How to Make In-Class Group Speech Successful {blog series} – PART 1

Photo Aug 17, 2 04 54 PM I can’t say this enough…I absolutely love cooking and doing hands-on activities with my preschoolers in our group speech sessions. I love it so much that I made an entire Cooking and Craft Visual Recipe Pack loaded with 50 no-cook recipes for the entire year, visual comprehension cards, data sheets, IEP goals, lesson plans, parent letters/communication forms, and so much more!

I have learned a lot over the last few years doing in-class group speech so I decided to write a 4-part blog series about the ins and outs of Group Speech. Since this is Part 1, it seems appropriate to start with a little background info. I work with 3 and 4 year old students with autism and other developmental disabilities. Not only do I see my students individually or in very small groups 3 times a week, I also do a group session one time a week in each of the classes. I’m not going to lie, it can get a bit overwhelming at times thinking about what in the world I can do from week to week in these group sessions that will not only be engaging and fun but also incorporate ways to target language development (plus ALL of my students goals).  I really love trying out new ideas, learning from my mistakes, and coming up with ideas to improve the way I plan and implement my group activities. With that said, I want to share some ideas that may just work perfectly for you and your students…. So let’s get to it…

Photo Aug 17, 2 53 42 PM

One of the best tips I have is to try and come up with weekly/monthly themes. Check with the classes you work with to see what they are working on week to week. Most of the time it is very easy because you can base your lessons around the holidays and/or seasons. There are of course those times when it is not so easy which means you need to be creative! Here are a few “themes” that can basically be used anytime throughout the year. weekly themes To get yourself even more organized when planning, my girl Jenn over at Crazy Speech World has an awesome FREE Theme Calendar for Speech Therapy in her TpT Store.  Head over to grab it by clicking the image below! original-1969751-1 Ok so now that you have your “weekly topic/theme” in mind, it’s time to write a lesson plan. Whether or not your school district or employer requires you to write and submit lesson plans, it really does make life easier to have your materials, goals, objectives, etc. written down. If you don’t already have a lesson plan template there are so many great ones available to you for FREE! Check out this post from Mia over at Putting Words in your Mouth.  She includes a link to a FREE customizable weekly lesson plan that I think work perfectly for planning speech sessions.

Below you will see the lesson plan template that is include with my Cooking and Craft Visual Recipe Pack.  This is what I will be using for almost ALL of my group speech sessions.
IMG_0836 Now, if you want to come up with your own lesson plan template, my NUMBER 1 suggestion is to create a “blank template” and save it to your computer! This way you can easily go back and make changes as needed.
Here are a few quick tips to get you started:

  1. Somewhere towards the top, add a line/box where you will write your weekly theme. This will set the pace for your entire lesson plan.
  2. If your district requires you to list common core state standards, this can also be done at the top of your plans.
  3. Write down the classes and/or student names that are involved in your group speech sessions.
  4. List the activity or activities you will be using/doing and consider writing a brief description.
  5. On my template, I have materials already listed that way I can just circle the ones I will be using from week to week (rather than writing/typing each one out week to week). For example, make a column of materials such as…task cards, iPad, cooking/crafts, sensory bin, games, book, etc. I also make a space for OTHER _______ so I can quickly jot down any material not on my list.
  6. Now add the goals/objectives you will target using those activities and materials. Again, it’s a great idea to make a long column of goals/objectives so you can circle the ones you will focus on from week to week.
  7. Lastly, leave a space at the bottom of your lesson plans for any ideas and/or comments you have during the week.

Check out the image below of what my lesson plan template looked like from last school year.  I will be updating a little this year but you get the idea!  Try creating your own to save onto your computer for the year…trust me…TIME SAVER!

Weekly Theme √   Lesson Plan √  Collaborating with Teachers ?
I can’t stress how important it is to discuss your plans for group speech with the classroom teachers you will be working with during your in-class sessions.  It will also make your life a lot easier and less stressful to have a plan set in place and by “plan” I mean…What role will the teacher take during the group lesson?  How can the paraprofessionals assist?  What will happen when a student is having a meltdown or refusing to participate?  Let’s be honest, there is simply not enough time in our days to sit down and have an entire discussion about what the group activity will entail, what you may need help with, how the teacher and paras can assist, etc.  However, if you set time aside right at the beginning of the year to discuss these important things, it’s going to make all of your in-class group speech sessions SO MUCH EASIER.

Here is what I normally ask the teacher and paraprofessional (s) to assist with during group speech….
* Pointing to the visuals that I have set up for each activity (I will get to this in more detail in Part 2 of this blog series)
* Intervene when a student is acting out or simply can’t handle the super fun activity I’m doing.  That may mean, setting a timer, using the student’s token board, removing the student from the group for a few moments, etc.
* Helping with materials/ingredients.  Like I said I do a lot of cooking and crafts during group speech so I may need someone to set out the plates, mix the pudding while I move on to the next step, heat up water in the microwave, etc.
* Lastly, it’s super helpful if someone can take note of anything really significant that happens during the session.  For example, when one of your non-verbal student requests using his/her PECS book for the first time or you hear one of your students use 2 brand new vocabulary words relevant to the lesson.  These things can be HUGE but easily forgotten by the time you finish the lesson, clean up, get back to your room, etc.  It’s really nice to be able to have these small but MAJOR accomplishments written down for you to later transfer onto your students data sheets or communication form.

I really hope you enjoyed PART 1 of my Blog Series!  If you found this post useful and informative, you definitely don’t want to miss PART 2: MAKE YOUR TO-DO LIST AND SET EXPECTATIONS.

If you are interested in incorporating Cooking and Craft Visual Recipes into your group lessons then please check out the pack in my TpT Store by clicking the image below.
Visual Recipe Book Thanks everyone for reading this post and always supporting and inspiring me!



Lovely comments

  1. Caitie says

    Kristine, I love this blog series! I graduated Stockton too and just finished my first year as a preschool SLP in South Jersey. I struggled last year on how to incorporate pushing into the classroom but this year my caseload is drastically increasing so I don’t think it’s going to be an option. I’m so glad to be able to turn to your blog for helpful ideas!

    • Kristine says

      How exciting!!!! Definitely keep in touch with me on FB or Instagram! I would love to hear how your year is going and hopefully we can share some ideas!!

  2. Sarah Worcester says

    Great Blog Series! I can’t wait for the next post! Thank you so much for sharing. It would be really really neat if you included a video of one of your group sessions. If you keep the camera on you or behind the kiddos, you might not have to worry about confidentiality….Just puting that out there;)

    • Kristine says

      I LOVE that idea Sarah!!! I will have to arrange for that to happen for at least one of my cooking sessions! Thanks for the inspiration and for your support!

  3. Jennifer Dodd says

    I can’t wait for the rest of your posts. I am beginning to try my hand at in-class lessons once per month with my three self-contained classrooms using storybooks followed by an activity. They are K-5 students with varying ability levels but I’m really excited to try working with the whole group. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise.

    • Kristine says

      That sounds wonderful Jennifer!! I have done that a lot in the past with my students as well. I still use books and activities on the weeks we aren’t doing cooking. Such a great way to boost language development. Thanks so much for reading the posts and your support! I hope this year is super successful for you.

  4. Amanda says

    Hi Kristine! Just wondering where you get the funding for all these great cooking ideas? I also push in to the my pre K classroom but in the past, I always end up picking up the tab with my own money. I would like to do more, but do not have the funds for these. Any help is appreciated.

    • Kristine says

      Hi Amanda! Thank you so much for reading my posts! I love cooking with my preschoolers!! In past years I have always funded all of the activities myself which definitely can add up however was just something I chose to do. At the end of last school year, I applied for a small grant through our Educational Foundation in the district and luckily got it! Although I may still end up paying for some things out of pocket, the grant will help tremendously. If you district has a foundation that awards grants to employees in the district I would highly recommend submitting an application. Hope that helps!

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