Improving the narrative skills of children with language disorder


It’s hard to imagine going through a day without either telling or hearing a story. “What’d you do this weekend? What was the movie about? What happened?!” We don’t think twice when answering these questions. For some kids, though, this can be really difficult. As the authors of this study point out, “…elementary school–age children with language disorders who demonstrate poor narrative skills are disadvantaged during a large portion of the school day because a great deal of classroom instruction incorporates some degree of narrative discourse into the lessons.”

To address this need, the authors developed a program called Supporting Knowledge in Language and Literacy (SKILL), with the goal of specifically targeting narrative skills directly related to the elementary curriculum (that’s right, think Common Core). The intervention was designed to teach children basic story elements such as characters, setting, actions, consequences, and the relationships among these elements. It then uses story modeling, story retelling, story generation, and story evaluation to develop the child’s narration and literacy skills. Check out the study for a detailed description of the program.

After roughly 8 weeks, the four children who received the intervention told stories that were longer, contained more diverse vocabulary, and were more complex than their stories at baseline.

Other than results, what’s good about SKILL? The lessons include evidence-based procedures that are actually scripted out for you. You buy the manual (see here) and materials and you’re off to the races! No planning needed.

Butthe authors admit that the study was small and did not meet the highest design standards, and the SKILL curriculum has only been studied one other time as a whole-classroom intervention.

Gillam, S. L., Olszewski, A., Squires, K., Wolfe, K., Slocum, T., & Gillam, R. B. (2018). Improving narrative production in children with language disorders: An early-stage efficacy study of a narrative intervention program. Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 49, 197-212. doi:10.1044/2017_lshss-17-0047.