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Targeting Narrative Language Skills in the Literacy-Based Therapy Framework

Updated: May 26

Let's talk about why narratives are the chosen form of discourse (as opposed to expository or descriptive) and how you can go about building these skills within the literacy-based therapy framework.

Let's start here...

Literacy-based language intervention utilizes narratives to teach children language that is required in the classroom.

The goal of literacy-based therapy is to improve language skills that support students’ ability to participate in the general education classroom in both oral and print modalities.

Here’s why narrative language is the chosen form of discourse:

1️⃣ Narratives are the earliest developing form of language that requires the speaker to produce a monologue as opposed to an interactive dialogue.

2️⃣ Producing narratives is a functional language task needed for success in the classroom. There are several common core standards that rely on narrative skills!

3️⃣ Narratives can be used in casual, social contexts (e.g. telling a story to a friend at recess), as well as formal contexts (e.g. presenting a summary of classroom text).

🌟 And as an added can pair this approach with another evidence-based approach - narrative language intervention!

Since literacy-based therapy utilizes narratives, you can pair this intervention approach with another evidence-based approach: Narrative Language Intervention!

How to Target Narrative Skills in Therapy

Narrative activities are complex and incorporate the use of a variety of language skills.

When targeting narrative skills, we can start by focusing on one aspect of narration at a time.

Here are some ideas:

  • Sequencing story events

  • Identifying or describing main plot events/character actions

  • Explaining how a character solved a problem

  • Character motivations

  • Story Grammar

  • Main idea

Generating a Narrative Through Story Retell

After working on individual aspects of narration, you can put it all together through retelling the story, and eventually creating a parallel story (step 5 in the LBT framework).

Here are some quick tips for retelling a story:

📖 Use the beginning, middle, and end (BME) as a framework - you can also incorporate use of story grammar to increase understanding of elements that need to be included in each part of the story (e.g. beginning - main character, setting, initiating event)

📖 Students can retell stories in oral or written formats, or by drawing simple pictures, also known as pictography

📖 If drawing pictures, explain to students that the pictures don’t need a lot of detail. They should be drawn quickly and are just meant to help remember each part of the story (this helps with efficiency during your therapy sessions)

📖 Support students with prompts, cues, sentence starters, visuals, and leading questions (e.g. Who was the story about? What did they do first? What did they do second?) depending on student needs

📖 Talk about each part of the story (BME), referring to the pictures in the book or visuals as needed, and then retell the story as a whole

📖 This can occur over the course of several sessions and you can provide opportunities to retell the story multiple times, in different formats. For example, in session one students retell the story verbally while looking at pictures in the book. Session two students retell the story through pictography. Session three students cut out the pictures, put them in the correct order, and retell the story. Session four students retell the story referring to pictography only as needed.

For more ideas and examples on retelling a story with differentiated levels, take a look at this blog post.

Before you go...if you're looking for a no-prep or print and go resource that has a variety of activities already done for you, then take a peek at my:

I hope this has been helpful! 💛



Ukrainetz, T. A. (2006). Contextualized Language Intervention: Scaffolding Prek-12 Literacy Achievement (1st ed.). Pro Ed.


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