A few years ago, our special education director decided to require that ALL special education goals be presented at graphs during annual review meetings. The rationale was that it is helpful for parents to see a visual representation of growth. At first, this seemed like an insurmountable goal for speech and language therapy. How could we possibly graph language improvement?! However, we persevered and created some systems for managing the data. We also found that parents did, in fact, appreciate the visuals, especially our English as a second language parents.
Create easily measurable goals
The first step to graphing goals is creating goals that are objectively measurable. The basic framework of any goal, whether it be articulation or language can be:
By time X, given (these materials/this setting), student will do (this measurable activity) on X/X number of trials (or with X% accuracy) given (this kind of) cues.
For articulation, this goal statement can be completed using this framework:
A measurable articulation goal would then read:
- By September 2015, in a small group setting, student will produce /s/ in word initial position on 4/5 trials when provided an immediate model.
For language therapy, the goal statement can be completed with this framework:
A measurable goal would then read:
- By September 2015, given two pictured items, student will verbally state one similarity and one difference over 4/5 trials given visual cues only (e.g. EET organizer).
Identify Activities to Measure Progress
After writing objective goals, it's helpful to find fast activities that can be used repeatedly to measure progress. For example, if a goal is to improve oral syntax for irregular verbs, a student can be asked to create 5 sentences that contain irregular verbs after looking at picture cards. Super Duper sells a number of "Fun Pack" cards that can be used for this purpose.
For Pre-K and Kindergarten students, the Kindergarten Language Benchmark Assessment (KLBA) and soon to be released Pre-KLBA are also helpful tools for objectively measuring language growth. The KLBA can be administered 3x per year to all children and is research-backed to show language growth across the year. The results can be graphed and shared with parents as described here.
It is important to note that while the goals drive the therapy, not all therapy activities will be suitable to measure progress. For example, we can objectively measure syntax improvement every week by asking the student to formulate sentences based for 5 verbal prompts or picture cards, varying the amount of support provided. However, our therapy does not consist of drilling syntax using cards like this, as there is no research to support this kind of approach. Instead, we might target improved syntax using narrative or expository texts, oral retell, and writing activities. During therapy, we can write subjective observations, such as which grammatical structures the student confused or mis-used during the session so that we can target the errors next session. For articulation therapy, we will often just write one measurable goal per sound and graph progress in just one position of the word (i.e. word final); However, we will still target the sound in all positions.
Graph the Data
Finally, graph the data you have collected. Here are some ideas:
Data Tracker App Super Duper: The app allows SLPs to create their own goals and track progress at three prompt levels. The app also alllows SLPs to assign students to groups, making it easy to input data on the spot. The app then creates graphs with a push of one button that looks like this:
Excel Templates: Another way to graph progress is to input data into an excel spread sheet. Easy Bee blogspot offers a free excel template for inputting data. The graphed data looks like this:
Pen and Paper Graphs: If computerized graphing seems overwhelming, a pen and paper graph can also be created. Playingwithwords365 blogspot offers a free graph template that can be used for goals.
Set Aside Time for Graphing
While conducting therapy, SLPs should jot down data notes on paper. After the session, or at the end of the day, all the data can be plugged into the chosen graphing system. At first, this seems like it will be extremely time consuming. However, once there's a system in place, you'll find it doesn't take much time at all. It is also possible to just choose data points from a few times throughout the year to add to the graph. Parents will be grateful for the added visual at the next IEP meeting.