Tips and Tricks for Organizing Materials
Organizing your materials can have a positive effect on both the therapist/teacher and the student! When we have our materials organized, we can focus more as providers. Our students can also experience increased attention, less anxiety, and have more success when they can sense a clear start/finish, structure, and purpose behind an activity.
I’m going to share some tips and tricks for organizing your materials for your speech room, for therapy on the go (for those of us working in multiple settings), and within your sessions.
Organizing Your Speech Room, Storage, & On the Go Materials
For your speech room, home office, or storage of materials…it’s a great idea to use boxes, bins, and labels for easy access. I like to use large seasonal tote boxes that have quarterly materials in them (winter, summer, spring, fall). These Monthly Labels are my favorite for this purpose and they are free!
I also like to use smaller boxes to organize theme units and sets (example “Pirate Theme”, “Old Lady Books”, and “Little Blue Truck Companions”). I use binders for handouts for parents, auditory bombardment sheets for articulation, and printable activities like Dot Art.
I worked diligently this past year to put together a home office. For the first time in 16 years, I have an office space! I’ve never had my own work space in any setting, so this was a big deal. There are certainly times that it looks like a bomb went off in here, but that is okay…it means creative work is underway! I found the storage cube system at Target and the small bins at Walmart. They are Sterilite 15 Qt latching bins.
You can download a copy of the binder labels picture here for free! This is a great way to store the freebies from the Freebie Library. Click the image below to download the binder labels for free.
Work Table: I can’t say enough good things about this new work table I got from amazon. It was a beast to carry and put together (and now is permanently in that room because it doesn’t fit through the door)…..but look how much space there is for storage and putting materials together!
I love using rainbow task boxes. My favorite set can be found at Michaels and Amazon. I use them to sort my articulation cards, visuals, and for language and special education hands-on activities. They’re also perfect for throwing into a bag or box for on the go therapy.
If you work “On the Go!” like me, you may be looking for a great cart to carry all of your materials around. After 3 wrist surgeries, I knew I needed to find a better solution for carrying my materials. While I begrudgingly waited for my husband at Home Depot one day…I saw this rolling cart. I never would have thought to look at the hardware store for my work box. It’s been perfect. It rolls, it can be covered to prevent rain from ruining things in and out of the car….AND I can latch it to keep little hands out during sessions. It was a little pricier than the file box carts I’ve used in the past, but those have fallen apart on me. This has held up for several years now.
Organizing Your Session Materials
This may not seem like a big deal, but the way you put together and organize your materials while you are working with students can make a tremendous difference. Learn from my mistakes! As a Mom, in online learning, I did a terrible job (initially) with structuring our learning environment. As time went on, my training kicked in and I got us more organized. Attention improved, anxiety lessened, and my little students at home were much more successful.
Three Key Areas to Organize for your Sessions:
1) The Room
2) The People
3) The Activity
Naturally, this will vary by setting…but it’s important to consider the orientation of the materials and people in each space. For example, if you have “a runner”, you might consider creating some natural or mental boundaries to prevent elopement. In this photo, you can see several things going on at once. I’ll break them down for us.
1) The Room: even though this student is working from home, the room has been arranged to increase success. The student is working from left to right with a “finished box” on the right.
2) The People: a work partner is seated in close proximity, across from the student.
3) The Activity: structure and visuals have been provided to show a clear start/finish, to reduce scattering of materials, and to provide clear instructions of what needs to take place.
In this picture, you can see how the table is arranged from left to right. The student can see both his overall schedule (first, next, later) and the activity steps (the mini schedule for the activity). The stack of work is on the left with a finished box on the right. There are also visual cues available to keep the students on task. The student will recognize that he is finished when the work stack is empty and the finished box is full.
The pictures below show ways to structure materials. Containing the pieces reduces scattering, mouthing, and elopement.
This photo shows an extra layer of structure in separating the pieces. If undesired behaviors continued, you might consider adding velcro to the pieces or stabilizing the tray itself to prevent scattering, throwing, and mouthing.
Here is another example of orienting a room and the materials to increase success. This was an instance of parent coaching. With the therapist off to the side providing tips and tricks for the parent to work with his son. (in this case, the parent is my spouse and the child is my son 🙂 )
Some things to note: the finished box is a natural barrier. It’s elevated and beside the child to reduce elopement. The visual schedule is just behind the dad for easy access. They are using a work cart with materials (located beside the student’s left hand). They are working left to right.
As you probably already know, I now firmly believe in putting visuals on my visuals. This was something that did not come instinctively to me. I pictured visuals being for nonverbal students, when they actually benefit almost all students!
I typically use either a two step, 3 step, or to do- done list during my sessions. You may have seen information circulating around that “First Then” schedules are a no-no. The overall fear seems to be bribing children and teaching them that they favorite thing will always come last. I think this depends on a variety of things, including how we are using them and who is using them. As a provider, I feel like it’s perfectly fine for me to put First Puzzle…Then Book. It doesn’t take away from intrinsic rewarded. Sometimes parents need to get through the moment, the day, the situation…and that is a personal decision. In terms of parent support and coaching, I recommend offering support and information for parents…but also supporting them and meeting them where they are.
This is part of the resources that I use for visuals during sessions (and at home). I’ve also added a digital version that I use in teletherapy. It has a digital First Then, First Next Last, and To do…Done section.
tells us that most children are visual learners. Temple Grandin
describes how she “thinks in pictures”, indicating that autistic
students also benefit from having clear visuals. Having the
expectations of what to do in pictures along with what is coming next
reduces anxiety, increases attention, and increases independence. *www.teacch.com, Grandin, T. (2006) Thinking in Pictures, Knopf Doubleday.