The start of each new school year brings along the hope and promise of achieving new professional goals, helping students to master new speech and language skills, and managing a busy caseload efficiently and effectively. When I first began, the ability to get up and running was daunting and uncharted territory for me. Now that I have been working in the schools for 11 years, I have found my groove and a system that works for me. Although I am always adding and changing new ideas, I stick with some of the basics that help me to run smoothly the whole year through.
Classroom: I am fortunate to have a beautiful space in which to work with my students. I actually have windows (as opposed to the closet work spaces I have had in the past) and adequate space for all of my belongings. I have found that how I organize my space sets the tone for the year and how well the students are able to be a part of our weekly routine. I select a theme that is simple, yet exciting for my students (this year it’s all things Mickey!) Materials that the students may independently access are placed within their reach and labeled for easy finding. Rules are posted on the wall and a behavior system (i.e. prize box) is in use to encourage positive behavior and hard work. Overall, I feel that the organization of the setting in which I work yields the best outcomes for the year!
Behavior Management: I used to constantly purchase stickers and charts to help reinforce my students. I found that it was costly and many times stickers would fall off the charts. Instead, I have switched to a punch card system. All you need are some plain note cards and a hole punch! Each child writes their name on the card and after each session they receive a hole punch for following rules or completing speech homework. It also incorporates some fine motor work as they have to really use their hand muscles to make the hole punch.
IEP at a glance: I developed my own “short cut” for those students for whom I am the case manager. Each teacher is given a 5 x 7 sheet highlighting the student’s goals, frequency of service, and specially designed instruction. It by no means replaces their IEP, but helps the classroom teacher have a solid understanding of what each speech and language student may need.
Practice/ Homework: The mundane task of selecting and copying individualized assignments can be extremely time consuming. Although I still use worksheets to reinforce speech and language skills at home, I have also incorporated word rings. I have rings of note cards organized by sound that my students may take back and forth from school or for use in the classroom. Whenever there is time in their school day or in the evening, they may practice their target sounds by saying the words on the ring. A log is attached in their folder to show how often they are practicing. Word rings are also a great intervention to use with students.
Materials: When I first began working, it became quite apparent that I owned so few therapy materials. I spent many hours crafting and creating items to use with my students. While I still enjoy doing this from time to time, I have started to work smarter rather than harder. My go to sources are sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest. There are items for purchase to meet just about every need you may encounter, with some of them being 100% free of cost. Tablets are another technological advance to help cut down on the preparation of materials.
These are just a few of the tips and tricks that have helped me to function as a well oiled machine in what can be a very crazy and busy environment. What ideas do you have to share??