Language & Literacy

Research over the past twenty years, in particular, has cemented the relationship between spoken and written language in the acquisition of literacy. Difficulties underlying development of literacy in both spoken and written forms, most likely involve one or more of the components, or strands of language: pragmatics (social use), phonology (sound system), semantics (vocabulary), syntax (sentence development) and discourse (narrative/expository). Most of the academic problems impeding our students progress result from differences in abilities to become aware of, organize, comprehend, and express the language incorporated within one or more of the above strands.

Child with SGM Marker ImageMindWing’s cognitive-linguistic methodology supports our conviction that every child, regardless of age, ability or culture, can benefit academically, personally and socially from building his/her Discourse Skills. The discourse strand is the most advanced level of language development and incorporates all of the other levels. Problems at the discourse level are evident when students experience difficulties using language to think, communicate and learn. The ultimate goal of our methodology is to help children think, communicate and learn.

MindWing’s methodology stems from research on oral language development, narrative structure and narrative development by Applebee (1978), Stein and Glenn (1979), Roth and Spekman (1986), Merritt and Liles (1987) and Westby (1991). Our methodology is designed to be implemented across the curriculum and throughout all grade levels targeting the development of oral language skills necessary for comprehension, writing, critical thinking and social-emotional growth. Critical thinking, comprehension and oral/written expression are mediated by oral language and thus our non-linguistic representational tools and research-based methodology are powerful when embedded within the curriculum across subject areas. Modeling, scaffolding, visual feedback and cueing via MindWings iconic representations facilitate learning. Data collection and progress monitoring are vital parts of the methodology informing instruction as well as allowing for tiered intervention. Our research-based methodology and multi-sensory tools provide an explicit, systematic approach to instruction and intervention focusing on narrative (story) development and expository (content area) text.

The narrative (the structure of stories) is an important part of the discourse strand of language and is the predominant strand through which MindWing links language to literacy.

“We dream, remember, anticipate, hope, despair, love, hate, believe, doubt, plan, construct, gossip, and learn in narrative.”
Carol Westby, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

In 2003, Carol Westby, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, did a review of the SGM® for Word of Mouth magazine; in it, she writes:

“Telling stories puts a tremendous load on working memory because students must engage in several activities simultaneously. When children tell a story, they must keep in mind the overall gist of the story they are telling while simultaneously organizing each utterance, linking the utterances together in a temporal/causal sequence, and making certain that all utterances link to the theme and overall organization of the story. The Story Grammar Marker® reduces the load on working memory by externalizing the global structure and sequence of components in stories. This allows students to concentrate on translating their ideas into words and sentences to convey the content of each element of the story. When using the SGM®, they do not have to keep in mind where they are in the story.”

Child with Marker Image 2In the previous quote by Carol Westby, she speaks of the struggle many children have with the “overall organization of the story,” which is the macrostructure. She also talks about the challenge with utterances and linking utterances with temporal/causal sequences which is the microstructure. Please see below for more information about these two important areas of language and literacy and how MindWing can help!

How does MindWing teach the Macrostructure?

The Macrostructure of a story (narrative) is the structure of an episode that includes the story grammar components of: character, setting, initiating event, internal response, plan, attempts, direct consequence and resolution. The macrostructure of information text (expository) is the type of expository text structure: description, list, sequence, compare-contrast, cause-effect, problem-solution and persuasion. The Braidy® Doll itself as well as the Story Grammar Marker® manipulative ARE the macrostructure of a story – with the use of the manual, they will guide teachers in how to scaffold and model narrative structure. The ThemeMaker® student tool and the corresponding “maps” in the manual ARE the macrostructure of information – they help students learn strategies for organization, comprehension and expression of expository text.

How does MindWing address the need for explicit teaching of Microstructure?

Microstructure is the use of linguistic devices at the sentence level that convey meaning and promote critical thinking in both stories as well as information text. Linguistic devices include:

  • Clauses
  • Elaborated noun phrases
  • Cohesive ties such as:
    • and, also, or
    • temporal: first, next, before, last, when, while, after, finally
    • causal: so, because, when
    • adversative: but, instead, actually
  • Mental state verbs: remember, think, know, realize
  • Linguistic verbs: exclaimed, yelled, whispered, shrieked, cried
  • Adverbs: gently, slowly, happily, diligently, willfully

Using MindWing’s tools and maps with students, working with the Critical Thinking Triangle® as well as the lessons and activities in the manual, will allow teachers to incorporate linguistic devices into story telling, relating information, Reading Comprehension, Listening Comprehension, Writing and social interaction.

Back to the top