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Title page for ETD etd-10042019-232153

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Rivera, Bretta Louise
Author's Email Address blr132@mail.harvard.edu
URN etd-10042019-232153
Title Supporting Preschoolers’ Narrative Development Through Play and Vocabulary Instruction Supporting Preschoolers’ Narrative Development Through Play and Vocabulary Instruction
Degree PhD
Department Learning, Teaching and Diversity
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
David K. Dickinson Committee Chair
Allyssa McCabe Committee Member
Deborah Wells Rowe Committee Member
Leona Schauble Committee Member
  • play
  • preschool
  • intervention
  • narrative
  • Vocabulary
  • oral language
  • drama
Date of Defense 2019-09-11
Availability unrestricted
Early narrative proficiency is of central importance to literacy and academic achievement. Book reading and play are widely considered to be rich narrative learning experiences, however, the mechanisms by which adult-supported play fosters growth have not been examined. We explored two possible pathways for narrative development: 1) by improving representation of story events through play; and 2) by fostering learning of vocabulary needed to understand the story. Data come from an intervention, with 145 preschoolers, designed to develop children’s vocabulary and language skills by reading books followed by three different play conditions: directed play where adults directed enactment of the story; guided play where adults extended children’s play ideas; and free play where adults did not participate. Children were assessed on target vocabulary and story recall of one of the books, and a recall measure required children to retell the narrative as they viewed 10 pages from one of the book s. Narratives were scored for units of story information. Multilevel modeling was used to account for nested data, and analyses controlled for book theme, age and attendance. Results indicate that narrative ability and vocabulary gains are significantly and positively associated, when controlling for age, pre-test attendance and book theme. Children who learned more vocabulary were more likely to retell more story details. Children in the adult directed play condition told significantly more detailed stories than children in unsupervised play. Moreover, this relationship between adult supported play and narrative is mediated by children’s vocabulary gains. These results demonstrate that learning story-specific words in the context of adult supported story enactment is an effective instructional method for supporting narrative growth. A qualitative examination and comparison of the play conditions offers additional insights into the adult-support strategies and adult-child interactions during different play support methods.
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