- Decide what the focused skill will be. Don’t try to reinforce more than one skill or activity. Operationalize the skill definition to help with writing your story: i.e. “John will independently ask other children to play on the playground.”
- Storyboard your narrative. Decide how many pages you will have, what pictures you will take (or use from Google Images.) Decide what the text will read for each picture.
- Start with an introduction that uses a picture of the student. Example: “This is John Student. He goes to Sunnyvale Elementary School. He likes to play tag with his friends.”
Take your pictures. A digital camera is indispensable, if you don't have one, use your school's. Be sure the child’s parents know you are taking pictures. Check if your school sends out a picture permission form, if there are any students whose pictures you may not use. It is a good practice to make a copy for the child to take home and read with his or her parents, so other people visiting the parents may see those children, which may be a problem for a child who is in the middle of custody challenges.
Don’t worry if the pictures look posed or stiff. Be sure that your images are clear and easy to understand.
- Lay out your pages. I use Microsoft Word, as it is easy to insert pictures. I put the text on opposite pages. If you are equipped to use a layout program, from the Adobe Creative Suite, by all means, do. My school provides me with color cartridges, so I use a program that I have access on my computer. I do use Photo Shop at home to clean up images, but I can export them as JPG’s. I write as I go, and I like a large size font to fill the opposite page without a lot of text. For students who read, I try to keep the vocabulary simple. Do focus on key words you can use as prompts: say "request" as in "request to play."
- End your book with a positive message about the child. In the example of John Student, I would finish with a picture of John and his friends on a play structure, grinning from ear to ear and the text: “John loves to play with his friends. He is glad he requested to play with Joshua, Adam and Melissa. He will play all recess with his friends, and then he will line up quietly.”
- Publish. I print one page at a time on card stock, laminate the pages and then comb bind them. I usually publish more than one, so one can go home.
- Read, Reread and Reread. Take time to read it right after you publish. If you are working with a child in an inclusion setting, re-read it with a child he or she chooses as a "friend." Leave the book in the child's reread basket (if you use that format,) folder or desk, and either reread it with the student, or have them read it (if they are able) to other students or an educational classroom aide.
Evaluate If this is a tool for a behavioral IEP goal, you will need to create a data sheet. Otherwise, anecdotal attention, and asking other adults to look for the particular behavior is enough for an informal assessment of whether this has been an effective strategy, or whether you need to find another approach.
I had one student who loved to walk to the playground and swing, but he would often tantrum because he didn't want to come back to class. I wrote a social narrative that included pictures of every step of the walk. It ended "After 30 minutes R**** 's class walks back to the classroom. They will do vocational tasks, puzzles, group speech or other classroom activities." We read it, reread, and the student liked to take it out of his basket and look at the pictures. No more tantrums. Period. 100% effective.
- Social stories can be used to reinforce social skills or other skills that require rehearsal, especially multi-stepped tasks. I have a sample of a social narrative that I wrote with Alex, a student of my wife's on the spectrum. We wrote one for Alex to help him remember all the steps in running the copy center.
What You Need
- A digital camera
- A skill identified and defined operationally
- Comb binder
- Color printer