Fantasy Narratives At

In the fantasy narrative task, children were required to enter the terrain of pretense and symbolic talk. With the support of toys and a provided beginning for the plot, children had to construct a coherent story using talk in combination with enactment and sound effects. Because an adult partner also participated in this fantasy task, children could narrate relatively autonomously, or they could rely on their more competent partner to introduce and reintroduce play characters and to prompt for important structural and evaluative information.

The most skilled fantasy storytellers among our 5-year-olds used conventional narrative structure to frame and organize their fantasy performances. Structural elements present in the most successful fantasy narratives included orienting information about an imaginary setting, a build-up of events toward a narrative climax or highpoint, a resolution of the themes developed in the story, for example conflict between the animal participants, and a conventionalized closing, for example, Everyone lived happily ever after. The best storytellers elaborated on the conflict theme introduced by their adult partner, weaving in subplots around themes like a search for a magic mushroom. They made abundant use of a variety of types of evaluation, including in particular the reporting of character intentions (then he... tried to attack him) and internal states (the mother saw the dragon and was terrified). These fantasy storytellers built up a fully-realized story world (Wolf & Polanyi, 1990), achieving genre specificity through the explicit introduction of referents (the lion saw the dragon sitting right in the middle of the pond), rather than the use of deictic expressions (sitting right there), through the use of character delineation (there was a bird that sang a sweet song), and often through a focus on a particular story protagonist, around whose plans, actions, and reactions the story events were developed. They also represented character voice, displaying the perspectives of story characters through reported speech (and then when the little lion heard that she said, "Here I am, mother"), as well as through direct speech (They went in a fight. "Arrrh!"). These narrators used an anchor tense, typically the past tense, to hold together the diverse types of talk in the narrative, and employed strategies such as tense shifts and full nominal reintroduction of story characters to mark return to narration after stretches of nonnarrative talk. For example in Sarah's fantasy narrative, after she says, So they all had to get out of the way, but then they tickled each other, she digresses from the narrative to remark, I tickle my sister sometimes. She tickles me the most. I like to tickle her cause it makes her laugh. Then, she reintroduces the story character with the dragon to mark return to the narrative: The dragon had to go home. So he just went home to his cave. Table 10.3 summarizes the features included in successful fantasy narratives and the proportion of the children who produced each feature at 5 years of age.

Less successful 5-year-old fantasy narrators relied on their adult partner to provide the basic elements of story structure: information about the story setting, participants, and plot (Adult: Annie, what do all the animals do? Annie: The lion can roar.). They also relied on the adult partner to introduce story characters with full noun phrases, making ambiguous reference to the characters themselves with pronouns (maybe he could push him). The least successful fantasy storytellers relied on physical enactment, rather than narrative reporting, to represent events, used an undifferentiated present tense for both narrative and nonnarrative talk (Pretend, pretend they're saying something. Now all the lions, now all the animals say bad things to them. You see?), and often used inconsistent tense shifts. Rather

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