In the times we’re living in, doing speech therapy across a screen has become the norm. And it can be super TOUGH to keep students engaged virtually.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried all the dog and pony shows. But you mostly just get a lot of blank stares, leaving their chair, closing the computer, or playing with their toys instead.
Today, I’m going to share a few of my best tried and true tips for keeping students engaged virtually for your teletherapy sessions.
Oh, and be sure to grab the FREE digital activity guide at the end of the post!
1. Parent coaching
This one can be challenging for sure. If you can establish a good relationship with the caregiver, your virtual sessions can go much more smoothly.
Getting parents into a routine is also helpful. For example, send them an email reminder with the items you’ll need for therapy the next day.
Spend the first 5 minutes of the session explaining what you want them to do. Coach them through the task with modeling and practice. Then, spend the last few minutes reflecting with the parent.
2. Use what they have at home
If you want virtual therapy to be more hands-on, you’ve got to put something in their hands. Find activities that use common objects around the house. Practice simple play routines like “washing” toys or feeding a baby doll.
A few more ideas:
- Make a small sensory bin with the parent’s help.
- Blow bubbles or use craft supplies.
- Ask them to tell you about their favorite toys.
- Use their favorite snacks from home as a reinforcer after each speech activity.
3. Be ready to change activities
If your students are like mine, many of them will get bored with a task after about 7.43 seconds. Over-planning helps when you need to change activities. I like to have lots of tabs open, and books, toys, and card decks at my side.
Don’t be afraid to stray from your original plans if you are having trouble keeping your student’s attention. Moving on to something else doesn’t mean your activity was a fail. It may just mean it didn’t work today.
If you need to do a non-preferred activity, try setting a timer to give the child a sense of end time.
4. Novel toys, objects, and pictures
Kids can have shiny object syndrome too. If you hold up a cool new toy or object that they don’t have at home, it’s often engaging for them. See if they can help you describe it, guess what it’s used for, or tell other items in the same category.
Real pictures can be just as interesting as objects. Search google images for an interesting animal, machine, or plant. Or find scenes of TV shows or pictures of favorite characters. You can often get so much language from it.
5. Incorporate music and movement
I start nearly all of my virtual preschool sessions with a high interest song clip on YouTube. If I know one of my students loves Elmo, we’ll watch an Elmo song. I like to start the session off by getting them to look and engage with the screen.
Did you know that music occupies more areas of our brain than language does? If you can find ways to incorporate music, then do it! Here are a few benefits:
- It activates the “happy” neurotransmitters.
- It increases and strengthens synapses.
- It’s an awesome tool for arousing emotions and feelings.
Adding movement can build engagement as well. Use GoNoodle for brain breaks or have them work for a dance party at the end of the session.
You could also use articulation center activities that involve movement. I use these movement cards from my articulation station activity pack.
6. Engaging interactive materials
Lastly, having a fun and engaging digital resource can make a huge difference as well! Just search TPT or Boom Learning and you’ll find tons to choose from. Check out easy-to-use activities like interactive digital task cards or themed mini units!
If you want a comprehensive list of lots of my favorite virtual activities and resources to help keep students engaged, be sure to download my FREE Digital Resource Guide!
Hit the link above to grab your copy.
How do you engage your students online?