Using a Virtual Speech Therapy Room in Teletherapy
There's no doubt about it– teletherapy is the preferred setting for this SLP. I love everything about it. But when it comes to readying a speech therapy room, I do get a little envious of in-person SLPs.
Personalizing a space with your speech therapy essentials, gear, and swag is kinda fun, right? And some teletherapists might long for the ability to create that customized space. But where there's a will, there's a way 💪
During the days of distance learning, many teachers and SLPs pivoted by creating virtual classrooms to welcome their students to school and therapy.
And like most trends, I'm a few steps (or years) behind. While I could do without many of the once-normal circumstances of the pandemic (DIY haircuts and Zoom baby showers, for example) virtual speech therapy rooms are one that I am keeping around.
For those SLPs that ongoingly provide teletherapy, virtual therapy rooms are a way to add some flair, functionality, and organization to the day-to-day.
What is a virtual speech therapy room?
A virtual speech therapy room is set up as a Google Slides or PowerPoint presentation. The background is a digital representation of a physical speech therapy room. Other than the floor and walls, it can contain furniture (like a table, chair, and bookshelf) and accessories (like a rug, lamp, and plant).
Overlaid on the background are additional pictures linking to various digital activities– Boom Cards, Google Slides activities, websites, etc. Editable text boxes may also be included. When shown to students via screen-share, an SLP can use it to structure their sessions and provide quick links to... anywhere! I think of a virtual therapy room as a teletherapist's (student-facing) "hub" of information.
Why should teletherapists use a virtual speech therapy room?
Virtual speech therapy rooms are not just cute– they're also very functional! Teletherapists may find that the physical distance causes it to be more challenging to make connections with their students. So a virtual therapy room allows SLPs to bring some of the familiarity of a physical speech therapy room to sessions.
And just as SLPs love to accessorize their physical spaces, a virtual speech therapy room adds a personal touch to teletherapy. Oftentimes, the room sparks conversation from otherwise reluctant or shy students. You can change it up as often as you'd like to!
More important than the aesthetic is the ability to customize the digital room to your specific caseload. Visuals are not only helpful for all the reasons we SLPs love them, but images that represent each activity can encourage student-led therapy. For example, students can choose from a set of books for a particular theme or help determine the order of the activities in the session.
I am an SLP who thrives on gathering an assortment of activities each week. I pick and choose from them (adapting each as necessary) to work with most or all of my caseload. So, I love virtual therapy rooms as a way to help me organize links to the week's activities (particularly for a specific theme)!
Virtual speech therapy rooms can also alleviate planning time. Once you create a virtual room, you can keep it to use year after year. Your next year's self will love you for having a perfectly clickable lesson plan ready to go!
Other than helping save links to favorite teletherapy websites, virtual speech therapy rooms can serve as a parent and student communication tool. Once the room is shared with parents, you can create a space in the room for speech therapy homework activities– links to Boom Card decks work amazing! You might also share it with your caseload to provide your contact info or a direct link to your video conferencing platform (e.g. Zoom).
How do you create a virtual speech therapy room?
No intricate tech skills are needed to make your very own virtual speech therapy room– anyone can do it! Here's the nitty-gritty of how to turn a blank slide into an interactive classroom.
CREATE THE BACKGROUND.
First, we'll make a background using pictures of objects (clip art or online images) that we don't want to be clickable or movable.
If you don't feel like scouring the internet for each object in the room, grab a ready-to-go set of virtual classroom images (png files with transparent backgrounds) and let your design skills shine! If you're an email subscriber, you can also download a ready-made background in the freebie library! Otherwise, follow these steps:
Start with a blank slide in a presentation program such as Google Slides or PowerPoint. You can choose the dimensions, but a 16x9 size works well.
Add the background images. PNG files work best since they have a transparent background and layer nicely on each other. This might include things like the wall, floor, a whiteboard, and furniture. Google Slides: Click "Insert", "Image", and choose your source. Or click and drag pictures from a file on your desktop into the presentation. PowerPoint: Click "Insert", "Pictures", and choose your source. Or click and drag pictures from a file on your desktop into the presentation.
Arrange items on the slide, ensuring the frontmost items are not covered by those farther back. Google Slides: Right-click the object, hover over "Order" and make your selection. PowerPoint: Right-click on the object and choose "Bring to Front" or "Send to Back".
Once you have all the static components laid out, save the whole slide as a JPEG file. Google Slides: Click "File", hover over "Download", and select "JPEG Image". PowerPoint: Click "File" then "Export". Under the "Change File Type" menu, select JPEG.
ADD THE BACKGROUND TO THE VIRTUAL CLASSROOM.
Next, we'll add the background image that we just created to (what will eventually be) the virtual speech therapy room.
Open a new presentation (in Google Slides or PowerPoint). Make sure the slide dimensions match those of the image you created in the above steps.
Format the slide background to be the image you created. Google Slides: Right-click on the blank slide and select "Change Background". Search for the image you created and downloaded above. PowerPoint: Right-click on the blank slide and select "Format Background". Search for the image you created and downloaded above.
ADD MOVABLE PARTS... AND THEIR LINKS.
Now we'll add the elements of the classroom that will change more regularly.
Insert pictures into the presentation on top of the static background that you already added. These may be visual representations of activities (e.g. icons, clip art, screenshots), fillable text boxes, seasonal room decor, or a personal avatar (like a Bitmoji).
Add clickable links to the images and/or text for any sites you want to link to. Google Slides: Click the item (or highlight the text). Click "Insert", "Link", and paste the link. PowerPoint: Click the item (or highlight the text). Right-click, select "Hyperlink", and paste the link.
Ta-da! You did it. If video tutorials are more your thing, here's a demonstration of each step:
What are some types of activities to link to?
The sky's the limit! In your virtual speech therapy room, you can create links to anything that has a web address. That includes...
YouTube videos (e.g. music, virtual field trips, cartoon clips)
Polls and quizzes (e.g. Kahoot!)
Website games (e.g. PBS Kids, ToyTheater, Baamboozle)
Website activities or reinforcement activities (e.g. ABCya!, digital coloring)
Online articles or e-books
Pretty cool, huh? Virtual classrooms might just be all they're hyped up to be! Not only are they fun and interesting to look at and use, but they can really help an SLP out.
Whether it's to store your activity links, give students a sense of familiarity (since they resemble a real speech therapy room), or provide helpful visuals, virtual speech therapy rooms are definitely worth a try!
📌 Got a speech therapy board on Pinterest? SAVE the love ❤️