Data…data…data

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could work with your students and not worry about collecting data? How great would it be if we could just do therapy all day, teach discrete skills and strategies, with no worries about the dreaded data! Unfortunately, data is very important and must be collected.

How many times do you stop after the student’s response to record the data?

How often do you keep data and not let the students see what you are writing? Most of the time, they know you are writing down how they did. Why not just let them see it? Better yet, have you ever let them keep their own data?

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No matter the age or exceptionality, students can do it. We have had success with students keeping their own data as young as kindergarten and as low as Mildly Intellectually Disabled; but we are sure younger or lower functioning students may also have some success.

Are you wondering how?

data sheet

Provide each student with a data sheet set up in blocks of ten (like this product, free for a limited time). Have the student put a + (plus) for correct and a 0 (zero) for incorrect responses – or whatever code you and the student decide on. We have found that students understand a zero much better than a minus By having the data sheet set up in blocks of 10, you can easily figure out the % at a glance.

 

Let’s think about a student working on articulation… After each sound/word/sentence you can talk with the student about the production and help them determine which code they should enter.

Of course this does not just have to be utilized with articulation. It works just as well with language skills!

At the end of the session the information can be transferred to a bar graph completed by the student. Our students love this part. They get to choose their own color and have a visual representation of how they performed. You can discuss how they did from session to session – did they improve or have the same level of success? Or maybe they were having an ‘off’ day. Think of all the additional language (and math) concepts you can include in this conversation – more/less, higher/lower, same/different!

Just be sure that you talk about each students’ graphs and performance in comparison to themselves – it is not a contest among students as they each work at their own pace and are at varying levels on a variety of skills!

The students really enjoy keeping their own data. And of course they are motivated to get as many plus signs and as high a graph as possible! It also provides that great visual of how they are doing with their goals – they can even bring a copy home to their parents.

How do you involve your students in data collection?

Be sure you check out these forms and many others on our TpT store.

 

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

Have you heard the news???

We just opened our store on Teachers pay Teachers! Visit Living the Speech Life on TpT  to see what’s new. Follow us so you can stay informed as we continue to add new products.

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Read on for a sneak peek of what we have to offer so far – from unit plans for some favorite short stories to test description documents to make report writing a breeze…

 

 

Since so many of our students don’t experience enough language and story reading on a daily basis, we love using books in therapy and bet you do too! And we also know you most likely have some mixed groups on your schedule. So, we are creating Literacy-based Lesson Plan Assistants for some favorite short stories. These will help you target a variety of skills including articulation, receptive and expressive language and social language. Check out our blog post where we provide some additional information on these. And make sure you check out the FREEBIE for Frog on a Log? by Kes Gray on our TpT store. Additional titles will continue to be added!

Does the thought of writing an evaluation report make you reach for another bottle of wine? We’ve got you covered on that one too! Check out our test descriptions. Using information from individual test manuals, we have created a way for you to easily explain what the standardized speech-language test assesses and what the examinee is expected to do on each subtest. But it goes a little further than that! Use these downloads to help you document how each skill impacts educational performance. The CELF-5, OWLS-II, and Listening Comprehension Test (for elementary age and adolescents) are already available and more are on the way!

There are a currently a couple other FREEBIES for CF supervision and co-teaching. Keep checking back for additional product including FREEBIES, sales, and bundles!

Follow our TpT store here and don’t forget to follow our blog and @livingthespeechlife on Instagram.

 

Questions, vocabulary and /r/, oh my!

one-book-mixed-groups2Ok, picture it…it won’t be that hard because we ALL have them…student A is working on /r/ and /l/, student B stutters, student C has trouble with comprehension and vocabulary, and student D, well, student D has trouble with all of it. Why, oh why, would an SLP ever put these kids together in one group? Why, I’ll tell you why…because there are no other options, that’s why!

So, there you are, with this mixed group of 4 for a whopping 30 minutes – give or take.

Student A: “Can we pway a game?”

Student C: “No let’s play a game!”

Student B: “I don’t feel like talking today”

Student D: walking in circles, holding 3 of your dry erase markers and a few books from your shelves

ugh

 

How can you keep them all engaged, work on each of their varied skills, take data and make it all meaningful without breaking the bank or taking up more planning time than you have to begin with.

 

 

 

Books, books, books! Read a book and cover it all. Expand your lessons and use the same book for various groups and multiple sessions.

We know what you’re thinking…hey, how can I just pick up a book and be sure that I’m covering all of the skills I need to cover? How does that lessen my planning time?

We’ve got you covered with our new Literacy-based Lesson Planning Assistants for Speech and Language!

Our first one is available in our TPT store and focuses on the book Cook-A-Doodle-Doo! by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel. This adorable book is told from the point of view of a rooster whose great-grandmother happens to be the Little Red Hen. He decides to bake one of her recipes and actually finds some other animals to help him. It is a great story of teamwork which also incorporates following a recipe, measuring ingredients and some confusion with homonyms and homophones. And of course it serves as a great compare/contrast lesson when paired with the classic story The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone. Don’t worry, the Lesson Planning Assistant for that book will be coming soon to our TPT store.

So are you envisioning all the amazing skills you can target with this one book? Still worried about how you’ll find the time to delve into it and pick out all these targets?

Once again, that’s where we come in. The document provides you with target words for common sound errors and processes. It outlines carrier phrases and repetitive phrases to address fluency. Factual questions? Sure. Predictions? Yep. Social language targets like flexible thinking and perspective taking? You bet!

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We hope you’ll check out this this new product. Feedback is always welcome and appreciated.

Want us to create a Lesson Planning Assistant for some of your favorite books? Comment below and/or on TPT and we’ll get to work on it.

Texts for middle and high school are welcome and will be added as well!

Quick tip: If your media center or local library does not have a copy of this book and you have limited funds (being that we SLPs already spend so much of our own money!), you can always search YouTube and you may just find SOMEONE reading the book, maybe even showing and highlighting the text as it is read aloud! Follow our Pinterest page where we will be pinning these as we find them!

Words, words, words…

hola-beach-club

In a previous post, we talked about layers of vocabulary including core vocabulary and tier 2 terms.

From linguistic concepts or the ability to describe to using context clues and affixes to determine the meaning of unknown words, vocabulary skills are overwhelmingly evident in preschool early learning standards and common core state standards. This is just one of the foundational language areas that is addressed in our book IEP Goal Writing for SLPs: Utilizing State Standards.

And we know that vocabulary skills are commonly addressed by SLPs for students with language disorders.

 

What is vitally important is that we, as SLPs, approach vocabulary instruction differently than that of a classroom teacher. The students on our caseloads who are struggling with vocabulary as part of their language disorder are already at a disadvantage – their foundation of semantics is lacking which makes it even more difficult to learn terms at the pace of classroom instruction. And they don’t pick up new words on their own through reading, instruction, or conversation. Their vocabulary deficits on top of additional language deficits and other co-morbid conditions also impact their background knowledge – which is correlated with vocabulary.

We talked in a previous post about Tier 3 words – those words that are content- and discipline-specific – and how that may not be the best place to focus our efforts. Does drilling students on definitions of words they need to know for a social studies unit separate you from a teacher or tutor?

What about teaching specific linguistic concepts?

How do you differentiate yourself from the teacher in the way you approach context clues, root words and affixes?

To better justify the SLP’s role in vocabulary instruction, maybe we should talk a little about the prerequisite skills for mastering the vocabulary skills required to access state and curriculum standards. All standards have prerequisite skills; all skills have prerequisite skills; all language skills have prerequisite skills.

Think about a typically-developing baby’s first 12-18 months and the vocabulary skills they develop. They typically identify and label nouns, then verbs, with a pronoun or two stuck in there (mine, mine, mine!). They start picking up on adjectives (colors, sizes, shapes) and adverbs. They continue to grow from there and expand their semantic skills – there is definitely overlap but there is a general developmental hierarchy.

We learn to match and sort before we develop specific spatial or temporal concepts. You need to have knowledge of quantitative and qualitative concepts before you can use comparatives and superlatives. All of these skills, as well as those adjectives and adverbs, help us categorize and describe leading us to the ability to compare and contrast. We increase our vocabulary of antonyms and synonyms, become more proficient in using context and word parts to learn new words and have a greater understanding that some words have multiple meanings.

Whew! That’s a lot of skills! That doesn’t even take into account the various levels and steps to master each of those prerequisite skills.

What do you consider your role in vocabulary as a school-based SLP?

Stay tuned for tips on goal-writing for a variety of these vocabulary skills.

What we’ve learned from supervising SLP-As

In our district, we hire a select group of individuals with a Bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. For any number of reasons, they do not have a master’s degree in the field but have an interest in working in the school system doing speech and language therapy. And they rock!

First a little background as to how we utilize these SLP Assistants in our school system. We are a large metro district with over 175 SLPs…and at any given time there are at least 3 of them on maternity leave, 1 of them on family or medical leave, and 2 full- or part-time vacancies. As with so many districts, there is little to no money for certified SLPs to substitute (if we could even find any) or to fund compensatory speech-language services after school or during summer breaks. So a viable solution was to hire these lovely people to fulfill this need. They are paid on a separate pay scale between a paraprofessional position and certified bachelor’s level teacher. They are able to provide short-term speech-language services as indicated in the students’ IEPs with supervision and support from a dedicated supervisor (typically one of us) as well as direction from any other SLPs in the building, if applicable. These SLP-As do not write IEPs, attend meetings, or conduct evaluations. They do write their own lesson plans (with assistance as needed), take data and document their sessions, and assist in development of present levels and IEP goals based on their work with the students.

All the fun of being an SLP without all the extra paperwork and meetings? Sounds like a dream come true, huh?

Trust us, our program coordinator receives no shortage of applicants for these positions – and we have had nothing but success with each and every one of them. School administrators, teachers, and even the SLPs they cover for beg them to stay each and every time!

And their value has not gone unnoticed by us…

Just because you’ve been a practicing, certified school-based SLP for more years than you care to mention does not mean you have seen or done it all. Even if you have seen or done it, do not underestimate the power of standing outside the situation and helping someone else be more successful. Much like being a CF mentor, supervising SLP-As provides opportunities to learn new ways of conducting therapy, model strategies and techniques, and see things from a totally different point of view.

This supervision process has taught us that the best of SLPs have an instinct that cannot be taught in graduate school. No amount of theory, book study, or reading research and textbooks can prepare for the therapeutic skills that our SLP-As were seemingly born with. Sure they have each learned things from us and made improvements over time, but it as much through the experiences they have had as the guidance we have given. We have learned through instructing them the importance of receiving solid data that can be easily analyzed in order to write data-driven present levels and goals. We have seen firsthand that flexibility is the most valuable asset an itinerant staff member can possess. They allow us to think better on our feet (and, if we may say so ourselves, write some pretty nice IEPs about students we barely know!). They make us better problem solvers and better SLPs.

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Thank you SLP-As…you have taught us more than you can imagine! It’s always a pleasure to work with you!

The Proof is in the PLAAFP

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There has been a lot of discussion among SLPs in our district recently concerning documenting a student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP) in the IEP. In our roles, we are continuously reviewing and recommending revisions to proposed IEPs. The present levels of performance (or PLOPs as we often refer to them) are one of the major areas of the IEP needing improvement.

 

In the definition of an individualized education program, section 300.320, IDEA (2004) provides general guidance on what should be included. It indicates that the present levels include a statement of how the disability impacts the student’s ability to participate and progress in the curriculum – or how a preschool child’s disability impacts participation in appropriate activities (Sec. 300.320(a)(1)).

It further discusses what is included in Sec. 300.324 Development, review, and revision of IEP. The team is responsible for considering the student’s strengths, parental concerns, most recent evaluation results, and the student’s needs related to academic, developmental, and functional performance (Sec. 300.324(a)(1)).

Those are the basics (and the legal jargon)…but in our district we are provided with additional specifics to assist in the development of descriptive and legally-defensible IEPs.

So here are some of the tips we share with our SLPs to insure this occurs and enable any SLP to pick up an IEP and get to work…no guesswork, no wondering!

  • The discussion of the student’s present levels of performance should be, first and foremost, data driven. Whether an initial IEP based on the results of the initial evaluation or an annual IEP based on progress on goals and objectives, it must include data, data, data! Areas of strength should be quantified with data! Areas of need should be quantified with data! If there’s no data, it didn’t happen!

 

  • The discussion in the PLAAFP should be descriptive and specific. Data should be quantified and explain how the student reached that level. Things to consider include:
    • Were prompts provided – visual or verbal; how many of each?
    • Was information presented orally? Was text provided? Was text on the student’s grade level or instructional level?
    • Did the student’s ability increase with repetition?
    • Was the student successful with sound production in the initial and final position of words but had more difficulty in the medial position?
    • Did the student’s dysfluencies increase when speaking to adults or peers outside of the speech room?

 

  • Remember that the needs in the PLAAFP are what drive the development of IEP goals (and objectives where required). The information provided serves as baseline so any SLP knows where therapy should begin.

 

We often find that it can be very helpful to think about the next steps related to goals before drafting up the needs in the present levels section of the IEP. More often than not we have easily identified the skills that the student continues to struggle with and have some ideas of what we want to recommend working on for the next IEP. Sometimes working backward can make for much more explicit, specific, and complete PLAAFP in the area of communication.

Let’s look at a specific case for an annual review IEP. Please be aware that different districts and states have varied requirements and IEP documents can look different. For the purposes of this post, we are focusing on the present levels related to strengths and needs related to communication; therefore, our sample below will not include a discussion of parent concerns, specific academic skills, or most recent evaluation results. These pieces are, however, legally required in the IEP.

Johnny is a 2nd grader. His previous IEP goals are as follows:

  • Johnny will produce /r/ in words with 80% accuracy for 4 sessions
  • Johnny will answer factual ‘what’ and ‘where’ questions about a grade level paragraph read aloud with 1 visual cue in 4 out of 5 opportunities
  • Johnny will point to items in a picture scene in response to ‘show me…’ to demonstrate understanding of the spatial concepts ‘in, on, out, under, over’ with 80% accuracy in 3 out of 4 opportunities.

So using data (quantitative and qualitative), we might write his present levels something like this:

When presented with picture cards in the speech-language room, Johnny currently produces /r/ in words independently with 95% accuracy in 5 sessions. He has begun making sentences with these words with 70% accuracy in 3 sessions independently. His accuracy increases to 90% when he is given a verbal reminder for accurate placement and asked to repeat his sentence. The SLP, Johnny and his teacher worked together to come up with a visual cue for use in the classroom (picture of a target). When the teacher hears an error with /r/, she will point to or hold up the target symbol to prompt Johnny to repeat the word. Johnny also has this symbol on his desk. This has begun to increase his carryover and independence with correct /r/ production in the classroom. Production of /r/ will continue to be addressed at the sentence level to increase his independence working toward production in structured conversation. He will be provided with verbal reminders for placement at first in the speech-language room and the visual ‘target’ will continue to be used with the SLP and teacher to encourage carryover in the classroom.

Johnny has demonstrated the ability to answer factual ‘what’ questions after listening to a grade level paragraph in 4/5 opportunities independently. He was originally presented with a visual showing what each question word refers to (i.e., where=place) and these were discussed at the beginning of each session. This is no longer verbally discussed with Johnny and he does not rely on this visual. He answers ‘where’ questions in an average of 2/5 opportunities. However, it appears that his difficulty with this task is not related to an understanding of ‘where’ but instead related to his difficulties with expressing spatial concepts. For example, he can point to the correct answer in a picture or provide a response such as ‘at school’ in 4/5 opportunities. When the question requires a response such as ‘under the table’ or ‘in the mailbox’, his accuracy greatly decreases. The spatial concepts ‘in, on, out, under, over’ have been addressed receptively with Johnny and he is pointing to items in a picture to demonstrate his understanding (i.e. ‘show me the girl who is under the table’) with 75% accuracy in 3 out of 4 opportunities. Language therapy will continue to focus on Johnny’s ability to answer factual ‘who’ and ‘when’ questions after listening to grade level paragraphs to help increase his comprehension in the classroom. The visual of the question words will first be utilized as a reminder to be sure Johnny has understanding that who=person and when=time. ‘Where’ questions and spatial concepts ‘in, on, out, under, over’ will also be addressed as Johnny is asked ‘where’ questions to elicit these concepts about a picture scene. Visual and verbal prompts will be utilized as needed as we fade to independence.

Johnny’s proposed goals for the upcoming IEP are as follows:

  • Johnny will produce /r/ in structured conversation with 1 visual cue with 80% accuracy in 4 sessions
  • Johnny will answer factual ‘who’ and ‘when’ questions about a grade level paragraph read aloud in 4 out of 5 opportunities
  • Johnny will state the spatial concepts of ‘in, on, out, under, over’ by responding to ‘where’ questions about a picture scene with 80% accuracy in 3 out of 4 opportunities.

Do the PLAAFP above include the necessary components? Are they descriptive and specific? Is the information data-driven and directly related to the new proposed goals? Without knowing this student, would you be able to pick up this IEP and have a good idea how to gather baseline, where to start with therapy and what he is expected to achieve in the course of this IEP?

What are some tips you use to write legally-defensible PLAAFP?

Layers of vocabulary

As an SLP, we live and breathe vocabulary! It is the basis of it all, right? Without words, communication would have little meaning – it doesn’t matter if the words are spoken, pictured, signed, gestured, or produced through a voice output device. They are foundational to acquiring language – both written and oral.

Increasing vocabulary is a HUGE part of the daily life of school-based SLPs. It can be overwhelming at times, especially when we think about the sheer number of words students are exposed to and expected to learn in a school year. Or the amount of repetitions needed to learn them all.

So many words, so little time

The words we choose to focus on are as important as the therapeutic methods and strategies we use. There should definitely be nothing random about it. Relying only on spelling lists or vocabulary lists from the teachers’ lesson plans just won’t cut it. But where should we begin?

Starting at the core

Core vocabulary is a small set of words (250-350) that are simple, and are common in any context. These words are familiar and frequent including all parts of speech and most have six or fewer letters. In any age group, core vocabulary makes up 80% or more of the words we use in daily conversation. WOW!

These make up the first words and phrases of toddlers and continue through adult conversations.

Working with students using AAC? What about students who are minimally verbal or have low cognitive ability? Teaching high frequency core vocabulary is the way to go!

This article at Minspeak has various word lists

Praactical AAC has monthly lists and tips for instruction including suggested books to increase practice! Just type ‘core vocabulary’ in the search box and away you go!

Beyond the core

When choosing words to teach beyond the core, it is helpful to consider the three tiers of vocabulary as discussed in the second edition of Bringing Words to Life by Beck, McKeown, and Kucan. Their article on Reading Rockets summarizes it nicely.

Tier One is made up of basic words that typically are learned without instruction. These words include sight words and basic nouns and verbs – and core vocabulary too. We definitely work with individuals who need to build their Tier One vocabulary, don’t we?!?

Tier Three words are low frequency and usually learned specific to content or context. If these are the words we focus on, will our students be able to converse with anyone about anything? Probably not where we should focus our energy and all-too-valuable time!

Tier Two words, however, are the words to know! These are highly frequent in literature and conversations among adults. They are invaluable for reading comprehension and generalize across environments. These words have multiple meanings and can help increase descriptive language.

Cha-ching!!

Comment below and tell us how you choose which words to teach.

Follow us as we continue the vocabulary conversation. Future posts will further discuss teaching vocabulary concepts and strategies, tools for identifying Tier 2 words, breaking down prerequisite skills and writing measurable vocabulary goals.