April 9, 2018

State Testing...An SLP Survival Guide

Springtime. Blooming flowers, green leaves, rain showers, warmer temperatures (hopefully), and...standardized state testing. Oy.


In Texas, we have two major testing weeks...one in March/April and another in May. Our first round of state testing begins tomorrow (April 10) and will include 4th/5th grade as well as middle and high school students. Then in May, everyone in grades 3 and up will test.

Most school based SLPs do not have to administer state tests (though I know a few who do), but testing weeks definitely still impact us. At several of my schools, the speech therapy room is used for small group or individual test administration, so I lose my therapy space for several days. Any schedule I have been working from goes out the window due to students testing or rearranging of PE times, etc. Testing weeks are not easy for anyone, including the SLP.

But have no fear! I am here to share some testing week survival tips. Just a few things that I have found make my week(s) a little easier to deal with.

1. BE FLEXIBLE - This may be easier said than done. You may show up on Tuesday with a plan, and then show up and find out your plan needs to be scrapped due to a sudden schedule adjustment. Just roll with it and expect that last minute changes will occur. You may need to be flexible with everything from your location to how you group your students. Just roll with it and do your best.


2. GET CREATIVE - One of the biggest challenges I face during testing week is not having a therapy room to see my younger students. To this I say, 'No problem!" I use this opportunity to get creative with where we have speech therapy. If the weather is nice, we might go outside. Can't go outside? Try the gym or cafeteria, or another empty room. Walking the halls is probably not allowed when testing is going on, but you might be able to find another space and make it an adventure! You could also try pushing in to your students' classrooms for the day.


3. CATCH UP ON PAPERWORK - Sometimes, testing schedules make it pretty impossible to get any kind of therapy done. This is when you can use your time to catch up on paperwork. Write IEPs, reports, or progress notes. Maybe you have Medicaid billing to catch up on...

4. GET SOME CEUs DONE - If you can't see students, you could spend some of your day completing online CEUs. There are so many great courses offered online now and days. I am a member of SpeechPathology.com (affiliate link) and can pretty much complete CEU courses whenever I want to. I hear Medbridge is also fantastic. Or check out the ASHA website or Northern Speech Services and see what they have to offer.

5. CHECK IN WITH YOUR TESTING STUDENTS - When testing is finished for the day, I always check in with my students who had to test. There is usually enough time at the end of the day to get a session in. I do not force my students to come to speech after testing all day, but many times they want to come. I always check in, see how their day went, and ask them if they want to come to speech. I also make sure to have something extra special planned if they do make it to speech.

Testing weeks are usually not fun for anyone on campus. Stress levels are high and schedules are a mess. Just try to stay positive and know that it will all soon be over. Try to be flexible and get done what you can get done. Hang in there and just be thankful that this only happens once (or twice) a year.

I'd love to hear from you. Do you have to help administer state tests? How do you handle testing weeks? Leave a comment below.

March 30, 2018

Story Champs - Why Every SLP Should Have this Resource

Let's get straight to the point. There are MANY different commercial products on the market for language intervention. But have you heard of Story Champs from Language Dynamic Group? I have had the privilege of using Story Champs in my speech room this year and it has been a game changer.


Story Champs is a language intervention tool that can be used by SLPs, reading intervention teachers, general education teachers, ESL teachers...pretty much anyone who works on language or narrative skills. It can be used in large groups, small groups, or one-on-one.

I have been using Story Champs with most of my students this year. We started back in September and they still love it. I use it to work on listening skills, story retell, sentence structure, vocabulary, comprehension, answering wh- questions, sequencing, articulation, and more. My students love the stories and I love that I can differentiate for each student, even within mixed groups. It's great for grades pre-k and up and for students with a variety of disabilities and cognitive abilities.

The Story Champs kit comes with:

  • Storybook
  • Illustration Cards (digital version, too)
  • Icons
  • Games
  • Flashdrive with loads of extra printables

How I Use Story Champs:

Students are taught what each of the story icons represents - character, problem, feeling, action, ending. There are additional icons for more advanced students, including setting, plan, consequence, etc. The elements and icons are used through every story. 

I then present the story to the students using the illustration cards. As I tell the story, I place an icon on the corresponding card to help make the connection between the icon and that part of the story. 

After I tell the story, we discuss it and work on answering questions and practice vocabulary. We then review the story and each element. 

With the illustration cards and icons still on the table, we then retell the story together. I help my students as much as they need it, modeling language and vocabulary use the entire time. 

I then allow them to retell the story on their own, supporting them as necessary. Once they are ready, I remove the illustration cards and allow them to retell the story using only the icons. The final step is for them to retell the story again with no icons or illustrations. 

We always wrap up using a printable from the flash drive where they can cut and glue blackline images of the illustrations on a story board. They get to take this home with a parent letter that explains the story and has information for parents to extend the learning to the home setting. 

I have also been able to use Story Champs for large group lessons in the kindergarten classroom. Every Friday, I  led a lesson with the entire kindergarten class (my little school only has one kinder class). We went through the story, discussed the story elements, practiced listening and retelling together, and in partners. We all loved this time we shared and I was able to monitor my speech students during the activity, too. Students can then work in centers on extension activities related to the story. 
 

Overall Opinion:

Now that I have had the opportunity to use Story Champs, I am hooked. I absolutely love this tool and how versatile it is. I can modify the stories and the level of difficulty for each and every student. The illustrations are appropriate for all ages and really help students focus on the elements of the stories. 

Once students have a good grasp of the story elements, we work on carrying these elements into their own narratives. This is a great way to extend their learning and allows them to make personal connections with their own experiences. 

I love that I can use Story Champs with mixed groups. Students with language goals get what they need, and my students with articulation goals have the opportunity to practice their sounds. I sometimes modify names or vocabulary in the stories to add specific phonemes for articulation goals. 

The best thing about using Story Champs is that all of my students are ENGAGED and actively participating through the entire session. 

I highly recommend Story Champs to anyone who is looking for a great language intervention tool. If you have any questions about this resource, feel free to comment below or email me at kristin@talkinwithtwang.com. You can also reach out to Language Dynamics Group. They are very helpful!

Special Offer: If you are ready to get your very own Story Champs kit, Language Dynamics Group has provided me with a discount code to share with you! Enter code LDG10MP at checkout to save 10%

Enjoy!