Tech Tuesday: La La Land, Part 1 - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

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Tech Tuesday: La La Land, Part 1

by Sean Sweeney January 23, 2018 4 min read

La La Land promo photo

At November’s ASHA convention in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to present several sessions that integrated Story Grammar Marker® and Thememaker® with technology resources for narrative development, and wanted to share some of those ideas across a couple of posts (too many for just one)! When preparing to present in the “city of stars,” I thought about incorporating the theme of storytelling and movie-making, which was a great fit. I considered Hollywood’s penchant for sequels, and how that sometimes ultimately goes quite wrong in execution. However, when it comes to picture books, sequels and series are often a hit within language interventions.

In my session “Pairing Picture Book Series and Apps for Contextualized Language Intervention,” I presented many supports within our literature that reinforce the use of books in therapy:

  • Interactive read-alouds incorporate scaffolding to support children’s use of more advanced syntax, vocabulary and critical thinking and address clinical objectives (Beed, Hawkins, & Roller, 1991).
  • Pre- and post-reading narrative teaching activities extend the context of the story. These can include such strategies as art activities, story generation, discussion webs, and dramatic play (Hoggan & Strong, 1994). More on some specific pairings of books and apps that can serve as post-activities will come next month.
  • Using books in therapy supports discourse comprehension and production for narrative and expository text (Westby, 1990) and metacognitive strategies such as recognizing text structure (Beck & McKeown, 2003).

When it comes to picking book series, it is all about context! Using books in a series or multiple books by an author also involves several research-based and practical strategies:

  • Context allows for easier planning and semantically/narratively deeper intervention. We can analyze series for characteristics between books that lend themselves to language interventions.
  • Contextualized language intervention is supported by studies such as Gillam et al, 2012, which found “signs of efficacy in an intervention approach in which clinicians treated multiple linguistic targets using meaningful activities with high levels of topic continuity.”
  • SLPs should maintain “therapeutic focus” (build skills and strategies) within meaningful contexts (Ukrainetz, 2007, Ehren, 2000)- book series are one way to approach the context piece, and SGM the skills and strategies aspect.

One key concept I wanted to advance in this presentation was that stories are everywhere and can be told or scaffolded in multiple ways with SGM®. Exploring the plethora of bad sequels produced by Hollywood was one way to demonstrate this!

Take 1983’s “Staying Alive,” the sequel to the colossal hit “Saturday Night Fever,” the premise of which can be represented with the Critical Thinking Triangle®:

Staying Alive Poster

Participants enjoyed that I included a clip from the film (below). The fact that it was dubbed in Italian made it all the more fun! In the finale, Tony attempts a dance move that his cast mates view as dangerous, but it succeeds (this could be represented as a complete episode). Play from about half way through—hilarious, and great body language!

I also mentioned the film “Speed 2,” a dreadful sequel hampered by the fact that it’s very difficult to make it look like cruise ships are moving fast. The narrative of this film can be analyzed in many ways, including as a Six-Second-Story™ (described in MindWing’s Facilitating Relationships, co-authored by Gwynne McElhinney).

Speed 2 Poster

As fun as these analyses were, they also point to practical teaching ideas that can tap into children’s interest in film:

  • Check out Apple’s Trailers app (free): this app catalogs recent film trailers (which often can be analyzed as an Abbreviated Episode, with clear or inferential representation of Characters, Setting, Kick-Off, Feelings and Plan, but not a conclusion). The app has a Genres categorization; select Family for school-friendly trailers.
  • Where trailers are designed to “sell the story,” using movie clips can also be a great narrative activity. A clip drops us “in the middle” of a story, so often students with prior knowledge of the film are excited to summarize what came before it, providing opportunities to use SGM® for scaffolding. Additionally, a clip often encapsulates its own little story, as does this one from “Despicable Me”...

...Which can be represented as a Complete Episode:

Character IconCharacter: Gru, a supervillain

StarSetting: His office

ShoeKick-Off: He is trying to sell an idea to an investor, but the kids have inserted an unexpected sketch of him into his presentation

Heart IconInternal Response (Feelings): surprised, embarrassed

Thought BubbleThought Bubble: Knows that the investor will think him disorganized and unable to control the kids

Plan IconPlan: To try to keep the investor interested in his proposal to shrink the moon

Action IconAttempt #1: Tries to get the noisy kids to quiet down by pushing them in the closet

Action IconAttempt #2: Promises them pizza when they continue being noisy

Action IconAttempt #3: They burst out of the closet and shoot him with the freeze ray

Consequence IconDirect Consequence: The investor decides to ditch Gru, who clearly is not in control of things

Resolution IconResolution: Gru needs to work on managing the kids’ behavior and keeping them amused so he can “work”

Clips such as these can be found on YouTube. Where the trailers app is good for discovering new stories, it’s best to know what you are looking for when you go to YouTube. Try also searching Pinterest for “children’s movie clips.”

Let’s go to the movies! Next month I will be telling you more about some pairings between book series and apps.


Beed, P. L., Hawkins, E. M., & Roller, C. M. (1991). Moving learners toward independence: The power of scaffolded instruction. The Reading Teacher, 44, 648-655.

Beck, I & McKeown, M. (2001). Text Talk: Capturing the benefits of read-aloud experiences for young children. The Reading Teacher, 55, 10-20

Ehren, B. J. (2000). Maintaining a therapeutic focus and sharing responsibility for student success: Keys to in-classroom speech-language services. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 31(3), 219-229. doi: 10.1044/0161-1461.3103.219.

Gillam, S. L., Gillam, R. B., Reece, K., Nippold, M., & Schneider, P. (2012). Language outcomes of contextualized and decontextualized language intervention: Results of an early efficacy study. Language, Speech & Hearing Services In Schools, 43(3), 276-291. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/11-0022)

Hoggan, K.C. & Strong, C.J. (1994). The magic of "once upon a time": narrative teaching strategies. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 25, 76-89.

Ukrainetz, T. A. (2007). Contextualized language intervention: Scaffolding PreK-12 literacy achievement. Pro-ed.

Westby, C (1990). The role of the speech-language pathologist in whole language. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 21, 228-237.

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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