When you think of project-based learning, you might think of something cross-curricular, done in a large group, where all of the students in the classroom participate. This model lends itself to utilizing inclusive practices, and is a great model to use for inclusive classrooms!
However, if we reframe our thinking of how project-based learning “should” look, we can see that the project-based learning model can also work wonderfully in speech therapy, either in a 1-1 setting or in a small group! Project-based learning allows you, as a speech therapist, to work on several different goals and objectives simultaneously. Pretty cool, considering how much we have to work on in a short amount of time with our students! Let’s take a look at how to use PBL during speech therapy.
What is Project-Based Learning?
According to the website PBLworks.org, the Gold Standard of project-based learning includes the following elements:
- Challenging problem or question
- Sustained inquiry
- Student voice and choice
- Critique and revision
- Public product
Project-based learning is much more student-directed than traditional instruction, but still requires plenty of planning, preparation, instruction, and guidance from the teacher. The seven project-based teaching practices are:
- Design and plan
- Align to standards
- Build the culture
- Manage activities
- Scaffold student learning
- Assess student learning
- Engage and coach
All of these elements can be incorporated into speech therapy time! Best of all, project-based learning is fun for students and gives them a sense of ownership. This leads to higher student buy-in, which results in more productive speech sessions.
How Can I Use This in Speech?
To demonstrate how project-based learning can be used in speech, I’ll give an example of a standard and a project that can be done during speech time that also aligns with some common speech therapy areas of instruction.
For our example, let’s use this 3rd grade Science standard:
3-ESS2-1. Represent data in tables and graphical displays to describe typical weather conditions expected during a particular season. [Clarification Statement: Examples of data could include average temperature, precipitation, and wind direction.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment of graphical displays is limited to pictographs and bar graphs. Assessment does not include climate change.]
The project that the student or students would complete is to document the weather during each speech section for a set period of time. This time could include both documentation of the weather in a graph or chart and a discussion and questions with the therapist or other students in the group about the weather they are observing.
Then, when the student or students have enough data, they could create a weather report, either in written or oral form (or a combination of both). This report could be published in the school paper or hung in the classroom. An oral report could be given to the student’s class, or to a smaller group of students or adults.
The Goals You Can Work On
There are numerous speech goals that could be worked on during a project like this! These include:
- Articulation goals during the oral portion of the report
- Following 2-step or multi-step directions during the project
- Vocabulary usage throughout the project for words such as thermometer, Celsius, precipitation, etc.
- Answering literal and/or inferential questions throughout the project
- Expressive language goals
- Pragmatic language goals
- Fluency goals
- Any goals surrounding AAC devices
For example, project-based learning allows students who need help with social skills to work on both initiating conversation and sustained conversation by discussing the data related to the project and the presentation of the project with the speech therapist and with peers. They can also practice requesting information about the project from peers (e.g., asking for weather data), requesting clarification on project directions from peers or the speech therapist, or requesting objects needed for the presentation from the speech therapist or peers.
Working with peers will also allow students to see if communication breakdowns happen. Working in a group requires so many speech and social skills! Students must collaborate, make plans in advance, assign roles, check in with one another- the list goes on and on. However, group work on a project allows students to have the opportunity to work on conversation, planning, socially appropriate responses to other students making mistakes, following directions, and identifying and correcting communication breakdowns. Additionally, when students work in mixed groups, it allows you, as the SLP, to work on multiple goals at a time. Efficiency is always a good thing, especially with the limited time we have with our students!
Here is an example of a project-based learning activity that requires some great teamwork!
Another example of a skill that can be practiced through project-based learning is answering literal and inferential questions. When the students are working on completing the project and presentation, they will be answering both literal questions like “How much precipitation fell on March 18?” and inferential questions such as “Why did it get steadily warmer throughout the month of March?”. These questions can either be asked by the speech therapist or be listed on a rubric or both!
Project-based learning can be tailored to work on just about any speech goal or objective that you can think of! They can also be scaffolded or modified to whatever extent your students need. My students and I always have so much fun with these types of projects!
If you like these ideas, then you’ll love my Science Experiments for Speech Therapy resource. Come check it out!