Monday, September 28, 2015

The Toughest Crowd...

I'm teaming up with my friends, the Frenzied SLPs, to talk about materials and motivation for the toughest crowd I know - MIDDLE SCHOOLERS! 

I worked in a K-8 school for 12 years, and I work with 5th graders on a daily basis so I sort of know a thing or two about this hot topic. I blogged about it almost 2 years ago so please forgive any overlap :) 

When doing therapy with middle schoolers, it's all about making skills fun without insulting their intelligence or their pride (aka using baby stuff!) 


Time and time again I get requests for products older students- upper elementary, middle and high school.  Well, I try really hard not to make my blog into an advertisement for my products, but I wanted to let you know what kinds of things I use with my older students.  They happen to be perfect for middle schoolers! 

I think it's really important to find out what your middle schoolers love AND USE IT! Right now I'm pretty sure they all love their cell phones and text messaging, and I use that as much as possible in therapy.  Want students to be interested and invested?  Speak their language! Cater to their interests. Cross over to their world.

Here's a few of my products that do just that while addressing lots of language skills (and even carryover of articulation and fluency skills)  

I use my Reading and Responding, Interpreting Language & Much More packet ALL THE TIME. It uses actual text message conversations to work on reading for details, drawing conclusions, using context clues, making predictions and inferences, reading emotions and mood, and comparing/contrasting.  This one could easily be used all the way through high school with our language impaired students. 

Not to mention, it's a great way to discuss text message etiquette and appropriate conversations, etc.  

The very first product I ever put in my TpT store was Making Inferences/ Drawing Conclusions Role Play activity freebie and I still use the heck out of it- so much so that I made a sequel -  Making Inferences/ Drawing Conclusions Role Play Activity PART 2 . They are both easy activities that involve you having strategic but fake conversations on your cell phone to teach language skills. It's a great intro activity to the skills of making inferences/ drawing conclusions. Upper elementary and middle school students are required to read and making inferences but our students often need practice with skills solely in the verbal realm. Just whip out your smart phone and have at it- I promise your students will love it and beg for more making inferences!! 

And because I'm SERIOUS about using what motivates them...more text messages!! Now that you've introduced making inferences and drawing conclusions orally (and practiced the skill), it's time to move on to reading.  Ahhh the dreaded reading passages.  Kids hate 'em- especially our struggling readers.  What they don't hate is reading text messages.  For real. 

Text messages are short enough that they don't get frustrated trudging through them and they are relatable to our kids.  Because are relevant to them, they are also interested in them Let the teachers dole out the passages; I are keeping it real in the speech room.  This Making Inferences/Drawing Conclusions with Text Messages is one of my favorite activities for that. 

When we do have to get down to the nitty gritty and READ, I like to use short, high-interest passages.  Short but fun passages keep frustrations down, motivation up and allow us to get lots of reading done in our short therapy sessions.                                                                

When I couldn't find the types of passages I wanted, I started writing my own. I have many reading and responding packets in my TPT Store.  A couple of them that have really fun reading are Easter Around the World packet and Mardi Gras Reading & Responding packet.  

They contain 22 short non-fiction passages with strategic questions to require recalling information, comparing/contrasting, reading for details, sequencing, context clues, inferencing, predicting, main idea, and the list could go on forever. 

Oh, and the packets have a few lagniappe activities as well (for grammar, writing or just plain fun).    Lagniappe is just another word for bonus / extra  here in Cajun country, y'all.   

When November arrives, I'll be using a non-fiction packet about the history of Thanksgiving (just the weird parts of history that middle schoolers tend to like) and funky facts about turkeys and football.  It actually keeps my students motivated to read;  I've used it in inclusion for many years.
I have one for just about every holiday.  The Lucky Charms, Christmas and Groundhog Day ones are big favorites with my older kids.  

 If you really want to delve into literacy with your students, try a novel!! For the past 2 years,  I have read My Louisiana Sky with my oldest students and they've really been into it.  You can even let them help choose the novel.  


I think if you're getting on their level and making learning fun, that will be motivation enough.  Getting to use their smart phones is even EXTRA motivation....let them text each other the answers to the questions you pose and then read each others' answers! Even better, let them take selfie videos explaining their answers and play the videos for the group. Let them post their therapy activites on instagram if they'd like.  Teaching main idea? Let them tell the main idea by making a hashtag for it! 

This year I bought these little owl scratch off reward tickets from Oriental Trading...

They're so easy to use! You just write the name of the prize on the scratch off card and hand them out as rewards.  Students scratch them with so much enthusiasm that you'd swear they were actual lottery tickets.  Some of my rewards include "pick the game," hot fries, skittles, "special request," hot cheetos, "listen to music in speech," an extra day of speech or a soft drink.

My students are NUTS for them! Now these owl ones are a little juvenile, but I saw that Amazon has a ton of scratch labels that you can just adhere to cardstock. I think these more sophisticated versions below would be very motivating for middle schoolers!

Check out all of the tips about middle school materials and motivators from my fellow bloggers by clinking on the links below.  We'd love if it YOU would link up, too, and share your words of wisdom.

For all of you working with this tough crowd, may the odds be ever in your favor!" title="click to view in an external page.">An InLinkz Link-up


  1. I have most of your middle school materials and love your style! The scratch off incentives are an awesome idea too.

    1. WOW thanks!! That means so much to me :))) I have no doubt you have a way with those middle schoolers.

  2. As I read your post, I clicked the product links. I own all but My Louisiana Sky. You're amazing!!

    1. Awww Annie I'm so so honored! You're the one who's amazing, lady!

    2. If I were/was? polite I would have said thank you. Thank you :)

  3. I love your text based materials-it provides the perfect amount of challenge for my students-not too easy but not too hard. I'm totally checking out the scratch off products too-so much fun for students!

  4. The best Middle School materials around! Thank you Mia- you're amazing!


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