Emela Milne and Victoria Honeybourne are speech, language and communication specialists who co-authored 'The Speech, Language and Communication Pocketbook' (Teachers' Pocketbooks, 2014). In this article, they explore the role of narrative in literacy and in the wider world.

by Emela Milne and Victoria Honeybourne
2nd February 2016



What is narrative?

Constructing a narrative means putting ideas together in a coherent sequence that explains our thoughts, feelings and ideas. Constructing and understanding extended oral and written narratives requires many word, sentence and specific text-level skills.

Narrative – a vital life skill

The ability to construct an effective narrative is essential for academic success across a range of subjects. In school and further education, students are usually assessed through written examination, coursework essays, written homework or oral presentations. Understanding longer text is also essential for reading, researching and studying independently. However, the benefits of being able to create and understand a coherent narrative go beyond the classroom. Putting our thoughts and feelings together into a logical and coherent sequence helps us to create a sense of self and personal identity. Some students with difficulties producing extended narratives can find it difficult to explain and understand events and incidents. This can mean they can get themselves into trouble by taking the blame for things they haven’t done, or they can appear not to be telling the truth.

Difficulties with narrative

The following characteristics can be seen in students who find it difficult to understand and produce narrative:

  • Talk and writing is in long, rambling sentences that are difficult to follow.
  • Written work can be poorly structured and lack punctuation.
  • Text is often copied word for word from another source.
  • Homework that requires a lot of reading or writing may be incomplete and contain too many pictures in relation to the amount of text.
  • They find it difficult to keep track of a longer text or story.
  • They find it difficult to keep up with class discussion.

The accompanying resource is a narrative bookmark which will support students in following longer texts. The bookmark can be used in a variety of ways to support pupils with understanding and recalling what has happened so far in a narrative. The bookmark can then also be used as a prompt for spoken and written work.

(This article was first published on 02.02.16 as a newsletter.)






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