During our daily interactions with others, we share most information using stories. Our brains also appear wired to retain information more efficiently when it's presented in a story, or narrative format. Children's ability to tell a narrative develops at a regular rate along with their cognitive skills. If young children are not progressing in their story-telling abilities, they are at risk for future academic difficulties. Researchers state:
Narrative language is a window into children’s comprehension and language abilities (Allen, Ukrainetz & Carswell, 2012).
Eliciting narrative language also appears to be one of the most authentic contexts to obtain a language sample (Justice, et. Al, 2010).
Narrative language samples provide helpful diagnostic tools to help guide the RTI process.
Tier 1/Universal Benchmarking
Monitoring narrative language is an effective way to ensure that students are prepared for academic success, but school-based SLPs simply do not have time to conduct a thorough narrative language analysis on every student in a class.
What is realistic?
SLPs can use the Kindergarten Language Benchmark Assessment, a 4 minute universal benchmark tool that includes a narrative language subtest. After the fall testing date, the data can be used to create local norms, with educators providing Tier 2 language support to students who score in the bottom 10-25% of the class, regardless of primary language. The KLBA is then re-administered in the winter and spring to all students to monitor growth compared to peers.
Tier 2: Progress Monitoring
For students who receive Tier 2 supports, it is recommended to use progress monitoring tools included in the Tier 2 program that your district chooses to use. For example, if your district uses the Language for Learning program, there are assessments every 10 lessons that should correspond to bi-weekly assessment.
Tier 3: Language Learning Disability Qualification
For children who fail to make progress in Tier 2, SLPs may consider a more in-depth assessment of Narrative Language skills in order to qualify a student for special education or Tier 3 services. Dynamic assessment of narrative language is particularly helpful to differentiate ELL from SLI. Dynamic assessment includes a test-teach-test cycle, with narrative language compared pre and post instruction.
Recent research states
“Dynamic assessment conducted in English provides a systematic means for measuring learning processes and learning outcomes, resulting in a clinically useful procedure for identifying LIs in bilingual children who are in the process of learning English as a second language. (Peña, E, Gilliam, R, Bedore, L, 2014)
The Dynamic Assessment and Intervention: Improving Children’s Narrative Abilities is a useful test to complete a narrative dynamic assessment.
Tier 3: SLI Goals and Data Collection
Once a student has an identified language learning disability, narrative language samples can also be used to measure language progress in a variety of areas:
Word Finding: Want to know if your student is using his word finding strategies effectively? Take a language sample and look for effective use of circumlocution rather than simple semantic errors.
Classroom instructions: Want to know if your student can complete classroom assessments requiring writing a retell? Take a language sample and assess for use of story grammar components.
Narrative Language Assessments
Allen, Ukrainetz & Carswell, "The Narrative Language Performance of Three Types of At-Risk First Graders." Language Speech Hearing Services Schools, 2012.
Justice, L., Bowles, R., Pence. K, Gosse, C. A Scalable Tool for Assessing Children's Language Abitilies Within a Narrative Context: The NAP (Narrative Assessment Protocol). Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 2010.
Elizabeth D. Peña, Ronald B. Gillam, and Lisa M. Bedore Dynamic Assessment of Narrative Ability in English Accurately Identifies Language Impairment in English Language Learners Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2014, Vol. 57, 2208-2220.