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).
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.
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