Tech Tuesday: Summer Study and Event Narratives - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

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Tech Tuesday: Summer Study and Event Narratives

by Sean Sweeney August 28, 2017 3 min read

Copyright: anthonycz / 123RF Stock PhotoI know some of you are already in school, so forgive the “Summer Study” aspect of this post, as I am holding on to the last days of summer (which goes until September, anyway). I have been impressed of late with ASHA’s publication of “tutorial” style articles that offer a synthesis of research and practical ideas and techniques for intervention.

One of these recent articles is particularly relevant to the topic of this blog and to MindWing’s tools for narrative intervention: Telling Tales: Personal Event Narratives and Life Stories (Westby and Culatta, 2016). In this post I will discuss this article along with tech tools particularly related to the intervention suggestions around eliciting and scaffolding event narratives.

Westby and Culatta set out to emphasize the importance of personal event narratives, as distinct from fictional narratives, in the process highlighting the following:

  • The need for the development of comprehension skills related to reading results in a focus on fictional narratives within schools. Common Core State Standards do place an emphasis on “connecting” to texts, which draws on our use of personal event narratives in relation to reviewed texts.
  • However, personal narrative production relates to social interaction, problem solving, and self-identity.
  • Interestingly, research suggests “personal event narratives are the most frequently produced narratives in children in the preschool, kindergarten, and first grade years, by the mid-elementary years children tend to produce better fictional than personal event narratives,” possibly due to the emphasis on these skills in classrooms.
  • The authors emphasize that “conversations are no more than responsive storytelling,” so personal event narratives have a huge role in social interactions, where fictional narratives generally do not.
  • There is a distinction between episodic memory and autobiographical memory (more complex) that seems to align with narrative complexity, as autobiographical memory involves a sense of emotion and the self over time, relating to the story grammar elements of Response and Resolution emphasized by the Story Grammar Marker®, as well as the Mental State Verbs targeted within the Critical Thinking Triangle®.

In addition to outlining the deficits in event narration present in various populations, as well as methods for elicitation and assessment, Westby and Culatta suggest a number of intervention strategies that align both with the use of MindWing Tools and tech tools.


Parents and teachers, as well, in the school setting, can be assisted with “collaboration in remembering” events, in the process scaffolding elaboration and complexity. Although SLPs might not have steady access to parents and these personal contexts, classroom events can be great stimuli for reminiscing in collaboration with the teacher. The authors mention that the Pictello ($19.99) app can be used in conjunction with pictures of an event or activity conducted in intervention; I’d also again recommend Book Creator ($4.99) for its ease of use and the additional feature of being able to sketch, and therefore provide visual support, for events for which there are no photos.

Me Too pictureIn addition to these “blank slate” apps, a few other apps encourage reminiscing in the form of “journaling.” TinyBop’s Me app ($2.99) contains “hundreds of questions” designed to elicit personal description and narration, along with audio recording and production of sticker-enhanced sketches and photos that will scaffold elaboration.

The Me app is fairly free-form, but if you want something more structured, an app that you can gear toward the relation of specific events with emphasis on the 6 Universal feelings is Emotionary (free). Emotionary facilitates the discussion of events with addition of photos, audio and text (sample screen below).

App 2 picture

Evoke and Model Construction of Personal Event Narratives

The SGM® iPad App ($14.99 [$10 off Summer Sale, reg. $24.99]) is a great tool for the “give a story to get a story” technique; in the process you can emphasize the story grammar elements as visually and interactively contained in the app, as well as cohesive ties between them, as you relate your story and scaffold student stories in response. Westby and Culatta also suggest a number of themes contained in picture books that can be used to evoke narratives (a time you were scared, a time you helped someone). The SGM® app can be used to build narrative skills through mapping the stories in books as well, and as an additional tech tip, Pinterest is a useful search tool for picture books on various themes.

SGM App picture

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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