"Children Choose Their Own Stories": The Impact of Choice on Children's Learning of New Narrative Skills.

Open Access
Khan, Kiren S.
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
May 07, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Keith E Nelson, Thesis Advisor
  • Language Development
  • Intervention
  • Narrative
The ability to structure narrative during the early preschool years has been shown to have important consequences on cognitive development and academic achievement. However, only limited progress has been made in understanding how these narrative skills can be facilitated. The current study measured the effectiveness of a new narrative intervention conducted with 26 preschoolers, between the ages of 3 and 5 years. Each child participated in both an intervention condition and a control condition. During intervention, each child individually received 7-8 sessions (each lasting about10-15 minutes) of highly engaging presentation and discussion of narratives that included multiple narrative challenges relative to the child's pretest narrative and language skills. Children were further assigned to one of two intervention conditions: a choice condition or a no-choice condition. In the choice condition, children were asked to choose between two possible options for each story grammar component such as Character, Problem or Attempted Solution. In the no-choice condition, the story components were pre-selected for the child. Multiple narrative skill gains were evident for the active-choice intervention. First, the children given the active-choice intervention displayed significantly higher narrative skills at the final post-test –both in terms of comprehension as well as production of story grammar components in Story Telling using a wordless picture book– compared to children given the no choice intervention. Furthermore, during the intervention phase, preschool children assigned to the choice condition made significant gains on the ability to include the Problem component in their narratives on a Story Telling as well as Story Re-telling task. Language skill profiles of the children before intervention also influenced the pathways of narrative gains achieved during iv intervention, whereby children with lower initial language ability assigned to the choice condition were shown to make the most gains on this causally complex story grammar "Problem" component. Future implications on how stories might be presented to young children in order to more richly facilitate narrative skill acquisition are discussed.