#169: 5 Tips for Mixed Groups in Speech Therapy

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There are a few experiences in Marisha’s SLP life that completely changed the way that she plans and implements therapy sessions, and one of those game changers was learning how to tap the power of mixed groups.

In this week’s episode of the SLP Now podcast, Marisha shares her top five tips for working with mixed groups. If you — or an SLP you know — get stressed out by the prospect of mixed groups, this is an episode you don’t want to miss.

Let’s dive in! 🤿

Tip one: Embrace the positives of mixed groups

Marisha highlights the importance of adjusting your mindset and embracing the positive aspects of mixed groups. She acknowledges that there are real challenges, but also underscores the benefits.

There are always going to be situations where one-on-one therapy is absolutely the best option and in those cases, we can try to figure out a way to make that happen. But when Marisha was working in the schools and had massive caseload numbers, she found that she needed to group students to be able to provide all of the services that were needed. In that kind of setting, there’s not enough time in the day to meet all of our students one-on-one. That’s why it’s so helpful to focus on the positive aspects of working with mixed groups.

Mixed groups can provide students with valuable role models and improve generalization. Moreover, students can support each other in a group setting by sharing their unique strengths. One student may have a relative strength in producing grammatically correct sentences but is working on vocabulary, whereas another student might have a relative strength in vocabulary and need support with producing grammatically correct sentences. By working together in the group, they can scaffold and support each other which is really cool to see in action — and that’s a positive aspect that we just don’t get to see in one-on-one sessions.

💪 Challenge time: Jot down a couple of things that are beneficial about mixed groups, and really focus on how it has a positive impact on students.

Tip two: Set up a data collection system.

Let’s be real, it’s easy to lose track of how students are doing without a solid data collection system. We need data to assess where students’ skills are when they begin therapy, and to ensure we’re making meaningful progress with our work.

We’ve talked about data collection many times on the podcast because it is so important. If you want to nerd out on the nitty gritty, make sure you check out the archives because there is so much practical goodness there — along with links to tools + resources that will help you get a solid system started.

🕰 Go back in time: Check out episode 159 to do a deep dive into all things data, and then try a FREE two-week trial of SLP Now’s data collection system!

Tip three: Prepare your visuals and have go-to materials ready.

Visuals are the core of my therapy sessions when it comes to mixed groups and will make the sessions run much more smoothly. They are such a great teaching support because they break down skills in a way that makes them easier to understand and integrate. The real game-changer for visuals is to have them organized so that they’re at your fingertips when you need them.

📂 Organize Your Visuals: Learn more about strategies to build your speech therapy materials and put them to work with episode 161 of the podcast, and learn more about the resources mentioned when you check out the SLP Now membership!

Tip four: Create a routine.

You know I love a good routine! They are so helpful when it comes to decreasing your students’ cognitive load — and they will make things a lot easier for you by streamlining your therapy sessions.

Again, there is a whole other podcast episode that goes into detail about the power of routines in individual therapy sessions, so make sure to give it a listen if you really want to unlock the power of creating a routine.

🔗Head to episode 158 to learn how to structure a speech therapy session.

Tip five: Plan ahead so you aren’t doing the last-minute scramble.

Planning ahead is about building an overarching structure for your therapy sessions. In past episodes, we’ve talked about how to make this happen by planning out a month-long unit up front.

With this kind of approach, the routine you’re setting up will include what you do during individual sessions, as well as a plan for tackling sessions over the course of a longer period. Planning ahead allows you to wrangle and organize all your materials and visuals up front — which will make your SLP life so much easier.

💃Challenge time: Try SLP Now’s FREE 5-day literacy-based challenge and get set up with a month of therapy plans in just five minutes per day.

We hope these tips will help you see the benefits of mixed groups and how they can foster a positive learning experience for your students — so that you can show up and do your best SLP work by working smarter, not harder. 💪

Listen to The SLP Now Podcast on Apple ★ Spotify ★ Google  ★ Stitcher ★ Castbox or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Hello there and welcome to the SLP Now Podcast, where we share practical therapy tips and ideas for busy speech language pathologists. Grab your favorite beverage and sit back as we dive into this week's episode.

Hello there, and welcome to The SLP Now Podcast. I'm Marisha, and today we are going to be chatting about five tips to navigate mixed groups in speech therapy. So let's go ahead and dive right in.

So tip one is to embrace and lean into the positive aspects of mixed groups. I think just adjusting our mindset and trying to look for the positive can make this a lot easier to navigate. Of course, there are situations where one-on-one therapy is absolutely the best option, and we can try to figure out a way to make that happen for our caseload.

But I think that in the schools, we really need to group students to be able to see all of the students and provide all of the services. There's just not enough time in the day to meet all of our student services one-on-one. And I think that there are really some positive aspects for mixed groups.

I think it's a really great way for our students to have peer models. The research shows that that has an impact on generalization, and it's just really cool to see students be able to support each other, and support each other in using their skills in the classroom, and being models for each other.

So students have unique strengths and needs. And one student may have a relative strength in producing grammatically correct sentences, but they are working on vocabulary. Whereas another student might have a relative strength and vocabulary, and they need support with producing grammatically correct sentences. Just as a simple example. And by working together in the group, they can scaffold and support each other. And it's really cool to see that in action.

And so just trying to find the positive aspects that we can look for, those were just a couple examples. I'm sure you can come up with your own. But I challenge you to jot down just a couple of things that are beneficial about mixed groups, and really focusing on how that can actually have a positive impact on students versus having it be a negative thing.

And then my second tip is to set up a data-collection system. It can be easy to lose track of how students are doing if we don't have a solid data collection system. Because we need that data to assess where students are at, and to make sure that we're making meaningful progress. We've talked about data collections several times throughout the podcast. Episode 159 goes into a lot more detail. So if you're curious about that, I'd recommend checking out that episode, and that'll give you a lot more resources and ideas.

And step three is to prepare your visuals. So having your go-to materials ready to go will make mixed groups a lot easier. Because your visuals are the core of your therapy sessions, that is what you are going to use to really teach students and break down skills. And having those ready-to-go, easy to access, making sure that they're organized will make a world of a difference.

And then episode 161 talks about some strategies to build those visuals, and can keep them organized. So if you're feeling like that's an area that you'd like to work on, or that you'd like some inspiration for, head to episode 161.

And then the fourth tip that I have is to create a routine. It'll decrease your students' cognitive load, but it'll also make things a lot easier for you. And I'm linking to a lot of podcast episodes in this episode because it's really a recap of all of the strategies that we've been talking about. But in episode 158, I talk about how you can structure an individual speech therapy session. So that's a great place to start in how you're building any individual session.

And then we also have a podcast episode on planning larger units of therapy, and you can hear more about that in episode 163.

And then the last tip is planning ahead. So building more of an overarching structure to your therapy sessions. So 163 will also touch on that in terms of building out a month-long unit for your sessions. Because the routine would include what you do in an individual session and how you approach therapy overall. But being able to plan ahead, and gather your materials, and make it easier to implement therapy for all of your groups and all of your students can make a massive difference.

So to recap those tips, tip one, embrace and lean into the positive aspects of mixed groups. Two, set up a strong data collection system. Three, prepare your visuals. Four, create a routine for your sessions. And five, plan ahead so that you're not scrambling and putting together resources at the last minute.

If you want a recap of these steps, as well as easy links to all of the relevant resources for all of these tips, head to the show notes at slpnow.com/169. Again, that's slpnow.com/169. I hope you enjoyed these, tips and we'll see you in the next episode.

Thanks for listening to the SLP Now Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode please share with your SLP friends, and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast to get the latest episode sent directly to you. 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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