Back-To-School Planning for Therapists: Plan Your Year

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Planning Ahead: A Year in a Day!

As a school-based occupational therapist, one of my favorite things to do before a new school year begins is plan out my weekly themes, craft ideas, and weeks for data collection. While I never follow it 100%, having an outline helps decrease my planning time overall. It takes me a few hours of searching Pinterest, finding holidays/national weeks to celebrate, and seasonal activities, and ta-da—I’ve planned my year! Back-to-school planning for therapists is great if you want to save time and stress during the year.

Below is my outline for this school year. Feel free to modify these ideas and use them during your own therapy school year!

Colleen’s 2018-2019 Outline

  • Week 1: Room set-up/scheduling/organizing
  • Week 2: “All About Me” page, including written descriptions of favorite summer memories
  • Week 3: Baseline data collection
  • Week 4: Fall foliage craft
  • Week 5: National Hair Day: figure-drawing using different modalities for crazy hair (pipe cleaners, yarn, paint, crayons, etc.)
  • Week 6: National Wolf Week (our mascot is a wolf so you can adjust to your own school mascot!) I found fun wolf themed worksheets here
  • Week 7: School bus safety and craft
  • Week 8: Halloween/fall themed worksheets/activities (data collection)
  • Week 9: Halloween craft
  • Week 10: Handwriting prompt “I am Thankful for…” (data collection)
  • Week 11: Geography Awareness Week: spatial awareness activities (maze, block activities, and arrow worksheet)
  • Week 12: No School (holidays)
  • Week 13: Cyber Week: iPad and computer games to encourage typing skills. One of my absolute favorite games is Tap the Frog!
  • Week 14: Dice Day: games such as Roll A Word, Left/Center/Right, with practice of gross motor movements in response to the results
  • Week 15: Holiday writing about gifts, traditions, plans, wish lists, etc. (data collection)
  • Week 16: Wii week: we only play Wii Sports or Wii Sports Resort, and the majority of my students are required to stand while playing.
  • Week 17: No School (holidays)
  • Week 18: New Year’s Resolutions/goals (data collection)
  • Week 19: National Pizza Week: including some fun themed activities (letter matching game, visual perceptual game, and direction-following game)
  • Week 20: National Handwriting Week (data collection)
  • Week 21: National Bubble Wrap Day: it can be used for more than just popping! Check out letter awareness/scanning, hop scotch and painting.
  • Week 22: Valentine’s Day: I have been doing these heart animal crafts since my first year working in schools!
  • Week 23: Handwriting prompt “I love ______ because…” (data collection)
  • Week 24: President’s Day
  • Week 25: National Polar Bear Day  
  • Week 26: Dr. Seuss’ birthday: “If I Ran the Zoo” craft
  • Week 27: Plant a seed and write down care instructions (data collection)
  • Week 28: St. Patrick’s Day worksheets/crafts
  • Week 29: National Crayon Day: color/draw/write in crayons
  • Week 30: OT Month: q-tip painting a rainbow
  • Week 31: Handwriting prompt “I love OT because…” (data collection)
  • Week 32: OT games: Pencil PowerPower Moves, and I Know What To Do
  • Week 33: Earth Day worksheets/activities
  • Week 34: National Zipper Day: practice/reinforce self-care skills
  • Week 35: Teacher Appreciation letter/picture (data collection)
  • Week 36: Mother’s Day craft
  • Week 37: Father’s Day craft
  • Week 38: Summer bucket list (data collection)
  • Week 39: Wii week/games
  • Week 40: Clean-up/pack-up

Back to School Planning for Therapists: Plan to Make Adjustments

I work in an elementary school, so my plans are geared towards more hands-on activities. When I have a theme or craft, I use it for the majority of my caseload and modify as needed. Occupational and other school-based therapists must modify and adapt activities to create the correct level of challenge for their students.

For example, let’s look ahead to one of my weekly themes: National Hair Day. I’m planning to incorporate figure-drawing for this week. Here’s 10 ideas that all work into the same craft project.

Downgrades (make the project easier/less overwhelming)

  • Have a starter image/shape
  • Use only one modality (i.e., either crayons or markers)
  • Follow step-by-step instructions or a visual model
  • Draw only a head

Upgrades (increase the challenge/add more tasks to complete)

  • Give multiple (two or three) verbal instructions to follow at a time
  • Provide many modality choices (crayons, markers, yarns, pipe cleaners, paint, paper to fold accordion style)
  • Exclude a starter image/draw a full person/add background detail

Other treatment goals: Some students don’t have fine motor/visual or their motor skills needs. I work with many students that have self-regulation needs. For those students, I typically use the Zones of Regulation program, which has four colors associated with it.

  • Add four different colors of hair for each zone using strips of paper
  • On these pieces of paper, write tools, feelings, or triggers depending on where each student is in the program
  • Draw a character and use the image to create a social story about the student

Need more ideas on back-to-school planning for therapists? Check out more PTS blog articles written by school therapists like us!

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