Hints to Successful Speech Homework Programs

I am a HUGE believer in homework for my speech students. I only have 30 minutes each week with most of them and guess what...that does diddly-squat unless they practice on their own! Homework can be a pain and sometimes the parents don't take it seriously since their kid isn't really graded on it. But I am convinced that most parents will do it if they realize how important it is for their child. This year I tried a few things that really helped my students and their parents get in the habit of doing homework at least once a week, if not daily. With this new system I have gotten weekly homework from 85-90% of my students! Keep in mind the parents at my school are pretty awesome so I'm not sure it's realistic to expect that high a percentage everywhere. But a little follow through goes a long way! Warning: this is a LONG post!

Here are some hints on how to get your speech students to do their homework consistently.
 -Write a letter to your student's parents at the first of the year introducing yourself, explaining why good speech and language is important, and that they will be expected to do homework daily. Explain how your time with the student is limited and that improvement will be minimal unless the child practices at home. Make sure the parents know what day and time their child has speech and that homework folders need to come to school on that day. Here is an example of my letter from earlier this year. You'll have to click on it to get the bigger view. The second page is some suggestions on how on speech and language at home.

-Make a speech homework folder. Here are some examples of what it could look like. I like to have the student decorate the front so they are proud of it and have some ownership in it. I've considered having the parents buy a strong folder for their child since I'm a poor SLP and can't afford to buy awesome sturdy folders for my kids. I actually got my folders this year for 1 penny each at the back to school sale at Office Depot. I bought 100 for $1.00! AMAZING!

-To get the student's and parents to do homework daily I provide them with a little daily homework tracker that I keep at the front of their speech homework folders. The students know they need to bring their folder to speech every week. See an example of the tracker sheets below. The first one is one I use with my articulation kids. The second one is one I use with my language students. The language student's tracker is more detailed because language therapy requires a lot more anectdotal information and a little more explaining to help the parent understand what they can work on at home.

-Provide rewards for doing homework weekly and EXTRA SPECIAL rewards for doing it daily. I use a sticker chart that works like this.
  • 1 sticker for any homework done in the week. 
  • 5 stickers = a LITTLE PRIZE 
  • 15 stickers = a BIG PRIZE. 
 I know, that's a lot of work, but having the little prizes every 5 weeks keeps them motivated.

I like using these sticker books. They only cost a few dollars and they last a LONG time!
Here's my sticker card template. I know a lot of SLPs who give reinforcements to their students for coming on time and working hard and other stuff. I think kids can be expected to do certain things without rewards and I'm not really into behaviorism. However, homework is so important that I will gladly do anything to help my students get in the habit.
-For the extra incentive to do homework everyday I give out a HOMEWORK HEROES TICKET. It's basically a raffle ticket. Every student who does at least 5 days of homework for the week gets a raffle ticket. At the end of the week I draw a name out and one of those students gets a BIG PRIZE. Remember big prizes take 15 weeks worth of homework to earn, so getting a big prize is a BIG DEAL!
-Need more motivation? If my kids don't do their homework they have to call their parents and ask for help to remember to do their speech homework EVERY time they forget. They know this will happen. I tell them at the very beginning of the year. If they forget their homework I don't yell at them or make them feel bad I point to the phone right at the beginning of the session and they know to call their parents while I start working with the other student in the group. I start this pattern off at the very beginning of the year and usually after a couple weeks everyone is bringing their homework consistently.
-Not enough? If you use games during therapy make a rule that the student is not allowed to play unless they do their homework at least once during the week. This has been a good motivator for my students. I have this rule posted on my wall. I love having things posted on the wall because you can just point to the sign and they can't argue with a sign :)


Kelly said...

I've done speech folders and parent letters every year. This year I even made a speech contract that parents and students needed to sign. I only got about 1/2 back. I like the phone calling idea but many of my parents work and would be annoyed if their child called them at work about speech homework. I have a lot of good students but a few behavior problems so I need to reinforce for good behavior in speech class. I've also used your homework heroes idea and I get the same students to return homework. I think I just need new ideas. Do you keep their sticker reward sheet in their folder? Do they get another one if they loose it? I have a feeling many of my students would loose it each week. It's sad that I have so many parents who just don't help with speech. I have kids signing their own homework just to get a reward, so sad. Thanks for the good ideas.

Anonymous said...

sounds like you have some toughies. I have found the calling to work well. Even if their parents are working I have them leave a message on an alternate phone so they don't bother their parents at work.

I have had a few kids who no matter how hard I try, are very inconsistent at doing homework. It's super frustrating because they usually need the most help. I keep a sticker card in their working file because I don't want them to loose sight of the fact that they are getting closer to a prize.

maybe somebody else has some good homework ideas that might work with your kids.

Jennifer said...

What do you usually send home for homework? Do you have pre-made worksheets that you give all the students or are they all personalized?

kimmyslp said...

I am curious about what kinds of prizes you use for your big and small prizes for rewards.

Anonymous said...

I would love to know what kinds of prizes you use as well. Maybe the ones I used aren't motivating enough!...I have tried several methods, but haven't found them to be successful. I have tried giving them homework each time they come/return it with parent signature = points for prize. I have also tried having the student and parent both sign a contract at the beginning of the year -- then send home practice calendars each month. The student sets their own goal (20-30 days), then it is supposed to be returned for big prize at end of month. Neither system has worked... I am going to try the phone calls you suggested!

Anonymous said...

If a child cannot get help with their speech homework at home, then I set them up with a school staff member to help them complete it in the morning or evening at school. This way my students learn to be responsible, even if their parents aren't. It also helps my students to understand how important good speech and language is by seeing that we (the school staff) value their effort and progress. My kids really seem to respond to the care and attention they receive from the other adults. I provide incentives for completing homework.

Anonymous said...

I'm a student clinician and I have two young articulation clients that I am working with this semester. I found this post so helpful in implementing a homework program/folder for my client. Thank you so much!

April said...

Hi Annie,
I am a fellow Utah SLP that works in a neighboring district and I came across your blog today while trying to find some ideas for homework trackers. I LOVE your ideas. You just saved me a lot of time. Thank you so much for sharing!

Mary Lou said...

I am giving a presentation on providing homework for preschoolers and I loved all the great information from your survey. Thanks for sharing

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