Tech Tuesday: Beach Stories! - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

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Tech Tuesday: Beach Stories!

by Sean Sweeney July 25, 2017 3 min read

Father-Daughter at Beach photo

Kids love talking about the beach, and so many Kick-Offs can happen in a beach setting!

While not everyone is close to a coastal beach, trips to beaches or pools with family are a hallmark of summer, and can be a great context for narrative work during summer sessions or upon return in the fall. Here are a number of technology resources that can serve as contexts and scaffolding for this summer topic.

Toca Life: Vacation and Toca Life: Town

The Toca Life apps, featured here on the MindWing Blog previously, are excellent contexts for any level of narrative development. Toca Life: Vacation features a number of Settings from which you can develop descriptive elaboration: a beach (naturally), airport, and hotel. Toca Life: Town contains several homes, a store, and a park with a swimming pond. In each app you can move characters between settings to develop Action Sequences, and each scene is chock-full of objects you can interact with, so it is easy to scaffold the use of Kick-Offs and Reactions (and the Cohesive Ties that express these connections), or develop a more extended episode narrative.

These apps also allow screen and audio recording of interactive sequences you play out with students for additional feedback and narrative practice. MindWing’s narrative maps can assist you in “storyboarding” play in the Toca: Life apps, and apps such as these can also be a great context for “connection” questions to elicit personal narrative. See Hadley’s very useful Language Sampling Protocols for Eliciting Text Level Discourse for a guide on conversational mapping in an evaluative context that can also be used in intervention activities.

Toca Life: Town (top) and Toca Life: Vacation
present interactive beach scenes for storytelling

Toca Life Town sample

EPIC! Books for Kids

I always want to keep reminding clinicians to access the “Netflix for Children’s Books” app EPIC! for electronic books related to any context, including the beach. EPIC! is a free  download and allows signup through an educator account, giving you unlimited access to the thousands of high-quality titles within the app (also available through your web browser).

EPIC! contains many narrative and expository titles related to the beach. A few of my favorites are part of great series, including Sally Goes to the Beach. In this book, children can view an eventful trip to the beach from a dog’s perspective, in the process visiting important setting-related vocabulary such as ferry, cottage, and shore.

I love the EPIC! Scaredy Squirrel series for its combination of narrative and expository content, and Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach is no exception. The overall narrative involves Squirrel’s summer activities being affected by his fear of risks at the beach (e.g., flocks of seagulls!) and his plan to construct a home-based beach. In the process of eventually tackling his fears, readers are treated to humorous pages very useful for tackling expository structures: a LIST of his perceived beach threats, the SEQUENCE of how he plans to build his “safe beach,” the PROBLEM-SOLUTION plan to address the lack of ocean wave sounds, a DESCRIPTIVE map of the beach (needed for “Operation Seashell”) and more.

Toca Life Vacation sample

Make Your Own Beach Story

Visuals can be a great scaffold to students for making up stories or telling their own, and it’s always nice to have the engagement factor offered by technology (avoiding the prep and mess of crayons and pencils). Use Pic Collage’s camera and web search features to add photos of any element of a “beach story” as you model and elicit narrative; my favorite feature is the “Trim” (double tap on any picture to access) which allows you to cut around any added photo and make it part of the gestalt. Book Creator is a great place to use drawings and photos to construct a story about the beach at any narrative level or containing any expository structure.

Book Creator’s multimedia (but simple) options are great for storytelling.

Book Creator sample
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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