SLPs and teachers working in language intervention often turn to wordless picture books as a fun context to develop storytelling skills. Series such as Mercer Mayer’s “A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog...” tell stories through pictures and ask readers to tease out the story, inferring the important details and relying on characters’ facial expressions to glean important clues. Similarly popular are David Wiesner’s Tuesday and Sector 7, which depict narrative through fantastical illustrations, and Alexandra Day’s Carl series, in which a dog goes to great, un-dog-like lengths to care for his charge, a little girl named Madeleine.
I have long been a fan of using such visual narrative materials with students, not only to develop storytelling skills, but also to work on Social Thinking™ concepts and perspective taking. Wordless (or word-minimal) videos also can be a terrific resource, as the characters are animated and require students to interpret body language in more real-life timeframes. The trouble is, videos can sometimes be hard to find and curate for use in therapy, as they tend to exist in helpful 5-minute clips within DVDs, or on YouTube here and there.
For this reason, I was thrilled to recently discover (via a friend’s Facebook post) Simon’s Cat, the YouTube series of short wordless (but meow-ful) videos in which a cat gets into various adventures, usually much to the chagrin of his owner. The naturally food-obsessed and self-centered Cat, across 17 (!) different videos available on the Simon’s Cat Channel, can be followed as he chases insects, interacts with hedgehogs, and often endeavors to be the center of his owner’s attention.
Take, for example, the hysterical “Let Me In,” in which the Cat, um, shatters the problem of a closed patio door. Like many of the videos in the series, the narrative can be analyzed as a complete episode using Mindwing’s Story Grammar Marker icons:
Clinicians will have a choice of a wide range of videos in the Simon’s Cat series in order to construct a character study for students, and the videos can be explored at various narrative levels, from Action Sequence to Complete Episode. Kids are sure to love them; I have received enthusiastic responses (and requests for more) Simon’s Cat after using the videos with both primary and upper elementary students, and I am sure older students would respond positively as well!
If YouTube is blocked in your district, be sure to check out my post about how to download videos at home and use them at school.
Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He has presented on the topic of technology integration in speech and language at the ASHA convention and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens and one of the editors of TherapyApp411.