Middle school (and high school) speech therapy activities can be hard to find, but I’ve got you!
Middle school has a mixed reputation. I know some SLPs are intimidated by teenage attitudes, or aren’t sure what to work on once the basics have been covered. Some of these middle schoolers and high schoolers have been in speech therapy for a long time and are just. over. it.
A lot of students are dismissed before middle school and high school, so there are fewer secondary SLPs out there, but I have found them to be a special bunch.
I’ve talked about the pros and cons of working in middle school speech therapy, but in the end, I loved working with these kids!
If you already count yourself as one of the lucky SLPs who get to work with secondary students, check out my top 10 middle school (and high school) speech therapy activities, tools, and materials!
Whoever popularized graphic novels in the past 15 years deserves a solid high five!
Graphic novels are absolutely the best for engaging students, especially reluctant readers, with a highly visual reading experience.
The best part is that so many popular tween/teen book series now have graphic novel adaptations. Our kids with reading problems can be reading the same books as their peers in a scaffolded way.
If you’re a wordless picture book fan, you will love graphic novels because they also provide so many opportunities for inferencing based on the illustrations.
And have you heard of Toon Books and Toon Graphics? They are graphic novels written specifically to facilitate literacy skills. Plus, their website has a Teacher’s Guide for every book they write, containing lots of lesson planning ideas linked to ELA Common Core requirements!! I’ve been able to find some Toon Books at my local library.
There are some really great free tools online to get the most out of your materials.
Rewordify allows you to copy and paste text into their online tool. When you submit your text, they will return a simpler version by reducing the complexity of sentences and vocabulary. This could be a perfect tool for working on creating and breaking down compound and complex sentences, or working on semantic skills such as synonyms/antonyms and vocabulary in context.
The Academic Word Finder from Achieve the Core enables you to copy and paste text into their tool, select your desired grade level, and it will find tier 2 vocabulary words in that text on, below, and above grade level. There are also example sentences provided, which are perfect for practicing vocabulary strategies!
So we have some great tools to use once we have text, but where do we get the text?
Middle and high school tend to leave behind fictional stories and narratives and have a greater focus on expository and non-fiction comprehension. Our students have learned to read (hopefully, but maybe are still struggling!) and now they need to read to learn.
NewsELA is great for current events articles. Actually, my favorite feature of NewsELA is that you can adjust the reading level of the articles. If your students are struggling readers, you can give them a text at or below their reading level so you’re only working on one skill at a time! There are comprehension quizzes that go along with the articles, so some of your therapy is already done for you!
ReadWorks articles are about a variety of topics. You can find articles about students’ personal interests, or ones that complement something they are learning in the classroom. Some articles are labelled as “StepReads,” which also provide multiple reading levels for one article. Articles include target vocabulary and comprehension questions. Some articles focus on a specific skill, like inferencing, that you can filter through in your search! ReadWorks also has lesson plans focusing on certain skills, such as cause and effect, main idea/theme, etc. They are targeted for kids K-6th grade, but many of them can be used to set the stage with your older students as well.
SLPs are in the schools to support kids with their education! What better way to do that than to use curriculum materials?
Now, in middle school and high school, our students are taking 8 different subjects with 8 different teachers, so it might be hard to track down curriculum materials.
The good news is, more and more teachers are storing information and curriculum links online. Sometimes just asking a teacher if you can join their Google classroom will help you stay on top of the curriculum without having to continually beg the teacher.
Sure, you can use Language Arts materials, but science is also full of rich opportunities for vocabulary and describing. Math word problems are a challenge for kids with language impairments!
I know some districts use tools such as News2You, which contains news articles with supports for students with complex learning needs. Some life skills classrooms might use Kids A-Z for their reading instruction.
Find out what the teachers are using and steal it! (It’s actually not even stealing, it’s just being an awesome SLP and supporting your students where they need it).
You’re not teaching them the material. You are using material they are already familiar with to explicitly teach skills to help improve their language abilities.
Even though virtually every middle schooler and high schooler is on YouTube daily, they still can’t get enough of it. Here is a really easy way for buy in – find and use YouTube videos in speech therapy!
Whether you are using Pixar short films for social emotional learning or using a video to kick off comparing and contrasting, there are an overwhelming number of motivating and engaging videos online.
Check out my list on Pinterest with over 200 ideas for short films to use in speech therapy.
The time for crafts is probably over for this group, but hands-on learners might still appreciate the occasional science experiment or cooking activity!
For science experiments, I like Science Bob, which provides downloadable PDFs with a few visual steps included for many of their experiments. They all include a video model too if that helps.
Prepping science projects for speech therapy can be a little more work, but if you’re struggling with engagement, I recommend giving this a try!
I’ve talked before about judiciously using board games in speech therapy. With the right purpose and goal in mind, they can be effective tools.
Quick games like Uno or Bounce Off are decent for a little bit more fun during drill type therapy sessions.
But in general, I don’t use a lot of games because in middle school, it’s time to get down to business.
Which is why I like to use….
Some of the activities and tools on this list are a little elaborate, but for your artic kids, all you really need is a word list and a tally counter. There are some materials that just work for just about any kid at any age.
If older kids are still working on articulation in the upper grades, they’ve probably been working on these sounds for a long time! We need to make sure that they are aware of their correct and incorrect productions and get as many of those good productions in as possible. And the best way I’ve found to do this is by giving them the counter and try to get as high as you can.
Simple, yet effective!
And on that note, if you have kids who have been working on the same artic goals for years, especially goals like /s/, /z/, “sh,” “ch,” and “dg,” and maybe even /r/, sit them down for a solid oral mech exam.
A lot of families are looking into orthodontic work at this age and it’s worth investigating if there are any potentially complicating oral structures that have been holding them back for years.
It’s really frustrating to be working and working and not see progress and we owe it to our students to take another peek.
If this sounds dangerously like oral motor controversy, or if you want to learn more, check out Char Boshart’s free Perfect Oral Storm article or podcast here.
And of course, I have to tell you about my favorite activities/materials/tools, which are the Speechy Musings line of materials! (it is my blog, after all! :D)
I design all of my products to be clean (not cutesy!), with well-described, systematic, strategy-based instruction. The middle school speech therapy materials and activities I listed above are great to reinforce, but we have to make sure that we are explicitly teaching our students first, then practicing what we’ve learned (even SLPs can benefit from first, then statements sometimes!)
Nobody is working on the goal “NAME will complete Speechy Musings One Sheet Vocabulary worksheets with 80% accuracy.” (At least not that I know of, but if someone was, it would be kinda awesome, but also probably not the best goal and maybe we should talk about effective goals).
But, the strategies in my products will build up skills, which should be reinforced in other settings and with other materials. Set a strong foundation and it’s ok if you can’t move on quickly. Just make sure each individual student progresses at their pace and with their needed supports.
My Middle School Speech Therapy Starter Kit includes a nice sampler of middle school speech therapy activities and materials to really get started!
I wish you all the best when working with this unique and rewarding group of individuals! And I would love to hear what is working for you in your secondary speech sessions too!