Increasing narrative complexity: What do I do now!? | Narrative Language Intervention

Updated: Nov 3


🤔 My kiddo is telling a story with basic story structure...now what?!🤔

I get this question a lot!

Sometimes people come to me with this question after 10 sessions and some after just one session (yes, sometimes kids can pick up on a simple story schema quicker than you might expect)!


Well. My first question is generally: are you content with that?

The general response I tend to get is: what do you mean?

This is what I mean:


👉🏼 Are you content with the child just telling a story with simple story structure? Can they tell a story with multiple episodes (i.e., more than one problem-attempt-consequence sequence)?


👉🏼 Are you content with the child's use of language complexity? For example:


⭐️ subordinating conjunctions (e.g., because, when, after, who, that)

⭐️ coordinating conjunctions (e.g., and, but, so, or)

⭐️ figurative language (e.g., similes, metaphors, idioms)

⭐️ mental verbs (e.g., decide, think, infer, believe)

⭐️ tier 2 & tier 3 vocabulary

⭐️ adjectives

⭐️ dialogue

⭐️ adverbs



You can build up the complexity in a variety of ways.


⬅️➡️ You can build "horizontally" by adding story grammar elements and/or episodes.



⬆️ You can also build "vertically" by adding language complexity targets.



What might this look like?


If you want to build "horizontally," it may look like this:


problem + attempt + consequence/ending

⬇️

character + setting + problem + attempt + consequence/ending

⬇️

character + setting + problem + emotion + attempt + consequence/ending + end emotion

⬇️

character + setting + problem + attempt (1) + emotion + consequence (unsuccessful attempt) + emotion + attempt (2) + consequence/ending + end emotion


If you want to build "vertically," you can choose language complexity targets that the child is not using independently yet. This is not an exhaustive list, but it will get you started!


⭐️ subordinating conjunctions (e.g., because, when, after, who, that)

⭐️ coordinating conjunctions (e.g., and, but, so, or)

⭐️ figurative language (e.g., similes, metaphors, idioms)

⭐️ mental verbs (e.g., decide, think, infer, believe)

⭐️ tier 2 & tier 3 vocabulary

⭐️ adjectives

⭐️ dialogue

⭐️ adverbs


Still wondering what you should choose to work on next? Ask yourself this question:


Is your child/student demonstrating the skill at the level expected of a student/child their age? If you don't know what is expected, check your state's grade level standards. You can generally find them under ELAR standards 😊


Most states have adopted the Common Core State Standards, which you can reference here.


If you happen to work in Texas, Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Indiana, Virginia, South Carolina or Florida, your state likely has its own state standards which you can reference specifically for your state.

👉🏼What is the student lacking or what is keeping the student from meeting that standard? Language complexity? Sequence and organization? Detail? Whatever it is, that is what you can target next!

The aforementioned perspective is largely academically-driven. School-based SLPs will likely find this perspective most useful. However, there are other useful perspectives. Here are a couple other perspectives to consider...


👉🏼 Safety Perspective | If the child was in a serious situation & needed to convey what happened/what was happening, would the child be able to do it with sufficient detail & clarity to be safe? If not, whatever is lacking is what you can work on.


👉🏼 Social Perspective | If you, as an adult, find yourself disengaging from the story or having to exert effort to follow or enjoy the story, chances are the child's peers will respond the same way. In fact, the child's peers will likely disengage faster and not put in the effort to continue listening to a bland or disorganized story. Whatever your child needs to do to make listening more enjoyable or effortless, that is what you can work on.


The beauty of this intervention is that you are always monitoring the child's zone of proximal development (ZPD) and adapting your intervention to keep the child engaged, learning and growing.

What do you think?! Let's talk! 👇🏼👇🏼

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