The School SLP

Collaborating, Co-Teaching, and Pushing-In For SLPs

push-in therapy

How To Provide Effective “Push-In Therapy” And Stay Sane As A School SLP

Are there any school SLPs out there who feel like they have got a collaborative teaching model completely figured out? If so- hit us up and share all of your secrets! It seems like most of us are still trying to figure this out. I certainly am! This is a blog post I plan to continually come back to and update as I learn more about how to best navigate these delivery models! For now, here’s what I have found to work.

“Push In Therapy” vs. “Pull Out Therapy”

“Should I be pushing-in?” is a frequent question many SLPs are asking. It’s also becoming common to hear of districts pushing SLPs to be instructing in the classroom as much as possible. Many SLPs are questioning whether this service delivery model is what’s best for all of their students. Obviously, there is not a one-size fits all service delivery model since we serve such diverse populations. This article from The Informed SLP summarizes some of the research. The conclusion seems to be that whatever you may call these services (e.g. push-in, coteaching, etc), they will likely be more effective if they involve planning and collaborating with the classroom or special ed teacher.  More planning?!  We all have time for that- right? It can be frustrating when research seems to support what is least practical for our schedules as school SLPs! However, I don’t think all hope is lost. It is possible to provide effective collaborative services and plan with teachers. Read on!

The Reality

All good things take time! I feel like I’ve reached the level of true “collaboration” with one teacher currently, despite “pushing-in” to several classes. But next year I’m hoping that number will increase to two or three teachers. Real talk: it can be hard to invite yourself into a classroom, and even harder to ask a busy teacher to take time out of their schedule to plan with you. This is what that process has looked like for me.

The Process

  1. My services in the classroom definitely started out as what the article describes as pushing-in without collaboration. I showed up and tried to fit in speech and language lessons where they fit with the teacher’s lesson. But what I found was that the teachers saw what I was doing when I was “assist” teaching and loved it, and it invited a natural next step for them to want to start planning and collaborating together.
  2. Similar to when you’re learning to plan therapy in grad school, it may take some time at first. I don’t know of a way around that. But, what I’ve found is that the longer you work together the more quickly you can plan. A teacher that I’ve worked with for a year and I can now plan in a quick email once a week.

2. I started out only “pushing-in” to one classroom. Eventually, that teacher began telling other teachers how great it was to have my help in the classroom. This began to open more doors and teachers were asking me to teach with them. Next year I have talked with several teachers and have plans to collaborate with one classroom teacher per grade (PK-4th).

3.  Helpful factors certainly include how the kids on your caseload are organized into classrooms and teaching styles. If possible, ask to place kids on your caseload into 1 or 2 classes to minimize the amount of people to plan with.

Practical Ideas!

Here are some practical ideas to utilize when providing collaborative services. I plan to update this section with ideas frequently.

  1. We are the vocabulary experts! One thing I’ve noticed is that many teachers don’t realize that their students don’t always know the words they are reading- because the students usually don’t say anything! We will hand out colored pencils and have students “race” to raise their hand when they come across a word they don’t recognize. The winner gets to write down the word on a share piece of paper using their color. This also teaches students to recognize when they don’t know a word. See this activity in action here. I always make sure to have my iPad with me to be ready to look up unknown words to provide multiple visuals using a quick google search. Research suggests increased benefits when students are provided with multiple examples (with varying size, shape, color of object) of a new vocabulary word. Read the plain language summary of the article here.
  2. Semantic maps and venn diagrams are another great way to enhance vocabulary in the curriculum. And they are flexible tools that can be adapted for any topic!  You can use semantic maps in science when talking about reptiles in 4th grade or with 1st grader’s describing their favorite toy.

More ideas!

  1. No one loves highlighters more than SLPs. We’ll use them in the classroom to highlight targeted speech sounds in the curriculum. They can also be used to highlight new vocabulary words, main ideas, supporting details, prefixes, suffixes, and targeted morphemes while we read about the rainforest in a 2nd grade classroom,
  2. Social learning goals can certainly be targeted in the classroom! Many of these students have difficulty with perspective taking which impacts reading comprehension. During reading, we’ll pause to draw thought bubbles and generate possible thoughts and feelings for characters in the story.
  3. Are your students learning about a non-fiction unit? Plan time for them to combine two separate facts into one sentence using complex sentence structure. Example: “Whales have blubber because it keeps them warm in cold waters.”
  4. One teacher and I planned regular and irregular “past tense weeks.” I taught about past tense and Students’ spelling lists and books that week contained a plethora of past tense words.

The Best Part!

I mentioned earlier that many teachers didn’t realize that their students didn’t always know the words they were reading, especially if they had no problems decoding that word! As SLPs, we know to look for that! The more that I collaborate and plan with teachers, the more I hear that they’re using the techniques and strategies that I use when I’m not there! With a caseload of 80, my schedule doesn’t allow for me to be in each child’s class daily.  But teachers that I collaborate with are constantly catching me in the hallways saying things like, “Johnny didn’t need any reminders for his /l/ sounds today!” or “Ashley was describing different flowers without a visual!” Collaborative teaching is certainly not for every child and situation, but nothing beats knowing that teachers are learning from our strategies and using them in the classroom when we aren’t there!


Have any questions about collaborative teaching or have a solution that we need to try? Email us at






Aguilar, J., Plante, E., & Sandoval, M., (2018). Exemplar variability facilitates retention of word learning by children with specific language impairment. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49, 72-84.

Cirrin, F. M., Schooling, T. L., Nelson, N. W., Diehl, S. F., Flynn, P. F., Staskowski, M., . . . Adamczyk, D. F. (2010). Evidence-Based Systematic Review: Effects of Different Service Delivery Models on Communication Outcomes for Elementary School-Age Children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in the Schools, 41(3), 233–264.