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…
PART 1: PREPARING YOUR LESSONS AND COLLABORATING WITH TEACHERS
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.
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.
Here are a few quick tips to get you started:
- 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.
- If your district requires you to list common core state standards, this can also be done at the top of your plans.
- Write down the classes and/or student names that are involved in your group speech sessions.
- List the activity or activities you will be using/doing and consider writing a brief description.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Here are the links to the other parts in this series! Enjoy!