Q. How can this app be used to help speech and language development?
A. This app lends itself to a wide range of oral and written language goals:
1. Narrative Language Skills: The transition from speaking in simple phrases to more complete, connected sentences is often a challenge. This story lends itself well to increasing the mean length of utterance, plot development, adding detail, and joining related sentences with cohesion and clarity
Added tips for professionals:
- For struggling writers, consider setting up the writing section as a cloze activity so that the child can simply fill in a missing word OR have the adult type what the child says.
- Help the child with a good opening and closing sentence. How can we start a story? Initiation is often a huge problem with narrative tasks. Having a stock of good openers helps get the ball rolling. For fun, put them on index cards and have the child pick a new one to use each time.
- When printing out the story, consider having the child cut and paste these pages into a homemade book. The child can draw the matching art. Don’t forget you can take a screenshot on the iPad (hold down the home button and press/release the power button at the same time). These can be synched to other devices such as a laptop and printed out as well.
- Have the child cover up the words and try to “tell the story” again by just looking at the pictures.
2. Body language Interpretation: Because it is a wordless story, the viewer needs to carefully watch the characters’ facial expressions and body language in order to understand the plot. This is an important skill for social-cognitive/pragmatic inference development.
- You will notice that a number of the supplied questions for each scene target interpretation of the character’s thoughts or emotions. Use the pause feature to really look at the characters’ faces and body language.
- Work on putting together a dictionary of facial expressions and body language for this story. The child can draw them (or print out selected pictures) and write what that face/body language means.
- Consider having the child role-play the characters. This works on controlling one’s own body and face, and increases awareness of how to move and look to convey a particular message or emotion.
3) Perspective-taking: The plot switches back and forth between the boy’s point of view and the mother’s. What are they thinking? What does the mom know and when? How can we tell? How do the friends feel when the mother waves them away?
- Incorporate dialogue into the child’s story. This helps develop the child’s ability to “get inside someone else’s head.” By giving the character words, “Joe said, ‘Quick, get under the covers!” you can switch back and forth between the boy, the mother and the dog.
- Also consider what the characters are thinking. Use the opportunity to talk about words that reference how people are talking and thinking. For example: The mother looked suspicious/The boy wondered if the mother realized the dog was under the covers/The mother said sternly, “Sorry, but you are sick, remember?”
4) Emotional Labels: By reading facial expressions and looking at the context of the story, vocabulary can be incorporated that includes emotional context: wondering, surprised, nervous, disappointed, etc.
- Before starting the story, put together a group of words on a paper. Some of them should belong in the story and some should not. As the story moves along, have the child circle each emotion/state of being used.
5) Syntax & Morphology:
- Before playing, try to decide if you are going to have the child record this narration in present progressive tense (“He is walking along the sidewalk”) as the action happens or in the past tense to talk about what was just seen (“He came home and opened the door.”)
- This story lends itself well to using connectors such as so, because, while, etc. Consider having them on cards in front of the child, with a choice of two or three. Write out two sentences in the writing section and have the child help you find the correct word to tie them together. For example : The boy poked his head into the house and looked around. He didn’t want anyone to see the dog. These two sentences can be joined by the word “because” .
- Challenge the child to make sentences that have a particular number of words or more. If the goal is more elaboration, award each word used a point and give each narrative a total score. With each new narrative, try to improve the score.
- Choose a name for the boy and dog that offers repetitive practice of a target sound. For example, if you are working on “r”, the dog can be “Robert” or “Charlie”.
- Upon playback, the child can work on self-monitoring, fluency and naturalness with a new sound and unprompted carryover.
- Upon playback, count the number of correct target productions. Try to challenge the child to make up a story that uses as many as possible.
7) Fluency: Children who are working on using fluent speech can use this app to practice their skills in a fun way.
- Remember to start at a level of success! You may want to stay at the word or phrase level before moving to sentences. For example, the child may finish a sentence for you in a cloze manner (“The boy…put the dog… in his…?”) so that the narrative is a tag-team process.
- With severe cases, it may be helpful to have the child write the story out and read it. As he/she becomes more confident, consider hiding the writing and performing the recording without it.