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This Week’s Episode: How to Target Narratives with Literacy-Based Therapy

Evidence shows that using literacy-based therapy to target narratives not only makes sense, but it really helps to set them up for literacy success in the future. Which brings us to this month’s focus: embedding narrative-based skills.

So far in this series we have focused on answering questions, sequencing, describing, and story retell with our preschoolers. As I was digging through the research, I was more and more convinced that story retell is something that makes sense to work towards!

We then continued to build on these skills and focused on how to use explicit instruction to target narrative generation with our early elementary students. 

This week we will continue to use these strategies with our later elementary students. We’ve got the evidence, we have the tools (and lots of graphic organizers 🤪 ), and I think we are on a roll!

By the end of this series, I hope you’re feeling confident enough to take part in the challenge that I mention at the end of this podcast. I believe you can do it!

Strategies + Tips Discussed

Hayward & Schneider (2000) found that identifying missing elements in stories yielded improvements in student narratives.
I will often model the story retell first, with the help of visuals. I purposefully leave out one or two of the elements, and have the students help to identify those pieces.Then, I can model being a good sport about making a mistake, and the whole experience feels a little more fun and my students get to act as teachers! 🤪

Feeling confident? 💪
I challenge you to put it all together. Connect with a teacher and ask about units that they are working on in the class. Then put together your own unit and implement curriculum based therapy.


Gillam, S. L., Olszewski, A., Fargo, J., & Gillam, R. B. (2014). Classroom-based narrative and vocabulary instruction: Results of an early-stage, nonrandomized comparison study. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 45, 204–219.

Hayward, D., & Schneider, P. (2000). Effectiveness of teaching story grammar knowledge to pre-school children with language impairment: An exploratory study. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 16, 255–284.

Paris, A. H., & Paris, S. G. (2007). Teaching narrative comprehension strategies to first graders. Cognition and Instruction, 25(1), 1–44.

Swanson, L. A., Fey, M. E., Mills, C. E., & Hood, L. S. (2005). Use of narrative-based language intervention with children who have specific language impairment. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 14, 131–143.

Here’s what we discussed:

[04:00] Therapy Ideas for Step 1 (Pre-Story Knowledge Activation)
[05:30] Therapy Ideas for Step 2 (Reading)
[05:42] Therapy Ideas for Step 3 (Post Story Comprehension)
[06:10] Therapy Ideas for Step 4 (Skill Practice)
[08:24] Therapy Ideas for Step 5 (Parallel Story)

Want to hear more about this topic? Click here to see this month’s content!

Links Mentioned

The SLP Now One-Page Literacy-Based Therapy Unit Planner
– ReadWorks Article: Camping In Style
SLP Now Membership – Our Book Activities include vocabulary cards, a story map, and WH question cards (literal and inferential) with multiple-choice picture cues!
May Therapy Plans
– Targeting Grammar with Literacy-Based Therapy: Preschool, Early Elementary, Later Elementary, and Secondary
– Targeting Vocabulary with Literacy Based-Therapy Preschool, Early Elementary, Later Elementary, and Secondary

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Speaker 1: Let's dive into some therapy plans for later elementary students. We are going to be using a fiction article from ReadWorks, and we're focusing on how to target narratives using a literacy based therapy framework. So some of the types of goals that we might target if we're focusing on narratives are answering questions about story grammar elements, retelling a story, of course, including story grammar elements, or generating a narrative. So we've got answering questions, story retells, story generation. Just a quick recap of some of the rationale behind using that. So explicit instruction of story grammar elements give students a meaningful framework and that's cited across the literature. There's plenty of support for using a story grammar elements and a really cool quote from Thomas Sello in 2003, indicates that using these story, grammar elements makes language learning tasks less demanding, more meaningful, and more authentic.
Paris and Paris in 2007, found that teaching story grammar enhances student comprehension, which is fascinating to me. There was a study that I came across, where they taught this framework to older students. And they taught story grammar elements, and they had a whole curriculum around it. And then they found that students comprehension of an actual lecture improved as well. So that kind of goes along with some of the citations I just shared, that it makes language learning tasks less demanding. It gives them a framework so they can hang these different pieces of information off of a more meaningful structure and make more sense of the input that they're getting. So I think that's really cool. I've been diving into a lot of narrative articles and the more and more I read about it, the more impressed I am. And it's such a cool way to target both lower and higher level language skills. So it's, we can target grammar and vocabulary, but then really focus on embedding those targets in a really meaningful context and targeting story grammar in the context of authentic stories. There's lots of evidence around that as well.
So without further ado, the article that we're talking about this week is called Camping in Style. You can access it for free on You just have to sign up. As an educator, you get access to that for free. And it's just, they have beautiful articles and stories on there. Tons of search features. This article in particular is about Vivian and Kyle. So they are the main characters here. And Kyle loves camping, but none of his friends want to go. So he decides to create a camping experience that's quite glamorous. And it just tells the process of them building this campground. So nice seasonal kind of topic.
And yeah, so let's dive into the actual plans. So again, we're targeting answering questions about story grammar elements, story retell, story generation. Before we dive into the article, we'll look at the title. We'll look at a couple of like, just kind of glance at some of the texts to get an idea of what the story might be about. And this is where I kind of decide if the students have... I'll ask them some like pre-story knowledge questions. Have you ever been camping? Do you know what glamping is? And we'll just talk about some of those. Well start a discussion and then I'll determine if we need more background knowledge or not. And for this particular example, I think it'd be super fun to watch a YouTube video about glamping, for example. Or take a tour of a fancier camp ground or whatnot.
And I think that would be a really great way to fill in knowledge as needed. And then we would go ahead and fill in the graphic organizer and do some explicit teaching of the story grammar elements if needed. We would infer who the characters are, what the setting is, what the initiating event is, et cetera, et cetera, so that we can just get some meaningful exposure. And I think it's a fun inference activity and that can help us know if they really struggle with this, maybe we need to do a little bit more pre-story knowledge activation. Maybe there's vocabulary impacting their ability to fully participate in that. So we might do some pre-teaching, whatever they need. I will see the breadcrumbs and determine the best approach based on that.
Then for step two, we would read the article. I would read it or we could do round Robin reading, whatever makes the most sense for the group, whatever he keeps the most engaged. And then for step three, we would dive into some story comprehension. So this depends on the dynamics of the group, but we might have a combination of literal and or inferential questions. But I would ask them questions about story grammar. So like, who were the characters? What was the setting? And just go through the icons and fill in a fresh graphic organizer. Now that we've actually read the story.
And then that brings us to step four, the focus skill activities. So in step four, I always take some time to teach skills as needed. And if you want examples of what I do for grammar and vocabulary, head back to previous months episodes, because that'll give you more strategies. Today, we're just focusing in on narratives. So I would continue to include explicit teaching of story grammar elements, as much as students need with that. And I would continue to use graphic organizers and or visual cues as needed by the students.
I talked about the research behind that in last week's episode. But the citation for those specific strategies comes from Gillam at all of 2014, and then also from Paris and Paris, 2007. And some other strategies that we might use are to have students identify like, this is what we're using throughout the unit, but having them identify story grammar elements from within the article. But then I think it's also helpful to have them identify missing elements. So whether sometimes we have to infer elements in the story so we can use that.
But I also like to take this approach and as I often model the story retell first, and I might do a couple iterations where first I model it with the use of visuals. And then I say, okay, let me try this without the graphic organizer. Let's see if I can remember. And then I'll retell the story, but I'll purposefully leave off one or two of the elements. And then I have them identify those, the elements that I missed. And then I kind of model being a good sport about making a mistake and then we just make it a game. And the other students get to try to retell the story and we help each other and identify elements that we've missed. And this keeps everyone engaged throughout the whole unit. And it's just a really fun way to put things together.
So that wraps up step four. And then for step five, we get to dive into a parallel story, which brings us into story generation. So the students get to generate their own story at this point. And I typically like to have it be related to the topic that we've discussed. So we'll again, pull out another graphic organizer if needed. If the students are really getting the hang of the framework and they are able to just come up with a story, I'd like to see what they can generate on their own. So just go around the group and see, okay, so can you tell a story about a time that you went camping, or make up a story about a camping trip, or whatever prompt seems to resonate with the students. And then I think it'd be really cool to see what they can come up with without any support and see how they do in generating a story.
And then we can kind of go from there. And you'll be able to know if that's an appropriate step for your students or not. Do they need more support initially? You kind of want to find that sweet spot and not have huge levels of stress and frustration. So if you think that they really need that graphic organizer to get started, then you can definitely offer that. So, that's what we've got for our fiction article. And I think a really cool way to take this a step further if you're feeling like, okay, I've got this, I've implemented it with a couple of groups. I'm feeling really good. When I teach about literacy based therapy and the framework, and using all of these strategies, I think it makes sense to start with maybe a book for your K through two students. And then an article for your third through fifth graders. And just like using one text across grade levels.
But we've been talking about this for a while and if you've been listening to all of these episodes and you've been implementing it, I do have a little bit of a challenge. So I think that's a great, amazing, perfect way to get started. But if your anything like me, you're always trying to grow and learn. And so I think it could be really helpful to connect with the teachers in the classroom and pick something that is more curriculum based. So because once you get good at using this framework, once you get some good practice in, then it doesn't take as much planning time and you can easily throw together a unit with pretty much any texts, especially if you've been building out your visuals to teach these skills. You can take pretty much anything and run with it with very minimal prep time.
So I challenge you just for one of your groups, connect with a teacher and identify a theme that they're working on in the classroom and select a book that's related to that. Or just pick a book that they're actually reading in the classroom, or pick an article that they're actually reading. Or if you want to take it a step further next month, we're talking all about curriculum based therapy and selecting a bunch of different things, even math problems. So that's definitely something to stay tuned for. But I just wanted to give that a quick plug in case you're feeling like, okay, okay, I got this, this feels super easy. I'm ready for the next challenge. Definitely kind of take that on as you're ready. Or stay tuned for the curriculum based therapy content next month. And if this doesn't feel easy to you just yet, just keep chugging along. Take one piece a week, or a month, whatever you can handle, just take it slow. As long as you're taking steps forward, you're heading in the right direction. And I can't wait to see where you end up.


Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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