At the elementary school level, we all can attest to seeing students who, narratively, get stuck at what we might call the “andthenandthenandthen” stage. The official name for this stage is the Action Sequence, and it is comprised of Characters, Settings, and a series of Actions with little variation in conjunction use. These students benefit from structures and contexts to move them into using to more complex story elements and cohesive ties such as when, because, and so. Mindwing’s narrative maps, particularly the Reactive Sequence and Abbreviated Episode Maps can provide that structure: (*Maps can be found in the Story Grammar Marker® Teachers’ Manual and the Talk to Write, Write to Learn™ Teachers’ Manual )
To construct a story where a character is in a particular setting when a kickoff occurs, so he/she reacts in a certain way.
To construct a story in which a character is in a particular setting when a kickoff occurs, so he/she has a feeling about it and makes a particular plan, resulting in a conclusion.
While these maps provide a structure, instructionally we also need a context. Comics are one way to provide that! Kids love comics, and narratively they tend to be shorter and work according to these structures. You can of course easily draw 4-panel comics, but there are a couple of great technology resources that you can employ to scaffold students to the next narrative level.
First up, MakeBeliefsComix (yes, I spelled that right) is a great simple web app you can use to make comics. This Flash-based (therefore, non-functional on iPad) website allows you to drag and drop characters, backgrounds, props and word/thought balloons into a scene. I recently used this site in a classroom to develop narrative as well as the social thinking™ skill of “defeating GlassMan ® moments.” From Think Social Publishing, this concept relates to using self-talk and other strategies to regulate our responses to small problems across the day. Kids in the class received instruction on narrative structure and thinking strategies, and were asked to make a comic showing a character experiencing (or defeating) a GlassMan moment, basically a Reactive Sequence or Abbreviated Episode:
Mindwing’s Universal Magnets used to show what can happen in each panel, along with strategies the students could show the character using in a Plan to “defeat” a problem.
The super-simple MakeBeliefsComix site allows you to “Select emotions, objects, scenes, balloons and panel prompts to tell the story.” The resulting cartoon can be saved by emailing it to an established email account:
One students’ creation depicts Abraham Lincoln dealing with the kickoff of losing his bird companion by using self-talk!
This lesson could also be accomplished using the new iPad app Big Nate: Comix by U! HD ($4.99, separate version for iPod is priced at $3.99), based on the popular book series. Like many iPad apps, this one opens with a great tutorial and works similarly to MakeBeliefComix, allowing you to tap and drag all the necessary elements of a fun story!
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.