Using Google Forms to Develop IEPs


The school year is in full swing. My kindergarten referrals are in. New referrals are piling on. The honeymoon period is over and it's back to living in the school conference room for a good part of my week. As I begin to schedule IEP meetings, I thought I would share with you all how I collect information from my classroom teachers to help me write each IEP.

When I first started working in the schools, I would give teachers a paper with a few questions for them to write their answers on and return back to me when they completed it. The return rate of these paper forms were TERRIBLE. I would send e-mail reminders, drop off second copies in mailboxes, and give teachers the forms up to a month in advance and it was still like pulling teeth to get those forms back! The form itself only consisted of 5 simple questions, so I knew it was not too difficult or time-consuming to fill it out. When I asked the teachers what I could do to make it easier for them to get the forms back to me - several teachers asked if I could send a digital form. I have since used a Google form to gather responses from teachers and the return rate is so much better!!! I can't blame my teachers. My own desk is like the Bermuda Triangle of papers.... you never know if they will show up again. The digital forms are much easier.

Here is what it looks like to the teachers who receive it (I couldn't fit it all into one screen shot, but on the computer you can scroll and it is all on one page):

(Click on the pictures to enlarge them)

 I like to ask teachers how students are doing in the classroom - particularly with grades and test scores, since I do not have access to these as a therapist. I also like to know how the student's communication impairment is impacting him/her in the classroom. Sometimes teachers will share that other students tease the child or the student never volunteers to share information. Since I may not always see this in my room in a small group environment, the information from the teachers can be very valuable.

Making this form is super easy. My school uses Google for our e-mail system, so I can make these within the Google Drive attached to my school e-mail - but if your school doesn't use Google, you can still use this from a non-school account. Here is how to make a form for yourself!

1. Access Google docs through your school's e-mail or go to

2.  Select the Google Sheets icon. It is a green icon that looks like this:

3.  Open open a new blank Google Sheets document.

4. Google uses the spreadsheet to collect the data, but you need to attach a form to it. Click "Insert" and then click "form".

5.  Voila! You have a new form to edit any way you please. You can click "add item" to add new questions. Change the Question Titles to ask whatever information you need from the teachers. I like to change the Question Type from multiple choice to either "text" (for short responses) or "paragraph text" (for longer responses) so the teachers can simply type in their answers. I also select the options at the top to automatically record the e-mails of the people responding - this way I know which teacher says what!  Here is what my form looks like (you can view all the questions above):

6. Once you are done creating your form questions and your form is finished, you can edit what it looks like to the teachers by selecting "view" and "change theme". I like my forms to look pretty :) 

7. Now you are ready to send out your form to the teachers! Just click the blue Send Form button in the top right hand corner and enter the e-mail addresses of the teachers you want to send it to. I always click the option to also send an e-mail to myself of the form. This way I know I didn't forget to send it out. When you are ready to view the responses, just click View Responses at the top of the form. The data is collected in a Google Sheets page and stored on your Google Drive.

Once the form is made - using it is SUPER easy for both me and the teachers. I keep a template of the form in my google drive and just copy it each time I want to send out a form to my teachers. I just type in the student's name and info and then e-mail it out! 

I hope this helps make developing IEPs a little easier for you :) 



Smart Goals for SLPs


So this week at school, I had my first SMART goal meeting of the year with my administrators. My school district implemented this model a couple of years ago as part of our evaluation system. If you do not use this system in your school, here is a bit more about it.

Smart goals are used for all teachers (and therapists) to help measure student progress. While teachers in my district are expected to have goals related to math or reading, there is a bit more flexibility with therapists in writing these goals since we work on so many different things! I still have my personal beef with this evaluation system, particularly for therapists - mostly that students with individualized eduction plans have to have a one-size-fits-all goal that I am judged on - but it is what I have to deal with, so I try to make the best of it. Here are my recommendations for making the smart goal process as easy as possible!

  1. Pick relevant goals: If you are allowed to pick you own goals, pick something that your students are working on anyway. There is no need for extra work that is not even relevant to your students' goals. 
  2. Pick a data collection system: Most of my own personal data collection probably only makes sense to me and other SLPs. Administrators need an easy way to understand what all that SLP jargon means. I recommend using a rubric, informal assessment, or a skill-specific assessment (i.e. not the CELF!) that can be used to easily collect data at least 3 times a year (beginning of the year, mid-year, and end of the year) and make the data non-SLP friendly. 
  3. Select a sub-group of students: SLPs work with a very diverse group of students with varying ages, goals, and abilities. It would be impossible to pick one goal for all students to work on. Select a small group of students working on like-goals to track.
  4. Make a running record: Keep your administrator-friendly data all on one easy to read page for your selected students. This will make it easier for both of you to see how your students are progressing towards meeting your SMART goals.

This year my SMART Goal is for narrative re-tell. I have several students working on this goal in one form or another. My kindergarten team is also working on narrative re-tell, so we plan to collaborate together. I love when I get to work with my teachers! Here is my goal for this year:

100% of students in grades K-3 with language-based goals who qualified for speech services through an IEP before mid-year will improve their narrative re-tell skills as demonstrated by a growth of at least 10 points from their baseline performance on the Test of Narrative Retell by 5/31/2016.

Whew - that is a mouthful. As you can tell from my goal, I am measuring student progress for this goal using the Test of Narrative Retell (TNR). If you didn't catch my previous post about this assessment, you can read more about it here. This assessment is FREE. You heard me - It's free, standardized, super easy and quick to administer, and you can download it for grades pre-K-3 here. You're welcome.

Along with the TNR for collecting data, I will also be utilizing the Story Champs Program that goes along with the assessment as a part of my intervention. Just so you know, the assessment can certainly stand alone from the Story Champs Program - but my district bought a few to pilot amongst the SLPs so I am going to be trying it out! The program comes with both a small group intervention kit and a large group intervention kit. I plan on using the small group kit in my room and pushing-in to classrooms to do the large group kit with the teachers. The kits include numerous short stories (paragraph level), pictures to go along with the stories, and symbols (with various symbol manipulatives) that represent story grammar elements.  I am excited to try it out and share more about it with you all as I become more familiar with it! 

Does your district utilize a SMART goal system? What do you think about it? What will you be working on this year?



Adjusting to Life as a Middle School SLP


This year, I requested to be moved to another elementary school in my district. An opening came after another SLP retired and I jumped at the chance. The school is a a little closer to home, much smaller, and overall a better fit for me. When I requested to move schools, I knew I would also have to travel to another school since the caseload at that particular elementary school never gets too crazy. Even though I had always had just one school before, I was open to traveling.  In addition to my new elementary school, I would also travel to the high school two mornings a week to primarily work with an ID classroom. However, the day before school started this year, I got an e-mail from my boss at the school board office saying I had been moved to the middle school and would no longer have the high school. Initially, I was NOT happy. I do not handle last minute changes well, my caseload would be bigger, and I had only worked with middle schoolers once before - very briefly right after graduate school.

Now, I am one month into this middle school business.... and you know what? I am actually enjoying it.  My caseload consists primarily of students working on receptive/expressive language, social skills, fluency, and a few kids still mastering the dreaded /r/. I expected middle school attitude, students skipping speech that I would have to track down on a weekly basis, and kids who would be hard to motivate during sessions. For the most part, my students are exactly the opposite. My students still like coming to speech. They are motivated and see the value in why they are coming. They are grateful when I help them with their English homework. They are sweet and funny and they still like the occasional game in therapy.

Here are some things I have learned to help make serving a middle school a littler easier:

  • Students Should Know Why They are Coming to Speech - Let's be real. My middle schoolers know by now that not everybody gets speech. They need to know why they are coming and what they are working on. They also need to know why what they are working on is important. On the first day of speech, my students and I reviewed their goals and then brainstormed ideas about why they need to know how to do those things! Our answers ranged from doing better in school to making friends to interviewing and getting a job. The students also set goals for themselves in speech.
  • Show Students Respect - I know my middle schoolers don't want me interrupting their classes and singling them out. To help my students remember when to come to speech without me having to show up at their door and embarrass them, I made my students speech hall passes and also let the teachers know when they would have speech. The passes have the dates and times they need to come to speech for the first semester. When they get to class, they can just show it to their teachers and come down to my room without it being a big deal.
  • Make Therapy Relevant and Meaningful - For students working on language, I collaborate with the teachers to see what they are working on in class. Several of my students are in collaborative English classes, where they get special ed support in the classroom and also attend reading support classes. The special ed teachers are able to tell me what my students need extra support with from their classes and vocabulary they are discussing for me to review with the students. My students appreciate being able to have somebody help them in a small group or 1:1 so they don't fall behind in their work.
  • Keep it Fun - Just because these students are older doesn't mean they don't like fun and games, particularly the boys. They love a little competition. I try to keep the reinforcer games simple, because the work is obviously what is important. My student's favorites so far are card games, roll and cover games, and Jenga. I also run lunch bunch for students working on social skills. I have 1 or 2 students come who are not working on social skills so there is a good peer model. The kids have loved it (even those not working on social skills). Some of my kids not in lunch bunch have even requested to come! (And who can say no to kids asking for more speech?!)

I have been pleasantly surprised how much I am liking middle school. Do you work with middle school students? What do you think? Any more tips?