The Push-In Model in a Virtual Classroom

by Julie Luzier, MS, CCC-SLP

For a student with diagnoses of mixed expressive-receptive language disorder and ADHD, push-in sessions are essential to using learned literacy strategies in the classroom. Before COVID-19 closures, “LG” and I had a well-oiled approach to completing her work and to supporting her in the classroom. I attended her writing classes, prompting and providing visuals. We would move into the hall and work on assignments together. As classes moved online, I attempted push-in sessions while navigating the dynamics of teacher/student relationships, technology resources, and best practices. Through trial and error, I’ve found ways for virtual push-in speech-language sessions to be of great value to my students with learning differences.

Push In Sessions in Virtual Classrooms: How does that work?

Learning goals

  • Identify unfamiliar vocabulary from academic passages and use context clues or knowledge of affixes to determine meaning.

  • Define and use grade-level vocabulary in grammatically appropriate sentences in both written and verbal format.

  • Answer inferential and factual comprehension questions after listening to or reading a passage.

  • Demonstrate understanding of a text by saying or writing the sentence in her own words.

  • Plan appropriately for a writing prompt using a graphic organizer.

  • Answer all parts of a writing prompt.

  • Edit her work for semantic, syntactic, and punctuation errors.

Keywords

speech and language, middle school, writing, comprehension, vocabulary, teletherapy, push-in model, expressive-receptive language disorder, ADHD, learning differences

Transition to distance learning

Activities

Face to Face

  • Navigating online sources

  • Identifying relevant information for research project

  • Collecting information and paraphrasing

  • Checking for understanding using visuals

  • Defining unknown words

At a Distance

  • Navigating online sources

  • Identifying relevant information for research project

  • Collecting information and paraphrasing

  • Checking for understanding using visuals

  • Defining unknown words

Materials

Face to Face

  • Google Docs

  • Printed direction sheet

  • Book sources and online sources

  • Handheld whiteboard

  • Highlighter and pen

  • Sticky notes

At a Distance

  • Google Docs

  • Online direction sheet through Google Classroom

  • Online sources

  • Zoom break-out room

  • Virtual whiteboard through Zoom

  • Google Read&Write

  • PDF editing tool

  • Virtual sticky notes

Strategies

Face to Face

  • Speak to the classroom teacher in person before the session to learn what the class will be doing. This helps me prepare for the session.

  • Prompt student in class by providing verbal or visual cues.

  • Move into the hall or an alternate room to work with the student one-on-one.

  • Circle or highlight relevant pieces of the directions or unknown vocabulary.

  • Make a to-do list on a sticky note before beginning the assignment.

  • Read headings of sources first, then the first sentence of the paragraph.

  • Highlight relevant information using Google Read&Write.

  • Use a whiteboard to draw what was read.

  • Check for comprehension. Explain and draw on a whiteboard to aid in comprehension.

At a Distance

  • Check Google Classroom for materials and directions for that day’s class. This helps me prepare for the session.

  • Prompt the student with a visual cue using Zoom Chat, or comment on Google Docs.

  • Work with the student in a breakout room to provide one-on-one support.

  • Circle or highlight relevant pieces of directions and unknown vocabulary using the PDF toolbar, the highlighter from Google Read&Write, or Google Docs features.

  • Make a to-do list in the comments section of the Google Doc or on a virtual sticky note.

  • Read headings of sources first, then the first sentence of the paragraph.

  • Highlight relevant information using Google Read&Write/

  • Use virtual Zoom whiteboard to create drawings/timelines/notes to aid in comprehension. Save them to use later.

  • Share my screen or allow the student to share her screen, so we’re looking at an assignment or resource together.

What worked well

The tech tools were just as supportive as the in-person support that I usually provide—and sometimes even more so. Some of the tech features, such as Google Docs and the Zoom whiteboard, made it easier to save work or visuals used during the session. I could pull up any visuals needed from previous sessions during our current session. Recording Zoom sessions and saving the virtual whiteboard associated with that particular session allowed us to easily revisit visuals and strategies.

I was surprised by

The break-out room actually worked better than an in-person session. Usually, during push-in sessions, I pull a student into the hallway or remain in the classroom to work with the student one-on-one. There are typically distractions—students walking through the hall or other students asking questions; the usual background noise of a classroom. However, working with the student in a virtual break-out room through Zoom eliminated any distractions since it was just me and the student on a video call.

I was also pleasantly surprised that the switch to virtual learning and virtual therapy helped my student become more adept at using various technology resources. Assistive technology is essential for many students with learning disabilities. I believe that this online time will prove to be an asset to many students as they move forward in a more technology-dependent world.

Next time I’ll try

In my push-in sessions going forward, I’d like to try supporting the student in organizing her class materials to access them more efficiently. This particular student had many documents and resources open in different tabs on her computer. It would have been more efficient for her to have a folder in Google Drive where she could access each document needed for one particular assignment. I would also like to link or drag the visuals (from Zoom whiteboard, or from another source) directly into the related document, so that she could have visuals and corresponding information all in one location.

My big picture takeaways

Virtual push-in sessions can be effective and beneficial for students with language-based learning disabilities. Using Google and Zoom features is beneficial for students, providing effective intervention even if not face-to-face. Teaching students how to use technology resources can improve their comfort with tech and support their use of these tools going forward.

Key strategies for conducting virtual push-in sessions:

-Before conducting virtual push-in sessions, it’s important that the therapist be familiar with the technology and establish communication with the student.
-Establish rapport with the classroom teacher to share ideas, explain how a push-in session will work, and keep up with what’s happening in class.
-Use Zoom features to provide cueing, visual support, prompting, and intervention techniques. Features include break-out rooms, a chat feature, a whiteboard, and screen sharing.
-Cueing, visual support, prompting, and intervention techniques can also be provided via Google Docs (comments and editing tools are useful), Google Classroom, PDF with editing toolbar, and Google Read&Write.

About the Author

Julie Luzier, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist working with students in grades 1–8 at AIM Academy, a specialized school in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, for students with language-based learning differences. She specializes in literacy-based interventions, working with many students who have diagnosed expressive and receptive language disorder, dyslexia, executive functioning difficulty, and memory and processing disorders. At AIM Academy, Luzier is one of the handlers of a facility dog, Kelly, who assists with therapy tasks and provides comfort and joy to students. She also provides early intervention for children from birth through age 3, using a parent coaching at-home model. Previously, she worked in a public school in Wilmington, Delaware, providing treatment to students with a variety of complex disabilities from low-income households.

Luzier has conducted research in interdisciplinary education through the arts. She is an author and the creator of Leaps for Language: Integrating Literacy and Dance, an initiative through the ArtsBridge America program. She holds a BS in cognitive science from the University of Delaware, and an MS in speech-language pathology from Loyola University Maryland. In her free time, she performs in community theater, and loves to sing, dance, be out in nature, and spend time with animals, friends, and family.

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