Across the country, there’s been a push to better measure teacher effectiveness.  This has resulted in several new evaluation systems (including the Danielson model) being developed and implemented in states across the country.  While SLPs 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.

Part of the Danielson model is setting goals for yourself as a professional.  In my district, it is called an individual growth plan, but I’ve also heard them called teacher performance goals.

How in the world do you decide what sort of goal to write for yourself, though?  Sure, we write individual goals for students all the time, but it’s certainly challenging to come up with one for yourself!

My advice is to take a step back, and think about yourself as an SLP.  What is an area of practice you would like to improve on?  Do you have lots of students this year with disorders you are not as familiar with?  Do you need to improve on regular parent communication?  Do you need to work on your organization?  Does your behavior management system need some work?  Would you like to collaborate more with classroom teachers?  Do you need to figure out a better way to monitor student progress?  Do you need to come up with a way to show students what they are working on and why it is important?  Would you like to be more involved in your school community?  Do you feel like you could use more professional development this year?

If you still can’t come up with an idea, go back to your notes when you looked over your evaluation tool.  Are there any areas that you are weaker in, or areas where you don’t have much evidence?

Now, you need to write your goal in a way that is specific and measurable.  Most growth plans require goals to be written in the SMART format.

SMART stands for:

Here’s an example of a goal that is not specific or measurable:

“I will improve my communication with parents.”

Instead, try:

  • “I will improve my communication with parents over the next school year (through May 2016) by sending out a parent survey, creating a master list of preferred contact information, sending home explanations of students' specific disorders, sending homework at least once per month for parents that request it, and compiling activities to be sent home with each student at the end of the year for summer practice.”

If you want to use a goal like this, I highly suggest my monthly and/or summer speech-language homework packets, or my parent/teacher speech-language therapy explanation handouts!

Here’s some more examples of SMART goals:  

  • “I will help my students realize the importance of speech-language therapy and their goals over the next school year (through May 2016).  I will achieve this by creating a display of positive, student-friendly “I Can” posters, informing students of our objective for each session, having my students periodically monitor their progress with goals with a personal growth chart, and having students complete a “Why I Come to Speech-Language Therapy” activity at least once per year."
  • Suggested materials to go along with this goal:  "I Can" CCSS posters (available for K-6th or 5th-12th), free student goal display, and these free student learning targets from Jenna Rayburn.

You will likely need to list the specific steps you will take by what date.  If you have written your goal like the examples above, it is pretty easy to choose a month of the school year that you will accomplish each task.  Make sure you make your goal achievable - you don’t want to write a goal that you can’t reach in a year, or one that will take too much time on a weekly basis.

What are some examples of goals you have written?

PS: Looking for an editable Artifact Portfolio based on the Danielson model?  I have one now available in my store!

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of students taking standardized tests this year.  I knew from previous experience that my older students had a lot of difficulty simply understanding the vocabulary used in the questions of standardized tests, so I created my High Stakes Testing: Vocabulary Builder for fourth/fifth grade and older students.  I’ve had a great deal of success with this (particularly with my junior high students) when we focus on one vocabulary word per week for the whole school year.

However, this year, our school started using the PARCC with third grade students on up.  Since many of my students receive accommodations during testing, and have to be tested individually or in a small group, I volunteered to help out our special education teachers by completing a few testing sessions when I had space in my schedule.  I ended up administering both math and language arts tests to one of my third grade students, and I witnessed first-hand how difficult the tests were for her.  

I quickly realized that while I was doing a good job preparing my older students to comprehend what the questions were asking, I needed to come up with something for my younger students, as well.  I knew that my original HST: VB had definitions and terminology that were too complex for my younger students, who would benefit from simpler language and picture supports where possible.  

 After much thought, I came up with 32 words that I thought would be the most beneficial for my first through fourth graders to know.  I came up with concise, to the point definitions, and found pictures for the majority of the terms.  I decided to divide the words into four color-coded sections, starting with the easiest, and moving to the most complex.  The first (yellow) section is concrete math terms (such as totalwhole, and greater than).  The second (green) section focused on concrete story elements (such as narratorsetting, and dialogue).  The third (aqua) section is more abstract math vocabulary (such as sortjoin, and order).  The fourth (dark blue) section is the most difficult, and consists of abstract, cross-curricular terms (such as contextsummary, and identify).

My intention was to focus on one word per week with my students, by introducing the term, going over the definition, and filling out brief worksheets with my students, where they can draw a picture to help them remember the term, as well as fill in an open-ended sentence.  This should take about 5 minutes per week in small group sessions.  After each section is completed, there are additional activities (a Bingo game and card matching game) that can be used as review of previous terms.

Something I am often asked is, “How do you display the terms and definitions?"  I have included two different sizes (2 per page and 4 per page) of the terms/definitions, because I know everyone has different spaces to work with!  If you have a dry erase board, or chalkboard you could put up each week’s word and definition with magnets, and either store the previous weeks’ words on the side of the board, or somewhere nearby on the wall.  Here's an example of how I displayed the terms on a large bulletin board in the main hallway of my school:

In my therapy room, my dry erase board is on the small side, and tends to be full with other projects.  I decided to make room on the bulletin board next to my therapy table.  I used the 2 per page size and hole punched all of the cards.  I used 1” binder rings, sticky clips, and push pins to create a display for the term of the week.

I am keeping each of the four sets separately, and am storing them on the binder rings, so they are easier to keep track of.  When I finish the first set, I’ll take them down and put up the next set.  

I have some room on one of my file cabinets, so I think I will display previous words on the side of the cabinet, either using magnets, ribbon and clothespins, or tape.

You can find my new High Stakes Vocabulary Builder: Junior Edition in my Teachers Pay Teachers store here.

Tell me, what do you think?  Is this something that would be useful for your students?

Today, I wanted to take the time to tell you a little about myself, and give you the opportunity to get to know some other awesome online SLPs!

Who am I?
My name is Natalie Snyders, and I live in a small town in east-central Illinois with my husband and our two cats.  I am in my sixth year as an SLP; I received my BS and MS from Eastern Illinois University.  I have been on TpT since 2012, and started my blog in 2014.

What do I offer?
My motto is, “Making the life of a busy school SLP easier and a bit more beautiful every day,” and that is what I aim to do!  My products are practical, time-saving, and comprehensive.  My products tend to be low-prep and useable for multiple sessions and students.  I know your time as an SLP is valuable, and while I can’t write your reports or do your IEP paperwork for you, I can save you time in other ways!  I often have younger and older students working on similar concepts, so while I always want the design to be attractive, I also strive to make sure my clipart and overall design are appropriate for most age levels that the products might be used for.  Most of my products are unique, and ones you won't find elsewhere.

My dream job?
My favorite population to work with is second through sixth grades with language disorders!  If I could do that with more time for TpTing and blogging, I would be a happy camper.  :)

3 of my favorite things:
I love reading, the color green, and home decorating!

Who else should you know?
I think you should know my friend from graduate school, Brittany Barker!  Brittany is an SLP who recently moved to Australia (check out her experiences here!) and has a TpT store and Facebook page.  I love this adorable freebie of hers!

Can I make a confession?  Sometimes, I lose sight of the big picture - that I became an SLP to make a difference.  I wanted to be a force of positive change in people's lives.  I wanted to help my students succeed not only in school, but in life.  I wanted to be a voice for those who haven’t found theirs yet. 

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, it is so easy to get bogged down in my to-do list.  There are just so many responsibilities to check of the list - evaluations to complete, progress reports to write, meetings to attend, school wide testing to work around, paperwork to be filled out, last minute screenings to do, and everything else that we juggle as school speech-language pathologists - that it is so easy to forget why I wanted to do this job in the first place! 

It’s also easy to forget when for many of our students, speech-language therapy is not a “quick fix.”  Many of our students will need speech-language therapy for years.  For these students, progress is often slow, and it’s easy to forget how far they have come, or how far they have the potential to go.  It’s so easy to feel ineffective as a therapist, and to feel like you aren’t making a difference at all.

This week, I had a couple of those magical breakthrough moments that made me stop worrying about the to-do list, and celebrate those small victories that are so sweet!

With one of my third graders, I have been working on the dreaded /r/ sound for the entire school year.  This is a student who I know would rather stay in class than come to therapy, hasn’t been stimulable for any contexts for /r/, and tends to give three or four efforts at a sound or syllable before laying his head on the table and declaring, “It’s too hard!”  Nevertheless, we have tried all the tricks in my book for /r/ without much success.  However, something changed today.  In the middle of the session, I suddenly heard a good “ar” sound come out of his mouth!  Thinking maybe that I had imagined it, I had him say it five more times, then ten more times.  Somehow, he had found it - that elusive /r/!  That small moment made it all that struggle this year worth it.

One of my sixth graders was due for his three year re-evaluation.  When I first tested him three years ago, he presented with a severe language processing disorder, and his standard scores on the LPT-3 were in the 60’s range.  I knew he had definitely made progress over the past three years in therapy, but it’s hard to judge just how far he has come since then, since we don’t really have actual standardized test scores to compare to each year.  When I scored his tests for his re-evaluation, all of his standard scores came out solidly within the average range!  I must admit that at first, I was sad to lose him as a student, as I have really enjoyed working with him in therapy.  But when I stepped back and looked at the big picture, it was such a great validation to know that my therapy is working!

So today, when I ask myself, “Am I making a difference?” I have an answer.  Yes, I am - one small victory and one student at a time!

What victories - big or small - have you had as an SLP this week?
Today, I’m linking up with Felice over at The Dabbling Speechie for her Paper, Pencil, and Paper Clip Therapy Challenge.

This challenge is right up my alley!  I spent my first three years as an SLP traveling between ten different parochial schools each week, so I learned how to travel light, as well as quickly adapt any materials that might happen to be in the space I was using that day.  (Random side note: The King James version of the Bible is a great source for TH words!) 

I decided to show you three quick and easy ways I’ve used paper, pencils, and paper clips in therapy before.

Open ended games to use with any stimulus items (artic, language, fluency, or phono), like this dots game, are a hit with my students!  You’ve probably seen a version of this game before, but draw dots on the page in lines and rows.  After correctly answering the stimulus items, each person will draw a line between any two dots.  If you complete a box, you get to go again.  The goal is to make the most boxes at the end of the game.

I love to use these materials to target following directions, prepositions, and basic concepts.  You can have your students follow directions on how to fold the paper, place the paperclip “next to” or “under” the paper, draw a small triangle below a large square, etc.  You could also draw pictures of a boy or a girl to add to the mix to target pronouns as well.

My students also love making "fortune tellers" with paper!  I often use these with articulation students and have them write words or sentences with their target sound on them.  I’ve also used these with synonyms and antonyms, vocabulary and definitions, WH questions/answers, and telling jokes.

How else would you use these materials?

Today, I'm pleased to welcome my friend Maureen Wilson from The Speech Bubble SLP!  This is the latest post in the recurring series, "Stepping Outside Your SLP Comfort Zone."   - Natalie

From grad school to my first years working, therapy was always the same, pull-out. Scheduling and finding the times to make it all work to get my kids from their classrooms to my speech room. Lately, there was been a lot of chatter about 'push-in' therapy. Well, push-in models can push ( pun intended ) a lot of SLPs outside of their comfort zone. It can be scary to leave our speech rooms where our materials are close at hand and move into a teacher's classroom! That was me this year, when my district said we needed to start making an effort to incorporate more push-in services into our days.

 I started out with baby steps. I talked with teachers that I knew well. Many of them had my kids in the past, so we already had relationships. It was easier to talk about pushing into their classroom when they already knew the expectations of speech students. We would plan at least one day a week where I would be integrated into the students literacy stations so I would 'blend' into the classroom better. I would use books the corresponded to the topics that they were addressing in class and use those to target their goals. Using books made going into the classroom easier since I didn't have to worry about bring games and pieces, probably forgetting something, and then figuring out how to make it work. I started using rubrics to take data for the goals I was pushing-in for. It was too hard to take data on language goals in the classroom. There were little friends who wanted to know what I was doing and what it was for. I didn't want to single out my kids or embarrass them. I found filling out a rubric in office when we were done was just as effective and eliminated a lot of questions.


 I took a big, huge jump out of my comfort zone and a WHOLE CLASS lesson around Christmas time. I had a student who was working on describing and the teacher stated there were other students who needed help too in that area too. I had seen other kids become more interested in what my students were doing with me so I thought a whole class activity would be good thing. I used my Snow Globe activity paired with the EET. It took two, 30 minutes whole class lessons for the kids to go through the EET ( which they thought was pretty cool ) and complete the activity. The results were pretty cute, if I do say so myself!

If you are looking do to more push-in therapy I recommend doing a few things:

1. Look at your caseload and determine which students and which goals and realistically be targeted in the classroom.

2. Talk to the teachers before you decide to push into their room. Ask them about good times or subjects for you to push-in.

3. Find a push-in model that fits your style of therapy. There are quite a few out there. You may also find that tweaking a model way work as well. Also, there will be some trial and error.

4. Make time to talk with the teacher each week to check student progress, classroom topics you may want to incorporate etc.

5. Take a deep breath. You are a highly educated, well-trained professional. Change happens. You've got this!


As a busy school SLP, I spend a significant portion of my day on my feet, walking up and down the hallways of my schools.  I don't know about you, but I average at least three to four miles of walking during each school day.  On top of that, I have very sensitive feet.  I don't know how many different pairs of shoes I've tried on, knew immediately they would cause blisters in the first hour of wear, and put them back on the shelf.  Or worse - actually bought new pairs, but didn't wear them for more than a day or two due to blisters or foot pain.

The search for cute, comfortable shoes for the school day has seemed endless at times!  But today, I'd like to share with you some tried and tested recommendations from your fellow school SLPs.

For myself - a girl with slightly wide size ten feet, and one that is sadly not coordinated enough to wear heels - I have a few favorites I wear year round.

1)  Sperry Top-Sider Angelfish Loafer

I've had one pair of these that have lasted me through the past three school years!  I finally just replaced them with another pair.  (Maureen from The Speech Bubble SLP also swears by Sperry Loafers!)

2)  New Balance Tennis Shoes

My favorite brand for comfortable shoes for casual Fridays.  (Jessica from Consonantly Speaking also loves New Balance for her high arches!)

3)  Tieks by Gavrieli

I heard about these shoes recently - they claim to be "the ballet flat, reinvented."  I've always loved how ballet flats looked, but have never found a pair that didn't give me blisters or had enough cushion in the sole.  They are definitely in the "splurge" price range, but I decided to give them a try, especially with their generous return policy.  I'd read many rave reviews online, but honestly expected to be disappointed, just like with all the other flats I've tried.  Boy, was I wrong!  These have turned out to be some of the most comfortable shoes I own - and I've tested them through long school days and a trek around Chicago, with no blisters or soreness.

Now, for some other SLP recommendations!

Speech Time Fun & Danielle from Sublime Speech both swear by Toms.

Jenna from Speech Room News & Kristine from Live Love Speech both recommend Sanuks.

 Courtney Gragg & Kathryn from Kids Games for Speech Therapy prefer Skechers ballet sneakers.

Felice from The Dabbling Speechie wears All-Stars to work.

Lauren from Busy Bee Speech loves her Clark ankle boots, while Erin from Mrs. T SLP recommends Clark wallabies, and Dean from Dean Trout's Little Shop of SLP loves Privo by Clark shoes.

Do you have any favorite shoes to add to the list?

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