Nature Snacks: How to Squeeze a Daily Dose of Nature into Your Classroom

You really can't argue against the mountain of research that proves direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development, both physically and emotionally. Knowing this is one thing, but actually finding time in our over crowded class routines for our children to connect with nature is increasingly tricky...

As much as we'd all like to be roaming free with our class exploring 'Bear Grylls-style' (well, maybe not to that extreme!) the practicalities of our school environments are probably not allowing such intimate experiences with nature..... we need to grab the small moments and make them count.
My Little Grub out 'sploring'
This post includes a range of ideas to meet the needs of teachers who have regular access to the outdoors with their class...... as well as for the teachers & children who are stuck indoors all day in a classroom with no windows (gulp!)  The benefits of being in nature are beneficial to every part of a child's well being, and so much about the big wide world can be learnt through little observations and quick discussions.  I've included 20 practical suggestions below to help incorporate nature into your daily routine (plus a little freebie containing some 'nature snack' prompt cards further down the post).
The suggestions below are ranked in order of worse case scenario (you're stuck in a windowless classroom with limited access to the outdoors) through to the best case scenario (your classroom has bi-fold doors overlooking lapping waves and a sandy shell covered beach ha ha ha!)
Nature Snack Suggestions:
[1] Seize the teachable moments and 'roll with them!'  This is increasingly difficult for some teachers within the heavily structured school systems they work in, but if at all possible, try and follow the children's curiosity and wonder when it comes to nature (Case in point - the ant swarm that takes over one of the many coffee cups you have lurking on your desk.... take some photos, try and identify the species, follow the trail to work out where they're coming from and where they're going etc.)

[2]  Think about adding some green to your room.  Use some soothing green tones to cover the backs of your bulletin boards or include some natural textures and plants.  Take a 'leaf' out of the pre-school classroom and try to include more tactical and hands on activities. 

[3]   Be prepared to embrace nature FINDING YOU! (e.g that big hairy spider or cockroach that pops up in your classroom (probably just when you're trying to calm your class down after one of THOSE wild days) Over the years I've personally experienced the following creatures appearing unannounced in my room: multiple flying birds, 1 frog, 2 ducks (they just waddled in!) 1 hedgehog, countless mice & insects, and one dog that wondered in and ate the children's packed lunches out of their school bags!   If you're not a fan of being in such close proximity with the above mentioned creatures, try and fake a calmed and interested the very least snap some quick pictures before you send for someone else to remove it - think of all the amazing writing that could be inspired by your surprise encounter!

[4]  Consider keeping a nature table - children can take turns to bring a small object that they've collected or from their garden (or on their way to school) to share and place on your table.  Keep your nature table well stocked with magnifying glasses and containers for sorting objects into.
[5]  Make sure your nature table or classroom library are packed with nature themed non fiction books - don't forget to include a local 'bug identification guide' as well as the ever popular "top 5 grossest slugs" type of books that the kids love!
[6]  Keep a jar of flowers on your desk that reflect the seasons (seasonal twigs or weeds are just fine - unless your other half wants to step up to the task of stocking your vase....?!) Nothing 'shop bought' allowed!

[7]  Have a special daily nature item for your early finishers to study and sketch (Keep a tray of scrap recycled paper and lots of pencils on your nature table ready to go) Your special nature item could be a shell, flower, crystal, insect, pebble, leaf etc.

Special Nature Table treasures - stacked leaves, sycamore seeds arranged into a pattern and a dead cicada!
[8]  Even if having natural materials is not a practical option in your room (which would be rather tragic) you can still have a 'seasonal' or 'topic' corner that contains pictures and appropriate learning activities.
[9]  Get YouTubing.  Playing nature based clips on your projector is a great way to set a soothing tone during quiet times or when the children are entering the classroom in the morning.  I'm not suggesting a David Attenborough documentary (although if you've got lots of time, dive right in!) but non-narrated looping tracks of thing like underwater scenes, fish swimming, wind blowing ripples across the grass etc.  These are perfect for lowering the teachers blood pressure (so must be good for the kids...!)
[10]  Find some relaxing desktop pictures for your laptop and classroom computers.  Use the computer settings to organise a selection of these on automatic slide show for both your desk top and screen savers.  Even better, take some pictures of your local flora and fauna and use them.  (Or maybe just use some snaps of you relaxing in a hammock with a cool beverage during your last summer holiday?)
[11]  Download some soothing 'sounds of nature' soundtracks to play at appropriate times (if the 'trickling brook' track sends too many of the kids running off to the restroom, you might want to consider changing to rain forest or bird sounds).  These are especially effective during silent reading, or other times you require a low noise levels - the occasional "I can't hear the ocean waves" from the teacher is normally enough to get the chatter boxes to lower their volumes.
[12]  Open your curtains or blind, fling your doors open and let some fresh air in (again, so, so sorry if you're in one of the a fore mentioned windowless rooms).  There's nothing better than fresh air for blasting the cobwebs out of little brains!
[13]  Use your 2 minute stroll to the school library/computer suite to pose a quick question: Which way is the wind blowing from? How many birds can you count?  (Grab your set of 36 free 'Nature Snack' prompt cards here, which are full of lots of open ended questions for your class to ponder and do).
These little cards are great prompts for getting your students thinking about and engaging with nature...

[14]   Keep a daily 'outside temperature' graph that the children are in charge of updating (this is especially important if you can't actually get outside).  Find a way of recording the daily weather as part of your morning routine.
[15]   Use the internet to find your nearest outdoor 'live-cam' that you can go online to actually view the weather outside (these are often used on TV weather bulletins and weather stations).  Find a live cam on the other side of the world - what's the weather like there?  
[16]  Make explicit the connections to nature through your curriculum areas as appropriate (art, math, science, poetry, discuss the origins of their lunch etc.)
[17]  Keep a wall calendar that links directly to the seasons as well as the months.
[18]  Keep a class or pet or grow something.  Even if your seeds don't survive to adulthood, the kids love watching seeds sprout. (Hopefully your pet survives to adulthood!)
[19]  Tack 5 minutes of UNSTRUCTURED time onto your scheduled outdoor activity (e.g. "You've got 5 minutes to roly-poly about on the grass - GO!  Or "Here are the boundaries of where you're allowed to be, you've got 5 minutes - have fun!"
[20]  Respect your class's need for a few minutes here and there to just burn off some energy, run bare feet and feel the wind in their hair....... in fact, why not take your shoes off and join them?

Rosie is a Kiwi, who after 10 years teaching 'down-under' in NZ is now working part time and enjoying spending time with her beautiful wee son.  This also gives her time to indulge in her passion for all things green and grubby, which includes creating specialized resources to support nature based education!  Fresh air, bare feet + grubby hands = active learning.  For more Grubby goodness pop over and visit her blog and TpT Store, or find the her on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

Don’t Be Scared Off by Literature Circles!

Don’t be scared off by literature circle (book clubs). They just take a little time and organization. I attempted my first session of literature circles more than nine years ago. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but it sounded good, and I was willing to risk it for the good of the students.  
I ran myself ragged during my first attempt, but I recognized that if I could learn to be clear about my goals for literature circles, the time we spend as a class would be well worth it. So I kept at it. Each time we participated in literature circles, I learned more. I kept a messy binder with pages I wanted to revise, book titles I thought would work, and a huge list of things I wanted to avoid in future sessions.
Here are my top five pointers for running successful literature circles…and once you do, you’ll be addicted and have kids begging for more!
1. Know what you want. My top goal for students is to experience reading a book in a way they’ve never encountered.  
  • I want them to interact with it, discuss it, think about it because it’s fun and because someone else brought up something they hadn’t noticed.  
  • I want them to enjoy reading AND to really get something from it other than being lost in a good story.  
  • I want them to agree and disagree with each other.  
  • I want them to think deeply about the novel and ask higher level thinking questions.  
  • I want them to connect the novel to something in their lives.  
Through successes and failures, I persevered. I finally developed a Literature Circle Packet to keep kids on track and focused during their reading and their meeting, and this assists them in connecting with the book and having points to discuss.
2. I want my students to learn how to work with each other in a polite, respectful way. So, I teach etiquette. I probably say the word etiquette 15 times a day during our 2 1/2-week unit of literature circles. Each time we’re about ready to begin a new session, I spend quite a bit of time going over and acting out how to agree, disagree, add more information, ask questions, respond to other’s comments, and even drink a cup of tea and eat a small snack.  
ACT OUT you say?? Absolutely!! I either invite an adult into my room or, if I have an aide in the room, we act out how to verbally do all these essential skills. On every meeting group table and on the whiteboard in front of class, I post a list of question and comment starters. This list helps kids gain confidence and be respectful when they have a question or comment. See my Question and Comment Stems.  It’s a freebie on TPT.
3. I want students to learn to listen to each other. I want them to make eye contact, nod their heads, say excuse me, and respond with thoughtful comments. Listening is a skill that needs to be taught and reviewed. I show students what good listening looks like and what fake listening looks like. Even if a student says they can listen without making eye contact, I teach them that when you are in a discussion, eye contact says that you care. This is a fabulous experience for students and a skill from which they will benefit as they get older.
4. I want my students to transfer their experience of reading during literature circles to their independent reading. My goal is for them to notice how much more they understand what they read when they interact with the text. I want them to have an idea of what it is to interact with a text. Even if they don’t have someone to talk to about the book as they do during literature circles, they can still question their own thinking. 
During literature circles I make a point of discussing with them how much more they engage with the text when they talk about it, and I keep reminding them about the questions and discussions they could be having in their heads during their independent reading of a novel or nonfiction piece. Having a successful group experience can transfer to a successful independent experience, thus making them better readers.
5. I want the experience to be special and memorable.  I want them to beg for a second or third literature circle session.  I work my tail off to make this happen.  I serve tea, cookies, small fancy desserts, cheese and crackers, and like items. (Expensive, you’re thinking...I ask for donations from families).   I have three types of tea or hot apple cider and water for students to choose.  For many, they may have never had a cup of tea or eaten politely in a group setting while they are holding a discussion.  I serve their tea, and I set their treat plate on their table.  It’s about the experience, and it always surprises me how kids step up to the expectations I set. 
I also find as many adult community members as possible to participate in the literature circles. For students to have a discussion with an adult, and see the adult making predictions, showing contempt for a character, wondering about the author’s choice to include a detail, etc., is significant and something they’ll never forget. I ask retired teachers and principals to join us. Our librarian loves to be a book club member. I email families to see if aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, or older siblings would like to join us. In the end, when students have an experience and not just a task to complete, they internalize that feeling, and they remember. You won’t regret making literature circles a part of your classroom.

Marcy at It’s a Teacher Thing has been teaching for 21 years and can’t believe how quickly time has flown.  For most of her teaching years, she has taught in sixth grade classrooms.  Marcy specializes in differentiation and finds ways to scaffold most everything so that all her students feel successful.  She lives in beautiful northern California.

5 Apps to Support Close Reading

I'm Erin from Technology Erin*tegration. I am excited to share my technology twist on close reading using iPads. Thanks for having me, Rachel! 
Just as there are many models for Close Reading, there are a multitude of apps that will support your students in digging deeper into a text. I am sharing my 5 favorite free apps for annotating and note taking on the iPad. These apps will work with any book or reading passage and can be used for each step of the close reading process. 
Screenshot 2015-03-03 at 9.20.55 PM
1. Paperport Notes is my go-to app for close reading. Offering a robust selection of tools including stickie notes, highlighting, voice to text capabilities, importing and exporting .pdf files and the ability to add multiple pages from a book to annotate in one set of notes, this free workhorse app can be used for any close reading task. 

There are three ways students can add text in Paperport Notes: by downloading a .pdf directly from a URL, by taking pictures of the text, or by importing a .pdf shared in Google Docs or Dropbox. 
In my classroom, the students typically take pictures of passages from a text they are currently reading. After annotating, they save each note-set in the app. Notes are quickly retrieved for the "discussion" portion of our close read. Since we are not 1:1 with iPads, I like that this app will save multiple note-sets in the app so several students can share the same iPad but be doing different work.
  erintegration close reading
Screenshot 2015-03-03 at 9.28.27 PM
2. GlowNote Free is for amped up annotating with fancy colors, fonts, stickers, and effects. If you are trying to infuse your close reading with excitement and possibly give yourself a headache while assessing your students' work, I would use this app. We have used GlowNote to find the heart of a story or the main idea of a passage.
Students search for the main idea, take a picture of a scene in the story, then write, underline, or circle their evidence. Then students can use the blinking borders, neon effects, and emojii's to make their annotation sing. This app does have ads so only use this if you have prepped your students with an iPad safety lesson. Students can email finished GlowNotes to you. However, there is no option for saving them to the camera roll. We simply used another iPad to film a clip of the note to upload to YouTube. You can then take the YouTube URL and make a GIF like the one below:
I created step-by-step visual direction sheets and close reading activities for using both Paperport Notes and Glow Notes available at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store
Screenshot 2015-03-03 at 9.13.09 PM
3. Skitch can be used to draw or label an image. Skitch will save any work as an image so students will only be able to annotate one page of reading at a time. Skitch is also limited in that students must take pictures of a passage - there are no .pdf importing features. However, I recommend Skitch for adding annotating marks like arrow, hearts, exclamation points, question marks, emojis or any small symbol that can be written with your finger. We have used Skitch to label graphic and text features in a nonfiction text and to identify context clues for unknown words.

  erintegration annotate  
Screenshot 2015-03-03 at 9.19.22 PM
4. ThingLink is an app and a website that allows students to make touchable (or clickable) multimedia images. Teachers can create a free class account and student users. For close reading, students would upload an image, then add text, links, or video "nubs" that open when touched. ThingLink is my first choice when close reading a nonfiction passage. Students can find videos and photos online to link to the passage. Students can also link other books that connect to the passage. Hover your mouse or touch once with your finger to reveal the clickable "nubs" on the example below: 

Screenshot 2015-03-03 at 9.22.59 PM
5. Sticky is a free app for adding sticky notes and pictures to a background. Students would take a picture of a passage from a book they are reading. They can upload their image then add various sticky notes around the text. Students cannot underline or write on the text and there are no .pdf imports or exports. However, my students like that you can change the font and color of the stickies too. I use this app if I want my students to write connections, inferences, or make predictions on stickies. Students can take a screenshot of their work to save to the iPad camera roll. You can download a free activity packet featuring making inferences using the app here. The packet also includes step-by-step visual directions for your students. We recently used the activity packet to create inferences using clues we saw at home or school.
erintegration inferences
Learn more creative ways to "Erin-tegrate" iPads into instruction at my blog, Erintegration, or connect with me on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. I am a current 3rd grade teacher with a Masters in Education and ten years of experience in the classroom. I am also my elementary school's technology integration facilitator. When I'm not teaching or creating iPad activities for my store, I'm reading, playing and being silly with my twin toddlers.

6 Secrets to Successful Research with Kids

Research, the very word, can draw shudders from teachers and audible sighs from students. If you are one of those shuddering educators dreading that next research project, then you are truly going about research all wrong. Take it from this elementary school librarian!! I have been an elementary educator for twenty years, and a certified library media specialist for the last seven years. I am so pleased that Rachel has let me be your virtual librarian today on Minds in Bloom.
How about a few insider secrets to turns those sighs into high fives?? I have six, not so secret, secrets. Be warned! I am NOT a purist in research theology! A TRUE research project follows certain steps, is written in a certain format, and is followed with a perfect bibliography. The ability to complete a TRUE research project independently should be a requirement for those career and college ready. But guess what? I work with kids, and some pretty little ones at that. I strive to make research fun and engaging! Wouldn't you like to as well? Well, here we go ...
1) Your librarian should be your best resource. But, research is NOT just for the library. Research is just a word used to describe the process of discovering new information, seeking answers, and studying a topic deeper. As an educator, you are ALREADY guiding your students to research. Every. Single. Day. Each time that a student learns a new fact, they have performed a baby step along the research journey. Often, I find that teachers place too much emphasis on the concept of research. They make it heavy. They turn it into a burden; when, truly, research is happening a dozen times a day. Let your students know that each time you say the words, "Let's look it up." you are completing research. It's just that easy!
2) You can easily teach inquiry-based research skills in short bursts of time. Research projects do not need to be long, drawn out, or take days upon days to complete. For example, during a lesson, one of your kids asks an interesting question that you don't quite know the answer to. Don't say, "Let me get back to you on that." Instead say, "Well, let's take a second to research that." Don't just look up the answer and share it. Talk out loud. Explain the steps that you are taking. What resource are you using? What keyword did you choose? How did you know which page/website link to go to? Model it for them. There, now you have completed a shared research task. Won't Common Core be happy??
3) I believe that it is our job to set our students up for success. Research is hard work! I often compare it to a treasure hunt; you can do a whole lot of digging for just one gold nugget. BUT, when our kids are first trying out their research wings, we don't want them to be weighed down and frustrated.
Scaffold the project. Don't just tell your kiddos that they are going to research bats. Instead, prepare some graphic organizers that require them to research types of bats, their habitats, diet, and life cycle. These types of graphic organizers help to create a foundation for their future research skills. With time, students will adapt bits of your organizational methods as their own.
Provide strong resources. Treasure hunts are NEVER fun if you are digging in the wrong spot. They are simply too hard, too discouraging, and will lead you to NEVER want to pick up another shovel. Don't do that to your students. If they are researching bat habitats, be sure that you lead them to a resource that will have great facts about habitats. There are still a great many research skills that are being met in reading, comprehending, and deciphering the text. There is nothing wrong with pointing them in the right direction. One of the best ways that I have found to support my students is to create Clickable Interactive PDF bibliographies. Here's an example of one that I created for students working on animal research projects. It's free, and you are welcome to it. Go ahead. Click on it. Download it. Use it!!
Simplify the citation process. ALL researchers should cite their sources, even if you are just a seven-year old freckled face kid. In saying that, I firmly believe that there is not enough time in our day to force said seven-year old to locate each and every aspect of the publication's details. I have seen students who have NEVER even got to read the text because it took them so long to copy down the citation. This is a tedious task that is once again sending the wrong message to our fledgling researchers.
Kids just need to keep track of WHERE their facts come from. This process can easily be simplified in many ways. Take a peek at my FREE resource, It's Elementary-Bibliography for the Youngest Students. You can learn even more about encouraging kids to record where their research facts are coming from, without burdening them!
4) Successful research inquiries begin with strong keywords! Keywords are needed for utilizing printed table of contents and indexes AND for researching websites and databases. Students need to be able to look at a question and decide what the key words are. I like to explain to kids that a keyword will UNLOCK the answer to their question, just like a key unlocks a door. This is a skill that needs lots and lots of practice. 
Some people, even a few librarians, think that simple fact-finding questions lack depth and complexity. Well, sure they do, but there are still many benefits to finding the answer to, "Who was president in 1882?" "How many legs does a spider have?" and "What is the capital of Zimbabwe?" Those simple research questions require students to read for comprehension, identify the keyword, locate pertinent articles by using that keyword, scan for the keyword in the text, and seek out answers. Not bad for just a simple question, huh? Each time that you are seeking text-based evidence with your kids, ask your students to identify the keyword. Use the word, "keyword" in your daily discussions. Again. And again. I have found that the youngsters with a strong sense of keywords are the best researchers.
5) Create a final product that is fun and exciting. It is possible. Really! You will be hard-pressed to get your kids excited about a research project if the end result is going to be a five paragraph essay with an introduction, three detail paragraphs, and a conclusion. Just saying!! How about shaking things up a bit?   Utilize task cards. Use apps to create a storyboard or comic strip. Invite students to create an A to Z report. Have students pretend that they are a reporter breaking a news story. Record them. Create a file folder report or a research poster. How about an interactive report, similar to interactive notebooks? I have created state and country reports that utilize many interactive elements. Students are excited to conduct the research and even more excited to put together the project. One of my students said it best when he said, "I am definitely NOT letting my Mom throw this away." 
6) Don't get hung up on the word research!! Research reports shouldn't be a "unit" that you teach; they should be an ongoing, daily process. Isn't that our reality today?? We have the internet in our hands, a finger tip away! We use it a hundred time's a day. Show your kids. Model. Model. Model. And, most importantly, have fun with it. It really is possible.
Sonya is an elementary school librarian who has a genuine passion for what she does. She loves books, kids, and technology! She is excited about all of the opportunities that threading these three things together brings each and every day. Sonya tends The Library Patch where she can be found on Teachers Pay Teachers, Facebook, Pinterest, and a librarian inspired blog.

Trying a New Classroom Approach

How excited am I to be here!?!? I am Melanie from Momma with a Teaching Mission. I am a first grade teacher in Maryland. I teach on a departmentalized team. Departmentalized means teaching one subject to the entire grade level, instead of teaching multiples subjects to the same group of 20 kids.
Are you a stressed out elementary school teacher? OF COURSE YOU ARE! Who isn't in this world!?! With the common core or other new curriculum that your district may have adopted, teacher evaluations, test scores, planning, committees, and actually teaching students----teachers are spread VERY thin. And that's not even mentioning your own personal life---what personal life, right!?!
What if I said there is a way you could eliminate some of that stress? Now, we all know there is never a QUICK fix to anything, or anything worth doing well. But, I do have my own personal experience I can share about how my team and I made our lives easier this year.
After a year of HUGE class sizes, mediocre test scores, TREMENDOUS behavior problems, hours upon hours of planning, and seeming like we were just treading water. Not. getting. anywhere. Completely stressful, and completely hopeless.
We decided to try something new. 
We had heard of other schools departmentalizing with success at the primary level, so we thought, why not!?! After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We had nothing to lose!
So during our back to school night that we had 2 nights before school started, we informed parents of our plan. We held a presentation, there were many unimpressed parents. Their concerns were valid--"my student won't make a connection with his teacher" , "there will be some many germs a student will encounter traveling from classroom to classroom" , "my student will get freaked out by having 5 different teachers". All those concerns were calmed during the first few weeks of school.
We were able to make connections and feel accountable for all 97 of our students. It's no longer 'my class' and 'your class' or 'my data' and 'your data'. We are accountable for the entire grade. We are able to meet with parents as a team to address any concerns or questions. We become an expert at ONE subject, not juggling 5 different subjects AND differentiating for 5 different subjects! I do have more papers to grade, however I have 97 math quizzes to grade instead of 20 math quizzes, 20 reading responses, 20 spelling tests, 20 writing prompts, and 20 science/social studies papers.
Currently, I am teaching math. We switch every marking period, so we stay fresh with the subjects. With math, I am able to differentiate for each of my 5 classes. Within each class, I am able to pull groups, based off my data. Our classes are fluid, so if we see that one student is excelling, or maybe needing more help, we are able to move them to the group that is a good fit for them. Yes, that does mean our classes are homogeneously grouped.  Our high-level learners are a larger size, so our lower level learners are able to get that small group instruction where they are excelling!
So how is this going to make your life less stressful? Within my experience, the students are better behaved! They get to move from class to class every 50 minutes. The transition time is very quick, 3 minutes tops! We don't have to spend time on brain breaks (unless we want to, but we don't feel that we NEED to). 
We have also gained some of our sanity back by not having those behavior problems the entire day. We have found that this has helped not only the students with behavioral issues, but also us as their teacher! We are able to share those students, as well as daily conversation about how 'so and so' is doing today. We are able to tackle issues that arise as a team, or able to talk to each other about our opinions about a student.
Did I mention our test scores?!?! Ok, so we do MAP testing, three times a year. We compared our 1st graders last year from fall to winter to our first graders this year from fall to winter. Our overall 1st grade grew 10% more in reading and 12% more in math than last years first graders!! We have been able to push those high kids, as well as truly reach and help those lower level learners along. I finally feel like I'm making a difference!! Can you feel my enthusiasm!!
My teacher life this year has been so much less stressful. Now do I still feel the stress and pressure? OH of course, I'd be lying if I said no. However, in comparison to last year, I feel like I have a life outside of school.
I will say that you have to have everyone on your team fully committed to this idea. With sharing the responsibilities of educating your young ones, it is imperative that you are able to trust and rely on your teammates. If one of your teammates is not on board, it is hard to see the full potential and impact that departmentalizing can make. If you have any questions, or would like more information, you can find me at my blog: Momma with a Teaching Mission I also have many great items for sale in my TpT store you can check it out here: Momma with a Teaching Mission on TpT
Take care!

I am a mother of 4 amazing kids! I was able to finish my dream of becoming a teacher after having 3 of my own children. I teach 1st grade in MD. God has abundantly blessed me!!

Would You Rather Questions for Spring and Easter

Flowers by: Whimsy Workshop

Would you rather....
Have flowers growing out of the top of your head
Have butterflies constantly flying in a circle around your head?

Would you rather....
Have a magic Easter Basket that produces ten chocolate eggs each morning
Have a bunny that can talk?

Kids love Would You Rather questions like these and now you can get 20 of them, themed for spring and Easter for free! These make terrific discussion prompts or journal prompts. You can also use them for class polls or with Brain Breaks. Many teachers like to use them whenever they have a few spare moments.

Happy Teaching!

The Teacher and the Speech-Language Pathologist: Tips for Effective Collaboration

These days, you will find at least one child in every classroom that receives speech and language services of some sort. This means that you, as the teacher, will probably have some type of interaction with the school's Speech-Language Pathologist ( SLP ).
In the past, SLPs and teachers tended to keep to themselves, however, as teaching methods have evolved so have treatment methods for SLPs. These newer methods mean that there will be more interaction between the two professions than before. Don't, be afraid of these changes! I'm here today to give you some tips and ideas on how to collaborate with your SLP to make sure your students are as successful as possible.
Why is it important?
Collaboration between a student's SLP and teacher is important to the student's progress and success. Integrating the materials and information being addressed in the classroom into speech sessions can help students make connections to areas being addressed and then generalizing the information from speech therapy into the classroom. It shows the student that their teacher and SLP are working as a team and that they both care about the student's success in speech. It is also important for the teacher to be aware of what the student is working on speech therapy and how those areas may impact their classroom performance.
Tips for General Collaboration
Here are some suggestions for you on how you can work with the school SLP no matter what service model they are using.
  • Find out what your student's speech and language goals are at the beginning of the year. The SLP will be able to provide you with the information about what their goals are, how they can impact them in the classroom, and what you can do help support them.
  • Ask the SLP if they have testing accommodations. Some speech and language difficulties are so severe that the student requires accommodations for work or testing. Make sure you are aware of these at the beginning of the year, or when the student begins services, if the student starts services mid-year.
  • Set up a time each week to discuss the student, or students, in your class who are receiving speech services. It doesn't have to be a lot, a little bit of time can go along way. I recommend at least 10 minutes. Talk about what you are focusing on in class, what lessons and topics are coming up, and if you have noticed the student struggling or succeeding.
  • Provide previews of materials you are looking to use in the classroom. The SLP may be able to use the materials in their speech sessions to prep the student for the classroom. Integrating classroom materials into speech therapy is a great way for the student to review the skills they are learning with the speech and language support they need. Likewise, the SLP may have some materials and resources that you may be able to use in your class to help support students, as well as, have them make connections and generalize skills.
  • Be open to new, out of the box ideas. This goes for both parties. Sometimes scheduling, suggestions, and ideas work out perfectly and sometimes they don't. Trial and error is a part of collaboration, so be open to giving all ideas a fair chance. 
Speech Services and Collaboration 
These days, there has been a push (pun, intended) for more push-in/inclusion speech therapy. The theory behind it is that the more time the student spends in the classroom, getting exposure to peers, the more they will learn from them and hopefully generalize into their academic day. With push-in speech therapy, the student would be receiving their speech services inside the classroom surrounded by their peers. The hope being that they would generalize the skills being targeted in speech with the skills being targeted in the classroom. 
Now, this can be a great model for some students, but it is not a one-size-fits-all model. Some students still benefit more from receiving speech services out of the classroom. Sometimes the classroom produces too much distraction for the student to focus on learning speech and language skills that are key building blocks to development.
The type of speech service, either push-in or pull-out, is typically stated in the student's IEP. Their IEP is a legal and binding document. If the IEP says the student must receive push-in minutes, they have to have push-in minutes. 
Here are some tips for working with the SLP when your student is going to be receiving push-in speech services.
  • Decide on the type of push-in model that works best for the two of you. There are several different models out there to pick from, but don't be afraid to be creative and make your own if the ones you have looked at and discussed don't meet your needs. Maybe, it is having the SLP push-in and be a 'station' for the student to go to during Daily 5, if your school uses that program.
  • Decide if the push-in speech time will be for the IEP student only, or if the SLP will be able to incorporate other students with language concerns into the group for RtI.
  • Talk about what speech and language goals will be targeted during the push-in speech sessions.
  • Again, finding a few minutes to touch base and do a little planning each week is key to having things run smoothly.
  • Discuss what everyone's roles and expectations will be. What will each person be in charge of in the room when the SLP is providing services? If the SLP is building off of information from a lesson, will they be in charge of reteaching information during the session if the student doesn't understand something? Who will be in charge of prepping classroom materials for the speech students to use during the push-in services? Getting these matters sorted out ahead of time will save you a lot of time, and sanity! 
I have created a free handout that may help to answer some general questions you may have about why your students are receiving speech services. You can download it from The Speech Bubble SLP, my store on Teachers pay Teachers, by clicking the link or image below.
At the end of the day SLPs want what teachers want, to have their students be happy and successful. By working together we can help them achieve that and more! If you have questions about your student's speech and language goals and progress, I recommend speaking to your student's SLP. I want to extend a big 'Thank you' to Rachel for allowing me to share some collaboration ideas with all of you.  
My name is Maureen Wilson and I am an ASHA certified, school-based SLP, Certified Autism Specialist, and have a certificate in Inclusionary Teaching. I have been working in the school system for the past 6 years with students in Kindergarten-5th grade. My blog, The Speech Bubble SLP is where you can visit to find ideas, activities, and materials for speech therapy. I adore using books in speech therapy and enjoy creating new, original materials for my students to use in speech and the classroom. Feel free to stop by The Speech Bubble SLP on Teachers pay Teachers and see what it is all about!
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