How To Effectively Teach a Story Grammar Schema | Narrative Language Intervention
Updated: Nov 3, 2022
Establishing a foundation of story structure or a cognitive “story schema” is key to facilitating effective & efficient comprehension and generation of narratives.
𝐒𝐨 𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐝𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐝𝐨 𝐢𝐭?
I’ll be honest:
As with most things, there isn’t only one way, but I’ll give you some tips that have a strong evidence base—in research and in my own clinical practice!
⭐️ 𝐔𝐬𝐞 𝐦𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐢𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐞𝐱𝐞𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐫𝐬.
That’s just a fancy way to say: use multiple stories that have the same target structure. At least initially (while establishing the story schema), use a new story (“exemplar”) each session.
Don’t worry if the kids aren’t retelling the stories perfectly, especially in the beginning. Support them through the stories, identifying and modeling those story grammar elements!
When the “constant” between sessions is the schema, that is what sticks and supports generalization of skills.
⭐️ 𝐈𝐭’𝐬 𝐨𝐤𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐬𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐞.
It’s better to start with an “easy” or simple story and add complexity than to start too hard or complex. Ideally, as structure is being established, you want to minimize extraneous or complex information because it’s hard for kids to parse out what is important. Once the schema is established, you can add complexity back in—but at least initially, keep it simple, establishing that schema as an anchor.
⭐️ 𝐔𝐬𝐞 𝐯𝐢𝐬𝐮𝐚𝐥𝐬.
Think story grammar icons, simple illustrations, etc. But don’t forget to fade them!! Visuals are powerful tools, but can result in dependency if not faded systematically. Consider retelling stories with pictures + icons, then icons only, then without visual support (yes, all in the same session)!
⭐️ 𝐅𝐨𝐜𝐮𝐬 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐫𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐬𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐚.
It’s very effective to work on the entire story schema/story grammar sequence, rather than choosing specific elements to work on each session(not that you can’t do that). Working on the schema as a whole maintains the meaningful and causal relationships between each element, rather than isolating and decontextualizing the elements.
⭐️ 𝐈𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞, 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞, 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞!
It is important to provide feedback and correction, but make sure the kids are putting that corrective feedback into practice IMMEDIATELY. If you tell the kid he/she missed the emotion, don’t just have them tell you what is it. Always go back one step (e.g., to the problem) and start retelling from there, integrating the previously omitted emotion. This maintains the meaningful connections between elements and targets the entire schema as a whole.
Spencer, T. D., & Petersen, D. B. (2020). Narrative intervention: Principles to practice. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 51(4), 1081–1096. https://doi.org/10.1044/2020_lshss-20-00015