Narrative Practice Hypothesis

The following description (bolded) was a component of a presentation by Carol Westby, Ph.D. at the American Speech/Language and Hearing Association Convention ASHA 2008, Chicago.  Italics are our notations.

Narrative Competency plays a large role in the understanding of why people do what they do.

Stories are natural extensions of children’s earlier experiences of sharing of event structures.  
              
Engaging in story-telling practices with the support of others enables children to develop understanding of what it is to act for a reason. (Real-Life Situations, Folk Tales, Trickster Tales, Realistic Picture Book Stories, Fictional Picture Book Stories)

Question asking and answering such as:
  • Why did the character do what he did?  What happened that Caused the character to do what he did? What were the feelings, thoughts and plans of the character…in response to what happened?
Narratives allow for the use of sentence structures enabling the child to provide complex sentences, incorporating mental states, feelings and narrative conjunctions as clausal connectors.
  • “I think that the Princess was upset because the dragon captured the Prince so she made a plan to get the Prince back.”
Narratives allow for combining several thoughts and events through Sentence Combining:
  • The Princess Elizabeth remembered that dragons like to fly around to look for things to eat.
  • The Princess knew that the dragon was a show-off.
  • The Princess got him to fly for a long time and get tired.
  • The Princess got in the cave to get the Prince.
  • “Elizabeth remembered that dragons like to fly around to look for things to eat and she knew that the dragon was a show-off so she got him to fly for a long time and get tired so she could get in the cave to save the Prince.”
  • (The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch)
Competency with different kinds of narratives enables us to understand others in a variety of ways.
  • Narratives delineating the simple actions or events of a situation, are not as powerful narratives including feelings, thoughts, plans and consequences.  There is a research based Narrative Developmental Sequence, presented in this book, to inform our instruction.
Narrative training causally influences what are basic theory of mind skills.  - Thinking about Why people do what they do…Motivation
  • The Kick-off, or Initiating Event: Description and meaning of  the event that disrupted an otherwise “ho-hum” day: the unexpected!
  • Feelings:  The emotional response of  the main character, Other characters, particularly the “opposition”
  • Multiple Perspectives: The points of view of multiple characters.
  • Thoughts (mental state verbs): A character’s memories, background knowledge, factual knowledge, beliefs relative to others’ in the “situation” or story.
  • Speech, Tone of voice (“speech verbs”/Linguistic verbs):  Not only what one says, but the tone of voice used to convey it.
  • Body language: What our body says we are thinking.  Facial expression and  gesture
  • Planning:  What characters intend to do, given their feelings, mental states regarding the kickoff.          
Carol Westby Presentation, ASHA 2008, Chicago.
—Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of Meaning.  Boston:  Harvard University Press
—Gallagher, S., & Hutto, D.D. (2008).  Understanding others through primary interaction and narrative practice (pp. 17-38).  In J. Zlatev, T.P. Racine, C. Sinha, & E. Itkonen (Eds.), The shared mind: Perspectives on intersubjectivity. John Benjamins:  Amsterdam. 

Maryellen Rooney Moreau
Maryellen Rooney Moreau

Author

Maryellen Rooney Moreau, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, is founder of MindWing Concepts. She earned her University of Massachusetts at Amherst Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Disorders at University of Massachusetts at Amherst with Departmental Honors and her Master’s of Education degree in Communication Disorders at Pennsylvania State University. Her forty-year professional career includes: school-based SLP, college professor, diagnostician, and Coordinator of Intervention Curriculum and Professional Development for children with language learning disabilities. She designed the Story Grammar Marker® and has been awarded two United States Patents. She has written more than 15 publications and developed more than 40 hands-on tools based on the SGM® methodology. Maryellen was awarded the 2014 Alice H. Garside Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Dyslexia Association, Massachusetts Branch.



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