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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Apps for Developing Personal Narratives

One of the most important skills in language intervention is the development of personal narrative skills.  These are the basis for all conversational interactions and social connectedness.  We talk about what we’ve done or what we’re going to do.  We talk about the fun things we’ve done or the bad days at work. (Or even the great days at work.)I spend a lot of time working on developing these personal narratives with kids; particularly kids who can’t talk.  How can we get them to tell us about their experiences, their feelings, their desires (beyond requesting an item)?There have been some great studies by Gloria Soto and her colleagues and students at SFSU. 

One of the first apps out for creating personal stories/books was Pictello.  Pictello 
allows you to import your photos, input text, has text-to-speech to record your voice options, lets you decide how many pages, lets you add labels to your photos, and even has a step-by-step tutorial built into the app.
Book Creator 
also offers a tutorial when you open the app.  You can add and resize images, add your text, and create more pages.  When you’re done, you can import the book into iBooks to read it, or Dropbox to share it.
In my experience, Story Creator needs the user to be intuitive.  There seems to be less flexibility in this app.  Each book is like a photo album to which you can add text and sound.  There are crayons with which you can draw your own pictures or embellish your photos.The Story Dice app is just like the actual dice set for stories.  You choose how many die to roll, and are given simple icons to represent the story elements you need to use.  There are some instructions for how to play to construct stories and sentences singly or in groups.Storybook Maker
appeals to a younger crowd, with stickers and a note to send the book to grandma and grandpa.  There are a variety of page layout options (about 12), and lots of options for backgrounds and borders, objects to add that have some animation.
You don’t need a specific story app to retell stories.  Check out ToonTastic!  Puppet Pals, and Felt Board to create scenes and pages.  There is a great post with video for using Puppet Pals to retell stories here. Sean Sweeney, who made that video also made this one on using Tellagami for the same purpose.  See it here. 
There are many other book maker options for creating personal stories, some of them very inexpensive.  For SLPs this is great news. We can work on constructing narratives about what the child did, when he did it, where he did it, who he did it with, whether he liked it or not, what happened that was memorable, and more.  And then he can tell them again and again, gaining the very important experience of retelling stories (as Carol Westby reminds us) that nonverbal children - and those with language disorders - just don’t always get.  
Another way to use many of these apps for story re-telling is to use the camera in your iPad to take pictures of the characters, settings, and events in the child’s favorite books.  Import those pictures into the story making app and re-create the story in a simpler form consistent with the language level of the child (or just a bit higher).  Now he can retell the story to you, to his teacher, to ....everyone.  This story retelling is something that typical children do all the time.  They “read” books to the dolls and stuffed animals, and even their parents.  But our children with language disorders don’t get this kind of experience, which is vital to their development of conversational, social, and academic skills.
And now, Mindwings, the company owned by the creator of the Story Grammar Marker has an app that goes with her other materials for telling stories and personal narratives.  She has some great handouts available.  Get one here for free.

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