Tech Tuesday: ASHA Beantown Wrap-Up, Part 1 - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

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Tech Tuesday: ASHA Beantown Wrap-Up, Part 1

by Sean Sweeney November 20, 2018 3 min read

Boston Skyline photoThis past week featured the American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s annual national convention in our home state (and my home city of Boston)! MindWing presented and exhibited at the convention and I was proud to be part of two presentations that incorporated MindWing’s tools with context-setting resources including both technology and picture books.

— View MindWing’s Presentation Slides —

I was thrilled to present another edition of an oral seminar describing the helpful pairing of picture books and apps for contextualized language intervention. As this year’s ASHA theme focused on evolution and innovation within the field of speech-language pathology, this presentation centered around pairings that aligned with social studies and science topics (Boston also is a “Hub” of both disciplines).

— View “Pairing Picture Books with Apps...” Slides —

Some of the background within this presentation centered on why SLPs and literacy interventionists might seek to incorporate social studies and science topics in our work:

  • Ehren (2000, 2009) describes how SLPs can maintain a therapeutic focus and target “language underpinnings” in the process of using curriculum topics and materials, while avoiding the traps of attempting to function as curriculum experts or, on the other hand, tutors.
  • Within content area topics, intervention can focus on developing skills in the lexical, syntactic, and macrostructural aspects of the narrative and expository language inherent in science and social studies lessons and materials (Lundine & McCauley, 2016).
  • Additionally, there is support within educational circles (NCTE, 1991) for putting content area material in story form: “Story is the best vehicle for passing on factual information. Historical figures and events linger in children’s minds when communicated by way of a narrative.”

Martian Rock book coverTake the topic of earth and space science, in which the picture book Martian Rock (Shields/Nash) provides a great example of the power of story form. It can be mapped as a complete episode as follows:

  • Setting: at their home planet’s send-off party
  • Kick-Off: have been asked to search for life on the surrounding planets
  • Internal Response (Feeling): so they are curious, excited
  • Thought Bubble: and don’t know who lives on the other planets in the solar system and what they might find
  • Plan: they want to keep looking until they find other life forms
  • Action: They visit each planet discovering a stormy, freezing one (Neptune), a tilted, slushy one (Uranus), and so on, with no life found
  • Direct Consequence: They buzz by the Earth’s Arctic zone and discover playful penguins, with whom they make friends.
  • Resolution: They return home having discovered what they think is the “big picture” of life on Earth (not knowing about us humans but having satisfied their mission).

This fun picture book serves to convey factual information about the solar system in a fun narrative package. Part of these presentations serves to advance the idea that apps or websites can be used as post-activities that extend the context of the book while providing additional language-learning opportunities (for example, using MindWing’s Thememaker® maps to break down the information conveyed in the app, or in a bottom-up fashion to plan and track choices within a creation).

In this regard, take a look at Solar Walk ($4.99 for iPad, the developer also offers some free versions of their apps). This Google-Earth-like app allows you to tap, pinch and zoom to explore the solar system, along with expository text to describe each structure.

Solar Walk screen sample

For a different spin on a post-activity for Martian Rock, see SPACE by THIX ($2.99), which allows students to create their own solar system in a sandbox-like experience. Science concepts are embedded as students can choose to orbit different kinds of planets (e.g., gas giants) around various stars (e.g., yellow dwarf).

SPACE screen sample

To apply the same principles to Social Studies, one of my favorite examples is Laurie Keller’s Scrambled States of America. In this hilarious narrative, bored Kansas and Nebraska (Characters), stuck in the middle of the country (Setting), decide to host a party at which all the states decide to change places (Kick-Off/Plan). In the process, facts about the states are embedded in their interactions. This book pairs well with apps like Geography Drive USA ($2.99 for iPad). Many of the questions posed by this quiz-based app can be answered if you play it over a USA map, as you explore setting by “driving” or “flying” from state to state.

Geography Drive USA screen sample

Feel free to check out my full handout and see more ways you can target narrative and expository structure within science and social studies topics!

Sean Sweeney
Sean Sweeney

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 as a clinical supervisor at Boston University. He consults to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie (, looks at technology “through a language lens.” Contact him at

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