Thursday, October 27, 2016

More on mapping expository texts using tech, Part 2

In a recent ASHA Leader article I discussed intervention activities centered around social studies and expository text, and am continuing to discuss expository language in part one of this series and in this post.

One of the most useful apps for categorization and other expository language activities is Kidspiration Maps (free to try, $9.99 for full app). I truly believe this app should be in every SLP's and reading specialist's library as it has so many contextual uses. Pair this app with a picture book, textbook passage, video, discussion, information from another app or website...the list goes on. Kidspiration has been around for many years as a software resource and is still available also for Mac or PC, but at a higher pricepoint than the iPad version that shares almost all of its features.

I will talk about the diagramming features of Kidspiration (and its older brother Inspiration) and expository language in the next post, but in this post I would like to highlight Kidspiration's terrific Super Grouper feature. Super Groupers allow you to create an activity where you sort words and pictures into categories. Again, I find that these activities can be created to accompany any book or topic, and students enjoy taking your "wordsplash" or "picturesplash" and putting it in order. In the process, you can ask them to verbalize categories and descriptive attributes that serve as rationales for their sorting.

To offer a contextual example, students of mine were reading Iron Thunder by Avi- this is the story of the fateful battle of the ironclad ships Merrimack and Monitor during the Civil War. As we reviewed the first chapters it was clear my students were not so solid on the concepts and associations around the North and South at this time. I constructed a simple Super Grouper activity to address this:

The Super Groupers are the large blue and gray (color coded purposefully) rectangles in this case, with ovals containing information about perspectives, characters, synonyms, geographic information, actions, and so on, to sort. The student interacts with the activity by tapping and dragging the items (which can be pictures also, see below) into the Super Groupers. Once completed, you can also switch to Outline view (tap on outline icon in upper left) to see the information in a linear fashion:

One great feature of the Inspiration Software apps is that diagrams and outlines can be exported- from Outline View tap the share button and you can export as text to other apps such as Pages or even Google Docs, where students can expand on the language.

To create a Super Grouper activity, select the Super Grouper option from the home screen. The Super Grouper menu (highlighted at top) lets you tap and drag shapes into the work area. Double tap at the top of your shape to label it. Tap to select your shape, then tap the paintbrush at the bottom menu to change the background color.

The picture library is accessed from the "frame" icon. Browse the categories to tap/drag items to be sorted; you can also search the library or add photos, making even the visual contexts of Kidspiration limitless. You can add audio support to your activity or have students record sentences as they sort by tapping any picture, then the microphone button at the bottom, which allows you to record an audio note.

To make a more text-based sorting activity, use the Shapes menu. Double tap on any shape to type in it.

A very helpful feature of Kidspiration is that activities can be duplicated, so that in the event you complete the sort with multiple groups, you don't have to keep unsorting the items! From the Open Document menu, tap Edit, then tap to select an activity, and tap the Copy icon. This menu also allows you to share your created activities with colleagues who have Kidspiration. From the Open Document menu, tap Edit, then tap to select an activity, and tap the Share icon. From there you can mail the activity, send it to Dropbox, or tap More to send to Google Drive (where you can share the file with whomever). It's a great idea for a group of colleagues to work together creating and sharing activities that would be useful to all.

Friday, October 21, 2016

More on mapping expository texts using tech, Part 1

In a column I contributed to August's ASHA Leader, I mentioned expository text structures as providing an important framework for organizing language for comprehension and expression, in this case around social studies topics.

First, to elaborate on expository text structure, this is the informational "sibling," so to speak of teaching story grammar--parts of a story and the connections of character, setting, initiating event, response, plan, events, and conclusion. Expository text structures can be located both in narratives and informational text (e.g. a news article, textbook, lecture or video) and include list, sequence, description, compare/contrast, and so on. An excellent recent tutorial article (Lundine & McCauley, 2016) provides more information and research tie-ins for these strategies; commercial products targeting the use of these structures include Mindwing Concepts' ThemeMaker®* and Thinking Maps.

Another good resource providing a venue for teaching these skills and strategies is Popplet Lite (Free, the full version of Popplet allows you to have multiple drafts), with built-in graphic organizers in a visual creation tool where students can combine photos, text, and drawings to explain an idea or topic.

With Popplet Lite, you can:
-tap to create "popples" to contain your ideas for the topic
-color code main ideas
-connect ideas in lines demonstrating text structures (e.g. list, sequence, cause-effect)
-add images (copy/paste from Safari is easiest) or drawings
-export your creation in several formats.

In several followup posts, I'll be discussing other resources for mapping narrative and expository text.

*Disclosure: Author provides blog content for Mindwing Concepts, Inc. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Amazon Prime Ads: Good context for teaching narrative structure or problem-solution

Video versions of ads can be motivating ways to target students' understanding of narrative and expository text structures. I have recently enjoyed the series from Amazon Prime in which people solve animal-related problems. Here's one featuring an adorable little horse:

As the ads are wordless, they offer an opportunity to work on student narration and also interpretation of nonverbal information.

Westby and Culatta's recently published article "Telling Tales" offers a tutorial on assessing and intervening on narrative skills (primarily personal rather than fictional), and as you know I am a big fan of (and consultant for) Story Grammar Marker® to break down and produce narrative material. I also highly recommend Dr. Anna Vagin's books (and mailing list) for terrific information on how to use video to target narrative and social cognition skills.

Here are two more in the series of ads:

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Little Alchemy- a fun game-based context for describing objects

A key feature that is required for games to be useful in speech and language intervention is an appropriate pace-- meaning a controllable and slow pace. Little Alchemy (free, available for iOS, Android and on the web) will let you pace the game with plenty of room for discussion, which would be the point of using it! The goal in Little Alchemy is to combine objects to make new objects, at first in nature but veering into weather, geographic features, engineering and inventions.

You start with earth, air, fire and water, naturally. Combining fire and water makes steam, earth and water make mud, and so on. In the process, many language targets will arise naturally or with your cueing:
-causals: Water is wet so...
-conditionals: If I combine air and fire...
-descriptors: Lava is melted rock...
-academic vocabulary: solids, liquids and gases, and so on

Little Alchemy is simple and easy to use. It could make a good reinforcement tool at the end of a lesson or serve as an interactive lesson to target language around science and chemistry. The app allows students to sign in and save progress via a google account, and you can also reset progress within the settings to use with a different group or student. So you know what combinations create what, giving you the power to control the discussion a bit more as students play, a walkthrough is available here. Hints are also available in the game.