Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sneaky Tricks for Inclusion {Pushing in}

Whew! I’m back in action. November was a killer.  All month I hoped to share with you my Thanksgiving themed therapy, but band season and the worst case of bronchitis I’ve ever had really nixed that idea.  I spent most of the month hanging by a thread...and no voice. How in the world does an SLP function with no voice? Not very well I can tell you! Even with all the vocal hygiene knowledge in the world, I still couldn’t kick the croaking.  In fact, I’m rocking the deep man voice now as I type :) 

So anywayyyyyy.....What I’m blogging about today is how I PUSH IN. 

We call it....

I’ve written about this topic before, but this time I want to share with you some activities I actually use that help me zone in on my own students’ performance while still addressing the whole class.  Most SLPs feel, myself included, that it’s nearly impossible to keep data and truly address our students’ individual needs in the classroom, but I have developed some sneaky strategies that help.  

Let me start by saying, I do not do strictly inclusion services with my language disordered/delayed students. I do a combination of inclusion and “pull out.” I think that’s the best of both worlds, but that’s just my humble opinion based on years of experience. Being in the classroom opens my eyes to what my students’ are struggling with, and it helps me to know what to really focus on when they’re with me in my speech room. 

First and foremost, My ELA inclusion teachers always email me their lesson plans which I use to plan my lessons.  If you have cooperative inclusion teachers like this, treat them like royalty and hang on to them for dear life :) I either plan around the theme (such as tall tales, Native American history, a certain novel, etc.) or I plan around the skill (main idea, inferencing, compare/contrast, figurative language, etc)  Sometimes I can hit on both when I’m really on my game :)   I try to write language goals for these students in such a way that any ELA skills can apply, or I “tag myself” on the reading comprehension goal on my students’ IEP if they also receive special education services. 

On of my goals might read something like this:
Little Johnny will apply language skills (such as making inferences, summarizing, telling main idea and details, comparing/contrasting, answering comprehension questions, deciphering unknown vocabulary using context clues, justifying answers, comprehending figurative language) in order to answer constructed response questions on assignments and tests with 80% accuracy over 10 assignments/tests. 

That’s just an example; for some kids my goals are very specific based on their disorder . It may be strictly listening/follow directions, strictly vocabulary, etc. but by 4th-5th grade it’s time to focus on a variety skills because that’s that they’re expected to do, and by this time I feel the focus of language therapy changes from bridging language gaps and remediating delays to helping them cope with the immediate demands of the classroom. Ultimately, our job as school SLPs is to help them be as successful as possible in the curriculum.  Yeah, I know, I know.  THAT can make us feel like a tutor or a paraprofessional, but I don’t feel that way because I do it my applying my language expertise which no para or tutor can do. 

First of all, when I go into a classroom, I have a helper hand out “voting squares” to each student. Every student gets a red and a green square.

Use whatever kind you'd like. These are some that I made which you can download for free.  If you don’t want to download them, just cut red and green squares of construction paper. >>>>>>>>>> 

These boost engagement; they keep every child paying attention because they will have to use them to vote.  More on those later :) 

My teacher cohorts focus on reading comprehension.  
What’s the prerequisite skill or stepping stone to reading comprehension? 
Well, listening comprehension, of course!! 
( I do write many students’ goals to target listening comprehension also). 
Most  teachers use long, taxing passages to target comprehension (because that's what's expected of them). I don’t know about you but It’s all about rigor in my district.  If your students are like mine, they struggle with those.  Due to their disabilities, they trudge slowly through the passages (if they can read them at all) and lose comprehension. Many times, they get tired and discouraged and start to “fake read” or shut down or get visibly frustrated.  
Why? It’s too hard for our babies who grapple with language.  
That’s why they need us....for our expert scaffolding! 

I typically use shorter, more manageable passages.  Usually they are even on grade level, but they’re more high-interest and always short.  In fact, my inclusion classes are the very reason I make many products with short, fun non-fiction passages that are perfect for inclusion grades 3-5 (or even higher depending on disability)  
I have a bunch of them in my Tpt Store.  

After everyone has their voting squares, I like to use the I DO, YOU DO, WE DO method.  I use the teacher’s document reader to project a little passage on the board. Here are some examples of the passages I used for Thanksgiving from my “Thanksgiving {responding to non-fiction text & more}” packet. 

Now you would think these would be easy for 4th grades; for example, but even with this small amount of text, the questions challenge them.

I read the first passage on the board and then pose the questions (as well as other questions that I come up with on the spot because that’s the nature of any SLP). 
If the question is just what one of my students needs to work on, I choose them to answer aloud. Sometimes I choose a student by “picking sticks” which is the method my teachers’ use.  Then that student answers aloud BUT all of the other students use their voting squares to “vote” for every single question. They hold up the green square if they agree with the answer and the red square if they do not. 

That gives me an idea of who knew the answer and who didn’t.  If I’m stressed about collecting data, I write each of my students’ names on a sticky note before I go to class, and I quickly tally each right/wrong voting. After everyone has voted, I typically choose a student to explain why he/she thinks the answer is correct. Likewise, I choose someone who raised a red voting square to explain why he/she thinks the answer is wrong.  Then I ask the student (who answered aloud) the question again to see if he is sticking with his answer or not and let him know if he’s correct. Then we discuss.  It’s work and it’s reading but the kids actually love it! Also, instead of spending so much time reading, we spend time discussing and responding which is what we, as SLPs, are all about! 

Now, I do realize that some kids may have their feelings hurt with this process, so if that’s the case, it may not work for your class. I make it clear from the beginning that it’s ok to be wrong and that the people who think you’re wrong may be the ones that are wrong! Heck, even I get things wrong! Once that attitude of it’s “ok to be wrong” is established, the kids love it. 

After I do the reading for one or 2 passages, I have them choral read along with me for a couple more passages (WE DO) and then we answer the questions.  We continue to vote. Then I put them in pairs or groups and give each group a passage to read, discuss, and present. When the group comes up and presents and tells the answers to the questions on the cards, everyone votes.  They defend their answers and change them if needed.  Oh! and we are always working on answering in complete sentences with good grammar and restating the question, etc.  Getting the gist?  

The students are freaking out (in a fun way) about the things people do for Christmas in other countries. 

My very favorite is the Easter Around the world passages. 

Recently we did Pecos Bill passages because we were focusing on tall tales.

Sometimes I just have a passage we focus on the whole lesson -like if they’ve just read a chapter in a novel. During novel studies. I make questions to go with the novel (in fact I did this for the wonderful book My Louisiana Sky).
  For those I write questions on various levels (1, 2, and 3) and I number them so I remember their difficulty level.  Here is an example of some I did for our novel:

Just to make it more fun, I put them in boxes that I’ve numbered 1, 2, 3.  Each child is called on to answer a question and gets to pick if they want to answer an easy question (1), a “medium” question (2) or a hard question (3).  

You see, they can earn that many of our school dollars if they get it correct OR sometimes I split the class in half - or boys against girls- and they can earn that many points for their team when they answer. Yep, we keep score on the board! 

It’s interesting to see who is confident about answering questions and who is not.  As we did with the short passages activity, everyone votes about whether they think the answer is correct or not (and you can tally that if you wish). 

Of course, based on what I observe from my students in class, we focus on down and dirty when they come to my room for more intensive small group therapy. 

This month we will also be doing a little grammar in inclusion. It makes me sad that there’s not as much focus on grammar these days.  I mean, if our big push is to make kids better writers, they need to know grammar! 

After some grammar review we’ll be doing madlibs as a whole class (still voting with our voting square on each part of speech) of Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman carols.   YES, we are definitely singing our new wacky new versions once our madlib is complete!  We will also be incorporating some grammar practice with color-by-grammar that’s in my packet of Christmas passages.  

This coming week I’m excited to try something new that I learned about at a technology conferenece I attended this past week.  I’ll be blogging about it after I actually use it but if you want a sneak peek, it’s called PLICKERS.  It’s an app that allows all students to answer multiple choice questions (not my favorite but I want to try) by raising a card and reports data for each child! Here’s a photo from their website. 

No more tallying on a sticky note for me.  I am still trying to think of a way to incorporate oral answering for the person I call on and multiple choice answering for everyone else. Stay tuned!  I'm excited about trying it! 

If you want to see some other cool technology I use featuring altered reality, check out last December’s blog post here.  
You can catch other therapy ideas for the month of December there as well :) 

What tricks do you use for inclusion? I would really love to hear about them!! 

Happy pushing in! 


  1. LOVE this post, and this made me excited to try some inclusion! What mad libs are you doing? You referenced some in the post, but no link. I love those reading passages, and put them on my wish list.

    1. Shucks, Judy! Sorry! I've added the links now. Thanks for the sweet words; I'm thrilled you liked the post :)

  2. I'm finding push-in easier for the K-5 set. My middle school teachers tend to not want to "share" their time. I began the school year hopeful and excited to try academic conversations. We have no common planning time and I am having difficulty getting teachers to send me their plans/vocabulary/theme...anything, so I can participate. Feeling moderately defeated, but forever optimistic that they will see how much I can benefit them in class! Thanks for your amazing suggestions and products!

    1. Annie, I know exactly what you mean about middle school. I had the same experience years ago. What a bummer. If I know you, I know you will keep trying and make it work!! Thanks for the feedback on this post. I love hearing from you!

  3. Great post Mia! I got one of my third grade classes to use your voting cards during text talk. Loving it!


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