I’ve never been big on New Year’s Resolutions, but this year, I have decided to make some for my professional life!

Here are my SLP New Year’s Resolutions:

  1.  Attend the ASHA convention in Denver in November this year.  I’ve never been to an ASHA convention, and I am determined to make it happen this year!  I’m looking forward to the opportunity for some great professional development AND getting to finally meet some of my wonderful online SLP friends in person!
  2. Do my best to leave school AT school.  I’d rather go in early every day or stay a little late to get things done, rather than bring work home to do.  Does this mean I’ll be going in over winter break to finish my progress reports?  Yes, but I just seem to mentally do better with a physical separation of work and home.  (Bonus - I live across the street from my school, so I can go over and work for a bit without much hassle.)  I want to make sure my time at home is primarily for my family, while also reserving time for my online work.  
  3. Earn more CEU’s.  I know attending the ASHA convention will help with that, but I would like to make more use of my speechpathology.com membership.  I would like to set a schedule for myself this summer - I think a goal of two courses per month is definitely achievable, although I’d like to do more.
  4. Come up with ways to better involve and inform parents.  I send homework with my students on a fairly regular basis, but I could definitely be better in this area.  I plan to develop some parent-friendly newsletters that I can send home or email at least once per quarter.  I’d also like to be better about writing notes to parents to send home in their student’s folders or via email.
  5. Keep creating SLP materials!  I don’t think I could stop doing this if I tried.  :)  I currently have 94 products in my store.  Since I tend to create long, complicated, time-consuming products, I’m aiming for creating at least 15 new products for my TpT store by the end of 2015.
  6. Keep blogging!  I would like to average at least one post per week.  I have really enjoyed this new outlet, and would like to keep up the momentum.

What about you?  What are some of your professional or personal goals this year? 

Across the country, there’s been a push to better measure teacher effectiveness.  This has resulted in several new evaluation systems (including Danielson and Marzano) being developed and implemented in states across the country.  While speech-language pathologists certainly aren’t teachers, we are often evaluated either on the same evaluation tool as classroom teachers, or on slightly modified ones, supposed to be tailored for speech-language pathologists.

One problem I encountered after my district switched to the Danielson model is that I couldn’t find much about what an SLP should know about and prepare for if being evaluated on one of these models.  So today, I’d like to share some of what I have learned!

The first, most important step is to get a copy of whatever evaluation tool your employer will be using, and read through it.  (And yes, this can be overwhelming when it is 20 or 30 pages long!)  Look at the examples needed for the highest scores and the lowest scores.  Take general notes as you go.  

What you really want to concentrate on is the general areas you will be rated on.  Some likely areas include:
  1.  Overall knowledge of speech-language pathology
  2. Therapy planning
  3.  Therapy routines and behavior management
  4.  Assessment and progress monitoring
  5.  Ability to interpret assessment information and write appropriate goals
  6.  Interaction with other faculty/special ed team/staff
  7.  Overall organization
  8.  Parent communication
  9. Professional development
One thing that several models (including Danielson) suggest is making a portfolio of artifacts to help display what you are doing as an SLP.  (I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word artifacts, I think of archeologists digging in the dirt!  But here, we’re talking about evidence of how you meet the criteria in the evaluation tool.)  But what should you include???

Here’s where your notes come in handy.  How many of the areas covered by the evaluation tool can you explain ahead of time?  Your evaluation will likely only last 30-60 minutes, and there’s no way someone can observe everything that you do during the school day, with different students, and over the entire school year in that brief window of time.  Make your administrator’s job easier - and make sure you get credit for what you already do - by addressing as much as you can ahead of time.

Here’s some examples of what I included in my portfolio.

Modified Resume - What are your actual responsibilities in your current position?  About how many students do you currently have on your caseload?  What grades do you work with?  Are you split between schools?  What are your qualifications?  What degree do you have?  How much experience do you have as an SLP?  What additional, non-required responsibilities (committees, volunteer positions, etc.) do you have?  Do you do anything SLP-related in your spare time?

 SLP Resume by Natalie Snyders

 SLP Resume and Portfolio by Natalie Snyders

(Yes, administrators probably could spend the time and look most of this information up, but it is so much easier to have this at a glance!)

Classroom Setup - This is a great place to include pictures!  Show how you have designed your learning environment.  Explain why you have the set up that you do.  (And yes, this counts even if you have to share a space, or don’t have an assigned space of your own.  Do you have a traveling cart?  Explain what you carry in it and why.  Talk about how you deal with your space constraints.)  Do your bulletin boards have a purpose other than being decorative?  Explain here!

 SLP Editable Portfolio by Natalie Snyders

Routines - What does your typical therapy session look like?  Why do you do things a certain way?

Behavior Management How do you set up your therapy sessions for success?  How do you avoid, re-direct, or deal with problem behaviors?  Do you have a reward system in place?

 SLP Editable Portfolio by Natalie Snyders

Assessment - Here, I listed how many evaluations and re-evaluations I have completed this year and the past couple of years.  I also estimated how long each evaluation takes me to administer to the student, and then about how long the report takes me to analyze and write.  This is a good place to include a recent evaluation report you have written (with the identifying information blacked out).

 SLP Editable Portfolio by Natalie Snyders

Progress Monitoring/Data Collection/Organization - Here, I included information about how I monitor progress with my students (both with regular data collection and my progress monitoring tools).  

I made copies of 2 students’ progress monitoring record forms to include in this section, and included some of my reflections on sticky notes that were attached.  These showed how much growth these students made with these goals, and also how the data is informing my therapy.  (For example, my progress monitoring showed that my student working on irregular past tense verbs is doing great with straight drill of this skill, but has significant difficulty judging whether given sentences are correct or not.  This tells me that I need to work on higher level activities that have the irregular past tense verbs in more natural contexts.)

I also included examples of my weekly data sheets, since this is how I take data on a daily basis.  I also included a bit about how I store all of this information (for me, it is stored all in one master binder).

 SLP Editable Portfolio by Natalie Snyders

Professional Development - What conferences/seminars have you attended over the last year or two?  Do you have plans to attend a certain conference later this year?  Do you belong to any professional groups (on Facebook, Linked-In, etc.)?

Parent Communication - How do you communicate with parents?  Do you send home folders?  Do you have a communication log?  Do you have a master list of all parent contact info?  Do you send home newsletters or homework?


Now that you have created your evidence portfolio, how should you put it together?  A small binder is probably the easiest option, although a professional report folder would work, too.  Of course, I like things to be beautiful, so I made this pretty cover for mine.

 SLP Editable Danielson Portfolio by Natalie Snyders

I hope this information helps you prepare for your evaluation this year!  Looking for more information?  Check out this post for how I chose goals for my professional growth plan for the Danielson model.  

2017 Update:  My fully editable Danielson portfolio designed specifically for SLPs is now available in my TpT store here!  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Editable-Danielson-Portfolio-Binder-for-SLPs-3146889 

 Editable Danielson Portfolio for SLPs

Need more display space?  Turn metal file cabinets sideways and turn them into magnet boards!

You can dress them up with magnetic borders or decorative tape.  (Washi tape works great for this, since it tends to come off very easily!)  Add some fun magnets, and you can brighten up a formerly dull space in a short amount of time!  (Tip:  If your file cabinet has seen better days, or the color doesn’t match the rest of your room, you can tape on some colorful wrapping paper, contact paper, or scrapbook paper to cover it up.)

I use this one next to my desk as more of a bulletin board with papers I need to have for quick reference, a magnetic dry erase board with my list of students to evaluate, and some favorite pictures.  I have another that I use to put up therapy activities or student work, and another that holds up my Expanding Expression Tool poster.
Over the past year, I’ve received lots of questions about my progress monitoring tools for speech-language pathologists, so today, I’d like to answer some of them!

What progress monitoring tools do you currently have available?

I have three for articulation - the first covers CH, F, G, K, L, L blends, S, S blends, SH, TH, V, and Z, while the second focuses on R, R Blends, and Vocalic R, and the third covers the early developing sounds of B, D, M, N, P, T, and W - as well as one for phonology.  

There are also two levels each (lower for preschool through around first grade, and upper for around second to eighth grades) for grammar (lower and upper) and language (lower and upper). You can purchase them individually, or in a bundle for 20% off the individual prices.

How do they work?  Can I see inside some of your progress monitoring tools?

Sure!  I have Youtube video walk-throughs available for several of them.  Check out the links below:

Language Progress Monitoring Tool - Lower Level
Language Progress Monitoring Tool - Upper Level
Phonology Progress Monitoring Tool
Grammar Progress Monitoring Tool - Lower Level 

How did you come up with the idea for these progress monitoring tools?

In 2014, my area of the country got completely slammed by horrible winter weather - lots of snow and subzero temperatures - which translated into 12 snow days in January and February alone!   

With two weeks off for Christmas break right before that, I hadn’t seen the majority of my students more than once or twice in over a month, and I had no idea if they had retained any of the progress we had made in the fall. 

I knew I wanted something that I could use not only in that instance, but also throughout the year to see how my students were doing.  I knew I needed it to be something that had different stimulus items than what I used normally in therapy, because I didn’t want specific practice with those items to interfere with measurement of overall progress.  I looked online for ANYTHING similar to what I was thinking of, but couldn't find any products that were even close.  So I ended up making my own! 

The first progress monitoring tool I created was the largest one for articulation, followed by the one for R.  I quickly realized that I could take the same principle to create tools to progress monitor in other areas of speech-language therapy, and went from there!

How long did your progress monitoring tools take you to complete?

It depends, because each one is a little different.  For example, my articulation ones follow the same format and don’t take as much planning of creative material as the language ones, but take many hours to find and download the pictures that correspond with each target word/phrase/sentence I want to use.  My progress monitoring tools have taken me anywhere between 20 and 80 hours to create.  (The lower and upper level language ones have been the most time consuming!)

Will you make a progress monitoring tool for X?

I definitely have at least two more on my to-do list that I would like to complete.  I’m open to ideas for more, but it has to be an area that I have enough experience in to create a helpful tool, and it will also have to wait until I have more time.

How should I use the progress monitoring tools?

For continuing students and monitoring goals that I wrote, I use them about 4-5 times per year to screen progress with those particular goals.  I find it helpful to progress monitor a week or so before I need to write progress reports, which is every 9 weeks in my district.  (I also take data during my regular sessions with students on my weekly data sheets.)

Here's an example of a kindergarten phono student that I screened towards the beginning of the year and right before 2nd quarter progress reports (check out that progress - yay!):

I also use them whenever I get a new student that moves in - it helps me figure out where the student is at with their previous goals, or if I need to write new goals (and which ones to write!).  

Additionally, I like to screen right before a student’s annual IEP meeting is due, to have a better picture of overall strength and weakness areas.  This gives me great information to write into the “present levels” section of the IEP, as well as have something easy to pull out to bring to the meeting to show parents about what we’ve been working on in therapy.

How do I progress monitor when I have a large group of students with me all at the same time?

I try to find independent work (such as from my monthly homework packets) to keep my other students occupied while I am progress monitoring with one student at my table.  I'll give them a clipboard and let them sit in my comfy chair or stretch out on the floor while I'm progress monitoring at my table or desk.  When I'm ready for the next student, I have the students switch places.  If you have large groups, it may take two sessions to get through each student's goals.

How do I make sure that my students don't "learn" the stimulus items?

For one, it is important to make sure you aren't using the tools every week.  I have found that in waiting about 9 weeks in between administrations makes it so most of my students won't really remember the stimulus items.  Also, I deliberately chose targets that are different than all of my regular therapy materials.  There might be a slight bit of overlap, but you aren't going to be drilling only the ten stimulus words for initial /l/ that are found in my articulation tool in your therapy sessions, if that makes sense.

Can teachers/aides/parents use the progress monitoring tools?

I would not recommend these for use by anyone other than a qualified speech-language pathologist or SLP-A working under the supervision of a qualified SLP.  Interpretation of responses needs to be done by a trained professional.  Certain sections - especially on the language tools - require clinical judgment on which answers to accept as correct.  

How should I store the progress monitoring tools?

It's up to you, but I like to store mine in individual binders in sheet protectors.  I find it easier to just pull the one I need off my shelf.  I keep each section separate by using plastic binder dividers that have pockets, in which I store extra copies of that section's record sheet.

Some people have told me they store them all in one binder.  I also think you could bind each one separately (either with a binding machine or at a facility such as Staples) or together and have it work well.

I also have a few buyers that only print out the record forms, and keep the PDF on their iPad to use whenever needed.

Should I use the lower or upper level for my student?

This is where you will need to use your clinical judgment.  I often have second graders that I am not quite sure of their skills - so what I will often do is administer both the lower level and upper level language screenings for my students to see where the problem areas are, and go from there.  You may have a fourth grader that is working on a first grade level - in that case, I would use the lower level.  Sometimes I use parts from both the lower and upper levels for a student.

I have students in high school, but your progress monitoring tools are only marked for up to 8th grade.  Can I still use them with my students?

If your students are still receiving speech-language therapy in high school, then they likely exhibit difficulty in the areas that my tools measure.  If their goals match up to what is assessed in my progress monitoring tools, then I'd definitely use them!

Want to try a free sample?  

Check out this free add-on for progress monitoring the /dg/ sound!

What other questions do you have about my progress monitoring tools?

I'm back with another installment of my Sweet and Simple Therapy Ideas today!  Today's idea is great for the Christmas season - make a large green triangle out of construction paper, and cut out circles of different colors for ornaments.  I used a 2.75" circle crafting punch, but you could also use a die cut machine if you have one available at your school.

In my example, we used the circles to correspond with the Expanding Expression Tool (EET) to describe a Christmas tree.  You could also put target words on each ornament for your articulation or phonology students to practice.  If your school/student doesn’t celebrate Christmas, use white circles on blue paper for a quick snowball craft instead!
Do you have a special SLP in your life?  Need some help picking out the perfect holiday, birthday, or "just because" present for that SLP?  Well, you are in luck, because today I am sharing some of my favorite SLP gift ideas!

1)  SLP Gear, such as these awesome shirts from The Peachie Speechie!  There are over 60 SLP-related designs to choose from, and the designs can be placed on t-shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs, and more!

2)  SLP Accessories, such as these adorable "Speech Ninjas" and SLP tote bags from Dean Trout's Etsy store.  (Note: if you are ordering for Christmas, make sure to get in your order before Dec. 1, as Dean only takes a limited number of orders for the holiday season.  But these would make great gifts year round!)

3)  Cranium Cariboo - This amazingly popular game is very easy to adapt to speech-language therapy.  Unfortunately, it is currently out of print, and hard to obtain.  Make your favorite SLP's day keeping an eye out for it when cleaning out kid's toys or visiting garage sales!

4)  Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Certificates - TpT is the most popular website to find low cost, original therapy materials that can be printed out immediately.

5)  Office Supplies - SLPs can go through tons of office supplies in one year!  Nice pens and pencils are always a good option, as are these personalized notepads from Erin Condren.com and MBK Prints on Etsy.  Also, not pictured, but another great option would be a personal laminator and laminating sheets, like this one from Scotch on Amazon.

6)  Hand Sanitizer - If you work with children, this is a must!  Make it more attractive by packaging it with a pretty soap dispenser, like the green one pictured here.

Tell me, what is on your SLP wishlist this year?
One of the best innovations to happen in the SLP world in the last 5 years was the creation of a website called TeachersPayTeachers.com (or TpT).  I'm linking up with Speech Time Fun today to tell you why!

I first heard of TpT in the summer of 2012.  I have created my own therapy materials since graduate school, but never really considered selling them.  A grad school friend mentioned that I should consider posting some of my items for sale (thanks, Danielle!), which gave me the push I needed to create an account and start posting.  Being a seller on TpT has been an amazing journey!  

But even as a seller with close to 100 items in my store, I am still a buyer, too!  Why is that, you may ask?  

1)  TIME SAVER:  I can't possibly make enough materials for my diverse caseload to keep up with the entire school year.  Creating materials takes me anywhere from 2-70 hours, depending on how complicated they are, and I just don't have the time to do that for every single student on my caseload every week.

2)  SAVING MONEY:  While there are definitely items I love from the big speech therapy companies, I can get SO much more for my money on TpT.  For the cost of two or three books from one of the big companies, I can purchase enough materials to last me an entire semester from TpT.

3)  EMERGENCIES:  Do you ever have a "therapy emergency" happen in your day?  For me, this might mean I've forgotten the materials I needed at home, or I get a brand new student with goals that I have no materials for, or what I have planned just isn't working.  With TpT, I can go online, find something that fits my needs, and have it printed out in five minutes or less.

So, where should you start on TpT?

I might be a little biased, but I think you should start in my store!  :)  I have a wide variety of products, but some of my most popular include:

Series of Progress Monitoring Tools (available for articulation, grammar, and language)

"I Can" posters (aligned with CCSS for K-6 and 5-12)

There are many great products by other SLP sellers on TpT as well.  Here are some you should definitely check out:

What have been some of your favorite purchases on TpT?
Something I’ve had a lot of questions about is my reward/incentive system for my students.  Obviously, my system won’t work for every setting or population, but it seems to work well for the majority of my elementary school (K-6) students.

As you can see in the picture, I keep reward charts for my students on display on my large metal cabinet.  These were simple ones I created in Powerpoint to go with my color scheme, but there are many others that are commercially available, including in my room decor sets available on TpT, and in teacher supply stores and catalogs.

On each chart, there is a space for each students’ name and grade, which I write on each one at the beginning of the year.  (Since I always seem to add students throughout the year, I make sure to have extras on hand!)  I laminate each one, then put them together on a flat surface - my cabinet works well for this, but any bulletin board or wall space would be fine.

I keep my system fairly simple.  Each time a student comes for a speech-language therapy session, they put a star/mark on their chart with a dry erase marker.  At the end of the session, we talk about if the student has worked hard or not - if so, they get to add another star.  In addition, students may receive a star for each piece of homework returned.  Once my students fill up a row (which has seven spaces), they may choose something from my treasure box.  Since the majority of my students see me either two or three times a week, this ensures each student gets a prize about every other week.  Once a student fills up their chart, I put a star at the top next to their name (to indicate how many times the chart has been filled), and erase the other stars to start over.

As you can see from the picture, I have sort of a hybrid treasure box.  I still have some traditional items in my box (which currently includes regular and mechanical pencils, erasers, sticky hands, bouncy balls, tops, stickers, bracelets, small plastic mazes, and notebooks), but have included some rewards from my No Cost Rewards freebie available on TpT (which includes the privilege of using a pen/mechanical pencil, sitting in my chair, having a piece of artwork displayed in my room, and choosing a stuffed animal buddy for the day).  The traditional items are generally small rewards from Oriental Trading Company (I usually make an order each summer), the dollar store, or party favors.

Tell me, do you use a reward system for your students?  How does it work?

I don’t know about you, but I sure wish I could be in sunny Orlando right now!   While I unfortunately can’t bring you some nice, warm sunshine, what I - and several of my other wonderful blogger friends - can provide you are some therapy ideas and nuggets of wisdom!

 You’ll want to make sure to hop through each blog in order.  Keep track of the letters on each post, because you’ll be able to enter them at the end for an awesome prize package!  (Keep in mind, the hop and giveaway close at Saturday, November 22 at 11:59 pm EST.)

The Value of Listening

To become a more effective speech-language pathologist, I have a simple piece of advice: listen.

          As SLPs, we often love to talk!  After all, it’s part of our job as master communicators, right?  Get a group of us together, and we can talk for hours.  We also talk with our students constantly, guiding them and teaching them new skills.  We feel like if we aren’t talking, we aren’t doing our jobs.  Do we know that listening is an important part of communication?  Sure we do!  But things can get so busy and hectic in our every day jobs, it's easy to forget to take the time to do so.

          Sometimes, the most important thing you can do in your day is to take a step back and LISTEN to what your students need to say.  Did you ever stop to think that you, as their SLP, may be the only adult that day to spend one-on-one time with him or her? 

          One way I make time to listen to my students is to go get my students for each session.  Yes, our elementary building is huge, and my pedometer says I average about 4 miles a day walking up and down the hallways each school day.  It can take up to 5 minutes to get from the furthest wing of my building back to my speech room, depending on how crowded the hallway is.  But I consider this time a valuable therapy asset to get to know my students better.  I ask how they are doing, and what has happened since the last time I saw them – and then I listen.  Most of my students love having that individualized attention, and I learn valuable information about their lives. 

Something that research has shown is that if you can connect what you are teaching to your students’ prior knowledge and experience, you have a much higher likelihood of making those concepts stick.  If you take the time to listen to your students and what is going on in their lives, you have a better picture of what prior knowledge they might have.

In addition to helping to activate their prior knowledge, listening to your students is also important in identifying underlying problems that might be going on in a particular child’s life.  Honestly, some students might have so much going on, that producing their R sound correctly is the last thing on their minds! 

Once you have worked with a student for a while, you can generally get a feel for when they aren’t feeling well, or something is bothering them.  If there is something bigger going on, there is no way you are going to have a productive therapy session. Sometimes, you have to listen to what your gut is telling you, throw the therapy plan out the window, and listen.  Ask the student what is wrong, or keep him/her behind when you send the other students back to their classroom.  Maybe a classmate is making fun of them, or their allergies kept them up all last night, or they just failed a test.  Maybe their parents are going through a divorce, or maybe they are worried if they will have a place to sleep tonight. 

You will never know everything that is going on in that child’s life, but if you take the time to listen and earn their trust, your therapy will be much more effective in the long run.  Sometimes, you can do something about the problem, like talk to the child’s teacher, or call home.  But sometimes, all you can do is listen, and tell the child, “I am so sorry that you are going through this right now.  I can’t fix that for you, but you know what?  I am on your side.”

          So, my mission for you – take some time this week and truly listen to your students.  I guarantee, it will be worth it in the long run!


For the giveaway, write down the following as the first letter for the secret code:

To go to the next blog in the hop, click here to visit my friend CC over at Super Power Speech.

To skip to the last blog, click here.


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