The school year is underway. Although this blog is not exclusively for school-based clinicians, it has always been inspired by my current caseload (Currently K-5). I love sharing tools for SLPs and have been doing so in this series of blog posts, click here to access the others as they are added.
In this post, I’ll talk about one of my most-utilized SLP tools, Story Champs. Narrative structures and the ability for students to comprehend and retell stories is very important to their education. This tool can be very helpful for this skill. Read on!
What is Story Champs?
Story Champs is a multi-tiered language curriculum that is easy to implement, fast-paced, and powerful. The curriculum targets story structure and complex language features necessary for understanding and producing oral and written language that children need for academic success. Story Champs aligns with the Common Core State Standards and provides schools with the tools necessary to strategically and systematically focus on language. To find out all of the intervention tool’s specifics, check out their website or these videos that Learning Dynamics put together to demonstrate the product in use… take a look:
While they offer a bilingual edition, I will be discussing my use of the English Story Champs 2.0 in this review.
What Story Champs offers – Quick & Dirty:
- RESEARCH-BASED! Over 20 feasibility and experimental studies have been completed. Here is a Research Synopsis
- Use as young as Pre-K.
- Skills Developed Through Story Champs
- Listening comprehension/Reading comprehension
- Answering questions about stories and information
- Vocabulary & Learning vocabulary from context
- Complex syntax
- Oral narrative retelling, personal generation, fictional generation
- Written narrative retelling, personal generation, fictional generation
- Information oral retelling & writing
- Domain knowledge
- Problem solving
- Social and emotional aptitude
- Ability to use in large groups, small groups, and individual intervention
- Lesson length of 15-45 minutes
- Designed for use within RtI/MTSS frameworks
- Ideally, a classroom teacher uses the large group lessons while a special educator (e.g., SLP, SpEd teacher)/literacy specialist/paraeducator delivers small group or individual lessons
- In many studies, the dose of Story Champs intervention was small (e.g., only 2X/week for 10 weeks), suggesting that this is a powerful intervention capable of producing robust effects in a short amount time.
Included in the kit (Spoiler alert… it’s EVERYTHING in the picture:
- 12 Classic Stories
- LEVEL A: basic story structure & LEVEL B: enhanced story structure
- 12 Blitz Stories
- LEVEL A & B: vocabulary words; vocabulary words from context
- LEVEL C: causal connections (because, so that)
- LEVEL D: temporal connections (after, when)
- LEVEL E: modifiers (adverbs, adjectives)
- LEVEL F: causal and temporal connections
- LEVEL G: causal connections and modifiers
- LEVEL H: temporal connections and modifiers
- LEVEL I: causal connections, temporal connections and modifiers
- LEVEL J: advanced story structure
- Illustration Cards (Blackline with some color)
- Icons (color)
- Champ Checks (use with dry-erase markers)
- Story Starter Cards
- Story Games for Small Groups
- Flash Drive
- Manual and Master Lesson Plans
- Digital Presentation
- Printable Files
- Take Home Activities
- Classroom Center Activities
- Story Writing Organizers
- Info Writing Organizers
- Pattern Blocks
- Information Notes
- Word Journals
- Spot the Sparkle Posters
How I use it:
I currently work with a population of students coming from lower SES homes, and many are ELL students. I have found that my students lack narrative skills and struggle with reading/listening comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, etc. These skills make it difficult for them to fully access the curriculum. I have been utilizing Story Champs with my students, K-5, for the end of last school year and the beginning of this year within therapy sessions, typically 1X/week. We cover 1-2 stories during our time, depending on the skills we are targeting and the student performance. I utilize the curriculum to target vocabulary, comprehension, retell, and other skills.
What works for us:
This curriculum has been great for my students. The illustrations are simple and not too busy for them to “digest”. They are able to see the characters and elements of the story. The symbols used for each story element is carried throughout the materials and make it easy for students to comprehend the elements and what each means. We also love the varying activities and printables that can be used with the curriculum. I love how easy the curriculum is to follow. It’s not complicated and I can pull the intervention box out and use it with zero prep! My students have not become bored yet with the curriculum because we are able to spice up each lesson with a different game or activity that keeps it fresh. We have also been able to use many of the manipulatives with other stories we read (books, textbooks, etc.) or videos we watch (e.g. brainpop, flocabulary, etc.).
Suggestions for Improvement:
I love the popsicle sticks manipulative and we use them so much that the icons (stickers) have begun to fade. I would love extra sheets of stickers and/or more durable material for this part of the product. Some clearer labeling on the various manipulatives/supplies would help me pick them out faster. Sometimes I forget what the name of each manipulative is and struggle to find the right one(s) for a lesson. Of course we would love the ability to buy more stories if we happen to really get through all levels of the current ones.
Is it worth it?
Definitely! Although it may be difficult to swallow the initial price point of $298, I believe that it is a great investment. Why is it worth it? First of all, most materials/tools that SLPs invest in are not proven to be research-based as this tool is. I can also say that I have not purchased another tool that I have been able to use in individual and group therapy each week, while seeing great results, without my students getting bored. As SLPs are becoming more involved in RtI, this curriculum is a great resource as it allows for group work as well as individual (my other tools do not allow for this).
Story Champs is a great Tool for SLPs, all school staff involved in RtI, and Speech/Language Therapy sessions targeting multiple goals. I hope this little knowledge party (aka review) was helpful to you. If you have other questions/comments, add them below!