Wouldn’t you love to work one-on-one with your students? Me too!
But, the reality is that we often must work with students in mixed groups. And, for the most part, each student is working on a different skill or has different goals to achieve.
Aye-yai-yai! Isn’t that a recipe for SLP overwhelm and chaos? Well, it can be. But with a mindset shift to embrace the challenge and the benefits of working in mixed groups (peer modeling is just one benefit that can make mixed groups even more effective), you can make literacy-based therapy for mixed groups very successful!
This probably won’t come as a big shock to all my long-time SLPNowers, but I think literacy-based therapy is one of the best ways to work with mixed groups. Be sure to review my 5 Rules for Literacy-Based Therapy: Mixed Groups Edition.
You can address just about any goal with books because they are filled with speech and language targets! Check out my Mixing Up Speech Therapy blog series for how to target certain skills by using books.
To get you off on the right foot for literacy-based therapy for a mixed group, here are some hints:
• Gather multipurpose tools that you can use for multiple speech and language targets. You can use one book to target multiple targets!
• Incorporate some independent work time or self-monitoring activities so that you have time to assess or work individually with other students.
• Bonus points if you can use books that students are reading in the classroom. (We can also select books to piggyback on topics being discussed in the classroom.)
• Feel free to repurpose and #worksmarter! You can use the same book with multiple groups.
So, how do you manage to give each student the support they need within a mixed group?
First, planning is super important. When you spend a little bit of time planning up front, your mixed group therapy sessions will run much more smoothly. You can find resources and activities in the SLP Now membership, on Pinterest, or on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Set expectations for the group and help your students understand that not everyone will be working on the same targets, but they all are there to get extra support on SOMETHING. Even though everyone in the group is working on something different, each student needs to respect the diversity in the room and know the expectations you have for them when you are working with another student.
OK, Marisha, this all sounds good. BUT, how does it work in practice?
Just like with any therapy session, I start out with visuals to help model the concept. We also use real-world examples. (Yes, we’ve been known to sit ON or UNDER the table!) #truth
Then, we dive in! There are plenty of opportunities to target each student’s goals as we read a book. I typically focus on one goal per child per session to make this a little more manageable. Let’s walk through a hypothetical group to see what this would look like.
We have a group of three second-graders reading Dragons Love Tacos, and we’re targeting describing, using pronouns, and answering what questions. I have the SLP Now vocabulary cards and visuals for each of these skills. I ask what questions using the describing visual (e.g., What color is the dragon? What is the dragon doing?). We’re able to target all of the students’ goals using this simple activity. Student A has the opportunity to describe items in the book, Student B has the opportunity to answer what questions, and Student C has the opportunity to create sentences using the appropriate pronoun. I use the visuals as placemats to remind the students (and myself!) what the focus is–and to scaffold when needed. Meanwhile, all three students are being bombarded with models of these structures from their peers.
The good news? That’s just one option! There are countless ways we could target all of these goals in a fun, cohesive way!
Yearning for more tips and tricks to make your life easier and your therapy sessions more productive? Register for the SLP Summit, our free online conference where more evidence-based strategies will help you improve your practice.