Silva, & Cain, K. (2019). The use of questions to scaffold narrative coherence and cohesion: Use of questions to scaffold narrative. Journal of Research in Reading, 42(1), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9817.12129
Narrative abilities refer to the telling of a story. Narrative skills require complex language skills including being able to tell a story that makes sense (also known as coherence) and is grammatically correct (also known as cohesion). Coherence refers to how story elements (e.g., character, settings, problem, solution) are included in the story, whereas cohesion refers to how one sentence is related to another by using causal (because) and temporal terms (before).
One potential way to improve the quality of narratives is through the use of questions. Some reasons why questions are beneficial include highlighting important aspects of the story, helping children elaborate, and guiding children’s attention to relevant information to include in narratives. However, the timing of the question may be an important factor to consider. Therefore, the goal of this study was to examine whether questions asked before or after narrative production affected the coherence and cohesion of the story. Further, the researchers examined whether cognitive or linguistic abilities were related to narrative skills.
In this study, 81 4-to 6-year-olds told two stories, one before answering story questions and one after answering story questions. They also completed an assessment battery to measure their cognitive abilities, working memory skills, receptive vocabulary, and grammar knowledge. Results revealed that older children performed better than younger children. More interestingly, answering questions before narrative production improved coherence but not cohesion. Working memory was also related to the narrative coherence benefit.
The results are encouraging inasmuch as they suggest that exposure to questions before story telling benefited narrative coherence. Future work in our lab aims to look at how to improve narrative cohesion through the use of questions as well. The results of this work will be clinically important for findings ways to support children’s narrative skills.