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Oral narrative context effects on poor readers' spoken language performance: story retelling, story generation, and personal narratives

Marleen F Westerveld, Gail T Gillon
International Journal of Speech-language Pathology 2010, 12 (2): 132-41
20420354
This investigation explored the effects of oral narrative elicitation context on children's spoken language performance. Oral narratives were produced by a group of 11 children with reading disability (aged between 7;11 and 9;3) and an age-matched control group of 11 children with typical reading skills in three different contexts: story retelling, story generation, and personal narratives. In the story retelling condition, the children listened to a story on tape while looking at the pictures in a book, before being asked to retell the story without the pictures. In the story generation context, the children were shown a picture containing a scene and were asked to make up their own story. Personal narratives were elicited with the help of photos and short narrative prompts. The transcripts were analysed at microstructure level on measures of verbal productivity, semantic diversity, and morphosyntax. Consistent with previous research, the results revealed no significant interactions between group and context, indicating that the two groups of children responded to the type of elicitation context in a similar way. There was a significant group effect, however, with the typical readers showing better performance overall on measures of morphosyntax and semantic diversity. There was also a significant effect of elicitation context with both groups of children producing the longest, linguistically most dense language samples in the story retelling context. Finally, the most significant differences in group performance were observed in the story retelling condition, with the typical readers outperforming the poor readers on measures of verbal productivity, number of different words, and percent complex sentences. The results from this study confirm that oral narrative samples can distinguish between good and poor readers and that the story retelling condition may be a particularly useful context for identifying strengths and weaknesses in oral narrative performance.

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