Narrative discourse represents an essential mechanism for making sense of human experiences and relationships, providing “the major link between our own sense of self and our sense of others in the social world around us” (Bruner, 1986, p.69). A long tradition of research (Allen, Kertoy, Sherblom & Pettit, 1994; Hudson & Shapiro, 1991; Peterson & McCabe, 1983) has shown that, in the oral modality, children are capable of producing complete personal episodes by the time they enter first grade, whereas they often engage in unstructured event descriptions when telling fictional stories. In the present study we investigated differences between three types of narratives written by a sample of 150 Italian children in the third, fourth and fifth grade (from 8 to 11 years of age). Each participant composed fictional, personal and hypothetical stories. In particular, in the latter task children were requested to write an imaginary story in which they themselves were the main characters. Narrative structure was analyzed using the categories proposed by Stein and Glenn (1979): Presentation, Description, Event, Internal Response, Planning, Action, Direct Consequences and Conclusion. A global index of narrative completeness was obtained by counting the number of different categories included in each story (range: 0-8). The results indicated that narrative completeness was greater for fictional and hypothetical stories than for personal narratives. Furthermore, significant differences between the three stories were found in all categories, except for Event and Planning. Children used Presentation, Internal Response and Conclusion more frequently in fictional and personal narratives than in hypothetical stories. On the other hand, the Action and Description categories were employed more often in hypothetical and personal stories, respectively. These findings suggest that school-age children make clear differentiations between the three narrative tasks and that, contrary to what happens in the oral modality, they are more proficient at producing fictional than personal stories.
How narrative structure changes in the stories written by Italian children of primary school / Longobardi, Emiddia; Renna, Marialuisa; Spataro, Pietro. - (2012). (Intervento presentato al convegno Sig Writing Conference tenutosi a Porto, Portugal nel July 11-13, 2012).