Every year when I hold my SLP trainings for new SLPs in the district, their eyes glaze over with fear when I get to the topic of lesson plans. I get asked, “We have to LESSON PLAN?! Like really lesson plan??!!! But I’m not a teacher!” And I get it. I was not taught how to write a lesson plan in graduate school. I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start in my early years as an SLP.
However, it is best practice to plan out what you will be doing when working with students beyond just knowing their IEP goals. Would an architect build a house without plans? Would a teacher teach a lesson in the classroom without plans?
In our district it is left up to each individual principal to determine if a specific format is required for the lesson plans at their schools. But even the most simple lesson plan requires thoughtful preparation. And only you know the students, the objectives you want them to meet, and the scaffolds they need to be successful in their learning. This does take time. But with some simple short cuts and a well-designed lesson plan template, you will be wowing your principal (and having a solid plan for your students) in no time!
I love using curriculum when working on goals for many reasons. First, I don’t have to search for age-appropriate activities. Second, the students understand that their work with me is not just games but connected to what they’re doing in the classroom. Third, we get major street cred from teachers as a result when they come to the same understanding. And last, our entire role in a school setting is to give students the communication skills they need to access their curriculum. What better way than to use the curriculum itself to do this?
Our district uses the Harcourt Trophies reading series. Here is an example of how I use a story from this series and our lesson plan template to work with a group of 5th grade students who have varied speech-language goals.
Topic: Here you can put the title of the story or the activity you’re working on.
SLP Actions: These are the things I need to do to ensure learning for each student in the group (e.g. how to access prior knowledge; questions I want to ask; vocabulary I want to target; examples of figurative language in the story; words from the story that have a student’s targeted speech sounds; connections of the content to the real world). A lot of the headings on this will stay the same for your group throughout the school year, but you will have to change your targeted words, questions, and so on to match the lesson/story.
Differentiated Outcomes: These are each student’s individual goals to accomplish during the lesson, not just their IEP goals word for word. I may just target one IEP goal per student or multiple goals within a lesson. In this example, Roberto has IEP goals for story retell and problem solving, Sammy has a goal for s/z at the reading level, Ilea has a goal for /r/ in conversation, and Sasha has goals for defining words using context clues, multiple meaning words, and figurative language.
Notes: This section can be used to remind me of cues that tend to work best for a particular student; how I want to close the activity; how I will check for learning; homework I want to assign; behavior strategies to implement; who needs fidget toys; or notes I want to share with the teacher.
Writing a lesson plan can be time-consuming, difficult and frustrating. But if you get a system down, the process will be streamlined and take just a few minutes per group. For example, create an editable template for each of your groups. Then use shortcuts such as (1) having the SLP Actions headers pre-populated or (2) having the standards pre-populated that are aligned with the students’ goals. After selecting the activity the group will work on, differentiate the lesson based on each student’s needs and goals.
Bottom line - flying by the seat of your pants is not fun and also not effective. Sometimes it is inevitable, but if you’ve taken time as part of your professional growth to regularly map out lesson plans, eventually your brain will be wired to be thinking in this way whether you formally draft out a written lesson plan or not. Also, when it comes time to show a formal lesson plan (e.g. during your employee evaluation :) you will not stress about how to do it since you’ve practiced this skill in the past.
Start small - select one or two groups to begin with. Ideally you can select a group that is new to you, or one that you’ve had some difficulty developing lessons for in the past, or one where you go into the classroom to service. Work through some formal lesson plans with these groups, then select another couple of groups to focus on.
Planning out your lessons will ensure that your time can be spent interacting and making progress with your students, versus stressing out about scrambling for what direction to go in next. It also ensures that both you and your students are clear on the learning expectations.
If you want to try out an editable, digital lesson plan template, you can use our version here by adding to your Drive and making a copy. You can then rename the copy, edit, and add the document link to your daily data event inside of SLP Toolkit if desired. I used SLP Toolkit’s digital template to complete the lesson plan used as an example in this post. See the completed lesson plan on Iditarod Dream in it’s entirety here.