(This photo is very tongue in cheek btw, just in case you don’t know me very well yet) I learn new skills in layers. I bet you do too.
First, I figure out the new vocabulary and jargon. Next, I figure out the general structure and maybe how other people have done it. Then I look at what the basic expectations are.
I spend some time practicing and with time build the skill. This applies to how I practice speech therapy, too.
My SLP journey was first get a bachelor’s degree, then work as an SLPA and SLT to get hands-on experience. I really thought I knew a lot (I did but not as much as I thought I did).
Then many years later I got my master’s degree. That was the layer of theory, clinical practicums, and clinical fellowship. This came with a whole lot of stress and a really HUMONGOUS learning curve. That was just three years ago.
Now I find myself moving to another deeper layer.
I’m calling it metatherapy. Thinking about thinking about therapy.
Instead of doing therapy and evaluations just to get them done, I’m asking myself a lot of big picture questions.
Questions like: I know my students need to build their vocabulary but what is the one skill that is going to help them the most? Yes, they need to know synonyms, antonyms, and categorization. But they also need to be able to transfer these skills to all the new vocabulary they will be exposed to throughout their school years. Of course, I look at best practices. And I’m thinking beyond that too.
How can I make them fall in love with words?
How can I make them love descriptive terms and all the beautiful nuances?
How can I make them excited that there are 16,000 different species of trees?
How can I make sure that when I ask them to tell me about a tree, they won’t just say it’s green and it grows.
I want them to be able to tell me a tree gives us shade in the summer, that we can climb it, that it can be a home for squirrels. It can have pecans or peaches or pine cones. It can be covered in pink blossoms in the springtime or flaming red leaves in the fall. That the leaves make music when they rustle in the wind. That trees shelter us and give us wood for fires. That some trees can tower to over 360 feet. That trees can have a multitude of different leaf shapes and shades of delicious green. That their bark can be smooth and cool or rough and scratchy. That trees can gather together to create a sacred space.
I want to open that world for them, to help them see and form beautiful word pools in their little brains. Such a beautiful, sparkling goal.
But of course, reality dictates that we have to write measurable, curriculum based goals. (And I do).
But is that our ultimate therapy goal?
Is it to have a student learn “x” number of new vocabulary words or is it to help him build a rich lexicon by inspiring him to read, ask questions and get excited about learning?
When I read Donalyn Miller’s book “The Book Whisperer” and understood how she thought outside the box with her approach to reading, I wanted to take that approach to language and language therapy. (I’ll put a link at the end of this post if you want to know more about this book).
I will keep digging, experimenting and exploring this juicy approach to therapy because it feels so right.
And of course I will share everything with you.
I do know that a good start is to share our love of words and language with our students.
We can find what really fascinates them and help them expand the subject and learn more. We can do that by walking them through our thought process, so they can start building those neuronal pathways for themselves.
This just makes me fall in love with speech language therapy all over again. I’m so meta (meta’s in the Urban Dictionary, check it out).
Meta Speech Language Therapy: it’s mindful, it’s looking at each child as an individual. It’s giving students a valuable gift not just applying a “speech band-aid”.
So what do you think? Are you with me?
Leave a comment below.
Go think deep thoughts and SLP like a boss,
Here’s the link to more about reading and The Book Whisperer