Children's narrative development

Fordham, Ann Edwards, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Henderson, Edmund H., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Crook, Patricia A., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Estes, Thomas H., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Gillet, Jean Wallace, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Richards, Herbert, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

The study had two purposes: (a) to describe a classroom setting suitable for the development of children's concept of story, and (b) to investigate the effect on children's story production of teacher modeling of personal narratives. In pursuit of the latter objective, intervention procedures involving both teacher modeling and student participation in telling stories were implemented in three first grade classrooms. The expectation was that the students' narratives would show progress in the key areas of language development, awareness of an audience's need for orientation, and the organizational use of a beginning, middle, and end. The predicted outcomes of these procedures were that changes would occur between the first and last assessment and during the times of intervention. The results were mixed. Significant changes in the predicted direction did occur between the first and last assessment for all classes. Times of intervention, however, were not consistently associated with significant changes in the quality of narratives.
One plausible explanation to account for inconsistencies in the intervention and in the children's scores is the relationship of the task demands of storytelling to the cognitive characteristics of the children. Narratives have two essential functions: (a) reference to characters, time, place, and sequence of events, and (b) evaluation of these events by the narrator. Many of these children were in a state of cognitive transition between preoperational and concrete operational periods of development. Thus they were unable consistently to coordinate more than one function of narrative at a time. Also they were vacillating between egocentrism and the condition of being able to take the point of view of others, which is an important part of storytelling.
Implications for teaching include supporting children by telling and reading true and fanciful stories frequently. In addition children need time to participate with teachers in creating personal narratives by retelling, dictating, and revising accounts of important events they have experienced. Acquisition of concepts of the organization of personal narratives can serve as a bridge to knowledge of the structure of fictional stories found in books. The personal narratives created by the students may be used as purposeful material for instruction in reading, writing, and story development.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
Storytelling ability in children
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