Generating story ideas in speech therapy is a great way to work on story grammar, syntax, and more! In fact, generating narratives might actually have side benefits beyond just working on story retell!
I’ve talked about big picture narrative intervention before, with an extensive look at all of the language components we can target with narratives (spoiler: it’s a lot!). I think most of us think about retelling stories when we think about narratives, so today I wanted to share all the goodness of narrative generation, or creating and telling our own stories!
A good evaluation will guide our goals and treatment every time! That’s why I’ve included an informal narrative assessment in my Creating Narratives product.
You’ll want to know which story grammar elements your child or student is including when generating their own story. You’ll also want to make a note of how complete each element is – does the student include all the story grammar elements with full descriptions, or just quickly mentioning them.
When you are listening to your children’s stories, you’ll also want to make a note of syntactic structures such as transitions, mental states, conjunctions, and adverbs. Narratives give us a window into a child’s entire language system and is rich with good information!
Children as young as 4 years old can generate a short story with at least some story grammar elements. In fact, the ability to talk without context predicts vocabulary, narrative, syntactic skills and kindergarten readiness! And what’s a big way that we used decontextualized language? By talking about past events: a perfect vehicle for narrative generation!
But, even older students show benefits with narrative intervention! One study found that given narrative instruction focusing on story structure, comprehension, and generation, middle school students improved their narrative skills after just 6 weeks of small group instruction (about an hour 3 times a week, taught by paraprofessionals).
One really important thing to note is that generating narratives is a way to allow children to use their own cultural and linguistic experiences to tell a personal story. Story retell relies on memory and story grammar elements that might not be the focus for all cultures. Generating a story will naturally increase the cultural connection and keep in mind cultural differences between SLPs and their students. Interestingly, one study found that Black children had better story grammar usage when generating narratives, as opposed to retelling narratives (Kimmons, 2020). Basically, generating a story is a truer representation of a child’s story telling abilities than retell.
My Creating Narratives product includes real pictures to help your students get started with their story idea – and I include diverse people of a variety of races and cultures in my materials to make sure they are culturally relevant to all of my students!
There are a TON of goal suggestions in my goal bank, but I’m highlighting the ones I usually use for narrative generation here:
I’ve also modified a few of my story retell goals to specifically apply to generating narratives:
My Creating Narratives product includes all of the visual support my students need, plus beautiful real pictures to stimulate some good narratives!
All right, you know why it’s important to work on narrative generation, you’ve assessed your student to find out what they need to work on and what their baseline levels are, you’ve written some awesome, measurable goals, and now you’re ready to get to work!
My intervention is based on 3 evidence-based strategies for creating narratives:
First, I directly teach story grammar elements (character, setting, problem, solution, etc.) using visuals and LOTS of examples. Talk about your kids’ favorite movies and the story grammar elements from those movies. Point out story grammar elements in picture books.
Later, when my students are generating a story, prompt them to include story grammar elements. Ask questions like “who is your story about?” or “what was the problem?” Use consistent visuals and refer to them often! My Creating Narratives product includes lots of visuals for story grammar elements, beginning/middle/end components, plot diagram, and vital transition words!
Give your students lots of opportunities to create and then evaluate their own narratives. Unfortunately, our kids don’t have a pocket SLP they can carry around with them wherever they go. We have to give them the tools of self-awareness and self-monitoring to be able to retain and generalize their skills.
I like to do this by creating our own stories and the evaluating them using rubrics, visuals, and checklists. First, I like to give my kids some help with generating story ideas with the real pictures used in my packet. After they come up with a story, model asking yourself questions like, do all of the story elements connect to each other? Did the story make sense? Is it an interesting story for a listener?
The third important tenet of quality intervention is to give immediate feedback and systematically reduce supports and prompts as your student gains skills.
Providing immediate feedback is more effective than saving feedback for after an activity. While your students are generating stories, provide immediate feedback about what is confusing, interesting, good word choice, etc.
I hope that gives some good food-for-thought the next time you are targeting narratives in speech therapy!
Gillam, S., Olszewski, A., Squires, K., Wolfe, K., Slocum, T., & Gillam, R. (2018). Improving narrative production in children with language disorders: An early-stage efficacy study of a narrative intervention program. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in the Schools. https://doi.org/10.1044/2017_LSHSS-17-0047
Joffe, V. L., Rixon, L., & Hulme, C. (2019). Improving storytelling and vocabulary in secondary school students with language disorder: A randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1111/1460-6984.12471.
Kimmons, M., & Hobek, A.W. (2020). A description of self-generated narratives from African American preschoolers. Journal of the National Black Association for Speech Language Pathologists. Retrieved from: https://nbaslh.memberclicks.net/assets/2020%20Spring%20NBASLH%20Journal-FINAL.pdf
Leech, K., Wei, R., Harring, J.R., & Rowe, M.L. (2018). A brief parent-focused intervention to improve preschoolers’ conversational skills and school readiness. Developmental Psychology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000411
Spencer, T., & Petersen, D. (2020). Narrative intervention: Principles to practice. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in the Schools. https://doi.org/10.1044/2020_LSHSS-20-00015