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Last weekend I attended a 2-day SIOP professional development class, focusing on vocabulary and language comprehension strategies. SIOP stands for Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, and is a method of providing instruction for students learning English. SIOP focuses 30 “features” spread across 8 different areas of instruction – things like defining language and content objectives, providing rich supplemental materials, and explicitly teaching learning strategies. The class was focused on teaching, but I was able to glean some good ideas for language therapy. After all, my students are also struggling with understanding language, though for different reasons than a student who is learning another language. And some of my students are struggling both with learning a new language, AND with a language disability! I am glad I went.

The main book that we used for the day we spent learning about strategies was “99 Ideas and Activities for Teaching English Learners with The SIOP Model“. Again, the book is focused on general education classroom instruction, but the chapter on strategies contained some true gems for me. I realized that, while I am continually working on language comprehension from text with my students, I have not been giving them enough instruction on how to become independent in comprehending, even when they still struggle to understand. SIOP reminded me that students need to be explicitly taught language comprehension strategies, and given practice in using them independently.

Learning strategy vs. Teaching technique

SIOP is very clear about the difference between a strategy and a technique. A strategy is something a learner uses to enhance their own learning. A technique is something the teacher does to support student learning. I use techniques constantly to support my students. I scaffold, provide cloze-sentences, give word-finding clues, provide context, use visuals, explain new vocabulary, and break longer passages down into small chunks.

A strategy is something a student does to help themselves learn. Using a graphic organizer, identifying unfamiliar words, using wh-questions, different ways to summarize… these are all student-based strategies. I realized during the class that I usually just do these things for my students (teaching technique), rather than teaching them how to do it themselves (learning strategy).

My take-home from the class was to teach strategies more explicitly and intentionally. The first thing I needed to do was to figure out which strategies to target. The 99 Ideas book has an entire chapter listing different learning strategies, so I went through and found the ones most focused on language comprehension. I also wrote down additional language comprehension strategies that were not in the book, but that I have used with students before.

Language Comprehension Strategies

To transfer accountability to students to use the strategies, I made an anchor chart for each strategy. Last week in each of my language groups I introduced one of the strategies. The strategy I taught depended on which grade-level text I was using with the group. We first talked about the strategy, and then practiced using it to organize/understand the passage of the day. For example, I used a Comic Book Summary with my 6th grade group. We were using a historical passage about the invention of the Eskimo Pie, so the drawing element fit great! After creating our comic book summary, my students were able to retell the story using just the visuals, with no cues from me. Success!

I have uploaded the anchor charts up on Teachers Pay Teachers (FREE DOWNLOAD), if you would like to use them in your language therapy, or with your child at home. Enjoy!


Did you know that speech therapy is available to every child who needs it through your local public school?

It’s true!

Because of the way our education law is written, any child who lives in the service area for a public school is entitled to receive special education services (if they need those services) free of charge through that school. If the child is not enrolled at the school then the parents have to bring the student to the school during school hours for their weekly speech therapy time, but all services are free and provided in the same manner as for students attending the school. I see students who are homeschooled, attend private school, or attend preschool who live in my school’s area.

How do you get started?

If you think your child may need speech therapy or other learning help, the first step is to call your local school district and request a special education evaluation. They will route you to the appropriate person who will go through the process with you.

  1. You will meet with a special education team from the school, share your concerns, and decide together whether to do an evaluation.
  2. If you and the team decide it’s warranted, the team will do an evaluation. This involves testing your child on various skills (academic, cognitive, language, etc), observations, and probably filling out some questionnaires.
  3. At the end of the evaluation you reconvene with the team and everyone shares their findings. If your child is found to have needs that require speech therapy or other educational services, the team will go over the options for providing those services to your child. You can always refuse the services if they don’t fit with your family’s needs.

This afternoon I am meeting with a family and the rest of the team to do step 3 – share the evaluation results and offer services. This student attends a private school, but could use some help with academics and speech therapy. I’m excited to share the findings with his family to help them understand their son, and maybe help him to start doing better in school!

**Political note**

Sorry, I can’t help it. 🙂

The services I just described are available through any PUBLIC school. Charter schools or private schools ARE NOT required to provide services to enable students with disabilities to receive an appropriate education, and in fact, they most often do not provide these services. Please keep this in mind while you are voting. Charter schools or private schools, whatever benefits they provide to typically developing kids, are often a very poor option for students with special needs. Your local PUBLIC school is legally required to provide an appropriate education to ALL students, regardless of disability. This is a beautiful thing. Please, help me to protect it by voting to support PUBLIC EDUCATION. 🙂

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Spring break!

Spring break!March 30th, 2018
spring break!

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