This post is the fourth in our SGM® Summer Study Series. We and guest bloggers have been sharing research articles with connections to the methodologies of Story Grammar Marker®, Braidy, the Storybraid® and Thememaker®. The purpose of this series is to provide ideas and support for using our tools and expand your thinking during these summer months!
Narrative seems to be “having a moment” in research circles, with a number of recent articles being published related to the why and how of developing storytelling skills. One of the most exciting pieces is “Classroom-Based Narrative and Vocabulary Instruction: Results of an Early-Stage, Nonrandomized Comparison Study,” (Gillam, Olszewski, Fargo & Gillam, 2014) detailing a study primarily conducted by Utah State University and published in Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools (and available to ASHA members in full text here).
This study com-pared the results of narrative and vocabulary instruction via a traditional versus an experimental approach in two first grade classrooms.
We’d encourage you to read the entire article as part of your “summer studies,” and it would be a great context for a discussion session among colleagues when you return to school in the fall, but some of the main points are as follows:
The results of the study indicate that it is definitely one for your Evidence-Based Practice file around your instructional tools, particularly SGM®! Although the specifics of some of the instruc-tional practices, for example the nature or type of the icons used to prompt story grammar ele-ments are not detailed here, it is quite easy to see the connections with the Story Grammar Marker methodology. The article also has implications for how we might go forward in using SGM® most effectively.
When working in public schools and even now as a consultant, I have always been an advocate for whole-class instruction in tools that would benefit an entire class, and SGM has been a consistent presence in these lessons over the years. The study supports specific narrative instruction as beneficial to all students in a classroom; this research would be on point in discussions with reluctant principals or teachers who may think your push-in therapy is detrimental to “time in learning.”
Fostering Connections between the Story Elements
This study showed that repeated and frequent modeling and practice in retelling and generating stories while linguistically connecting story parts was more effective than traditional methods (e.g. wh- questions) in the comparison classroom. This can shape how we use SGM, as many clinicians and students can get stuck in a simple-sentence mode that sounds like this: “The character is….The setting is…The kickoff is…” While this is indeed a good step in comprehension and use of story elements, students benefit from focused modeling of the connections and cohesive ties that can be used to make a story map sound more like a real story!
One step I have found effective in making this transition to complexity is to write key connecting words on story maps to provide a visual scaffold, as in this example. Different key words and cohesive ties can of course be used and modeled!
This particular area of the study also reinforces the features of the SGM® iPad App, which, rather than allowing for recordings of students describing each narrative element individually, facilitates a visually supported—by the SGM® icons—recording of a complete story with all the connections between the elements. The students’ ability to then hear the story aloud provides an additional model and reinforcement!
Listening for the “Meta”
One other aspect of the classroom instruction involved students listening to classmates’ narratives and “marking off on bingo cards” the story elements they heard addressed within the narrative. While this could be achieved with other MindWing products such as the Universal Magnet Set, one of my favorite hands-on narrative tools, this suggests another activity that could be completed with the SGM® App. Because individual icons can be added to the Reporter’s Note-book, children could be engaged in doing this receptively as they listen to others’ stories, thus keeping all engaged!
Gillam, S.L., Olszewski, A., Fargo, J., Gillam, R.B. (2014). Classroom-based narrative and vo-cabulary instruction: Results of an early-stage, nonrandomized comparison study. Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 45(3), pp. 204-219.
Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Needham, MA, and consults to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie (www.speechtechie.com), looks at technology "through a language lens." Contact him at email@example.com.