Introduction to MindWing’s Methodology - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

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Introduction to MindWing’s Methodology

The Story Grammar Marker® (also called “SGM”) was created in 1991. The SGM® is the foundation of MindWing’s cognitive-linguistic-social methodology SGM Teacher Markerand upon which MindWing’s other visual, kinesthetic tools such as Braidy the StoryBraid®, Talk to Write, Write to Learn™ and ThemeMaker® are based. This cognitive-linguistic-social methodology supports MindWing Concept’s conviction that every child — regardless of age, ability or culture — can benefit academically, personally and socially from building his/her Discourse Skills. (The Discourse level of Language development involves narration, conversation, exposition.) The goal of our methodology is to help children think and communicate.

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 research-based methodology and multi-sensory tools provide an explicit, systematic approach to instruction and intervention on narrative (story) development and expository (content area) text. 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.

What makes MindWing’s methodology so unique and child-friendly are MindWing’s visual, kinesthetic, tactile tools which are comprised of a series of patented icons that are colorful and meaningful.

Icon Animation
MindWing’s Patented Icons

MindWing’s tools are three-dimensional, non-linguistic representations of narrative and expository structures. Children can see, touch and move these icons to cue them for the “Wh” questions about stories and help them to recognize text structures in content area selections. First, these icons represent the essential components of a complete story episode which are: Character, Setting, Initiating Event (Kick-Off), Internal Response (feelings/emotions), Plan, Attempts, Direct Consequence(s) and Resolution. MindWing’s Language/Literacy Developmental Checklist assists educators in assessing and providing intervention for children’s narrative development. Next, MindWing’s icons also serve as visual, kinesthetic cues for expository text structures found in content areas such as science and social studies. These expository structures are: description, listing, sequencing, cause/effect, problem/solution, compare/contrast, persuasion. (See MindWing’s patented icons below for narrative developmental sequence, narrative structure and expository text structures.)

Language-literacy Checklist 1 2020
Language-Literacy Checklist 2 2020

The Origin of MindWing’s Methodology

At the time the SGM® was invented, Maryellen Rooney Moreau, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, was Assistant Professor at American International College in Springfield, MA,, and Diagnostician at the College’s Curtis Blake Center for Child Development. She also held the position of Coordinator of Curriculum Intervention and Professional Development at the Curtis Blake Day School, an outplacement for children with dyslexia and language learning disabilities. Her job was to apply research to the teaching practices in the school. In this capacity, Maryellen’s research led her to studies by Applebee (1978), Stein and Glenn (1979), Roth and Spekman (1986), Merritt and Liles (1987) and Westby (1991). Her interest in the link between language and literacy grew as she began to focus more heavily on narrative structure and development.

One day, while co-teaching a writing lesson with 3rd grade children, Maryellen had the opportunity to put this particular piece of her research into practice. The students were given traditional “beginning, middle and end graphic organizers” and were asked to re-tell a story using the graphic organizer to assist them.

One little boy approached Maryellen with tears in his eyes and said, “I don’t know what to put in my boxes.” Inspired by this interaction and based on years of research and experience on language development as it relates to literacy, Maryellen designed a hands-on, multi-sensory tool to assist this little boy in re-telling his story. This tool was comprised of colorful icons that cued him as to what went into his “boxes” to write his story. It worked for him! Maryellen then began to field-test the tool at the Day School and other local public schools. After a successful presentation of this new “tool” with colleague Carolyn West, Ph.D., at a local educational consortium, the Curtis Blake Day School asked Holly Fidrych, M.S., CCC-SLP, to join their staff to continue to implement and field-test the SGM®. Based on Maryellen’s research, practice, and background, and Holly’s practical application to the classroom, the two authored a Teachers’ Guide to help others learn to use the Story Grammar Marker® tool. In 1991 Maryellen patented the SGM® and, in 1994, founded MindWing Concepts in order to share this methodology with educators across the United States. Since then, the Story Grammar Marker® and MindWing’s methodology have helped thousands of children worldwide!

Why is MindWing’s Methodology Important for Your Child and Your Students?

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

A braid is the ”backbone” of MindWing’s manipulative tools and its significance is the fact that it represents the ”Strands of Oral Language” upon which MindWing’s methodology is built (below).

In the late 1990s, Moreau, president and founder of MindWing Concepts, was involved in drafting the Oral Language Module of the Bay State Readers Initiative (Massachusetts state initiative prior to Reading First). MindWing created the diagram below of the Strands of Oral Language depicted as the “Building Blocks of Literacy,” and it was adopted by the creators of the Oral Language Module. The diagram shows that without “Discourse” there is NO EFFICIENT CONNECTION between oral language development and literacy. The Discourse Level is the focus of MindWing Concepts methodology and tools: conversation, narration and exposition.

Building Blocks imageMindWing’s tools are hands-on manipulatives that educators and parents can use to model these language and literacy skills that are required for students to comprehend, think, learn and communicate verbally and in writing—working with both personal and fictional narratives (story) and expository (content area) text. Furthermore, this methodology is essential in today’s educational world for many reasons including the four following facts:

  • There is an increased use of standardized educational testing at the local, state and national levels, testing children’s skills in comprehension, writing and critical thinking. Research shows student success on standardized tests is linked with explicit, systematic, comprehensive instruction and intervention.
  • It is estimated that two-thirds of American children cannot read, write and comprehend up to grade level. MindWing’s methodology specifically targets the oral language skills necessary for building reading comprehension & writing skills.
  • A growing number of students are having difficulty comprehending text necessary for the information age. MindWing’s focus on expository text assists children in comprehension, expression and writing of the complex selections found science and social studies texts.
  • MindWing’s methodology is aimed specifically at improving student’s academic, personal and social capabilities by linking oral language development to literacy; enabling students to be successful in school and in life. Maryellen’s passion for helping children to think and communicate has inspired educators across the globe. Over the last 25 years, MindWing has further developed this methodology to improve children’s skills in oral language development, reading comprehension, writing, critical thinking and pragmatics. However, while MindWing’s methodology has continued to evolve, it is the recollection of that first little boy’s basic need—to tell his story—that motivates MindWing staff today.