Why Should SLPs Use Lesson Plans? + Resources!

The subject of SLPs writing lesson plans has recently been debated in both the workplace (school setting) and in online forums. Every week, I see new posts of SLPs resisting the idea of writing lesson plans because "we are not teachers".

And they're right. We are not teachers. We do not follow a curriculum and do not need to document how each therapy session meets the educational standards that the school is required to follow. After all, some of our students are 20% intelligible in conversation (at best) and/or have a 50-word vocabulary. It makes sense that we shouldn't have to show how we are linking that to the curriculum because alas-- students first need to be able to express themselves and be understood when they are trying to express themselves.

However, an SLP can write lesson plans that do NOT mirror those of a teacher. 

Some argue that the IEP is the lesson plan, and I beg to differ. The IEP drives the lesson plan, just like the curriculum drives the teacher's lesson plan. The IEP tells you what needs to be addressed in a therapy session, but when you have a student who has 3 goals and you see them with 3 other students who also have 3 goals each, suddenly you are dealing with 9 goals-- some of which may be the same, but some of which may be drastically different. Each goal needs to be addressed at some point in the year. How can you say that the IEP drives your lesson plan in those cases? You need to plan an activity that can target the goal(s) of EACH student in your group. There needs to be a lesson plan so you know what activity you will use to meet the students' goals.

Our lesson plans do not have to be detailed, common core aligned books that we hand into our administrators or principals. Sometimes lesson plans are required by administration, but sometimes the plans are for our eyes only. Either way, our lesson plans may just be a short memo of what we did the previous week and where we will go from there for the next week (example: initial /r/ word level mastered, next week "phrase-level"). It may be more detailed and show a theme for the week and the themed activities we will be using to meet the goals of our students. This is not the point.

Here's the point. The fact that the lesson plans are happening at all means that you, the SLP, are planning lessons that will truly meet at least one goal of every student in your group because you took a few minutes to think about how you can plan a student/goal-centered lesson. That is what matters.

Scrambling to think of activities to do last-minute is not the best practice, although we've all been there and sometimes it turns into a good session. However, if we know what we are doing before we go into that therapy session, we can have copies made, therapy items pulled from shelves, and we are ready to go. The kids will look at us as prepared individuals and not the scatterbrained SLPs we are sometimes portrayed to be (and that we sometimes feel like!). Lesson plans allow us to be as productive as we can be and not wasteful with time. There is no worry of "Oh my goodness, did I even target a goal for every student in this group?!" or "Didn't he already master this?". No more wasted sessions because we had a lesson plan to guide us to where we needed to be.

So how do I use lesson planning to guide my therapy? Each Friday, I take 20 minutes to examine my Excel spreadsheet which holds all my student information, as well as my lesson plans. I look at the students in my group and the goals each of them has on their IEPs. I take that information and think, "What can we do next week in speech that will target at least 1 goal per child?" This is especially useful when each child is working on a different level of articulation, or heaven forbid mixed speech/language groups. I look through my activities and type up a short lesson plan that usually looks along these lines: "Read Three Little Pigs, WH Questions/Compare & Contrast". This tells me what I need to have ready, and that I have 2 goals to work on during that session. No one's goals get forgotten that way.

How do you use lesson plans in speech therapy? Are you required to use them or do you create lesson plans willingly? If you don't use them already, has this at least changed your mind a little bit so that you will consider using them to increase efficiency and effectiveness? Let me know!

*Addendum: I use the words lesson plan in this blog post, but I consider lesson plans to be the same as therapy plans and treatment plans. It's just a matter of semantics.


Wanna see my favorites? Here is my list of tried and true ways to lesson plan!

FREE Editable Excel SLP Caseload Organizer - Kayla SLP

SLP Planner - Kayla SLP

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SLP ToolkitLesson Planning Feature
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  1. For the record, those of us who are resisting writing lesson plans are not doing so because we don't believe in planning. Having a well-thought out treatment plan is absolutely necessary to providing effective treatment. Those of us who have problems writing lesson plans have issues because:
    a) Semantics. We are pathologists and therapists and therefore do not write lesson plans, we write treatment plans. A school-based physical therapist does not use a lesson plan, nor does a psychologist offering counseling.
    b) We do not feel respected as professionals. Why would someone (e.g. principles) have a blanket policy to submit lesson plans when they have no idea what we do, nor have any interest in learning about what we do. In my previous district, SLPs in the district would observe each other and provide feedback. In that case, I would have no problem submitting a treatment plan ahead of time so that SLP knew exactly what I was doing and what goals I was targeting
    c) Our students often do't fit into the cookie cutter type of learners that lesson plans are written best to serve. Like you said, many times we are serving 4 different kids with 12 different goals. While it's not unreasonable that we go into the session with a plan of how we will target at least one goal per child, our students are often the ones that don't respond well to adult-centered instruction. We often have to deal with behavior, be open to incidental teaching, and switch things up at the last minute. With all our time spent writing IEPs, taking data, submitting medicaid data, etc. spending time formally writing up plans only to have them tossed out the window takes up a lot of valuable time.

    Again, I want to clarify. I ABSOLUTELY plan. I just don't write lesson plans, nor do I feel that this should be required for SLPs.

  2. I don't disagree with you. I use lesson plan, treatment plan and therapy plan interchangably. They all mean the same-- what is your PLAN to meet the goal. If the word "lesson" in lesson plan bothers you, then use any other word in its place. If admin asks for a lesson plan, when you send it in, put a message along with it-- "Here are my treatments plans for next week that you requested".

    It's not required at my school and I also do NOT believe it *should* be required at any school. However, until others can find a way to make their admin understand that submitting them shouldn't be a requirement, my hope is that this can direct SLPs to information and resources to make it as painless as possible in the meantime, and maybe find a small bit of purpose in making them to begin with. I use lesson plans for me and me only.

    I never spend more than 20 minutes 1 day a week (usually 5-10 using my Excel template) to get my plans complete for the next week so I know what I need to have ready, although sometimes I have to change those plans because of student needs (as you stated).

    Thank you for your feedback :)