Young students more accurate in retellings of narrative text than informational text

Elementary school children’s retellings of narrative texts were more accurate and lengthier than retellings of objective texts, finds a study of 87 proficient 4th-grade readers in the U.S.  The reading comprehension study found that narrative retellings had significantly more matching meanings at the clause level (16.91%) than expository retellings (3.85%), says a new study in the Australian Journal of Language and Literacy.

In addition to remembering less, expository readers also more often remembered in ways not intended by the author, says the researcher.

“In contrast to narratives, expositions have more variable structures—e.g., attribution, adversative, covariance, etc.—and young students typically have far fewer experiences with such organizational patterns,” according to the study.

The study evaluated students’ retellings with a comprehension taxonomy of 7 categories: match, substitution, addition, summary, conflict, omission and rearrangement.  The researcher found that even good comprehenders added information that was not in the text at all or added text that was in conflict with the original text.

“Teachers need to expect such conflicts as a natural part of the comprehension process and not assume that conflicts are a product of ineffective reading,” the researcher writes.

Retellings can help teachers determine the readability of a text and guide instruction and interventions to increase students’ comprehension.

 “What retellings can tell us about the nature of reading comprehension in school children,” by Stephen Kucer, Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 2014, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 31-44.

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