Monday, November 9, 2015

Way back ...

Way back before iPads … before interactive whiteboards … we were using what we called Story/Song/Poem Boards to provide students with greater exposure to picture symbols within a visually-supported, highly interactive format.  This format was great for providing differentiated instruction and seemed to have ‘something in it for everyone’ in a mixed ability classroom.  

Song/Story/Poem Boards were a natural extension of the felt board concept used in many preschool classrooms at the time. These 22” X 22” laminated black poster boards typically included a scene and laminated manipulables that could be moved around and attached to the scene with Velcro. Most materials were created using the visuals provided by the symbol set. In contrast to the felt board, the Song/Story/Poem boards had the distinct advantage of providing symbol sentences to be read. These tiled picture symbol sentences were either velcroed or attached as a unit, ringed together to the bottom of the Song/Story/Poem Board.

When using a Song/Poem/Story Board, the facilitator would ‘read’ the symbol line, add the dual=representation symbol to an intentional space left in the line, then proceed to concretely use the appropriate manipulables to act out (on the scene) what was just read. The rhyming words and/or the slot-filler items for a Song/Poem/Story were typically created as detachable Dual=Representation symbols (PictureSymbol=PrintedWord). The fact that they were created as ‘loose symbols’ allowed the facilitator to ‘drumroll’ their introduction into the story/song/poem … showing the card, sometimes paired with its corresponding tangible object … then ceremoniously placing it in the symbol sentence … then flipping it to its opposite side to reveal an alternate way of saying the exact same word. In ‘younger’ classes we typically started with the picture symbol side then flipped to the printed word side for extra print stimulation. In ‘older’ classes the printed word side was shown first, then flipped over to the picture symbol side to confirm/negate the identity of the ‘mystery’ printed word. In short the Dual=Representation Symbols used within a slot-filler format using a Song/Story/Poem Board provided the educator with a series of  great ‘teachable moments’.

Obviously Animated Step-by-Steps™ are the current digital version of these earlier Song/Story/Poem Boards. Here are some examples of Songs/Poems that had an earlier life as a Song/Poem Board.

Animated Step-by-Steps™ do have several advantages over Song/Story/Poem Boards. They have the advantage of offering a greater literacy component (remember the picture symbols only appear after the text on the page has been read) and the animations can be triggered using remote switch access, either bluetooth or infrared. See the earlier post  ( for further information re: establishing remote access. I also like the fact that I can provide ‘in classroom’ switch training for students in need of greater practice. See an earlier post for information on using the ‘safe zone’ for this purpose (01-26-15 The Safe Zone: A Must for Switch Users; I did, however, miss being able to use those loose Dual=Representation Symbols with students with evolving joint attention skills (i.e., the picture symbol could be placed in their visual field). Eventually I realized that we could ‘have it all’ …. we could still incorporate Dual=Representation Symbols by having the classroom assistant introduce each Dual=Representation Symbol to that child at the appropriate moment while the Step-by-Step™ was unfolding on the interactive whiteboard. 

As an aside: Staff at United Cerebral Palsy of Staten Island (fans of the Song/Story Board format) have just purchased the current library of 75 Animated Step-by-Steps™!

This library will be perfect for their population of students.

…’til the next post   (new posts every Monday)

Follow me on twitter @AnimStepbySteps

©2015 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator