Interviewer: Oh that's good.

Elizabeth: He had twinkle eyes.

Elizabeth produces a highly conventional narrative: She introduces her anecdote with the appropriate background information and only after the setting is clear for the listener, she starts narrating the sequence of events that lead to the highpoint (the disappearance of the pony). At this point, she conveys the frustration elicited by the lost toy through a concentration of evaluative elements (we had to search all over the store; we couldn't find him) and finally closes the narrative with a resolution to the conflict described.

Narratives such as these by Margaret and Elizabeth combine both orientation, principally with reference to physical setting (I was in a shoe store) and sophisticated evaluation, which includes reported speech, hypothetical situations (A little girl must have took it), internal states (Do you want to buy some shoes?), and repetition for effect. Other evaluative elements more commonly used at this age, such as adjectives, defeats of expectations (we couldn't find him), intensifiers and delimiters (all over the store), compulsions (We had to search... ) and intentions ( . . . to get him) were also frequent in these narratives. These narrators had mastered a conventional pattern for telling personal anecdotes that was structured around a highpoint, often included conventional openers (Once upon a time) and closings, and that skillfully integrated both orientation information and different types of evaluation.

The average performances at 5 years of age can be characterized as displaying one of the following two patterns: (1) reportorial recasts, nonconventional narratives that report a list of events with little or no evaluation, or (2) evaluative accounts, nonconventional narratives that that are highly evaluated.

Interestingly and in line with previous research on gender differences in storytelling (Peterson & McCabe, 1983), there was a tendency for boys to fall in the first category and for girls to produce narratives of the second type. The following two examples illustrate these patterns:

John: age 5 years

Interviewer: Your mom told me that something very special just happened to your sister, what happened?

John: She had a graduation.

Interviewer: Did you go?

John: It was at this house.

Interviewer: Was it fun?

John: Yeah.

Interviewer: Tell me about it.

John: Well, all my cousins were there and moms and dads were there and I had lots of fun. And I went down and played some pool ball.

Interviewer: Yeah?

John: Yep. I went up and played up in the school yard.

Interviewer: You did?

John: Yep. And we had cake and lots of junk.

Corinna: 5 years

Interviewer: You went a long way away to visit your grandparents.

Corinna: Yeah. And I went swimming. And they didn't put the dock out yet, so I didn't go too far, because I didn't know like where it was over my head and stuff like that.

Interviewer: Mmhm.

Corinna: And so I didn't go too far. But I just swam back. And I did it slowly when I got up to here. (Corinnapoints to midsection.)

Interviewer: Uhhuh.

Corinna: Because I didn't want to go over my head by mistake. Because the dock wasn't there.

Neither of these narratives makes use of conventional narrative structure (e.g., the reporting of orienting information about setting and participants preceding an event that initiates a discrete sequence of actions) nor are they organized around a highpoint or climax, as Elizabeth's was. Nevertheless, some evaluative elements, especially intensifiers and delimiters (John: I had lots of fun; and Corinna: I just swam back) and compulsions (for example, had to) were frequently found in these performances. Despite these common features, there were differences in what narrators foregrounded in their texts. Narrators of reportorial recasts focused on conveying a list of events and occasionally, as John's narrative shows, added some orientation (it was at this house; all my cousins were there). Narrators of evaluated accounts, like Corinna, offered instead a concentration of evaluative devices, such as causality (because the dock wasn't there), defeats of expectations (I didn't go too far), internal states (I didn't know... ) and intentions/purposes (I didn't want to go over my head), with the primary focus on conveying not only the events, but the narrator's interpretation of the experience, as well.

Poor narrators at age 5 conveyed unclear narratives with little evaluation and either a nonsequential structure or an obscure progression of events (as in Sarah's example). Even though these children remained on topic and within the boundaries of one anecdote, their narratives were often mixed with off-narrative talk. These least skilled narrators did not introduce actors nor offer general information to situate the action. The only evaluative elements, if any, present in their narratives were adjectives, physical states, intensifiers and delimiters. Andrew at age 5 illustrates this case:

Interviewer: Can you tell me about your chameleon?

Andrew: I got it for my birthday. And Greeney and Heidi died.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Andrew: So I got Spring and Cupcake left.

Interviewer: So you got more than one chameleon?

Andrew: Yeah. See when I had Heidi, um I had Spring. When Heidi died, I still had Spring. When Greeney died, I still had Heidi. And the lifespan is about ten days.

Interviewer: Their lifespan is ten days?

Andrew: I remember that my chameleons have been living for a long time (shouting into microphone).

Finding Your Confidence

Finding Your Confidence

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