Orange County Public Schools
Orlando, Florida 2007
As a speech language pathologist, I am a member of two of American Speech, Language and Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Special Interest Groups: Divisions 1 & 16. Both relate to schools and to students who are having problems with language and literacy. It has long been my thought, as many of you know, that discourse level language skills, those that extend beyond the sentence as students strive to express personal stories, story retells and expression of content area knowledge, are oral language skills that are vital and foundational to academic learning and social success.
While reading articles in ASHA’s Special Interest Group: Division 16, I came across the following:
Swenson, M. and Williams, V. (2015). How to collaborate: Five steps for success. Collaboration among educational professionals has been at the forefront of my thinking for decades. It has never been as important as right now since our ever changing educational “setting” becomes more than a where and a when!
The above article focused on the “how-to” of collaboration between the SLP and the ELA teacher. Roles were described along with the advocating of Universal Design for Learning, Socratic method related to peer questioning dyads in the classroom, Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development and the ASHA Position Paper with respect to reading and writing. Narrative development was a focus as fundamental to all of the above. The article ended with checklists related to story grammar elements and narrative skills in general related to syntax, vocabulary and the sound system.
In fact, ASHA notes that there is “power in collaboration.” (ASHA, 2010)
As I finished the article, I recalled my late fall workshops which took me across the country to Texas, Montana, NYC, Colorado and Oregon. I’d like to share some of the comments made by participants at these workshops that relate to the Swenson and Williams (2015) article referenced above:
A participant in a workshop I was giving in Oregon told me that the best thing about the story grammar marker was its Universal Design for Learning and the fact that she could use it with diverse learners in small and large groups of students as they learn with print, media and technology.
Another person, at the ASHA convention in Denver, said that the use of the Story Grammar Marker® “provides the stepping stones to the Socratic Method of classroom discussion”, fostered nationally. This form of discussion is based on the development of narrative discourse as students form dyads to ask and answer questions about stories, life and, ultimately, content areas. This is known to students as “turn and talk.”
In Montana, a workshop participant noted that collaborative efforts among speech/language pathologists and English Language Arts teachers would be facilitated through the use of a hands-on tool (SGM®) and its common language to simultaneously teach story elements and the cohesive ties to build sentence structure.
In Texas, a principal noted that the written expression of her first grade students had increased through the use of Braidy the Storybraid® because of its consistent use every day- somedays, for only five minutes!
In New York City a speech/language pathologist commented on the use of the SGM® with novels having advanced themes such as fear, violence, resilience, perseverance, survival and how she used the Critical Thinking Triangle® of the SGM® to assist students in expressing feelings and thoughts of characters’ taking into consideration their multiple perspectives about an event. Tying in the cohesive ties and other microstructural elements of the SGM® approach, she noted that her students created complex sentences using the design of this part of the Story Grammar Marker®. Furthermore, she noted that our expository maps assisted her students in understanding and expressing elements of information texts to be related to such novels. Note: The novel she referred to was Esperanza Rising by Munoz-Ryan.
Finally, this morning a colleague from Massachusetts sent me an article on the use of Universal Design with diverse learners seen as important to the new Every Student Succeeds Act signed by President Obama at the end of last year. She noted that discourse needs, both conversational and narrative in nature would be facilitated by the many ways she had used the SGM® as a UDL tool.
Based on my reading of the Swenson & Williams (2015) article and the comments by my workshop participants across the country, here are 3 ways that MindWing Concepts’ approach bolsters collaboration at this level:
Our Blogs provide free lessons to use with your colleagues in your school, clinic or practice. Our FaceBook page (https://www.facebook.com/mindwingconcepts/), our Official Story Grammar Marker® Professional Learning Community (https://www.facebook.com/groups/StoryGrammarMarker/), our Twitter page (@mindwingconcept), our Pinterest page (https://www.pinterest.com/storygrammar/), our LinkedIn page (http://tinyurl.com/linkedinmindwingconcepts), our Instagram page (https://www.instagram.com/storygrammarmarker/) all provide opportunities to connect with colleagues worldwide, foster discussion and spark collaboration. Our Online Store (www.mindwingconcepts.com) and our E-newsletters as well as lists of upcoming events and webinars provide opportunities to attend workshops for professional development with other educators and learn how to implement the methodology effectively.
Our manuals are written to expand the concept of oral language development to the discourse level where stories and topics are told, discussed, retold and written about at increasing complexity as school progresses. These books and manuals provide a road map for using our tools so that professionals from various disciplines and backgrounds can use our materials together. Several areas of expertise are represented in our manuals, described on our website in the areas of early language and literacy, data interpretation and collection, IEP goals, narrative writing, expository text and social communication. The Story Grammar Marker® concept is twenty-five years old, this year. This anniversary is a cause for celebration through collaboration!
Maryellen Rooney Moreau has spent the majority of her professional career working with students struggling to learn to read through the Curtis Blake Center and Day School of American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts. She realized early in her career that there were many students who could answer questions about a passage when scaffolded by questions but who would go on to be unable to express such knowledge to others if not scaffolded. The SGM® is, in essence, an external scaffold and through the meaningful iconic design creates a representation of the components of a story to be internalized by the student. As an aside, Maryellen was instrumental in the design and training of the Oral Language Module of the original Bay State Reader Grant Program and in 2014 received the Alice Garside Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the area of reading by the Massachusetts Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. Collaboration among speech/language pathologists, reading teachers, special educators, classroom teachers and social workers has been a hallmark of Maryellen’s career.