Narrative competence in young children
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AbstractThe focus of this naturalistic field study was the emergent narrative competence of children in both a grade one and a kindergarten classroom. Oral stories were collected at a story/talk centre over the three month course of the investigation which involved over 200 hours of on-site data gathering. With freedom to participate and choose topics, the children volunteered 413 stories for audiotaping during ongoing classroom activities. Informal interviews with the children and their teachers, and extensive field notes provided a broad contextual base. A qualitative analysis was selected after the data gathering was complete, to honour the emergent nature of the research thrust and to portray 1) how narrative competence unfolds as children gradually gain oral and literate fluency, 2) the nature of the storying behaviours disclosed and 3) the aspects of storying that are mastered or those in which the children are struggling to gain proficiency. Significant features of the stories were examined in terms of basic literary information. Key sound and visual components from interpersonal and intrapersonal interactions were investigated which reflected child/story and children/stories relationships. A further examination of these interactions and relationships revealed communicative aspects which were notable in terms of a child's perception of audience and of personal performance. Competence was examined from the perspectives of play and knowing by becoming; the study confirmed the social aspects of narrative. The model which emerged suggests a continuum along which these young children are moving as they acquire narrative proficiency. It consists of a series of three phases (comprising various subsidiary evolutions) through which children maneuvre in their development of narrative competence. The first phase is perceived as a time of receptive resonances wherein a child demonstrates the acquisition of intonation patterns. In the second phase, a child produces story scripts and string stories, demonstrates an emerging metanarrative sense, can provide longer sections of memorized stories, and attempts original story creations. In the third aspect authorial independence emerges with a shift from a linguistic to a communicational model. Story is perceived to be a special form of communication based on shared implicit formats. Correct referential voice provides an integrated quality to a story as a child uses a balance of counterpointed strategies which involve audience awareness, mobility of perspective, dialogue, and collusion with a listener. A child develops a personal style and may become absorbed and immersed in the story.
Bibliography: p. 256-275.