Throwback (2014): Narrative intervention supports language skills

We review research on narratives a lot—probably because narrative skills are: (1) needed in both academic and everyday social interactions, (2) featured in common core standards, and (3) supported by evidence for both assessment and treatment of language skills. If you’re not convinced yet, here’s one more treatment study supporting their use—in an open access (WOO!) article from 2014.


Adlof et al. tested their “Structured Narrative Retell Instruction” (SNRI) in a small feasibility study. A small group of preschool–1st grade children (ages 3–6) were recruited from a center serving low-income families. Children received either the SNRI or a control treatment of “code-focused literacy instruction” (identifying sounds and letters, pointing out rhymes, etc.) in small group sessions lasting 40 min, 2 times per week for 6 weeks. Both conditions used published children’s storybooks, and the children got to take them home.

In SNRI sessions, clinicians read the books and: (1) led children in think-alouds, (2) pointed out story grammar elements (setting, characters, problem, etc.), and (3) defined and discussed challenging vocabulary words. Then, clinicians led the group in answering comprehension questions and assisted children in retelling the story. See the article’s supplemental materials for an example lesson.

After the intervention, children in the SNRI group showed large gains on measures of vocabulary, narrative skill, and grammar, while children in the control group showed gains on fewer measures. This is a small, initial study, so we have to interpret the results with caution. However, the results were promising and add to the evidence showing narrative intervention improves children’s language skills.


Adlof, S. M., McLeod, A., & Leftwich, B. (2014). Structured narrative retell instruction for young children from low socioeconomic backgrounds: A preliminary study of feasibility. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 391. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00391