May is Better Hearing & Speech Month, and it's also the busiest time of year for any school. Are you still struggling to get that one student to practice his/her speech homework? Are parents being responsive to your repeated reminders? This week, we want to share two easy, action-ideas that you can implement right away. Keep reading below for ways to improve homework consistency and communication with parents; and expanding your visibility to save precious time.
#1 - Get Results with The Accountability Loop (TAL)
First, let’s talk terminology. The traditional term “homework” can carry negative connotations with some kids (certainly not all). Changing the term may help stimulate compliance. You’ll create your own, but here are some options I came up with: (The first one really helped motivate my speech-kids)
Speech Rehearsal (or, Language Rehearsal): “I want you to rehearse this tonight and tomorrow night, so when I see you Thursday, you can perform it for me. We can even video it, if you want!”
Speech Activities (or, Language Activities)
Speech Lessons (or, Language Lessons)
Speech Practice (or, Language Practice)
Speech Lab (or Language Lab)
Speech Modules (or, Language Module; both for older kids)
Add the term “extra-credit” to whatever term you use
Communication Practice Tasks; Change the terminology to match your new “Communication Class” label.
For our purposes, I’ll use the term “homework.”
The Accountability Loop (TAL) is an easy-to-apply method to motivate and hold kids accountable for doing their homework, and, to communicate with parents to enlist their assistance.
Here are the specifics of how to implement TAL:
It begins at either an eligibility/IEP meeting, or even a phone call to the parent, and then is implemented during your therapy sessions.
At the Eligibility/IEP Meeting
Ask the parent/caregiver, “What would be the best way to keep in touch with you?” This implies you will be contacting him/her. Specify (and write down!) their desired mode of communication: text, email, a quick phone call, phone call verbal message, or a written note in the child’s speech notebook. I suggest you type a list and create an Excel spreadsheet (it’s easy; just type in the columns) that contains the following: Child’s name, Parent first/last names, Phone number, and email and preferred contact method. Keep the spreadsheet close at hand during therapy. (I put mine in a sheet protector.)
Let them know that every-once-in-a-while, you’ll contact them to brag on their child, touch bases about how he/she is doing, and enlist their support.
In Therapy with the Child
(target child = the child you want to do his/her homework)
During therapy, while the target child is there with you in the group, in front of and in conjunction with the child, contact his/her parent/caregiver. Use the method of contact that the parent/caregiver chose at the meeting. Keep it short!
When you contact and connect with the child’s parent while the child is with you, he/she now KNOWS HIS/HER PARENT KNOWS—and the parent knows the child knows. So, EVERYBODY KNOWS, even the other kids in the group. “Uh oh! My mother knows I have speech homework!” Make speech-homework priority #1.
TAL is typically done with the kids who need an extra nudge to do their speech-language homework; your choice, you select the kids. Also, you may choose to do TAL with parents of kids who are especially adamant about keeping in touch with you.
What to say/write to the parent/caregiver:
“Rita is here with me, and we want to let you know she’s sounding great. She’s going to rehearse her r-words five times tonight. Please listen to her and give her a hug!”
“Sammy is here with me, and he is really improving. He’s able to do his tongue resting position for at least 2 minutes straight. Be sure to ask him to show you!”
“Olivia is here with me; her vocabulary is really coming along. She’s learning the meaning of 5 new words today. Ask her to say her new words in sentences for you!”
“Jose is here with me; his sentences are getting better! He’s working on plurals. Please go over the seven sentences—out loud—with him tonight. You’ll be amazed!”
Frequency per child:
On average, per child, do TAL every 5 to 6 weeks. For a child that needs stronger urging, do more often, i.e., every 2 to 3 weeks. As your kids become more homework compliant, gradually touch home-base less frequently. DO ONE TAL (one child) PER THERAPY SESSION. Choose one or two of your therapy-days to do a TAL (Monday’s and Tuesday’s for example).
Duration of each TAL:
During the therapy session, the average contact should take no longer than two minutes; make it quick and effective. Make it special and exciting! “Oh boy! We’re going to talk with your Mom!” (Some kids will look at you’re like you’re crazy; I never figured out if it was fear, or astonishment—but it makes an impact!)
Be sure to document your communications.
Try it with just one child this week!
#2 - Display your Monthly Calendar and Schedule
This is a simple idea, but beneficial.
Do you have a small bulletin board just outside your door? If not, consider putting one there! If you have to, buy a small one of your own (Amazon, Walmart, etc.; most come with adhesive tape).
Use it to display your calendar (meetings) and therapy schedule so all can see, and anything else:
Your name, room/title“Communication Class” / Speech & Language Therapy..."
Kid’s work; post evidence of an especially difficult & successful accomplishment.
A nice note from a child, teacher, or parent (posted with permission).
A fun therapy-requirement to enter into the room: “To enter, you must show me _______!” (E.g., say your good speech sound, your completed homework, etc.)
Put up a sign when you are doing therapy: “Instruction (or Class) in Session” or “Learning Happening Here.”
Teachers can use it for notes to you…
It’s frustrating when a teacher peeks his/her head in “for a sec” when you’re with a challenging child (unless it’s an emergency, of course). Don’t let them do that; tactfully let them know you’re “in class;” they’ll get it and respect you for it. (Somehow, they think “therapy” is interruptible; after all, we only have one or two or three kids at a time….)
If you’re in a shared classroom and you have no door, then creatively come up with a way to post your calendar/schedule. If you have portable divider walls, claim a display area. If you have no walls, per se, prop up the bulletin board on a table or chair. This becomes your entry-line-of-demarcation, i.e., your “door.” (As an aside, years ago in a school in Maryland, my therapy-space was on the stage in the gym/cafeteria—good luck containing that one.)
If your door’s bulletin board is newly installed, email your teachers/administrators to start the training-them-to-look process: “NEW! You can now see all my scheduled meetings for the month (this will help you and me!) as well as my instruction schedule with your kids. I posted them outside my door. Come by and check it out--feel free to leave a note! Thanks for all you do.”
Small changes yield BIG DIFFERENCES!
Char Boshart, MA CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist, author, seminar presenter, and president and co-founder of Speech Dynamics, Inc.
She has worked many years in the public schools, developed and ran her own private practice, and, for seven years was an Assistant Professor and Department Chair of the Speech Pathology and Audiology Department at Loma Linda University in southern California. Her interest in creating effective therapy techniques has evolved into the development of several practical articulation publications, videos (articulation and language), and articles.
She is a featured presenter and blog contributor at SpeechTherapyPD.com, and hosts a podcast for school-based therapists called The Speech Link.
Listen to The Speech Link for free on iTunes.
More School-Based Resources from Char Boshart:
Char's Complete Course List on SpeechTherapyPD.com
The Speech Link Podcast - All Episodes
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