Tech Tuesday: Summer Study Series #4, Be Principled! - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

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Tech Tuesday: Summer Study Series #4, Be Principled!

by Sean Sweeney August 24, 2021 3 min read

Sumer Series sun imageIn this, our last entry in 2021’s Summer Study Series, we’ll review a recent article from leaders in the field who present a very helpful set of 10 principles for narrative intervention that will guide you in this new school year. Additionally, several strategies for leveraging technology will also be described, as we can consider tech a useful tool, however your service delivery evolves in this unfortunately still-weird educational situation.

Spencer and Peterson (2020) detail narrative intervention principles and practice tips in their ASHA-accessible article “Narrative Intervention: Principles to Practice.” I love the trend of incorporating the ever-readable web “listicle” as an element of our research literature; see also Fey, Long & Finestack’s article on principles for grammatical intervention, also a good paired read with this article. Spencer and Peterson first provide a tutorial in narrative intervention that emphasizes a number of key points:

  • A definition of narrative intervention as focusing on the telling or retelling of stories with targeting of key “features” guided by the interventionist (e.g., story grammar elements, causal and temporal structure).
  • Cultural differences in narrative production that are important to be aware of and reinforce in intervention, while simultaneously guiding students toward skills that are “expected” in school curriculum and the Common Core State Standards.
  • Notably, providing several shout-outs to Story Grammar Marker® explicitly as a key program that can be used to target narrative language development.
  • Narrative intervention serves the double-duty of building both macrostructure (story elements and organization) and microstructure targets of language such as syntax and vocabulary.

Lastly, for more duties, these interventions play a vital role in academic progress around literacy and writing as well as social learning skills such as using narratives to foster interactions and relationships with others.

The principles the authors review are all on-point, and I thought it would be enticing (so you go above and click on the article!) to provide them in full here:

Principles image 1

Rather than describe each in detail, as Spencer and Peterson do this wonderfully in the article, I’d like to provide some interpretive ideas.

1. Build story structure before vocabulary and complex language.

This point is another reinforcement of Story Grammar Marker®’s power in providing a whole/part/whole instructional sequence. Children benefit from getting the “Big Picture” of stories with examples of complete episodes, either from authors who frequently write them like Robert Munsch, or with a good personal narrative. I like to use a story about falling out of a moving car when I was five years old! I was OK, clearly. I frequently recommend MindWing’s “Day in the Park” booklet as a mapped “walk” through the developmental sequence, which allows us to reinforce the parts (story elements) and build back to the whole (complete episode). I have also in the past linked this strategy to the use of apps such as Pic Collage (Google Jamboard, too) to build structure

4. Contextualize, unpack, and reconstruct stories.

We can use Story Grammar Marker’s icons flexibly to help students continually relate elements to each other so that the end result is not the simple “the character is...the setting is…” MindWing’s Digital Icons are particularly helpful for this as we can copy and paste in-the-moment to emphasize these links (see my previous Captain Underpants example). Contextualizing is also made easier when we look for picture books and narratives relating to classroom topics. Pinterest is your friend on this!

10. Make it fun.

The authors provide some great points on this, but I’d like to emphasize that technology in itself can be a motivator for storytelling. For example, PBS Kids’ “Elinor Wonders Why” provides some fun narrative-related activities such as solving problems at a campsite. Any website or app that presents an interactive scene will provide for similar engagement while eliciting stories!

Principles image 2

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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