SLP Summit Q&A: Strategies for Narrative Intervention

I presented at the SLP Summit earlier this week, and it was so fun! We got to spend an hour talking about narrative intervention. 🤓

As promised, here is a roundup of your questions!


What is story grammar?

Story grammar helps students learn the parts or elements of a story. Different programs/protocols will include different elements, but character, setting, problem, and solution are common elements.

What is recasting?

A recast is when we correct what the child says or modify the modality (e.g., turn a statement into a question).

What strategies did you recommend for students with autism?

This is a quote from Spencer & Petersen’s (2020) article:

For children with autism and other developmental disabilities, this may involve providing longer wait times, limiting verbal prompts, and strategically fading visual prompts (Favot et al., 2018; Garcia et al., 2019; S. L. Gillam et al., 2015; Petersen et al., 2014).

Check out the article for all of the citations!

Embedding Skills

How do you embed vocabulary instruction with narrative instruction?

I share tons of strategies in the Vocabulary Bootcamp course in the SLP Now Academy. (This is included with all SLP Now memberships!)

A few of my favorites are to…

– strategically select target words from the text/story
– pre-teach vocabulary words in the text/story (when working with older students)
– support students in incorporating the target words in their narratives

How do you get a child to tell a story in a specific verb tense (especially if they mix tenses)?

It’s difficult to give specific recommendations without knowing more about the child/target, but here are some general suggestions:

Assuming the child has had enough exposure to the target verb tense, I would do a structured drill activity (e.g., contrastive imitation).

After completing the drill, we could jump into the story retell. I would consider using a visual to remind the student of the target tense. I would also provide visual/verbal prompts to support the child during their retell of the story.

If you want more detail, check out the Grammar Bootcamp course in the SLP Now Academy.


Do you have any recommendations for writing goals for narrative retell?

When we’re using a narrative-based approach, we don’t have to change our goals! We can target all of the same skills. We’re just using a slightly different approach/context.

If your students are working on narrative goals, I typically write goals that measure how many story grammar elements that the student can identify and/or include in their retell.


How long you do stay on a literacy unit? Will you use a book for a week, two weeks, a month?

It depends on the group, but we typically run with one book/article for a month. I see students with increased needs multiple times a week, so all groups typically end a book/article around the same time!

How many times would you read a specific story during a unit?

It depends on the group! I tend to read the book once (or twice) in therapy so that we have plenty of time to dive into all of the targets. I love to share the YouTube link to a book with parents/teachers so the students get additional exposure to the story. (The research supports multiple readings, but we just don’t always have time for it in therapy!)

This could be a good “warm up” activity though! You could give each student the opportunity to listen to the book while you collect your probe data. (More on that below!)

Data Collection

How do you take data?

I like to take data at the beginning of each session. I use a probe (which is basically a mini assessment with 5-10 items). I don’t provide any support so I get a really good read on how the student is doing. This helps me determine how much support I’ll need to provide during the session (or how much teaching I need to do before we dive in). It gives me clean data and allows me to focus on being the best therapist I can during the bulk of the session. I simply document the level of support I provided in my “real therapy” at the end of the session. I have a rubric that helps me consistently report the level of support. Click here to read more about my system and access the free rubric (at the bottom of the post).

How do you address reliable data collection with a group? I feel that I can take reliable data on the first student that retells the story but everyone else has had more time to listen to the story repeated before they do their turn.

If all students have a goal to retell stories independently, there are a few different options!

– You can pull the students from class individually to do a quick progress check.
– During your therapy session, you can pull one student to the side while the other students do a different activity.
– You can assess story retell for one student each week. (You can probe the students’ other goals during their “off” weeks.)

We can get creative in overcoming these types of hurdles!

When working with groups of 3-4 students with multiple goals each, how do you suggest getting enough targets/data for each student for the session?

I run through my probes at the beginning of the session to make sure I have “clean” data to report. I collect data for one goal per student to make this more manageable. It only takes a few minutes once the routine is established.

Then I focus on being the best therapist that I can be!

If it’s overwhelming to keep track of your students’ goals, have them each focus on one goal. (It would make sense to target the goal you probed at the beginning!) Set up each student for success by giving them a visual for each skill. This will make it easier to prompt them, but it’ll also remind you of which goals you need to target.

I don’t tally up data during this phase of the session. I find it more helpful to pay attention to the type of supports that a student benefits from. (I document this and always refer back to it, so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time.)

I’m curious what your daily note for Medicaid billing would look like when you are doing this?

Each state/district will require different elements, but here’s one possibility (if we’re using narratives as a context for embedded practice):

STUDENT participated in a book activity (Giraffes Can’t Dance) on DATE. STUDENT worked on using past tense verbs. They achieved 50% accuracy. After completing a contrastive imitation drill, they achieved 70% accuracy when using past tense verbs in a contextualized story retell activity. They self-corrected all verb errors when the SLP provided a recast for any verb errors (e.g., “The giraffe goed to the dance.” “Yes, the giraffe went to the dance.”).

The Curriculum

Do you ever use stories from the curriculum that students are reading in the classroom?

Absolutely! That is such a smart strategy and can facilitate generalization for our students.

How can we apply this to classroom reading activities?

All of the same strategies apply! Literature is literature, and it all works!

However, I would recommend picking something that takes ~5 minutes to read. Anything longer that than will be harder to target and really dive into. If they’re using a longer text in the classroom that makes a lot of sense for therapy, I pick an excerpt!

In general, do you target narratives as a retell of a simple story that was presented in class or in your therapy session?

It depends! Story retell is a great strategy, but we can also target story generation. It depends on what makes the most sense for the student!

At Home Practice

What resources do you give parents to help them work on these skills at home?

I share a copy of whatever visuals/graphics organizers are most helpful for the student in therapy. If I have the opportunity to see the parent/guardian, I will share a few strategies and/or demonstrate how to support their student’s narrative. If not, I try to send a quick video! Each child benefits from different supports, and taking a few minutes to put something together specifically for the students seems to be most helpful.

Book/Text Recommendations

Do you have some suggestions for great culturally diverse books that lend themselves well to story elements?

Chrysanthemum, I Like Myself, Allie’s Basketball Dream, and The Storm are some of the most popular diverse books in the SLP Now Membership.

If you’re a member, you can see the full list of diverse books here. We hired an amazing team of diverse SLPs to help us build out our library, and I’m so proud of what they put together!

Do you have any suggestions on finding lists of stories that can be used for the types of language targets you are describing?

Yes! I did a roundup of books for vocabulary, early language, later language, and grammar.

I also did a similar roundup of articles.

I also analyzed 190+ books and included “at a glance” target sheets for each book in the SLP Now membership!

What stories do you recommend for upper elementary self-contained classrooms of students?

I would recommend matching what they read in the classroom. Are they reading and books or articles? If so, I would use that to set up the students for maximal success.

What do you suggest for middle school students? Do you have books or stories that are age-appropriate but able to read in a short period of time?

I love using fiction articles with middle school students! They are more age-appropriate and relevant to the curriculum. ReadWorks is my favorite source! They have a large selection of articles, so it’s easy to find something that connects with what they’re learning in the classroom. (SLP Now also has article companions to make your prep even easier!)

Can you talk about retelling expository/informational texts?

I talk all about summarizing in the Language Bootcamp course in the SLP Now Academy. (This is included with all SLP Now memberships!)

SLP Now Materials

Do you sell these materials?

Yes! You can find out all of the details at!

Do you have these visuals available in a format that can be uploaded for teletherapy, like PDFs?

Absolutely! They are all available for download in the membership.

Does the membership include materials for upper elementary and middle schoolers?

Yes! We hired a secondary SLP to build out our materials for older students. The fiction articles, nonfiction articles, and video units are some of the most popular materials for that age group.

Where can you obtain the sentence pack?

We offer the sentence pack to current SLP Now members! You can download it digitally from the membership or contact us ( to purchase a prepped version!

Are the additional courses included in the membership or is it separate?

The courses are included in the membership!

Can you post the link to the backpack?

Here’s a link to my yellow backpack (affiliate link).



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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