It can be awkward when you have an observation by a person who is not a speech pathologist. I always have that nagging fear that they won’t understand my work and offer criticism based upon not understanding speech therapy. But I’m super lucky that the assistant principal at my current school was a special education teacher. Of all the non-SLP people who have observed me over the course of my career, I knew that he would have the best feedback and insight into my work.
During my final observation this year, I chose a group of two students who have both speech sound and expressive language impairments and are enthusiastic about speech. I knew they would be game for anything I wanted to plan for that session — perfect for an observation!
The session went well and I went into the post-observation meeting feeling pretty confident. My assistant principal agreed.
“It was a great session. The only thing I saw was that it was kind of like individual therapy for two people. You worked with one student during his turn, and then you turned and worked with the other student during his turn. There wasn’t a lot of group interaction.”
A lightbulb went off.
His comment about my session was on point. It has totally changed my group therapy for good! Working with PK-2nd, I think that I spend a lot of time controlling behavior. But because of that, I’ve inadvertently minimized group interaction. I needed to change that. Here are the three things I’m doing now that have improved my group therapy — he was totally right!
1) Turn and Share — When I ask a question to a student, I ask them to tell the other group member the answer. This not only helps improve their ability to answer a question, but it turns the response into a moment of social connection with another student. I think “turning and sharing” could improve generalization of skills, too.
2) What do you think, friend? — I’ve already used other students to model a speech sound for a group member, but now I ask the other student if they thought the sound was right. Some students like hearing that another group member might have thought something was off (FYI: This doesn’t work for group members that don’t like or trust the other group member).
3) You’re the SLP! — Turning the tables and having the student take over not only their own therapy, but the therapy of another student is a fun way for students to interact with the other group members and still work on their goals. Then the other group member tries doing my job. It really helps them learn to take the perspective of others and I think it helps them understand speech therapy better.
NOTE: These ideas to enhance group therapy will work with groups that don’t have behavioral problems. It’s more tricky to relinquish control with students who have trouble staying on task without rigid structure.
Let me know what you think by commenting below. Thanks for reading! 🙂
Annette Macher says
I love your ideas. I’ve used #3 before but not frequently – mostly when I’ve got a student I really want to focus on for a few minutes – and then we rotate who gets to be SLP. The kids love the power and I’ve noticed that some will become excellent SLPs someday 😀
Sarah Wu says
Thank you so much Annette! I agree! 🙂
Sharon S says
Fantastic suggestions! I try to incorporate as much group interaction as I can too, but it is good to be reminded of this. Another idea I try to use is the “another one”. For example, if we are working on… categories or anything really where a student needs to provide an example of something, after the target student provides his/her answer, I will turn to the rest of the group and ask each one of them for another one….
Sarah Wu says
I love that! It’s very insightful. Thanks!