and Sally is working on K and synonyms, I would add a dash next to the K that I just wrote, because there's two kids working on the K sound, and then I would go down to vocabulary and add synonyms, and put a 1 next to it.

Then I just go through, and then by the time I'm done going through all of my IEPs or datasheets, I have a really good idea of what my caseload looks like. I know how many students are working on articulation, I know how many students are working on vocabulary, and so on and so forth. That makes it really easy to figure out which materials I need, because I can do a quick inventory and look at which materials I already have. Like, do I have ...

Before you start doing your inventory, you can make a copy of this sheet. You can do one where you look to make sure that you have assessments for all of these. You can use another copy to make sure that you have teaching materials for all of those skills. You can do another one to make sure that you have practice activities for all of those skills. Although I would argue that with especially grammar and vocabulary, you don't necessarily have to ... if you have good teaching materials, you can use pretty much anything to target the skills, so you don't need a lot. But whatever you feel like you need, you know your therapy style best. I definitely have my own style and preferences, so just organize it the way that makes the most sense for you.

Then I just go through, and I will highlight the areas that I feel like I have enough materials for. Then you could use a color-coding system too, if you want to do, like, okay, I feel really good, I'm green for all of these areas, but the yellow areas, I could use some more materials. You can organize that however makes the most sense for you. But that's a really fun way to, and a productive way, to figure out what you need for your caseload. When I went through this, I made sure that I had those teaching materials, because I use those day in and day out. I made sure that I had them right by my therapy table so that I had instant access to those materials. Then I made sure to have a system that has the activities that I need to practice those skills with students super accessible. But having this all mapped out makes it really easy to know what I need for my current caseload.

I know that this doesn't answer the question, because you don't know what kind of student is going to be on your caseload tomorrow. But in terms of what you need to do ... Just think about what you need to do therapy today, and make sure that those materials are easily accessible, and prioritize those and make sure that you can access them when you need to, especially if you're getting into that flow where you're planning as students walk in the door. It'll do yourself such a huge favor if you're able to have easy access to those materials. It's kind of like doing your planning ahead of time. That's a huge component of planning for your sessions if you have those materials ready to go, because then you just have to plan out a really basic activity to kind of glue all of those things together. So it's just a really huge productivity booster too, in addition to having a more organized therapy room and saving yourself time in between sessions and all of that.

That is the second topic that I wanted to go over, because it's been such a huge game-changer for me in terms of mapping out my caseload and figuring out what I need. For the things that I don't have, like if I don't have any materials to work on K, then that's definitely a priority and something that I want to access. That'll be more of another topic, in terms of building that library, but I just wanted to kind of allude to that so we can talk about that more some other time.

So we've mapped out our caseload and we're working on decluttering our therapy room, and we're making sure that we keep the materials that we need for those types of goals. That doesn't mean that we have to throw out all of the other materials that we have, but it really helps us prioritize. Then we might keep some of those other materials, but maybe we will store them elsewhere, like not right by our therapy table, or we might even store them offsite if it's something that we're not using right now. I know a bunch of SLPs who store materials in their garage or in a spare closet at home. Those are some options too if you just want to simplify your speech therapy room but you're not ready to get rid of those materials.

Then I would challenge you, if you have been keeping those materials for several years and you haven't even opened the box, we might not need it anymore. You could kind of set up a rule for yourself. If I don't use this in this amount of time, then it can go away. So yeah, those are some of the tips to map out the caseload.

Now we get to the fun part, organizing our most-used materials. This is when we've gone through the decluttering, we've gotten everything all prioritized, and we know what we're using in our sessions day in and day out. The first thing that we talked about was those visuals and the materials that we need to teach different skills. I definitely have my favorite way of doing this. I use this therapy tote that I found at a craft store. I use it to keep all of my teaching materials. It all just fits into this tote. I like that it's a certain amount of space. I have plenty of space in there, but it helps keep it contained, and I make sure that I don't go too, too crazy with my different materials.

But I have a file box that fits perfectly into the tote, and that's where I put files. I use that to organize my different visuals. I put them in sheet protectors so that I can use dry erase markers as I'm introducing a skill. It's super helpful, because then it just gives me so many different options. I also store those dry erase markers in the tote. If you go to SLPNow.com/too, you can access, or you can see a picture of the tote, and I'll link to a blog post that goes into it in more detail. You can see a video going through the tote, and then you can also get links to all of the different materials if you're interested in building your own tote. That is the first thing that I store in the tote. I keep my visuals in a file box, and the papers rall in sheet protectors. That's been super helpful.

Then the second thing that I have is a little ... I think it's called a tackle box. It's just a little craft organizer. It fits right next to my file tote, so it's like the perfect system. It took me a little while to figure out all the different components, but I'm really happy with it now and I've been using it for a few years. The little craft organizer box is what I use to store my little decks of cards. I use those when the student needs more structured practice in that initial teaching to really understand a skill. So I'll use that if I'm introducing, like, past tense verbs, or teaching them how to follow directions, or whatever it may be. I just have a little box, and I just open that up and pull the deck of cards that I need for any given skill when I need it. That's been a really amazing system.

I also have a binder in there with assessments. If I'm starting to work on a new skill or if I feel like we're stuck, I can go through the assessment binder and just pull up the assessment for that skill and run through it to help myself troubleshoot a little bit and figure out exactly where we need to start. It can also be helpful for just progress monitoring or updating present levels or whatnot. But those are very specific to the different skills, and they're just helpful when I need some help.

I like that I can just pull that, because often, especially as a newer SLP, I wasn't always sure of exactly ... Like, it wasn't as intuitive to me, I think, as it was to some other SLPs. So it was really nice being able to have an assessment to lean on, because I felt like having a little bit more data made it ... it helped me break down the skill, and the assessments that I use do a really nice job of that.

For example, there's a following directions assessment. It has different levels in the assessment, so I can start with one-step, two-step, three-step directions, and then it has different types of directions within that assessment, so I can look at the one-step directions and ones that include prepositions or other basic concepts, or different syntax. I can really look at those different components and figure out what they need help with, because if they're not able to follow directions because they're missing the vocabulary, that gives me a really good idea of what I need to focus on, whereas if they understand all of the vocabulary but they're getting confused when I use different types of syntax, then I know what I need to target on there.

That's just such a helpful and important part of my therapy process that I want to have those really easy to access. So when I'm going through my caseload at a glance, I want to make sure that I have the assessments and the visuals, and then just other teaching tools for those different skills, and they all live in my therapy tote. It's amazing. I love it because I can take it ... If I'm at different locations, it's easy to move around. I can bring it into the classroom and just have everything that I need in one place.

Then the second piece that we talked about is, so we've got all the materials that we need, we're ready to target pretty much any goal, at least any goal on our caseload, and now we need something to glue our therapy sessions together. I personally love using books in therapy. I'm a huge fan of literacy-based therapy. So for me, I have a lot of books and themed units around those books so that we can really get some quality practice. We'll talk about this another time, but there's a framework that I like to use to make sure that I'm making the most out of my therapy time using literacy-based therapy, and there's a whole process around that.

But the basic system that I use is, I just have a bunch of books, and then I used to store them in big ... in totes, like file totes, and I had them organized that way. But then I switched to book bins, because I like to be able to keep the books that I'm not using in a separate place, and just have the current set of books close by. It was just overwhelming to have all of that stuff right by the therapy table, so I just pull one book bin for whatever we're working on, and just all of the books that I'm currently using with my students, and I just keep those there, so it's a little bit less overwhelming.

I have all of my materials pretty much ... they're pretty much digital now, and then I can easily print those out when I need them. But then inside of the book, I use a little pocket, and I put the visuals that I need for like comprehension and vocabulary and those types of activities. So those are always stored in the book, and I have easy access to those. If I need any supplementary activities, I just print them out, or I pull them up on my iPad.

Then beyond that ... Yeah, that's the basic system there. But if I need something additional, I also love, love, love, love using no-print books, and I've made a bunch of those. If I'm not able to prep the materials for a particular book, I can always use the no-print book companion, and it has all of the different visuals and tools that I need, especially when combined with the different tools that I use, so the different visuals and teaching tools that I have in my therapy tote.

Really, that's pretty much all I need, because I keep my iPad in my therapy tote. So I just have my tote and a box of books, and that's pretty much all that I need. The tote has different pockets in the sides, so I have my different reinforcers there, like stylus, pens. I have little fidgets when needed, I have behavior tokens, I have magic highlighters, I have my smelly pens. Like, those are all in that therapy tote. That's all I need. It's super easy and super fun.

I don't do crafts so much in therapy, but I do have a little ... not a little, but it's a fairly large ... I believe it's called an art bin. I use that to organize some of my most commonly used art supplies, so I can pull those out when needed. But that's not something that I do a ton, so that's really all that I need. My therapy tote also has some ... I do my articulation therapy either using apps, like I love Articulation Station, and then I have some different interactive activities that I use. Those also fit in my therapy tote. That's really all that I need, and that's how I organize it. Like I said, you can check out the website to see visuals and links to all of these different resources. But yeah, that's how I organize all the things and how I make it work for me.

Then just a quick recap. The first thing is to declutter. I cannot emphasize how incredibly important this is. Arguably, you should probably map out your caseload before you do the decluttering, but I feel like those really go hand-in-hand. You need both of those components to really get the best organization setup set for your caseload. But yeah, I map out my caseload and use that caseload at a glance to really drive how I organize all of the things and to figure out what I actually need. Then I organize my most-used materials. A lot of that includes just the therapy tote with my different teaching materials, and then I have books and materials for different themed units.

If you are working with younger students, you might want some more seasonal games and activities and things like that. I have a lot of those at home now, and I use boxes to store those, and then just have them organized by theme. Then the ones that I like the most, I have in a cabinet.

Yeah, that's how I do all the things. Let us know if you have any questions. We'll see you next time.



Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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