Monday, August 24, 2015

Let's Talk About Data Collection

Now that school has been in full swing for a couple of weeks...
I'm up to my armpits in data! 
Some of you may feel it's nothing but a nasty 4 letter word
while some of you number crunchers may love it.  
Either way, it's a big part of what we do, and it's never going away. 
Why not get really good at it?  
good at collecting it- good as analyzing it - good at keeping it organized

Today I'm linking up with my awesome friends and fellow bloggers, the Frenzied SLPs, to talk about how I tackle the data dilemma we all face as SLPs. 

As a school SLP, we live and breathe and operate according to our students' IEPs (the written plan- and legally binding contract- that outlines each students' treatment plan). The goals and/or objectives on those plans drive our therapy and they all have numbers attached.  
~ number our students must reach ~ 
For a profession so richly rooted in words, we sure do have to juggle a lot of numbers!! 

Everyone has there own little pet way of collecting data, and I have mine, too. 
While many of the SLPs in my district use grids and chart, I shy away from that.  
I like a good ole data sheet that I can write on! 
(I personally call them tally sheets)
I'm a word nerd; I need space for words! 
I like to comment and make notes so I use this form that I created....

I like room to write the activity we do each day, and I like space to type in my goals and objectives (which I number). If I work on multiple skills that day (especially in the area of artic), I like space to tally each one.  I can also use space to write notes and comments. 

 See how I numbered the objectives? 
That saves me time each day because I don't have to write out the actual skill or objective- just the corresponding number.  You'll notice that this goal aims for the child to perform the skills for a total of 10 sessions. Well, I add (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10) on the side of each objective, and each day this student meets the criteria for the objective, I strike through a number. Once the number 10 has a strike-thru, I know the child has achieved that objective! 

I just love when I get to write WOW on a tally sheet! 

This tally sheet used to be ALL I used because it included the date, activity, data, and comments.  As the pressure mounted to write a more conventional "lesson plan," I now write those, too, BUT I keep it quick and easy. If you haven't read my post about my lesson plans, you can find it HERE.  
That post includes a handy freebie, too :) 

I keep all of my students' tally sheets in one binder, and I use dividers to separate them according to therapy groups.  My personal goal is to tally every session, but that sometimes falls by the wayside when I'm too "into" the actual therapy (which is a good thing, right?)

 Sometimes I frantically tally on sticky notes or graph paper (which I also include in my binder) and transfer the data later.  On really hectic days I try to hold data in my head which actually was quite doable until I hit my 40s.  :)

You can find my tally sheets (which you can customize to meet your needs) in my TPT store HERE

Over the last year, with data tracking and self assessment all the rage, I decided to quit hoarding my data and start showing it off!!  If you haven't already, check out my blog post about self assessment, which again...includes a free download :) 

With my older students (3rd through 5th grade) I experimented with some of them tracking their own data last school year.  They always watched me tally and they did not like it when their tallies included dashes (-) instead of check marks!! I already had a habit of sharing their daily percentages with them; it was time to start letting them track the data.  Obviously, we couldn't track every skill or sound. For articulation students, I gave them choices and let them track one sound in one context. My language students tracked their specific language goal when appropriate or tracked a specific skill they needed to improve. 
Some results are shown below: 

The 4th grader on the left tracked the skill making inferences because we found that she most often missed those kinds of questions on her classroom tests. The student on the right tracked producing /r/ at the beginning of words.  Overall, I found that these kiddos tried harder and made remarkably more progress with the skills that they had to chart at the end of each session than the ones they didn't.  They were devastated when they had to plot a point that was lower than the previous session. 
This is definitely something I will implement again this school year!  

If you would like to try it also, just download these free tracking charts HERE.   (Please kindly leave feedback after downloading). 

When my students reached their target, they always got a mini certificate along with a treat of some kind. 
You can find these mini certificates in both of my learning targets packets - HERE and HERE

I don't think we will ever find the perfect way to collect and document data.  
I'll probably be trying to figure that out until the day I hang up my tongue depressors.  
For now, I've decided to stick the way that works best for me.
What's your solution? I'd love to hear about how you tackle data! 
If you want to check out how some of the smartest ladies I know manage data, click on the links below! 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Game Changer

Tomorrow is a big day.  
School started last week, but it's been full of meetings and back-to-school business. 
I found all of my students and gave them hugs. 
I listened to the "what I did this summer" stories. 
 I took some baseline data, and I even made a schedule.
I wrote a few IEPs for my new students.
OH, and I moved into a new teeny tiny room and got it therapy ready.
I read student records and typed up tally sheets. 
I even wrote a lesson plan. 
I'm feeling quite accomplished but, 
tomorrow is the first day of real deal therapy. 

Tomorrow I will hunt and scavenge for my babies as they scurry off to PE or enrichment, and haul them back to my teeny tiny room. 
I will introduce myself to new faces and go over my rules catch up with the old faces.
OH and I will see if my schedule works. 
If you're an SLP you know the first day of running through the "first attempt" schedule is always.....
well, let's just say it's interesting. 

Then once the dust has settled, I will talk to my students about their baseline data (where appropriate), and we will BEGIN our therapy adventure together.  

For a long time, I felt like I was the one who was "all-in" when it came to those little boogers' progress.  I felt like therapy was something I was imposing on them. 
 I wanted them to be as invested in it as I was. 
Well, all of last year and some of the year before that, I've tried something new in articulation therapy.  I've been using this so so so simple but handy little tool that I created. 
I don't know why in tarnation I've never shared it here on my blog before.  
(as a side note....tarnation sure is a funny word...)

BUT I digress... 
Only one printed page has really changed things. 
Each student and I are a therapy team now. 
I changed the way I was doing things and it's changed everything. 

Don't laugh. It's not rocket science, but this was the game changer....

This little paper pinned to my bulletin board... it's not much....but it is.
My students are so much more self aware about their place in the articulation therapy process. 
They can talk about their progress and goals, and they can self-assess at a glance. 

Therapy doesn't start with an activity anymore.  It starts with the steps to good speech...

For new students, I explain to them where they are starting in the therapy process (which is usually at isolation at the bottom of the staircase) and the steps we will go through as they learn sounds in longer and longer chunks of speech . . until the ultimate goal of “graduation” (which they are all excited about until it actually happens and they realize they can no longer attend therapy :)  

Before each therapy session, students (along with my help if needed) identify which “step” they are on, and we discuss that day’s “learning target” which coincides with it.  Then we pin them up on my magnet board.  I write their names next to their targets also.  

I use "I will" statements, but I also have "I can" statements.  You can find my learning targets at HERE and HERE.  Sometimes we need to discuss that they may be on different steps for different sounds they are addressing in therapy.
Okay, so I bet you're wondering what I do for language, fluency, etc. students! 
I'm trying something similar, but that will be a blog post of its very own.  (Patience is a virtue:) 

After the session, we re-assess, and if that day’s progress resulted in moving on to a new step, we note and celebrate that milestone. This continuous self-assessment helps students to become more aware of their goals and motivates them to move up the staircase! They also come to realize which steps are more difficult than others.  My board is up and ready for them to write and add their A-HA moments and milestones on! (another fun way of boosting self-awareness in the little guys). By the way, you this board is just a piece of foam board from Hobby Lobby with fabric wrapped around it.  The "today is a great day to learn" download can be found HERE

This little visual has also made my little guys try harder!!  
Nobody likes getting stuck on a step for too long!  

It has also brought me some satisfaction knowing my students are invested in and knowledgeable of their therapy process.  I feel that my students and I have become more of a team - working together to improve their speech skills! 
If you want to try it, you can download it (for free!) HERE.

  Wanna know an other added bonus??? Administrators love that I am implementing self-assessment.  
It's also an easy way to explain the articulation therapy process to parents at IEP meetings and such. 

Hey, who knows.....maybe it could be a game changer for you, too! 

If you have a secret weapon that helps kids get "all in" I'd love to hear about it! 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Surviving the First Week

OMG It's August!! 
You know what THAT means! 
At least for ME - and oodles of other school SLPs - that means...
BACK.    TO.    SCHOOL.  

Whether those three words make you cringe or make you tingly with excitement, it's coming and there's nothing you can do to stop it!

Today I'm teaming up with my fellow Frenzied SLPs to talk about 

Guess what? I went back to school last Thursday (for staff planning) and TODAY was my very first day with students. In my world, school year 2015-16 has officially begun! 

Don't hate me but......for me it is PURE EXCITEMENT. 
It wasn't always that way.  Let me tell you why it's changed. 

 For the past 6 years I've served as my school's "lead teacher." That means that I oversaw all of the faculty's parapros and special education staff- about 25 people in all.  I trained them in all matters.  I assisted in managing difficult cases (mostly severe behavior issues).   
I facilitated those tough conferences with irate parents.  I did scheduling for all sped. matters.  I read and vouched for all 150+ IEPs written in our huge school of almost 1,000 my spare time.

 I also carried a "half" of a caseload of children age 3 through 5th grade. If that wasn't enough, I  conducted screenings, RTI and evaluations.  I quickly started to dread going to work.  I dealt with discipline on a daily basis, and more and more, I got pulled away from my first love, speech and language pathology. 

In May, I expressed to my principal and director my desire to go back to doing what I love.  
This is my 20th year in the public schools, and I wanted to spend every minute of it knee deep in speech and language.  I got my wish, and I couldn't be more excited! 

Now you alllllll know that the job of a school SLP comes with a big, fat, long to-do list.  
Well,  I'm here to tell you my secrets for getting that baby checked off!! 

Summer days are precious, but getting to school before the year starts to organize your space  (and decorate, of course) is crucial so that you can hit the road working on day one!
Since we have outgrown our school,  I was "demoted" to a closet space.  I spent weeks before school getting it ready, and I'll be showing it to you soon here on my blog :) 


This is torture for me.  
I'm a social butterfly and I want to talk to my peeps, BUT it's the biggest productivity killer ever.  
There will be all year to chat; the first week is not the time.  Catch up quickly, and then go to your room and keep your door closed. Stay in your room as much as possible and nail down your to-do list.

Okay, there's one exception to this- IF you are new on campus you need to go out to your students' classrooms, sell yourself and start collaborating to your new coworkers! 

I get very antsy to start scheduling ASAP but there are actually more urgent matters to attend to.  After you've found out who your students are on campus (including who has moved away and which students identified as needing speech services have transferred in) and which teachers they are assigned to, make yourself a roster.  For me that includes splitting the school caseload with another full-time therapist.  Open each of student file and go straight to that page on the the IEP (annual plan) that outlines student accommodations.  Send those accommodations out to teachers STAT! 
I used to type them up on paper and have teachers sign that they've received them.  Now I just email them (with a confidentiality statement attached to my email) with a read receipt.  
Works perfectly.   Quick and easy and DONE.  CHECK!

Ugh it's possibly the worst part of our jobs.   
Is it just me, or is it a cruel, real-life version of Tetris?  
There really aren't any secrets; it's just trial and error with lots of caffeine and chocolate. 
Think creatively. You can see students of different grade levels together. Sometimes I amend IEPs to try different delivery models based on student progress or lack thereof.  Currently, I see some students in inclusion (you can read more about that here and here) while I pull others from PE for therapy. With some kiddos, I do "quick artic" sessions which can range from 5 to 15 minutes.  Those students are pulled right out of class into the hallway for quick artic drill multiple days a week, but it's for such a short period of time that they really don't miss much. I love that model for those students who either need to go to PE or just love to go to PE.  
Don't be afraid to think outside of the box! 

Get yourself a kick butt planner (I can't wait to show you mine soon!) because meetings and deadlines are a huge part of our job! 
To-do lists and planners are an SLP's BFF.  
Whether they're digital or good 'ole paper,  it's a necessity. 

Go through each student's file and read, read, read.  Use the information you find to...  
A) ...create a "tally sheet" or data collection sheet for each student.  There is no "right" system for this. The "right" system is the one that works best for you!  I personally use a certain form that I created,  and I keep all of my students' data sheets in a binder with divider tabs.  I'll be sharing my data collection form here very soon! 
B) ...start planning the first week of therapy's activities! The kids are anxiously awaiting their first week of therapy (especially if they already know and love you).  Don't keep them waiting.  For me that first week will include getting to know each other and will be chock full of activities from my Back to School Fun Pack and taking some baseline data along with reinforcement from my School Time Quick Drill. 

In addition to data sheets, I am required to write a lesson plan. You can read more about that (and grab the editable form for free) HERE.   In addition to planning the activities, I make sure I have my learning targets, incentives and speech room rules ready. OH, and these handy dandy (and free) speech day/time notes! 

Okay,  that's weird I know.  I really do talk to myself.  You should have heard all of my yapping as I trudged through scheduling today, but that's not the kind of talk I'm talking about! 
I don't know about you, but positive self-talk works for me.  
Our jobs are fast-paced, high pressure and mentally and physically demanding.
"You got this!" "You are a machine, girl!" "OF COURSE I can do this!" never hurts to hear!
I've confessed here on my blog before that I can be prone to falling into negativity.  
In the words of Sweet Brown, "ain't nobody got time for that!" 
I also post signs around my room (and in the hall outside my room, too) to spread some encouragement.  Here are some of my favorites that I have printed from Pinterest: 

Positive messages like these really perk me up. 
On the toughest days, 
I rely on this sweet prayer from Mother Teresa (which I have near my desk) for encouragement:

You can download it here free. 

Occasionally I even adopt a musical anthem- which my family laughs at me for- that I blare in the mornings. 
This morning it was "Keep your Head Up" by Andy Grammer

 Hey! Whatever it takes! 

Here's wishing you a fabulous first week!  
Check off that to-do list! 
What are your secrets? I really want to know!
So do The Frenzied SLPs! Just follow these simple steps:
1) Write a blog post or facebook note with your tips for surviving the first week.  
2) Link up to any host blog.  Your link will show up on all of the host blogs
3) Please visit and comment on the two blogs before you and after you on the linky.

Jasper Roberts Consulting - Widget