Speech room organization may seem impossible for busy SLPs. In fact, I think it’s one of the hardest things about being an SLP.
Does Speech Room Organization Really Matter?
The answer is ‘Absolutely, Yes!! You need to organize your speech room!’. Staying organized over the course of the school year is a big challenge. That’s because your caseload is constantly changing as you add and dismiss students. Their therapy needs change too, requiring you to adjust your materials. Also, you have to move paperwork around, add new files, and remove old ones. Therapy and evaluations are a breeze — sometimes it’s actually harder to stay on top of materials, students’ files, and your paperwork than to work with students!
If you prioritize speech room organization from the start, that’s great. But let’s face it: that does not always happen. Maybe your school assignment changes last minute because programs change buildings or, worse yet, you lose your space, or your stuff got totally moved around because of summer school.
These tips will help you get organized now – it doesn’t matter what time of year it is!
1) File Cabinet Fun
Speech files contain private health information and need to be in a locked file cabinet. Even though you don’t work in a clinic, you still need to make sure IEPs and therapy notes are safe from prying eyes. I believe it is sufficient if files are in a cabinet in a locked room. If you don’t have access to a file cabinet, ask for some file space in a case manager or administrator’s office. Grab a copy of your caseload list and make sure each student has a manila file. Add new students and remove all the old students’ files, putting them in a “dismissed/transferred” section in another area. I’ve worked in so many schools where the current files were clogged with dismissed students information. Out with the clutter!
2) Organize or Request a Shelf
Do you have enough shelf space? You might have more than you think. Take 15 minutes to go through everything. Last year when we were packing up stuff for the summer, we found a bunch of things that were super old and had not been used for some time. They were hiding! If you still need a shelf, ask your assistant principal or the custodian. They usually have an inventory of available school furniture and can let you know. One year I went on Craigslist and found a small, red wooden shelf for $30. It suited my speech room fine and has been used year after year. Don’t forget to label it with your name if you own it!
3) Plastic Baggies are Your Friend
These are a great for speech room organization. Go to the dollar store and buy baggies of all sizes. I put my Cariboo cards by season in the snack size, artic cards in the sandwich size, and larger letter-size worksheets in the freezer bags. Then label them using a sharpie. That way I don’t have little scraps of paper floating around my speech room. Now I can just grab them and use them right away in therapy. I put the baggies in labeled hanging files in my file cabinet. If you travel, you might want to invest in a travel box with hanging files so those materials can stay organized while being portable.
4) Scrap the Inbox
I used to keep a basket on my desk that was meant to temporarily hold any random paperwork that I was working on. That turned into a a place where paperwork went to die. When I would go through it, I found stuff I didn’t even remember putting there, like old freebies downloaded from Teacherspayteachers or a random lost artic card. Instead of any inbox, I would suggest filing something immediately or putting away cards and games by the end of the day. It takes two seconds and then you are done (and nothing will haunt you later).
5) IEP Computer System and Paperwork Tutorial Binder
It’s funny how you need to write a bunch of IEPs every year and each time you open up a blank IEP you forget what you need to write! I keep a binder of screenshots and and paragraphs of ideas for each blank in the IEP. Those tricks of the computer system are written down and easily referred to when I’m writing an IEP. That binder helps me keep my information organized and it’s a such time saver!
6) Go “Deskless”
Many teachers are ditching the traditional heavy teacher’s desk to keep a laptop to one side of a kidney-shaped table in their classrooms. If you can do it, try to avoid having a desk. It’s super hard for me personally because I love having a desk (it just feels like a little home at school for all my stuff), but really it is unnecessary, especially if you travel. All a desk does is make space for more clutter!
7) Toss the Goal Binder
Every year I’ve made a goal binder where I put every student’s IEP goals (alphabetically by student last name). But after the first few days of school, the binder just sat on my desk. I didn’t update it because it was the last thing on my mind. So, this year I’m just going to go without the goal binder and do what I was already doing: looking up goals in the computer system or in the student’s files. It’s quicker and it keeps students’ files safe.
No matter if it’s back-to-school time or winter break or there is a month left of school – these tips will help you stay on top of speech room organization and give you more time to do therapy or perform evaluations — and not get bogged down in clutter!
Bio: Sarah Wu is a bilingual speech-language pathologist from Chicago, Illinois. She blogs at speechisbeautiful.com