Scheduling Tips for Elementary School Speech Language Pathologists

Scheduling is one of the more difficult aspects of a school speech language pathologist's job. Teachers and parents are rightfully unwilling to let their students be pulled out of class during important class lessons and activities. On top of that there are recesses, lunches, and prep times (art, computers, dance, etc) to work around for 50-80 individual speech students.

Then there is the style of your therapy to consider. Some SLPs prefer to do their interventions within the classroom and others prefer to do their lessons in a pull-out format where the student participates in speech therapy in a separate room. I think in-class and pull-out both have good and bad aspects. But I have had a lot of good success with weekly half-hour pull-out therapy sessions with groups of one, two or three students at a time (depending on severity and goals) so I generally stick to that format. However, I reserve the right to change my philosophy on service model in the future if research suggests one is better than the other.

Here are the steps I like to take each year in setting up my schedule.

  • Make an accurate, up-to-date caseload list including full name, grade, teacher, area of treatment (articulation, language, functional communication, fluency, AAC, etc.), and service time.
  • Organize the list by grade.
  • Split into groups of 2 or 3 students, ideally a group of 2 from the same teacher's class and with the same area of treatment. Believe me, I know it doesn't always work out perfectly. Try to keep the student's in groups with similar goals and ages.
  • Inform all general education teachers which students in their classes have speech/language services. 
  • Ask the administration if they have particular days and times for regularly scheduled assemblies. If there are, try to avoid scheduling any students during those times (hard learned lesson this year with my Thursday afternoon groups!)
  • Write down any weekly meetings you are required to attend (faculty meetings, special education team meetings, ect.)
  • Be aware that Mondays and Fridays tend to have a lot of holidays when you work in a school so you may miss students scheduled on those days more than others (these are pretty good days to schedule your testing times).
  • Make a rough outline of how you want your weekly schedule to be. Make sure to include a consistent lunch break of at least 30 minutes, some amount of planning time each day, any required meetings, and at least one morning and one afternoon testing/evaluation slot (to evaluate new referrals or observe students in class).
Now, you have a lot of options of how to actually set up your schedule once you have all of this information. The first year I set up my schedule I tried to figure out the recess, lunch and prep time schedules for each kid and work my schedule around that. It was a NIGHTMARE!  and I ended up sacrificing my lunch break, which was no good.

Last year I tried a new scheduling technique and it was soooo much faster. You can do the same idea without sticky notes but I found the sticky notes helped move the process along pretty quickly.

Sticky Note Scheduling Strategy:
  • Get your group list you made earlier.
  • Write the names of each student in the group on the same sticky note (each sticky note represents 30 minutes, so if you have a student/group who needs to come 60 minutes weekly make sure they have 2 sticky notes)
  • Write your rough schedule on a large poster board, or on a whiteboard with time slots big enough for the sticky note to fit in (use wet erase marker if you do this)
  • Send an email to the teachers informing them that you will be requesting their input for when to take their students for speech services. Let them know how many speech groups from their class you will be pulling out (e.g if there are four speech students in their class, there will probably be two groups and the teacher will need to think of 2 time slots during the week). Make sure the teachers know that they need to double check all recess, prep, and lunch times for their class.
  • Tell all teachers the day and time you will have them come sign up for times.
  • Tell the teachers that your schedule fills up on a first-come-first-serve basis (this is such an awesome motivator for them to look at their schedules right away).
  • Give the sticky note with student names to the teachers prior to sign up day. (if there are multiple teachers make sure they know they need to get together to decide on a time)
  • On the day of the schedule sign up have the principal or secretary announce over the intercom that all teachers with speech students need to go to the speech room to sign up for a therapy time. Make sure  the announcement is clear that it is first-come-first-serve.
  • Wait for the stampede of teachers (they literally ran to my room last year! Hillarious!) 
  • Have the teachers place their sticky notes in the half hour slots on your big schedule. Once the slot has a sticky note it is gone. 
This gives the teachers a say in when their student is pulled out and gives them the task of checking their own class schedule to make sure it does not conflict with any recesses, lunches or prep times. This saved me HOURS of work and was relatively easy for the teacher since they usually know their schedules well.

I copied this blank schedule onto a clear transparency paper. I use wet erase marker to write in my groups. This is great because as a school SLP my schedule changes so often with graduations and new referrals and if I need to make a change all I have to do is erase the one slot instead of printing a whole new schedule.

*I just got a comment from an amazing SLP blogger and I think the sticky notes idea may have originated from her blog. Here is the link to her blog post about it. It shows an awesome picture of how she did it. http://ifonlyihadsuperpowers.blogspot.com/2010/10/scheduing-for-speech.html


Anonymous said...

Love this!

Anonymous said...

Love it!

CC said...

Did you get the sticky note idea from me? ;) I like the idea of having the teacher do the scheduling. Then I'm not the bad guy! http://ifonlyihadsuperpowers.blogspot.com/2010/10/scheduing-for-speech.html

Anonymous said...

Oh cool! It very well might have originated from you. One of the SLPs in my school district suggested it! She very likely might have found it on your blog. Such an awesome idea! Thank you!

Kelly said...

I totally love having each teacher schedule their students. I've been doing it for the past 4 years and it works out great. I also love following some of the other speech blogs. Some are really good. Here is a few more blogs that I follow. I've found a few good ideas on them.




kimmyslp said...

I love this idea! I am working in the public schools for the first time this year, coming from early intervention. I have been stressing over the scheduling issue and I think that this just may be a workable solution!

Anonymous said...

I honestly think that sticky note scheduling is pretty common (I didn't read it anywhere, just heard it from multiple people of whom I interned for), so I wouldn't worry where the idea came from.

But I'm glad to see that a lot of speech-language pathologists are doing it that way! It would be great if someone came up with a better way to do things, but until then...

Laura said...

A co-worker saw this on Speaking of Speech, and it may have come from Superpowers. I used this method for the first time in 18 years, and this was definitely the most successful way. I invited teachers before school duty so everyone would have a fair shot. I also provided homemade blueberry muffins to ease the pain of scheduling.

Anonymous said...

This is my first year being a SLP. One of the biggest things that stesses me out it figuring out how to schedule all the kids. I love this sticky note scheduling idea. I was wondering if you could post the email that you send to the teachers. I am little worried about how to tell them about it, without it sounding like I just want the easy way out. Thanks so much. I love this blog, so many great ideas. :)

Alex Bandit said...

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles.Keep up the good work! chinese translation

Anonymous said...

Think the post it idea has been in use for awhile, don't worry, it's not trademarked. :). I've used it for many years.

Elaine said...

Before sticky notes, we just used a grid and a pencil -have been doing sticky notes since what feels like the beginning of time or at least since they were invented - a great tool. I love all the creative scheduling ideas, especially letting the teachers sign up for preferred slots!

jowdjbrown said...

However, I reserve the right to change my philosophy on service model in the future if research suggests one is better than the other.virtual assistant software