Do you work with older speech students? Have you been wondering what goals you should be working on with them? Or maybe you are on the other end of the spectrum where you say where do I start when there are so many different goals that I could be working on with them. Or maybe your student struggles with so many different things that you don’t know what to focus on.
I work with older speech students and I get asked these questions all the time! There isn’t one blanket statement I give because it really depends on each individual student. However, our students that are older who are still struggling across all areas of academics and are still showing weaknesses in their speech and language skills based on standardized testing or your own clinical judgement, are students who need to work on comprehension skills. There is plenty of evidence that shows that building listening comprehension skills can impact and benefit reading comprehension. We all know that in the earlier grades students are learning to read and in the later grades students are reading to learn. Most of our older students are struggling readers as well so when they get to older grades and now need to read to learn, they struggle a lot. Many times older speech students’ decoding skills are weak and that might be one of the skills they are focusing on in their classroom or with their special education provider. We need to help build those other language skills like comprehension skills so that as they are building their decoding, they aren’t missing out on that comprehension piece. Also, there is tons of evidence that shows that our students with speech and language difficulties have weak vocabulary, weak syntax, weak memory, and weak listening comprehension which are all skills needed for listening comprehension and reading comprehension. All of these things are part of our realm of expertise and are things we can help these students with.
So where do you begin when you have students who are really struggling?
We need to figure out what they CAN do and what reading level they can handle independently. I always like to find out from the teachers or by looking through the previous testing that may have been done by a special education provider, where the student is reading at. There is a good chance that your student may be in 8th grade but only reading at a 2nd-grade Lexile level. There are different ways we measure reading levels like Lexile, Fountas and Pinnell, or just grade level. There are also tons of helpful conversion charts you can find with a simple Google search that will help you convert one measurement to another. If we are working on comprehension skills, we want to make sure that the text we give our students is one that they will be able to decode. That way it doesn’t become a reading activity and we can focus on comprehension. The other thing I like to look at is how long of a reading passage can they comprehend or recall. It might be one sentence and it might be 5 sentences and that we can determine with baseline assessments or informal probing throughout working with a student. Making sure you have the student's independent reading level and not their instructional reading level is important so that you can provide the student with the right materials that will allow you to work on those target skills and strategies without the decoding piece holding them up and overwhelming them.
Once you know the student's independent reading level and their recall abilities, you are then able to focus on figuring out what other types of questions you should work on. Is it wh-questions, is it stating the main idea, is it cause and effect, is it compare and contrast, is it inferential questions? These are questions that their teachers are asking them in the academic classroom and these are questions that we need to prepare them for.
I was always used random texts that I found on the internet to try to determine where my students were at and I was needing something more. That’s why I decided to create this informal critical thinking probe tool! This tool is also digital so you can easily display it whether it's virtual learning or just showing it on a screen. With this tool, I give three different Lexiles and lengths of the text. This tool allows you to assess what Lexile the student can comprehend and how many paragraphs can they comprehend. Within each of the paragraphs there is a main idea question, a wh question, problem and solution, vocabulary, predicting, and inferencing so you can assess all the different types of questions. This resource is great for helping you create a plan for each student so you know where to go from where you're at. It takes the guesswork out of what independent reading level your student is at and how many paragraphs they can read at a time. Once you know these things you can develop a game plan for where to start and where to take the student next. This tool has been a lifesaver for me and my students and I hope it can be that for you too! It can be found in my TPT store and did I mention it is FREE!? So go grab it and I'd love to know how you like it!
Want to learn more? Check out the video and the resources I mentioned for engaging, no-prep and low-prep activities to use with your students this week!