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Topic 3: Building Success in Writing: Story Construction

Case Examples


Example: Story Construction

Yolanda is a four-year-old student who is new to Joy's integrated preschool classroom. She is ambulatory but does not speak due to severe oral motor problems (related to a non-progressive form of muscular dystrophy). However, this does not mean that Yolanda does not communicate! She uses some signing, but her handshapes are not always clear, due to her fine motor problems. Yolanda also uses pointing, grunting, and pantimime to get her message across. She has a topic-setter notebook that helps her partners know what she is talking about, and currently uses the classroom Hawk (Adamlab) to support her voice output. Yolanda is currently awaiting an evaluation for a personal communication device.

Example: Building Narratives

Joy tries to offer opportunities for her students to build their narrative skills. One type of narrative that has been difficult for most of the students in Joy's class is Accounts. Accounts are personal experiences that are unknown to the listener (Hedberg & Westby, 1993). The narrator will typically use a topic grabber to hold the floor for this personal account, such as, "Guess what happened at the zoo!" Light tech topic setters (e.g., topic notebooks, cards, or bracelets) or high tech topic setters (e.g., messages on voice output devices) can be used to set the stage for accounts (Musselwhite & St. Louis, 1988). Here are three samples that Joy, Norma, and Yolanda's mother, have set up:

Example: Story Retelling

Yolanda's speech-language pathologist initially used 9-location story retelling overlays on the Hawk with Yolanda. However, she felt that this was too simple, and was not challenging Yolanda's skills. Now she uses the light tech 36-location version of the overlay for "Dirty Duds." Yolanda retells the story by pointing and her communication partner orally repeats her retelling. To add voice output (and fun!) they have put the repeated line "wishy washy wishy washy wash wash wash" on the Big Mack (AbleNet). Several times, Yolanda has been seen retelling the story to a younger child in the classroom, and Norma (her mom) reports that she often retells the stories to her stuffed animals!

Example: Story Construction

Joy and the speech-language pathologist have designed a simple story construction as a follow-up to Dirty Duds. The story uses the simple lines from the story, but allows three slots for students to fill. The story starts by inserting each student's name into the introduction. The student's picture is velcroed to the Big Mack, and the line is recorded. Yolanda gets to go first. When she hears "Yolanda, Yolanda, in the mud. Look at those dirty duds," she giggles and presses the switch again. Now students are offered symbols on a choice board to "build" their story. The symbols are then placed on a velcro board so they can see the entire line. Yolanda chooses "Dirty sneakers" (choices were: socks, coat, sneakers) and decides to "Put them in the trash" (from the choices: washer, trash, hamper). The next day, the same story construction that the students did with light-tech symbols will be presented as an activity on the computer, using Overlay Maker + IntelliTalk. (Other computer options would be: Ke:nx + DiscoverBoard, Speaking Dynamically, DynaVox 2, Pegasus Lite, etc.)

Example: Song Construction

During the next two weeks, Joy continues to focus on the Book for Learning, Dirty Duds, but also offers related Books for Enjoyment to support student learning. One of the books the students like is Mary Wore Her Red Dress, by Merle Peck. After reading that, one center that is offered is a "write-your-own-song" version of the story. The speech-language pathologist has prepared symbols from the song construction, "Katie Wore The Striped Socks" (from Singing to Read, Musselwhite, 1996). That song construction uses the story line from the book to permit students to make changes, creating a fun song. Yolanda chooses symbols to "compose" the lyrics, "Yolanda wore the striped shirt, all day long." The three students in the small group sing the song while Yolanda points to the symbols, then another student takes a turn.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998.

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