Monday, October 7, 2013

Rising to the Challenge: SLPs and Common Core

 As some of you may know, I am expecting my first baby (It's a BOY!) and will be taking some time off from work and blogging before and after his arrival.  During that time, there will be several guest bloggers/SLPs that will be featured on my blog.  I am so excited to share all of the amazing, informative posts they have come up with.  I can not thank them all enough for taking the time to write these posts!  Just another one of the many reasons I love being part of the SLP world.  I hope you all enjoy reading everything over the next several weeks.  Please feel free to leave comments and post questions.

The first guest post is written by Amy from Miss Thrifty SLP!  Enjoy! 

Hey everyone, it's AMY from Miss Thrifty SLP. This is my first time writing a guest post and I can't begin to describe how thrilled I am! In preparation for the school year or other big events, I find it is a good idea to reflect upon tasks that you find challenging. It could be the ever daunting task of organization, efficient ways to bill Medicaid or arrange schedules, tackling Response to Intervention (RtI) concerns, or just surviving your first year as an SLP. The list could certainly go on and on depending on the topic...but I don't want you to feel overwhelmed by all of those possibilities. It's something that I fall prey to all too easily myself unless I take the time to really process through each concern. The largest of my concerns as a school-based SLP is to ensure that my therapy sessions compliment what my students are expected to do academically. 

It all boils down to the Common Core. The main idea of the Core concept is that students build their knowledge upon the foundation of the previous year(s) of education all the way back to what is started in kindergarten/pre-K. It shows us what typically developing children are expected to do within the classroom. In North Carolina, we also have Extended Content Standards for students with "Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities" that adapt the Core Standards to something more manageable. Oral language is a major component in the Standards (even the adapted ones) throughout the grade levels. This gives SLPs ample opportunity to collaborate with classroom teachers as we have a great amount of expertise that can assist them. They, in turn, can help us understand the objectives of their particular grade level (ie. giving us their lesson plans) since the Common Core doesn't have a specific curriculum. My summer training in Reading Foundations has driven this point home. Our teachers are being taught the structure of language and how it impacts both reading and writing. I'm here to support them as they transition this new knowledge into practice this year. 

So how does this collaboration transfer to my therapy sessions?

Well, I initially use a set of teacher checklist forms created by the wonderful SLPs of Chapel-Hill Carrboro City Schools that align with the Core to demonstrate academic need during assessments. I find that this is a great foundation for me to use with results from standardized assessments in creating IEP goals. Once I have the IEP goals written based off of the student's demonstrated needs, I can look at the Standards/Extended Standards to see if there's a correlation. You may not always have a correlation between the two depending upon the needs of the individual student and that's okay as long as you understand how it's impacting his/her academic performance. Once the IEP goals are agreed upon by the team, it is time to get down to business! 

Strategies: Talk to the classroom teacher to see what strategies work and don't work for the student in the classroom. If you know something that works well in therapy, work together to see that it gets implemented in the classroom too. Consistency is something that we all need no matter our age. I find that brainstorming with other staff members helps me learn new tactics for my "toolbox."

Make your lessons Systematic, Explicit, and Multi-sensory (SEM). This is advice they stress in Reading Foundations and I completely concur.  
  • Systematic- It all boils down to having a set plan which is your IEP. You are constantly assessing students based on their daily performance towards their goals in therapy. The IEP goals and recent data are used to develop the next therapy session's work. I find that this is easier for me when I use a monthly theme to target goals. Classroom teachers can give me their lesson plans so I know what topics they are covering and key vocabulary words for that unit. It's much more beneficial for students if you can provide extra repetition of these key concepts in another manner. That being said, even the best lesson plans can go awry so always try to be flexible too.   
  • Explicit- Explain what your expectations are for your students using words that they can understand. If they know what you want them to do, they will have an easier time of seeing a purpose in coming to speech. (Granted, you have to get them past the "games, games, games" stage.) I find that this is much easier with my older students. I can tell them that we're going to use a color coding system to help remember the parts of speech and that eventually they need to do it by themselves. My articulation students know what sounds they are working on and they write their own tallies to compare with mine. My students also know that I want them to learn and have fun in my classroom.
  • Multi-sensory- This is probably my favorite part of being an SLP. I love to do all kinds of wacky things and explore strategies to help my students learn as evident in many of my posts. My favorite thing is to use stuffed animals/puppets to bring basic concepts to life. I also love using songs/chants to help all of my students. You're never too cool for a catchy (yet goofy) tune. Will my students remember me after their "graduation" from elementary school? Probably not, but I know that there will be at least one random thing I did with them that they'll probably recall years from now.    
There's no rule that says we must make Common Core boring in our speech rooms. Learning should be fun for our students. 

Want some more information about the Common Core? Check out:

Want to read more? Check out Miss Thrifty SLP's for more thoughts on the Common Core and thrifty ideas for therapy materials.

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