4 SLP Tips: Adding Social Skills to Mixed Groups
Your speech and language skills mixed group gets a new student with social skills goals! Arggh! What do you do now? Take a deep breath and read these 4 tips that will help you out.
Working with students at different levels, goals, and learning styles, all in the same group can be very challenging for a beginning therapist. Even experienced clinicians continue to have to work at making very diverse groups cohesive!
Tips for Working With Mixed Groups
There are some things you can do, however, to make mixed groups not only achievable but fun! Try out these tips.
1. Use a central theme.
Find a central theme and have students in the group participate in the same activity. Picture books and wordless videos are great to use with students of many ages.
At first, I was concerned about using materials that were much more simplistic than the grade level books my students on the spectrum were struggling with. I thought the kids would complain that they were “too babyish.” So, I decided to show my groups’ choices of higher and lower level stories and to my surprise, they all picked the picture books!
Now, if your students are closer to grade level or they are very sensitive about their learning differences, you would be better off adapting materials that are being used in the classroom.
In the case of my students (working on language for story plots) they didn’t understand enough of the story to actually build the language skills they needed. There was so much new vocabulary, story details, and inferential reasoning required.
2. Review the materials with the specific goals of your mixed group in mind.
Read the book or story ahead of time to determine which IEP goals could be elicited with each member of the group to guide your discussions.
I know this sounds time-consuming, and it can be intensive at first, but it will soon flow! At the beginning of the school year, I used post-it notes to organize the goals of each student in the group. This way, I was sure to address them in the session. It became second nature as I got to know each student better.
Think about how the various goals in the group relate to each other, and how best to involve each student while reading the story so that a kind of discussion develops about the plotline.
For example, the student working on:
- inferences- Use the cover picture to infer what the story is about.
- sentence structures- Summarize and rephrase the plot action.
- sequence- Summarize both parts after the next section is read.
- inference skills- Tell the group what is going on.
Get the idea? This way the book becomes a group discussion, too, as students will start to offer their ideas.
3. Use graphic organizers and reading strategies.
Reading comprehension is a whole degree in itself. The more you understand about how students learn to read, the more improvements in comprehension your students will make as you use stories orally! It is a great topic for your CEUs if you have a language-impaired caseload.
Check out this link for the most complete free set of reading comprehension organizers I have ever come across. Don’t you just love it?
When you have different graphic organizers for each student to follow up on the story, it also helps guide you during the story to reach each student’s needs.
You also are less likely to get complaints about who got hard work and who got ‘baby’ work. They are all reading the same story and completing an organizer afterward.
When you are really organized, you might even have a related game or activity for them all. Then they don’t notice as much that they answered different kinds of questions, or that one student wrote sentences on the organizer while another drew a picture. It really works!
4. Use materials that are ready-made for mixed groups with social skills.
Have you ever read speech therapy tips and ended up wondering however do you do that? There are so many components to working with groups, starting with behavioral control. We all need to build a repertoire of ‘tricks’ to use while working with kids.
Using a ready-made material set that has multiple components for mixed groups built in can make your sessions go so much more smoothly. Meanwhile, you get the basics of group dynamics under control.
While we have to address each student’s therapy goals individually, the purpose of groups is also to foster communication between the students. When you don’t have to concentrate on how to adapt the materials, it is much easier to keep the flow of activities moving, have some fun, and get students talking to each other during the session.
One of my buyer’s favorites for mixed articulation and language groups are Social Skills: Multiple Perspectives for Problem Solving sets.
There are two stories each for L, R, and S sounds that let you address social skills (problem-solving and social inferences) at the same time as language skills (story comprehension questions, narrative retell and sequencing, summarizing, and sentence structure for explaining.)
I don’t know about you, but I could never have managed to work on all of those skills on the fly! So be sure to click here to check it out!