Narrative skills are storytelling skills. They are a complex and important part of communication which we use every day to:
- Comprehend what we read
- Re-tell events to others
- Describe to others
- Tell others about ourselves
- Give instructions to others
- Persuade others
- Socially Connect with others
Narrative skills help us do all of these things in an organized, efficient, and engaging way. Individuals with weak narrative skills may jump all over the place, skip important details, not understand what’s happening, go off on unrelated tangents, or go on and on about something. Students with low levels of narrative development are often at risk for academic difficulties. You can give your child a strong narrative foundation by practicing telling stories together and telling about personal experiences (personal narratives). This starts with reading and talking to very young children to provide lots of language input.
Narrative skills are important in school for reading comprehension, creating stories and journal entries, and building friendships. To be successful at these tasks, children need a narrative foundation, which they get from: routines, play, recalling about events, answering questions about past events, and reading: Reading is one of the easiest and best ways to build narrative skills.
A personal narrative is a story from one’s life or experiences. Encourage your child to tell about their own experiences. Help them to see that these experiences are actually stories that are valued and important. This will build your child’s confidence with oral language and will transfer into the development of reading, writing, and critical thinking as well as social competencies.
Here are some ways to encourage your child to tell personal narratives:
- Model personal storytelling by telling about your own day or experiences first. Even older children have a hard time with the question “How was your day?” Instead of asking the question right away, model how you would answer by telling about your day first. Think of your day like a story with a cast of characters, the setting, the problems you encountered, and how you solved them. Talk about it in simple terms. E.g., I went to the grocery store with Grandma to buy bananas but they didn’t have any! We had to drive to another store and we found some there. I’m so glad we found them so we can make banana bread for the bake sale tomorrow – I was very relieved!
- Know your child’s classroom or regular routines. Ask your child’s teacher or other adults who spend time with your child about what happened that day or keep the classroom calendar handy. You can use this information to help your child to talk about his or her day by filling in some of the information as a springboard for your child to tell their own narrative. E.g., You made crafts with your auntie. I know you love folding paper and painting. I wonder what you made together first?
- First, Next, and Last. Use sequencing words such as first, then, next, last, before, and after when talking about your day to show the sequence in which things happened. Using sequencing words will help your child understand that order matters when talking about events. Eg., FIRST I went to Buylow with Grandma to buy bananas but they didn’t have any! THEN/NEXT we had to drive to another store and we found some there. I’m so glad we found them! LAST we’re going to bake banana bread tonight for the bake sale tomorrow – yahoo!
- Take pictures. Take photos of activities you and your child do and ask others who spend time with your child to take photos of activities they participate in. It’s great if it is an action photo. This can be done easily with your cell phone or I-pad for larger screen. If you can, print on paper – black and white is fine or simply look on your device
- It’s great to take photos of special events but also ordinary activities are a wonderful way for your child to practice telling their own story about what they did.
- Everyone finds it motivating to look at pictures of themselves. Your child will like being the “star” of their own story.
Narrative Activities to Practice
Make up a story from a photo to create a simple personal narrative
Writing template 1 – first then last
Writing template 2 – narrative structure
Writing template 3 – story mountain
Writing template 4 – umbrella for paragraphs
Story Detecting – making inferences
Caption these animal expressions
Telling Stories using Story Grammar Marker(TM) Resource
Online picture sequencing game
Online sequencing game with pictures and sentences
Support language with Picture Books from Super Duper
Narrative Stages from Super Duper
Stages of Narrative Development
Narrative Skills: What Are They & How Do They Develop? 20 February, 2019 by BabySparks