Co-Teaching for SLPs & Special Education Classroom Teachers

Kara A. Jones, a fellow SLP whom I attended Grad School with,

shares her triumphs with Co-Teaching!

–Check out her blog HERE.–


Co-Teaching for SLPs & Special Education Classroom Teachers

As an SLP who works in the public schools, I’m usually placed at a school with at least one “self-contained” class or “special day class.”  The children in this class often have the greatest needs out of my caseload for communication, social, and behavioral skills.

Below is a picture of my High School students learning to make pizza (along with using AAC) during a co-taught lesson

Co-Teaching (SLPs and Special Education Classroom Teachers) Students learning to make pizza (along with using AAC) during a co-taught lesson

Why Co-Teach?

buck the traditional pull-out model with these children.  Here is why:

  • #1 – I have a large percentage of the classroom on my caseload. Yes, I’ve had 12/14 students in a self-contained special education preschool classroom.  Co-teaching was an excellent way to monitor carryover, discover new areas of need, have more flexibility in my schedule, and (let’s be honest) mark kids on my attendance.
  •  #2 – I’m the area expert on AAC. When I co-teach, I bring in AAC and adapted learning elements into the classroom to inspire and educate classroom teachers.  I can model the use of the child’s AAC device for the child, the paraprofessionals (paras), and the classroom teacher.  Hate when you come into the room and see the device on the shelf?  You should be spending more time in that room!
  • #3 – It’s easier to just stay in the room. Let’s face it: many of these children have mobility or behavior problems that make traveling in the hallways or going to a separate room more difficult.  Co-teaching allows me to benefit from the presence of the classroom teacher and paras in the room when I have tricky students.



Instead of drilling these children on skills, I like to introduce them and practice them in a natural environment.  For example:

  • If a preschooler has a goal to work on expanding vocabulary, we can read a story and identify and use new vocabulary in related activities.
  • A high-schooler in a self-contained class can also have functional vocabulary addressed in a cooking or craft session.  Often my data collection will consist of a list of new words discussed/learned in this lesson and a subjective statement.

If I have specific goals I need to collect data on, I can always quickly drill and probe for percentages after the lesson or the next day I’m in the classroom.  This is where writing classroom friendly goals come in.  If you haven’t read it, check out the blog post on ASHA about thematic goals by Maria Del Duca (“Kid Confidential: Using Thematic Therapy to Write Goals”).

Using AAC when co-teaching

Attainment Company’s Big Button

AAC/Adapted Lessons

I think that what keeps me coming back to co-teaching is the AAC/adapted element.  I often have a few non-verbal students in each self-contained class.  Incorporating AAC and adapted elements allows these children a chance to truly participate in the classroom lesson.  Some of my favorite ways to adapt lessons are:

  • #1 – Manipulatives and Picture Symbols:  This means using colorful images that can be moved in different locations with Velcro.  I am not just talking about choosing Mayer-Johnson symbols.  I am talking about being able to select and manipulate story characters, song elements, and answers to questions posed by myself and the teacher.  For some inspiration, check out Super Power Speech’s File Folder Songs for Basic Language (Find it HERE) & the Interactive Sing-a-Long books from Super Duper (Find it HERE).

Not a singer? 

You can scan and print in color characters of favorite stories (e.g., Rosie’s Walk, The Gingerbread Man).  Manipulatives can be moved on felt boards, on set areas of a book or board, or on your own body! Make sure you follow the Velcro Rule.


  • I have seen classroom teachers go beyond pictures and use physical elements, for example, using actual Band-Aids for Shel Silverstein’s poem “Band-Aids” (Where the Sidewalk Ends).  The classroom teacher had the child move their Band-Aid to a different body part to correspond to lines of the poem.
  • I get a lot of inspiration for adapted materials from News-2-You (“n2y”) (*Check to see if your school has a subscription) and Speaking of Speech’s Cooking page.


Example of n2y Adapted Recipe

  •  #2 – Talking elements:  Many kid friendly books have familiar refrains.  One of my favorite uses of the Big Button is, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”  This gives my non-verbal kiddos a chance to have a voice for the whole class to hear with plenty of opportunities for practice.  You better believe teachers and paras will be impressed when they hear the child use the Button at an appropriate time!  An 8-frame tech talk can be great for elements of a story, too.  I have used Brown Bear, Brown Bear characters on each button.


Putting the Co- in Co-teach

As SLPs, we are communication specialists.  We of all people can overcome the obstacles to effectively communicate, plan and co-teach with the Special Education teachers and paras.  While making the leap from your cozy speech room to the classroom can be scary at first, you will be overwhelmed by the way it can transform your day and the lives of these children.  I look forward to my co-taught classes because I make them fun and interesting for all to participate in!


If you co-teach, what drives you? 

If you haven’t tried it yet, what’s holding you back?



2 thoughts on “Co-Teaching for SLPs & Special Education Classroom Teachers

  1. How do you calculate your service minutes? I have been co-teaching daily with a fellow sped teacher, combined with providing pull-out sessions a few times per week. Recently I have had questions regarding how I am calculating my minutes. Any input you have would be greatly appreciated!

    • I sent your comment to Kara and this is how she responded:
      You should calculate therapy minutes just as if you were pushing in. I think the important thing is having your weekly schedule documented, should someone say you are not providing services per the child’s IEP. On paper, I have my students blocked off into “groups” for 30 minute sessions during the co-teaching time. For example, I may have 8 speech students in the class, I “see” 4 in the first 30 minutes and another 4 in the next 30 minutes of my co-taught lesson. All my students are on a set weekly schedule. I try to strategically balance who gets more pull-out time (usually those children with more service minutes) and who gets more co-taught time (the students seem to do better with co-teaching).

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