Thursday, April 16, 2009

Narrative Skills

"One out of five school children is reading impaired by the time he reaches 4th grade. 38% of our nation's fourth-grade children are reading below a basic level of proficiency."
-U.S. Department of Education, National Center
for Education Statistics. The Nations Report Card: Reading Highlights 2003

Narrative Skills
"Tell Stories" is the ability to understand stories (comprehension) and the ability to tell stories or describe events (production). Narrative Skills help children learn to read because when children understand story structure (beginning, middle, and end) and story components (who the characters are, what they do, and why they do what they do), they are better able to understand what they just read (comprehension) and predict what will happen next. When children do not understand a story, narrative skills can help children know what kinds of questions to ask in order to reach understanding.
  • 3 year old children can describe what happens during recurring events (What happens at lunch time? What happens when you get dressed?). These "event scripts" are an early form of narrative skill. As they grow older, they gradually add more detail to their scripts.
  • You may hear young children use story phrases like "once upon a time" or "the end".
  • Early on, children can tell stories about events that directly relate to their experience. As they grow older, they start to imagine and tell stories about things they have not experienced.

Narrative Skills in Storytime:
  • Include stories that are cumulative or sequential, and encourage children to guess what will happen next.
  • After reading, recall the main events of the story, asking them what happened next: "Then where did Spot go?" Or ask clarifying questions: "Why was Sally looking for Spot?"
  • Use flannel or magnet boards to tell stories. Allow children to participate in the telling of the story and the placement of the flannel pieces. Leave the flannel board and story pieces out after storytime for children over 3 to explore.
  • Retell a story with props, allowing the children to help.
  • Use fingerplays, action rhymes and songs that are cumulative or sequential.
  • Share some books without interrupting the reading, so children can hear the entire sequence and flow of the story; this helps them learn story structure. After reading, ask the children questions about what happened and why.
  • After storytime, ask children to draw pictures to go along with the book you read. Ask parents to write down the children's description of their picture.
  • Act out nursery rhymes or stories with children or encourage children to act out stories with puppets. Some children may become very interested in creating a puppet show.
  • Add on to favorite stories. What happened the day after Max visited the Wild Things? What else did the five little monkeys do?
  • Consider offering a favorite book sequel program to encourage children to write about what happens next in their favorite books. Record what the children say in their words. Ask clarifying questions ("Why did he do that?" "How did that happen?"). Ask the children to help illustrate the sequel. "Publish" the story for the children to take home, or post the story and pictures in the room.
Narrative Skills Comments for Adults at Storytime:
  • For babies and young toddlers: "When you pair a simple song with movement, such as 'The Itsy Bitsy Spider', you help build your baby's narrative skills. Seeing your child's hands come together to form the spider or his arms reach up to make the sun is evidence that he is beginning to understand the sequence of the story."
  • For older toddlers and preschoolers: "To build your child's narrative skills, encourage pretend play, and play along with her."
  • "Your child will understand stories and learn how to tell stories if you tell stories. Begin by narrating your day, and talking about what you are doing while you are doing it. Describe your actions using rich language and emotion."
  • "While sharing a book, let you child be the storyteller."
  • "After you read a book, use open-ended questions to help your child re-tell the sequence of the story. For example, "What happened when Max got sent to his room?" and "What did the monsters do?"
  • "Parents, encouraging your child to talk about daily routines is a great way to build narrative skills."
  • "Your child's ability to re-tell a story, or re-tell stories about special events, helps build narrative skills. Research show that this is a critical part of reading comprehension."


What Can We Do for Narrative Skills?
  • Use props for poems and stories
  • Have materials and do activities to extend discussion and learning from the books presented (games, puzzles, puppets, stuffed book characters, etc.)
What Can Parents and Caregivers Do for Narrative Skills?
  • Narrate your life activities as you go through the day and ask your child to describe what they are doing as well. Listen patiently and add details to their descriptions
  • Encourage prediction
  • Act out simple stories
Suggested Books:
  • Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
  • Silly Sally by Audrey Wood
  • Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
  • Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
  • I Went Walking by Sue Williams
  • Dinosaur! by Peter Sis
  • Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Chickens to the Rescue by John Hillelman

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