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What is Narrative Therapy

‘Narratives’ are something which we all use a lot every day. They are what we use to correctly tell a story or explain a sequence of events to a listener.

Think how many times we ask our children to tell narratives each day e.g. “What did you do at school today?” “What happened at playtime?” “What did you do at after-school club?” “What did you do at football/swimming/dance?” “What things did you do at the weekend?”

Your child has to use lots of different skills to produce the narrative:  they have to remember what actually happened, they have to put the events into the correct order, they have to work out what key pieces of information the listener needs, they have to select the correct words to use to describe the events, they then have to put these words into the right order in sentences and with the correct grammar. Phew – telling a narrative is actually a pretty tricky task!

Sometimes, children can struggle with telling narratives. They can:

  • Use general/non-specific vocabulary e.g. “I went in there and got it”
  • Use short sentences e.g. “Did painting”
  • Confuse the order of events e.g. “got my coat and came home and then went to assembly”
  • Not introduce the topic/people properly so the listener cannot work out the story e.g. “did it yesterday”
  • Only talk about things in the ‘here and now’ and not respond to questions about things they have done earlier e.g. ‘at school/at the weekend.’
  • Not understand the question words e.g. “who?” “where?” and give the wrong type of answer e.g. “Where did you go at the weekend?” “with mummy”
  • Not understand the ‘time’ words e.g. ‘day’ ‘night’ ‘yesterday’ ‘tomorrow’

Narrative Therapy can support children with all of these difficulties. Here is one group that was run last week:

Name: Narrative Therapy

Session: Number 9

Participants: 6 children aged 5 years old who all have difficulties accurately telling narratives.

Activity One: Attention and Listening Rules

At the start of each session, the children remind themselves of the ‘groups listening rules.’ This helps them all to use ‘good looking, sitting, listening and thinking’ so they can take part in the activities and learn.

Activity Two: When concept?

‘when?’ is introduced to the children. A colour-coded visual symbol is used with the ‘when’ Makaton sign. The visual clues and spoken word support all the children to understand and remember the concept.

Each child was then asked different ‘when?’ questions. They got to collect ‘clock’ stickers every time they answered questions like: “When do we eat chocolate eggs?,” “when do we brush our teeth?” “when do we eat cereals?”

Activity Three: Day and Night Stations

A feely bag of toy objects was passed around the group and each child took out and labelled the object e.g. ‘pyjamas’ ‘sun’ ‘lunchbox’ ‘moon.’ They then had to work out if that object would be seen at ‘daytime’ or ‘night time’ and take their object to either the ‘day’ station or the ‘night’ station.

Activity Four: Birthday Spiders!

A big spider diagram was drawn with a birthday cake in the middle. The children then had to think of different things that would be seen or done when it is a birthday and these were drawn at the end of the spider’s legs e.g. birthday card, birthday presents, birthday party. If the struggled and needed some help, there was a box full of birthday objects to help them. The children came up with lots of brilliant ideas – it’s just a shame the therapist’s drawing skills were not quite as brilliant!

Activity Five: ‘Five Minutes Peace’

A lovely story reinforcing the ‘night time’ concept was read to the children. It tells the difficulties of Mr.Bear trying to find 5 minutes peace at night time!

Activity 6: Stickers

This is when the children get to decide which sticker they want: do they want the ‘ears’ for ‘good listening’? ‘the pair of eyes’ for ‘good looking’ or the ‘brain’ for ‘good thinking’?

Narrative Therapy can be completed in a group or individually. Narrative groups run by SpeechRight are especially popular in school settings. Work completed in the groups can be carried over into the classroom supporting the childrens’ understanding of topic stories, their vocabulary, their spoken narratives and their written narratives too. If your school is interested in finding out more about the support SpeechRight offers, see the School Support leaflet.