Every day, we focus on one very simple story from the syntax-controlled primers recommended by Dubard for the association method. While these are not living books, they are what Pamela needs to develop enough syntax to narrate living books. I see them as a bridge that helps her go from where she is to where I hope she will be. The first thing we do is to look at the story's words listed at the beginning of the primer (a discovery Pamela made!). In the story "Boo Jumps", the new words are animal sounds (urp, bow-wow, meow), and the reinforced words are many. Pamela also studies the title page, which is always illustrated. We record her predictions on one sticky note and predicted vocabulary on another before we ever read the story (you can click the picture to see it enlarged). In this story, Pamela predicts very reasonable possibilities: (1) Boo jumps, (2) Boo jumps on the fence, and (3) the animals can chase. She predicts words like fence, Boo, jumps, bow-wow, meow, and urp.
Then, she reads the story aloud to me one time (a single, hopefully attentive reading). After the reading, Pamela orally narrates the story. I film her to avoid slowing her down and listen to the recording to write it and post it on the board. As I write, I sort between sentences that are literal (drawn from the text or illustrations) and sentences that are interpretive. In this narration, Pamela incorrectly sequenced the story, placing Boo's jump before the animals making sounds. The frog makes a sound after the cat and dog jump on the fence (not before). This was the literal part of her narration:
Boo jumps. Boo jumps on the branch. The cat makes a sound. The dog says, "Bow-Wow!" The cat says, "Meow!" The frog says, "Urp!" The cat jumps on the fence. The dog jumps on the fence. The branch breaks. Boo falls.
Pamela included this bit of interpretive thinking in her narration:
Boo says, "Boo!" Boo is not hurt. Boo does not need a doctor.
I place a sticky note with her literal sentences in her narration in the column labeled Understanding and the inferred sentences under Interpretation. One weakness I have observed is that Pamela has difficulty ordering sentences in the correct sequence in her narrations, which is logical since she has difficulty in sequencing words because of her aphasia:
Once she finishes her oral narration, we study her predictions and line out any that were wrong. I make a point to congratulate her for thinking of such wonderful ideas. I am learning that Pamela is a champion at connecting these stories to her own life. This story reminded her of sitting in a tree when she was a little girl, and the dog reminded her of a dog we owned at that time of her life. Making connections comes naturally to Pamela. She makes hardly any connections to other books and stories, and that is what I will be encouraging whenever possible.
At this point of the process, we transition to how we have always done the association method. She and I read a script to practice new syntax and maintain mastered syntax: I read the questions and she, the answers; then, we swap roles; finally, I ask questions and she answers them without peeking. She does her copywork, written narration, and dictation plus worksheet activities that involve explaining why things belong in the same group, looking at a picture and writing her own questions and answers, filling in the blank and answering questions with the focus on correct syntax, and sequencing pictures from the story. Since Pamela finds sequencing difficult, I show her how to break up every story into a beginning, middle, and end. She is much better at sequencing during a narration when she fixes the story's arc in her mind.
The animals are the focus of the beginning of the story.
The middle is Boo's arrival and fall.
The story concludes with Boo and his friends sitting under the tree.
The final step of the Go! Chart is one last oral narration. Nearly every time, Pamela's narrations show great improvement in this final step. Pamela retells the story without peeking or looking at any pictures.
A fence is beautiful. A cat meows. The cat sits on the fence. A dog barks. The cat meows. A frog says, "Urp!" The frog sits on the grass.
Boo says, "Boo!" Boo stands on a branch. Boo falls. Boo is stuck. Boo runs.
Some animals are happy. Some animals see Boo. Some animals see Boo and a broken branch. Boo is happy.
At this point, I often see ways to improve Pamela's narrations further. While she usually correctly sequences the big picture, the little details are sometimes in the wrong order. Borrowing an idea from Cheri Hedden, I type up the narration, one sentence per line. Then, I cut it into strips, one sentence per strip. She lines out and removes any sentences with incorrect details. She sorts into beginning, middle, and end and orders the sentences in each block in the most logical order.
We work in improving narrations in other ways. Sometimes, I find her sentences too brief in content. When I type them, I leave blanks for her to add more detail. I call this making a sentence better. One day, Pamela, inspired to go above and beyond the call of duty, narrated forty-nine sentences. Some sentences repeated the same information, one more detailed than the other. I showed her how to choose the better sentence.
After we finish, I paper clip all the sticky notes and sentence strips in one bag and store them in a Ziploc bag. This helps me to store her work in an organized manner.
At this point, I am scaffolding Pamela by writing everything for her on the stick notes. The first step in the transition will be for her to write the final narration all by herself. Then, I plan to turn over the responsibility for writing all the notes, one column at a time.