A Push in the Right Academic Direction During a recent online chat, Lyndsey Zurawski shared how SLPs can successfully navigate service delivery in the classroom, aligning with the curriculum and Common Core State Standards. The Leader listened in. Overheard
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Overheard  |   June 01, 2016
A Push in the Right Academic Direction
Author Notes
  • Lyndsey Zurawski, SLPD, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and diagnostician in the School District of Palm Beach (Florida) County. She also owns a private practice and blogs on her website, Speech to the Core. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; 11, Administration and Supervision; and 16, School-Based Issues. speechtothecore@gmail.com
    Lyndsey Zurawski, SLPD, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and diagnostician in the School District of Palm Beach (Florida) County. She also owns a private practice and blogs on her website, Speech to the Core. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; 11, Administration and Supervision; and 16, School-Based Issues. speechtothecore@gmail.com×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Overheard
Overheard   |   June 01, 2016
A Push in the Right Academic Direction
The ASHA Leader, June 2016, Vol. 21, 28-30. doi:10.1044/leader.OV.21062016.28
The ASHA Leader, June 2016, Vol. 21, 28-30. doi:10.1044/leader.OV.21062016.28
Participant: Are there situations in which classroom service delivery is not appropriate?
Lyndsey Zurawski: I do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all model. I think that we need to look at the student’s needs, the least-restrictive environment, and where they are with achieving their goals in order to decide the best environment to provide services.
Participant: How do you keep track of data and performance in the classroom setting? Is it more challenging than in individual therapy?
Zurawski: I definitely think tackling the data monster is more challenging in the classroom vs. individual therapy. I try to be creative in using the classroom materials to support my data, and I use lots of Post-its, as well as exit slips and anecdotal notes.
Participant: What is the evidence base like for classroom-based services? Do we have research studies that support classroom-based services?
Zurawski: We do have studies that have shown that students who have received in-class support have shown gains in comparison to peers who have not. There are studies that support vocabulary development in classrooms as well.
Participant: Our district uses a service-delivery model for language that is whole-class instruction for all language-impaired students. I have a whole classroom of non-language-impaired peers, plus my five-to-six students for our session. Are there any strategies or techniques that you can recommend for working with a whole group and still homing in on my students’ goals?
Zurawski: From what you described, it sounds similar to that of my therapy in the classroom. I service several classrooms with 18 to 22 students (anywhere from 5 to 10 with speech and language [impairments]). If you can find materials to use that either have been created by you or another SLP that focus on the content of the classroom (i.e., nonfiction text, children’s literature), you can pull out the specific skills your students are working on, such as wh- questions, sequencing, retelling, etc. Also, if you are the one in the primary role of implementing the lesson, you can really focus on asking your students the questions, and having the general education students respond if the others are “stuck” or if you need a good language model.
Participant: My experience at the middle school has been when I show up in a classroom, I am addressing teacher-based activities whether I want to or not. While I appreciate the teacher’s welcome, it is difficult for me to get the point across that I have objectives of my own. Any suggestions on getting around that?
Zurawski: I’m not sure there’s a surefire way around that. However, if students are receiving services within the classroom setting, most times their goals can be worked into the curriculum because they are typically addressing comprehension, expression, writing or grammar. If you’re not feeling that you are meeting the student’s needs, it may be the opportunity to collaborate with the teacher on some ways to modify assignments as well as on some flexible service provision.
Participant: What are the different styles you encounter with classroom teachers? Are some more receptive than others?
Zurawski: In my 11 years as an SLP in the classroom setting, I’ve encountered it all (or I think I have!). I have teachers who are receptive to SLPs being in the classroom. I have others that I have had to work hard to show them the value of an SLP in the classroom. I think the rapport you have established with the teacher, as well as the time of the language-arts block (or other class block) that you push into, will determine the type of model (i.e., whole group, small group, etc.).
Participant: I’ve always found it challenging to monitor or assess students in the classroom when encouraging generalization of articulation skills beyond the speech room. I will often go into a classroom but only hear a few opportunities of the target sounds. Any suggestions?
Zurawski: Carryover is always hard with articulation. I do try to “load” my students with opportunities to respond to questions, or to read classroom passages or materials aloud (if age-appropriate). I also try to go in during oral presentation time to hear how they are producing in spontaneous speech.

High school and middle school are definitely much tougher situations with in-class direct services compared to elementary school. Work with students to advocate for their accommodations, as well as do some staff education on language disorders and learning disabilities.

Participant: Any thoughts on working with high school teachers who are less than flexible on their assignments for kids with communication disorders and/or learning disabilities? I had a teacher who failed a student on a speech because the student didn’t follow the specific instructions—yet his speech met the Common Core State Standards (CSSS) expectation (time, organization, etc.). The teacher was not flexible in letting him redo the speech to tailor it toward the assignment. I was stuck! I really advocated for the kid—he knew the material, but just gave the “wrong” speech.
Zurawski: High school and middle school are definitely much tougher situations with in-class direct services compared to elementary. I think that classroom-based services are often easier to implement at the elementary level. Not because there isn’t an emphasis on grades, but I think sometimes there feels like less pressure. Also, the rigor and pace at which middle and high school must teach and assess is faster.
Work with students to advocate for their accommodations, as well as do some staff education on language disorders and learning disabilities that impact our students in regard to accessing and being successful in the gen-ed setting. Also, take time to work on specific projects during therapy to help these students be more successful.
Deborah Dixon (ASHA director of school services): Your example is the reason why it is helpful to discuss classroom expectations at the IEP meeting. It helps the team to understand what modifications may be helpful.
Participant: I struggle with having the time to see students. I’m the only SLP for 60 students in two small districts whose ages are preschool through high school. There are not enough hours in the school day to see students when you have to cover that range and the students are not all in the same class.
Zurawski: I think that when you feel like your students are spread across too many classes, it would be great to speak with your administration about clustering students for the purposes of scheduling and to meet their needs more effectively, as well as providing additional support to help bridge the gap and increase student achievement.
Participant: Any suggestions on how to manage scheduling inclusive services when you have many students in a grade level spread across four or five different classes?
Zurawski: Scheduling is always difficult. We use the concept of master-board scheduling and we cluster our students. Master-board scheduling is a way of determining the needs of students and how to schedule for students with disabilities. We use Post-its to list each student and sticky dots that are color coded with each of their eligibilities to provide a visual for the services needed.
So we will have anywhere from three to four, or up to seven to nine, in a classroom depending on needs, minutes and services. We plan this out in May each year, so our students are scheduled accordingly for the following year. We use a lot of resources from the Florida Inclusion Network for scheduling. If there are more students in one classroom, you can then remain in that classroom for more time per day, possibly additional days, to provide more support. When you’re spread across many classrooms, you are limited to the time you can spend within each class.
Participant: Would you write goals differently if you knew you’d be doing push-in rather than pull-out?
Zurawski: I don’t write my goals any differently. I write for the needs of students, not the setting. That being said, I do keep the curriculum in mind, regardless of setting. I write in my IEP that services may be provided in the gen-ed and special education settings, allowing for flexibility of service delivery. But the student’s goals are the student’s goals, regardless of setting.
Participant: I am hoping to co-teach with a special education teacher next year during her language lesson (I see all of her students for language). How often do you recommend co-teaching? I realize it depends on the student, but I see each of them one to two times a week currently. Is once a week sufficient, then perhaps doing pull-out the second day of the week I see them? I’ve never done push-in before.
Zurawski: I think one time per week will be a great starting point! I would try to collaborate and see if she wants you to lead a lesson with her following your lead or if you both equally co-teach a lesson. Then you can increase to another time per week if you feel it is successful and your kids are performing well with goals. I also think starting in a smaller setting with a special education teacher is a great way to get started! Some great lessons are using children’s literature and companions, as well as nonfiction text passages to help you cover curriculum and goals.
Participant: Do you find that being in the classroom calls extra attention to identified students or disrupts the flow of the lesson? I wonder how I would work on articulation, especially without it seeming awkward.
Zurawski: I don’t (personally) find that it calls attention to any one student or disrupts. But, when we first place students for articulation and/or fluency, we try to begin therapy in pull-out until they have learned adequate placement before moving into the classroom so that the skill can be used in a meaningful way.
Participant: I can see the importance of push-in to support generalization, but for teaching the basic skills, would you prefer to do mainly pull-out if your school allowed it?
Zurawski: I think it depends on the student, as well as the grade level. I like to have the option to do both with students if possible. So, ideally 60 to 90 minutes a week in classroom, with one session per week outside of the classroom. I think that oftentimes students learn the basic skills in pull-out and then do not know how to use those skills in the classroom. They need a lot of modeled support to implement their new knowledge in the classroom and with their classroom activities.
Participant: Are you providing mostly large-group/whole-class lessons to the classrooms that house the students on your caseload? Or do you function as a center within the classroom?
Zurawski: I do both! This year, I am doing more whole group because of the times that I push into the rooms. But in previous years, I have been a center as well. I have been a center where I only see my students. I have also been a center where all students rotate through me. It is really dependent on the teacher’s schedule, as well as if the special education teacher is in the room as well at the same time.
Dixon: Just as with any service delivery model, it is important to change the service delivery based on the students’ needs. What works at the beginning of the year may not be what is needed later in the year as they make progress.

Integrating services also helps all professionals to understand and support the students’ goals across contexts, so the instruction continues well past the time when multiple professionals are in the classroom. As teachers observe what SLPs do, they can carry out the goals—and as SLPs observe teachers, they can support the academic goals.

Participant: With teacher evaluations dependent on student progress and evaluation, do you find teachers unwilling or unhappy about having their classes clustered with our students with disabilities?
Zurawski: I have had both viewpoints. But, more often than not, now teachers want the additional support in the rooms. With the added pressure of student achievement, learning gains and RtI/MTSS [Response to Intervention/Multi-Tier System of Supports], teachers are asking for the SLPs to be in their rooms. I have had teachers “take a break” and end up with a more difficult “regular” class. So, it is dependent on individual teachers.
Participant: How do I make the case to my principal that this is an appropriate way to deliver services?
Zurawski: I would use some of the buzzwords, including “least restrictive environment,” and [show how] you are a valuable member of the team adding to student achievement. I would see if you could try it in one room where you have a supportive teacher and take data to show the progress of students in regard to the general education curriculum. I would also add that often, parents really are fond of the inclusive model as their students are not separated from peers.
Dixon: Integrating services also helps all professionals to understand and support the students’ goals across contexts, so the instruction continues well past the time when multiple professionals are in the classroom. As teachers observe what SLPs do, they can carry out the goals—and as SLPs observe teachers, they can support the academic goals.
Participant: I really want to work in the classroom but I’m not sure how to get started. Do you have any first steps to recommend?
Zurawski: Actually, I wrote an article about this for SIG 16. I would say first, find the one person that you feel like you can work with. This may be a friend, or it may be a teacher who you respect in terms of her teaching style and flexibility. I would offer to do a lesson for a specific holiday or activity (for example, St. Patrick’s Day) and demonstrate the expertise you have as an SLP to bring the language underpinnings into the curriculum.
Participant: Do you have any examples of inclusive lessons you have led?
Zurawski: I often show videos during my presentations. But I can describe one: Last week, I went into the second-grade classroom. I brought in a nonfiction passage about bears. We filled out a KWL [know, want to know, learn] chart (only the K and W). Then we read the passage aloud, had the students highlight facts they did not know, and took notes on vocabulary. The gen-ed teacher modeled using the document camera. Then we broke into small collaborative groups to read and respond to comprehension questions. The next day, we completed the KWL chart. Then we used the visual buzzers and had students answer questions.
Participant: What goals did this activity support for the speech-language students?
Zurawski: Answering wh- questions, identifying Tier 2 vocabulary words, determining meanings of unknown vocabulary, forming sentences orally and in writing, subject-verb agreement. Also articulation, because we have students answer questions orally throughout the lesson.
Participant: Did you take any “hard data” during this lesson? Or just anecdotal?
Zurawski: I use a Post-it to mark down correct and incorrect responses to my questions asked orally. Then I do collect data on the responses on my comprehension questions if they do it independently. We do a similar lesson weekly with different nonfiction passages I have created.
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June 2016
Volume 21, Issue 6