Using Literature for Middle School Speech Services

If you are providing services for our littlest or elementary friends, there is an abundance of materials.  However, once you hit secondary level, you will find an immediate reduction of materials out there.  Why?  Personally, I think it is because by the time we hit middle school and high school age, our caseloads reduce.  Hopefully, if we did our job well and families are involved, the number of students working on that dreaded R are reduced drastically, students who stutter have learned and generalized strategies, and many language skills are addressed within the classroom curriculum.  Even with all of that happening, we still get a few middle school or high school students who need speech-language services and it isn’t just for functional communication. What can we do to target so many varied goals when the materials are simply far and few?  My answer…. pull out a book! Not just any book though!  Collaborate with their English Language Arts Teacher, Resource Teacher, and the student.  What book are they reading in class?  What types of books do they enjoy? Oh, they don’t like reading?  Well, that is not uncommon for that age group.  So what type of things are they interested in that you might find a book they will like at your local library, book store, or campus library (I check it out at my public library and the school library).  This is how you can incorporate literature to target speech and language targets at the secondary level:

ARTICULATION- Complete a sound search.  If you have a student that is determined to get out of speech, assign a few pages or a chapter for the week, and have them fold a piece of paper into three parts.  As they read the assigned part, they need to write down the words containing their sound in the three sections (initial, medial, final).  Then they practice their sound at their level (usually by secondary level, they are using in extended speech but some are still at word level).  When they meet up with you again, you can compare notes by checking that with the assigned area that they caught them all and have the student practice during the session using at their level.  For those students that are working on generalizing their sound in conversational speech, have them summarize what happened in the story during the assigned reading, or talk about what they liked most/least about that part of the story, or what three questions (and why) they would ask a character if they were a part of the story at that point.

FLUENCY-  Take turns reading using strategies!  Or discuss the story up to the part that you left off to generalize using strategies in conversation.  Can they catch themselves or you (you may need to psudo-stutter from time to time) in a stutter? Discuss how you all  modified the stutter or shaped it into fluent speech.  You can also tape record the small sections read via your phone or a tape recorder to listen to and compare tally totals or discuss types of stutter and techniques that may need additional practice.

LANGUAGE-  It is highly unlikely that you will pull a student out to work on language.  However, it does happen.  So, whether you pull them out or push in for services, the following approach works well either way.   If you push in, ask to pull in when working on a story in class.  Otherwise, if I’m working on language with a literature approach, I try to group (as best as I can) my language students for a book club.  While collaborating with their ELA Teacher or Resource Teacher, I find out the syllabus for the book so when I go in I am caught up in the story also.  I confirm with my colleague that I have the right section.  When we discuss the section, we (Teacher and Self in a Co-Teach situation) throw out vocabulary for the students to define and use in a sentence,  ask for antonyms/synonyms for vocabulary words, ask wh- questions, sequence of events in that section of the story, summarizing, and call on one to three students to “take the perspective” of the characters in the portion of the story we are discussing and have the class take turns asking their peer questions about that section of the story and the “student characters” respond.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING LITERATURE FOR SECONDARY SPEECH SERVICES?  I find that I get greater buy in to working on their speech and language skills since it is usually a book that interests them.  If it isn’t necessary a book that interests them but that they must read anyways, reviewing the information helps them recall it later and supports their participation with the curriculum.  For me, the benefit is that it does not take much prep work, no printing necessary (except my notes or words I wish to target), and the student leads most of the session!  Win-Win-Win!

On a side note, if there is not a specific book being covered in class or you find a hard time finding a book of interest, Magazines work great too.  I once had a pair of girls in 6th grade that ONLY wanted to talk about their favorite boy band.  They would bring in every magazine they had at home to discuss the articles, music, and just how dreamy the boys and their music was.  I had my fill of Teen Bop that year!  It was fun for all of us though and they managed to get a lot of conversational practice on R.

What are your experiences using literature to address speech and language targets in Middle School?  We would love to hear from you!  How do you use literature for speech services in the secondary education setting?


  1. Tamatha, great post! I used to cover middle school langue-based classrooms, and co-teach some of the time. It’s difficult with middle schoolers. By this time they are sick and tired of therapy. And, since I covered the language-based classes K-8, they were tired of me, too. Literature was definitely the way to go, either with classroom books or self-chosen. Thanks for some great ideas.

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