Tech Tuesday: Telling Tales at Varying Developmental Levels - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

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Tech Tuesday: Telling Tales at Varying Developmental Levels

by Sean Sweeney February 03, 2020 3 min read

ASHA Wire logoThe practice of providing model narratives in order to scaffold personal narratives from students is one that is supported in our literature. Pamela Hadley (1998) describes conversational mapping, or “give a story to get a story,” as critical in language sampling, and these principles can be extended to intervention activities.

ASHA Wire logoWestby and Culatta (2016) suggest similar procedures: “Clinicians can model the telling of event narratives and ask children to relate their own experience about a similar event. One clinician told of a time when she did not close the door on her hamster's cage, and the hamster escaped and was never found. The telling of that experience elicited a child's story about a time when he had pet crickets in a cricket cage and the family cat got into the cage and ate the crickets.”

Zones of Regulation chart

We should remember that not every model needs to be a Complete Episode, although I realized after a recent trip to Utah’s National Parks that I had a complete one ready-to-go. Additionally, the model below also demonstrates the synchrony between Story Grammar Marker® and Zones of Regulation®.

  • Setting: A trip across Utah this past August, particularly focused on National Park areas.
  • Kick-Off: Though I knew I would need to deal with high open places, they were somewhat more triggering than I expected on our first day, visiting Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park (telling my students why the state park is so named provided a whole other narrative opportunity—look it up!)
  • Internal Response (Feeling): Yellow Zone, even into Red, a spectrum from anxious to terrified when on the rim of the canyon.
  • Thought Bubble (Mental State Verbs): Knew that this trip was a great opportunity to see some national park areas.
  • Plan: To hold it together and stick with the plan of doing some good hikes across Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks.
  • Attempt #1: At Arches National Park, managed to navigate a 6-foot ledge next to a 200-foot drop using a sensory strategy—looking at the wall—so I could get out to Delicate Arch.
  • Attempt #2: Self-talk (Inner Coach) helped me to do some subsequent ledge hikes. “You can do this!” It also helped me to remind myself that the fear was irrational and really a “Myg Moment” in BrainTalk parlance; my amygdala was taking over my brain in those moments of fear.
  • Attempt #3: Wanting to hike down into Bryce Canyon, I discovered that trekking poles were also a great sensory tool, helping me to feel grounded when an exposed ledge was nearby.
  • Direct Consequence: Using these tools, I managed to complete 10 terrific hikes.
  • Resolution: I definitely want to go back to UT’s National Parks, and others. I know my limits but also how to push myself.

Both Story Grammar Marker® and technology tools can provide important visual supports to make these models more salient scaffolds for students. I like to use selfies and other photos as supplementary visuals; they also make you more relatable to students and stimulate their use of questions and comments. You can present these right from your photos app, but tech tools provide some nice ways to package your photos into instructional material in a “space,” so-to-speak. Here are 3 examples:

Pic Collage (free for iOS, Android, Windows): Handy if you want to simply place some text, a doodle (see here the Character icon) or another image on top of your image. Easily export to Camera Roll for use elsewhere.

Hike phot 1

Book Creator (free for Chrome Web Browser and to try as Book Creator One app for iPad or Android, $4.99 for full mobile app): a nice choice if you want to group a few photos together as a “book.” Also allows for adding of emoji through text keyboard, multiple images as with the SGM icons here, added as images. Additionally, this tool has stickers including word and thought balloons, so you can hit all aspects of the Critical Thinking Triangle.

Hike photo 2

Google Slides: an instructional staple. Everyone has it, including your students! Use Google Slides to combine photos (including web-searched photos like the poles here) text, drawings, and again thought balloons within the Shapes menu.

Hike photo 3

As mentioned above, we can use photos for simpler (at Descriptive, Action, Reaction, Abbreviated Episode Levels) as well. I enjoyed sharing this story of preparing a vat of iced coffee for a trip to Maine and then accidentally dropping it down the stairs, so I needed to give the hall a good cleaning (Reaction).

Hike photo 5

Do you have any visually supported model narratives you have shared with students? Share them with us in the comments!

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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