Personal Narratives At

Children in the New England sample were videotaped again at age 5 participating in a range of discourse tasks, including telling a personal narrative to an experimenter about a recent experience and constructing a fantasy play narrative with the experimenter using small toy props (Hemphill, Feldman, Camp, & Griffin, 1994).

In the personal narratives they recounted, children turned real experiences into narrative accounts of events. Five-year-olds in this sample related an average of five events in their narratives (range of events per narrative 0-13), though coherent and successful narratives were sometimes produced with as few as three. Personal narratives, however, involve not only the structuring of events that advance the plot, but also require the child to provide relevant background information about space, time and actors, and to express his or her stance toward the narrated events through the use of evaluative devices. In this study, narratives were coded for the presence or absence of three features: structure, orientation and evaluation. Table 10.2 displays the sets of structural, orienting, and evaluative features found in these narratives and the proportion of children who included them in the narration of their personal experiences.

In the following paragraphs, we describe the broad range of variation present in this group of children by classifying their performances into better, average and poor productions of personal experiences.

The better narrators at 5 years of age produced conventional narratives that followed a sequential structure and were organized around a highpoint or climax. These narratives clearly convey the narrator's perspective through the use of sophisticated evaluative devices. Margaret's narrative, presented above, is one example of an excellent performance. Another example is this narrative told by Elizabeth at 5 years:

Elizabeth: Once upon a time I was in a shoe store and I had my pony with me. And I put him down. And then my mummy said: "Do you want to buy some shoes?" And I said: "Yes". And then I left him there for an hour. And then I came back to get him and he was gone. Interviewer: Oh no.

Elizabeth: We had to search all over the store, we couldn't find him. Interviewer: Oh no.

Elizabeth: A little girl must have took him home. Interviewer: Ohhh. So what happened? Elizabeth: My nanna bought me a new one.

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