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Early
Childhood
Research
Quarterly
31
(2015)
147–162
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Early
Childhood
Research
Quarterly
Using
a
narrative-
and
play-based
activity
to
promote
low-income
preschoolers’
oral
language,
emergent
literacy,
and
social
competence
Ageliki
Nicolopouloua,,
Kai
Schnabel
Cortinab,
Hande
Ilgazc,
Carolyn
Brockmeyer
Catesd,
Aline
B.
de
e
aLehigh
University,
United
States
bUniversity
of
Michigan,
United
States
cBilkent
University,
Ankara,
Turkey
dNew
York
University,
United
States
eInstituto
Alfa
e
Beto,
Rio
de
Janeiro,
Brazil
a
r
t
i
c
l
e
i
n
f
o
Article
history:
Received
12
August
2011
Received
in
revised
form
9
January
2015
Accepted
18
January
2015
Available
online
31
January
2015
Keywords:
Storytelling
Story-acting
Paley
School
readiness
Low-income
Preschool
a
b
s
t
r
a
c
t
This
study
examined
whether
a
storytelling
and
story-acting
practice
(STSA),
integrated
as
a
regular
com-
ponent
of
the
preschool
curriculum,
can
help
promote
three
key
dimensions
of
young
children’s
school
readiness:
narrative
and
other
oral-language
skills,
emergent
literacy,
and
social
competence.
A
total
of
149
low-income
preschoolers
(almost
all
3-
and
4-year-olds)
participated,
attending
six
experimental
and
seven
control
classrooms.
The
STSA
was
introduced
in
the
experimental
classrooms
for
the
entire
school
year,
and
all
children
in
both
conditions
were
pre-
and
post-tested
on
11
measures
of
narrative,
vocabulary,
emergent
literacy,
pretend
abilities,
peer
play
cooperation,
and
self-regulation.
Participation
in
the
STSA
was
associated
with
improvements
in
narrative
comprehension,
print
and
word
awareness,
pretend
abilities,
self-regulation,
and
reduced
play
disruption.
For
almost
all
these
measures,
positive
results
were
further
strengthened
by
the
frequency
of
participation
in
storytelling
by
individual
children,
indicated
by
number
of
stories
told
(NOST).
The
STSA
is
a
structured
preschool
practice
that
exempli-
fies
child-centered,
play-based,
and
constructivist
approaches
in
early
childhood
education,
and
that
can
operate
as
a
curriculum
module
in
conjunction
with
a
variety
of
different
preschool
curricula.
This
study
confirmed
that
it
can
contribute
to
promoting
learning,
development,
and
school
readiness
for
low-income
and
otherwise
disadvantaged
children.
©
2015
Elsevier
Inc.
All
rights
reserved.
The
study
reported
here
examined
whether
an
activity
com-
bining
voluntary
storytelling
with
group
story-acting,
carried
out
as
a
regular
part
of
the
preschool
curriculum,
can
promote
the
abilities
of
preschool
children
from
low-income
and
otherwise
dis-
advantaged
backgrounds
in
three
major
areas
that
contribute
to
their
readiness
for
success
in
formal
education:
narrative
and
other
oral
language
skills,
emergent
literacy,
and
social
competence.
The
research
questions
framing
this
analysis
bear
on
larger
debates
about
the
most
effective
and
developmentally
appropriate
prac-
tices
by
which
preschool
education
can
help
to
promote
young
children’s
school
readiness.
The
commitment
to
promoting
school
readiness,
a
goal
affirmed
for
several
decades
by
educators,
researchers,
and
policymakers
in
Corresponding
author
at:
Psychology
Department,
Lehigh
University,
17
Memo-
rial
Drive
East,
Bethlehem,
PA
18015
3068,
United
States.
Tel.:
+1
610
525
4330;
fax:
+1
610
758
6277.
E-mail
address:
agn3@lehigh.edu
(A.
Nicolopoulou).
the
U.S.
(Meisels,
1999),
has
been
fueled
by
a
mixture
of
optimism
and
alarm.
On
the
one
hand,
there
is
increasing
confidence
that
dur-
ing
the
first
five
years
of
life,
preschool
education
can
and
should
play
a
positive
role,
along
with
early
care
and
socialization,
in
laying
critical
foundations
for
later
learning
and
development
(National
Research
Council
&
Institute
of
Medicine,
2000;
National
Research
Council,
2001).
On
the
other
hand,
there
is
concern
that
many
young
children,
especially
from
low-income
and
otherwise
disad-
vantaged
backgrounds,
enter
school
not
ready
to
benefit
effectively
from
formal
education
(Dickinson,
McCabe,
&
Essex,
2006;
Hart
&
Risley,
1995).
Although
there
is
no
firm
consensus
on
the
precise
components
of
school
readiness,
there
is
widespread
(though
not
universal)
recognition
of
the
importance
and
interconnectedness
of
the
three
broad
areas
noted
earlier.
Few
would
question
the
crucial
role
of
reading
and
writing
in
all
aspects
of
education.
It
is
now
widely
accepted
that
young
chil-
dren’s
acquisition
of
early
literacy-related
skills
plays
a
key
role
in
preparing
for
and
facilitating
their
transition
to
literacy,
and
is
powerfully
affected
by
the
experiences,
resources,
stimulation,
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2015.01.006
0885-2006/©
2015
Elsevier
Inc.
All
rights
reserved.
148
A.
Nicolopoulou
et
al.
/
Early
Childhood
Research
Quarterly
31
(2015)
147–162
and
support
that
they
encounter
before
beginning
formal
educa-
tion
(Snow,
Burns,
&
Griffin,
1998).
Extensive
research
also
suggests
that,
in
this
respect,
training
children
in
the
kinds
of
techni-
cal
skills
related
most
obviously
and
directly
to
literacy
such
as
letter
and
word
recognition
and
phonological
processing
is
important
but
not
sufficient.
Young
children
must
also
master
a
broader
range
of
cognitive
and
language
skills,
since
reading
for
comprehension
requires
more
than
simple
decoding
(Dickinson,
McCabe,
Anastosopoulos,
Peisner-Feinberg,
&
Poe,
2003;
NICHD
Early
Child
Care
Research
Network,
2005;
Snow,
1999;
Whitehurst
&
Lonigan,
2001).
In
particular,
a
growing
body
of
research
has
argued
convincingly
that
children’s
acquisition
of
certain
oral-
language
skills
in
their
preschool
years,
including
narrative
skills,
is
an
important
foundation
of
emergent
literacy
and
long-term
school
success
(Dickinson
&
Tabors,
2001;
Griffin,
Hemphill,
Camp,
&
Wolf,
2004;
Kendeou,
van
den
Broek,
White,
&
Lynch,
2009;
Lynch
et
al.,
2008;
Reese,
Suggate,
Long,
&
Schaughency,
2010).
Furthermore,
there
are
good
reasons
to
believe
that
social
com-
petence,
including
self-regulation
and
the
ability
and
willingness
for
cooperation,
also
constitutes
a
key
dimension
of
school
readi-
ness
(Denham,
2006;
Dickinson
et
al.,
2006;
Raver
&
Zigler,
1997).
Promoting
these
abilities
and
dispositions
in
young
children
is
widely
regarded
as
desirable,
not
only
for
its
own
sake
and
as
preparation
for
school
life,
but
also
because
elements
of
social
com-
petence
play
important
roles
in
enabling
and
promoting
cognitive
development,
learning,
and
academic
success
(Coolahan,
Fantuzzo,
Mendez,
&
McDermott,
2000;
Dickinson
et
al.,
2006;
Raver,
Garner,
&
Smith-Donald,
2007).
This
concern
for
promoting
preschoolers’
social
competence
has
found
practical
expression
in
programs
like
the
REDI
(Research-based,
Developmentally
Informed)
Head
Start
intervention
(Bierman
et
al.,
2008)
and
the
Chicago
School
Readi-
ness
Project
(CSRP;
Raver
et
al.,
2011).
Though
there
is
widely
shared
agreement
about
the
value
of
using
preschool
education
to
promote
school
readiness,
espe-
cially
for
low-income
and
otherwise
disadvantaged
children,
the
concrete
practical
implications
for
the
preschool
curriculum
have
been
more
contentious.
One
response
has
been
a
broad
push
to
emphasize
the
transmission
of
specific
academic
skills
through
direct
instruction
(Kagan
&
Kauerz,
2007).
In
many
cir-
cles,
this
emphasis
on
more
didactic,
academic,
and
skill-based
approaches
to
preschool
education
has
been
linked
to
a
rejection
of
more
child-centered,
play-oriented,
and
constructivist
approaches
(Hirsh-Pasek,
Golinkoff,
Berk,
&
Singer,
2009;
Zigler
&
Bishop-Josef,
2004).
Pressure
to
generate
good
scores
on
narrowly
skill-focused
standardized
tests
has
further
accelerated
the
“pushing
down”
of
didactic/academic
instruction
into
early
childhood
education
and
the
squeezing-out
of
more
playful
and
child-centered
forms
of
learning
(Miller
&
Almon,
2009).
Those
pressures
have
been
espe-
cially
strong
for
preschools
and
kindergartens
serving
low-income
children.
Other
researchers
and
educators
have
argued
that,
although
teacher-directed
and
skill-based
instruction
can
be
valuable
for
certain
purposes
in
the
preschool
years,
the
tendency
to
rely
on
it
exclusively
has
become
too
one-sided,
unbalanced,
and
devel-
opmentally
inappropriate.
Furthermore,
the
polarization
between
teacher-directed,
skill-based
approaches
and
more
child-centered,
play-based,
and
constructivist
approaches
too
often
treats
these
approaches
as
mutually
exclusive.
There
is
also
a
need
for
edu-
cational
practices
that
are
simultaneously
“child
regulated”
and
“teacher
guided”
(Golbeck,
2001),
which
can
mobilize
children’s
engagement,
enthusiasm,
and
creativity
while
promoting
their
learning
and
development.
Indeed,
there
is
evidence
to
suggest
that
early
childhood
education
can
be
most
effective
when
it
success-
fully
combines
both
types
of
educational
activities
(Graue,
Clemens,
Reynolds,
&
Niles,
2004).
This
is
especially
true
if
one
considers
long-term,
not
just
short-term,
effects
(Schweinhart
&
Weikart,
1997).
Growing
uneasiness
with
recent
trends
helps
to
explain
the
widespread
interest
generated
by
the
Tools
of
the
Mind
curricu-
lum
(Bodrova
&
Leong,
2009).
This
Vygotskian-inspired
curriculum
seeks
to
promote
intellectual
skills
in
language,
literacy,
and
mathematics
and
social
competence
in
an
integrated
way.
It
makes
extensive
use
of
play
and
combines
child
initiative
and
cooperation
with
teacher
guidance
and
support,
with
a
pervasive
emphasis
on
the
promotion
of
self-regulation.
So
far,
evaluations
of
its
effectiveness
have
yielded
mixed
results
(more
encourag-
ing
from
Barnett
et
al.,
2008;
more
disappointing
from
Lonigan
&
Phillips,
2012;
Wilson,
Farran,
Lipsey,
&
Turner,
2012),
and
it
is
probably
too
soon
to
draw
firm
conclusions
one
way
or
another.
Tools
of
the
Mind
is
a
full-scale
alternative
curriculum.
The
storytelling
and
story-acting
practice
(STSA)
evaluated
by
the
present
study
also
exemplifies
child-centered,
play-based,
and
constructivist
approaches
to
early
childhood
education,
but
it
is
considerably
more
modest
in
scope.
The
present
study
consid-
ered
its
potential
value
as
a
curriculum
module
that
can
operate
in
conjunction
with
a
variety
of
different
preschool
curricula.
A
combination
of
theoretical
considerations
and
practical
experience
suggested
that
it
has
the
potential
to
promote
young
children’s
school
readiness
abilities
across
the
domains
of
oral
language,
including
narrative;
emergent
literacy;
and
social
competence.
It
has
been
used
in
preschools
serving
both
middle-class
and
low-
income
children,
but
more
frequently
in
the
former;
so
this
study
focused
on
assessing
its
value
for
children
from
low-income
back-
grounds.
The
rest
of
this
section
will
introduce
this
curriculum
module
and
explain
the
theoretical
rationale
for
expecting
it
to
have
those
beneficial
effects;
review
the
very
sparse
research
that
has
so
far
attempted
to
study
its
effects;
then
move
on
to
the
present
study.
The
storytelling
and
story-acting
practice:
its
developmental
and
educational
promise
The
curriculum
module
under
consideration
is
an
activity
com-
bining
storytelling
and
story-acting
also
described
as
story
dictation
and
dramatization
developed
by
the
teacher
and
writer
Vivian
Paley
(1990)
and
used
in
many
preschool
and
kinder-
garten
classes
in
the
United
States
and
abroad
(Cooper,
2005,
2009;
McNamee,
McLane,
Cooper,
&
Kerwin,
1985;
Nicolopoulou,
1997a,
2002).
Although
this
practice
is
conducted
with
variations
in
dif-
ferent
places,
its
main
outlines
tend
to
be
consistent.
At
a
certain
period
during
the
day
(usually
a
time
when
children
can
choose
freely
between
different
available
activities),
any
child
who
wishes
can
dictate
a
story
to
a
designated
teacher
or
teacher’s
aide,
who
writes
down
the
story
as
the
child
tells
it.
Although
children
are
not
required
to
compose
any
specific
type
of
story
or
guided
toward
suggested
topics,
these
are
usually
fictional
or
fantasy
stories.
Later
that
day,
each
of
these
stories
is
read
aloud
by
the
teacher
to
the
entire
class,
assembled
for
group
time,
while
the
child/author
and
other
children,
whom
he
or
she
chooses,
act
out
the
story.
This
is
an
apparently
simple
activity
with
complex
and
poten-
tially
powerful
effects.
Several
features
are
especially
worth
noting.
Although
this
is
a
structured
and
teacher-facilitated
activity,
the
children’s
storytelling
is
voluntary,
child-initiated,
and
relatively
spontaneous.
Because
this
practice
runs
through
the
entire
school
year
and
the
children
control
their
own
storytelling,
it
provides
them
with
the
opportunity
to
work
over,
refine,
and
elaborate
their
narratives
and
to
use
them
for
their
own
diverse
purposes
cog-
nitive,
symbolic,
expressive,
and
social-relational
(Nicolopoulou,
1996;
Nicolopoulou,
Brockmeyer,
de
Sá,
&
Ilgaz,
2014;
Richner
&
A.
Nicolopoulou
et
al.
/
Early
Childhood
Research
Quarterly
31
(2015)
147–162
149
Nicolopoulou,
2001).
At
the
same
time,
having
their
stories
written
down
by
an
adult
and
then
later
read
to
the
class
can
help
famil-
iarize
children
with
writing
and
its
uses
in
a
concrete
and
engaging
manner
(Nicolopoulou,
McDowell,
&
Brockmeyer,
2006).
Furthermore,
the
way
that
this
STSA
combines
a
storytelling
with
a
story-acting
component
has
several
important
implications.
Chil-
dren
typically
enjoy
storytelling
for
its
own
sake,
but
the
prospect
of
having
their
story
acted
out,
together
with
other
children
whom
they
choose,
offers
them
additional
motivations
to
compose
and
dictate
stories.
And
one
result
of
having
the
stories
read
to
and
dramatized
for
the
entire
class
at
group
time
is
that
the
children
tell
their
stories
not
only
to
adults,
but
primarily
to
each
other;
they
do
so
not
in
one-to-one
interaction,
but
in
a
shared
public
setting.
Children
are
thus
given
opportunities
to
borrow
elements
from
each
other’s
stories
and
rework
them,
facilitating
narrative
cross-fertilization.
(They
also
draw
on
and
rework
elements
from
storybooks,
from
various
media
of
popular
culture
including
TV
and
video
games,
and
from
their
own
experiences:
Nicolopoulou,
1997b;
Nicolopoulou,
Scales,
&
Weintraub,
1994;
Nicolopoulou
et
al.,
2014;
Richner
&
Nicolopoulou,
2001.)
When
the
STSA
is
established
as
a
regular
part
of
the
classroom
activities,
all
children
typically
participate
over
time
in
three
interrelated
roles:
(1)
com-
posing
and
dictating
stories;
(2)
taking
part
in
the
group
enactment
of
stories
(their
own
and
those
of
other
children);
and
(3)
listening
to
and
watching
the
performance
of
the
stories
of
other
children.
Thus,
the
children’s
storytelling
and
story-acting
are
embedded
in
the
ongoing
context
of
the
classroom
miniculture
and
the
children’s
everyday
group
life,
with
their
strong
relational
and
emotional
sig-
nificance
(see
Nicolopoulou,
2002,
from
which
this
account
has
been
partly
drawn).
Furthermore,
the
STSA
includes
elements
of
play
and
narrative,
two
symbolic
activities
of
special
interest
to
children,
in
an
integrated
way.
Some
reasons
why
that
might
be
valuable
are
suggested
by
Vygotsky’s
theory
of
play
and
its
devel-
opmental
and
educational
significance.
Vygotsky:
play,
self-regulation,
and
development
Paley
does
not
seem
to
have
comprehensively
or
exclusively
based
her
classroom
practices
on
Vygotsky’s
theory,
as
does
the
Tools
of
the
Mind
early
childhood
curriculum
(Bodrova
&
Leong,
2009),
and
she
offers
only
intermittent
remarks
about
the
theo-
retical
influences
on
her
work.
But
an
awareness
and
appreciation
of
Vygotsky
is
apparent
throughout
her
writings.
A
careful
con-
sideration
of
the
logic
of
her
STSA,
in
particular,
brings
out
strong
affinities
with
important
Vygotskian
ideas,
especially
with
Vygot-
sky’s
theory
of
play
(McNamee
et
al.,
1985;
Nicolopoulou,
1997a;
Nicolopoulou,
de
Sá,
Ilgaz,
&
Brockmeyer,
2010).
And
Vygotsky’s
theory
offers
further
grounds
for
expecting
that
participation
in
this
practice
might
help
to
promote
young
children’s
learning
and
development.
We
therefore
offer
a
brief
exposition
of
that
theory
and
consider
some
of
its
implications.
(For
more
extensive
treat-
ments,
see
Nicolopoulou,
1993;
Nicolopoulou
&
Cole,
1993.
Some
formulations
in
the
discussion
that
follows
are
also
drawn
from
Nicolopoulou
et
al.,
2014.)
In
characterizing
play,
Vygotsky
stresses
the
presence
of
two
essential
and
interconnected
components:
(1)
an
imaginary
sit-
uation,
and
(2)
the
rules
inherent
in
the
imaginary
situation.
In
this
respect,
fantasy
or
pretend
play
and
games
with
rules
can
be
seen
as
two
poles
of
a
single
continuum:
from
an
explicit
imag-
inary
situation
with
implicit
rules
(pretend
play)
to
an
implicit
imaginary
situation
with
explicit
rules
(games
with
rules).
When
a
child
pretends
to
be
a
mother
or
father,
for
example,
she
or
he
cannot
adopt
just
any
behavior
but
must
try
to
grasp
the
implicit
rules
of
maternal
or
paternal
behavior
as
perceived
and
understood
by
the
child
or
others.
An
important
cognitive
effort
is
involved
here.
“What
passes
unnoticed
by
the
child
in
real
life
becomes
a
rule
of
behavior
in
play”
(Vygotsky,
1933/1967,
p.
9).
That
is
even
more
true
for
the
coordinated
activity
of
social
pretend
play.
From
this
perspective,
play
fuses
elements
often
treated
as
contradictory:
imagination
and
spontaneity
on
the
one
hand,
and
rule-governed
action
on
the
other.
Play
is
enjoyable,
flexible,
and
intrinsically
voluntary,
but
it
is
also
an
essentially
rule-governed
activity.
Systems
of
rules
are
central
to
constituting
the
playworld
itself,
and
at
the
same
time
these
rules
derive
their
force
from
the
child’s
enjoyment
of,
and
commitment
to,
the
shared
activity
of
the
playworld.
Indeed,
as
Vygotsky
emphasized,
a
crucial
aspect
of
the
significance
of
play
is
that
it
is
one
of
the
first
activities
in
which
children
self-consciously
impose
rules
on
themselves,
rather
than
merely
receiving
them
from
others.
This
is
the
case,
he
argues,
because
the
child
learns
that
achieving
the
satisfactions
sought
in
the
imaginary
situation
requires
adhering
to
the
rules
implicit
in
that
situation.
The
rules
of
play
thus
become
“rules
of
self-
constraint
and
self-determination”
(Vygotsky,
1933/67,
p.
10).
In
terminology
used
by
much
current
research,
play
requires
and
pro-
motes
self-regulation.
And
play
is
always
a
learning
activity
because
it
requires
learning
and
grasping
these
rules,
seeing
that
they
form
a
system,
elaborating
on
them,
and
mastering
the
possibilities
of
the
form
of
practice
that
they
help
constitute.
Moreover,
insert-
ing
elements
from
the
larger
culture
into
the
symbolic
universe
of
the
playworld
forces
the
child
to
try
to
make
sense
of
them,
even
as
they
are
stylized
and
transformed.
Even
more
fundamentally,
increasing
capacities
for
self-regulation
in
thought
and
in
action
are
closely
linked
and
mutually
reinforcing
(an
idea
supported
by
recent
research
in
several
areas,
including
Ursache,
Blair,
&
Raver,
2012).
In
short,
according
to
Vygotsky,
play
is
not
simply
frivolous.
If
properly
understood,
it
can
serve
as
a
prototype
of
a
form
of
activ-
ity
constituted
by
shared
and
voluntarily
accepted
rules,
within
which
children
(or
adults)
can
experience
an
intrinsic
(rather
than
merely
instrumental)
motivation
to
strive
for
mastery
of
the
pos-
sibilities
inherent
in
that
practice.
And
in
childhood,
especially
early
childhood,
play
is
a
crucial
matrix
for
development
(Vygotsky,
1933/1967,
p.
16).
Research
drawing
directly
or
indirectly
on
Vygot-
skian
ideas
has
therefore
argued
that
play
activities
simultaneously
require
and
help
to
promote
both
cognitive
abilities
and
capaci-
ties
for
social
competence,
such
as
cooperation
and
self-regulation
(Berk,
1994;
Bodrova
&
Leong,
2003;
Creasey,
Jarvis,
&
Berk,
1998;
Diamond,
Barnett,
Thomas,
&
Munro,
2007;
Hirsh-Pasek
et
al.,
2009).
Further
implications
and
possible
applications
Vygotsky’s
illuminating
analysis
of
play
suggests
that
we
should
not
abandon
efforts
to
mobilize
elements
of
play
and
imagination
in
education.
But
if
that
argument
is
accepted,
it
does
not
neces-
sarily
follow
that
simply
alternating
didactic/academic
instruction
with
free-play
periods
would
be
sufficient.
It
is
also
important
to
design
structured
educational
practices
that
effectively
integrate
the
play
element
into
the
curriculum
in
ways
that
can
promote
chil-
dren’s
development
and
education.
Paley’s
STSA
offers
one
concrete
example
of
how
this
goal
can
be
pursued.
Furthermore,
the
interrelated
features
of
play
emphasized
by
Vygotsky’s
analysis
are
equally
characteristic
of
their
narrative
activity
(Nicolopoulou,
1997a):
both
represent
the
union
of
expres-
sive
imagination
with
rule-governed
cultural
form
in
the
context
of
social
life.
In
important
respects,
in
fact,
it
is
useful
to
see
both
pretend
play
and
storytelling
as
modes
of
narrative
activity,
on
a
continuum
ranging
from
the
discursive
exposition
of
narratives
in
storytelling
to
the
enactment
of
narrative
scenarios
in
pretend
play.
While
the
analytical
distinction
between
the
two
is
important,
pretend
play
and
storytelling
are
often
interwoven
and
mutually
150
A.
Nicolopoulou
et
al.
/
Early
Childhood
Research
Quarterly
31
(2015)
147–162
enriching
in
children’s
experience
and
development
(Nicolopoulou,
2007;
Paley,
1990).
Another
key
feature
of
Paley’s
STSA,
therefore,
is
that
it
integrates
these
two
forms
of
children’s
narrative
activ-
ity
in
a
potentially
fruitful
way.
The
logic
of
this
analysis
suggests,
once
again,
that
the
combination
of
the
two
major
components
of
this
practice,
individual
storytelling
and
the
dramatic
enactment
of
those
stories
by
and
for
the
classroom
peer
group,
may
be
critical
for
its
operation
and
effectiveness.
Previous
research
on
this
storytelling/story-acting
practice
Although
versions
of
this
STSA
have
been
widely
adopted,
and
it
has
attracted
considerable
interest
in
schools
of
education
as
well
as
among
teachers
and
other
practitioners,
there
have
been
very
few
systematic
attempts
to
assess
its
effects
on
young
children’s
learning
and
development.
Paley’s
rich
ethnographic
accounts
of
the
workings
of
this
activity
in
her
preschool
and
kindergarten
classrooms
over
the
years
(summed
up
especially
in
Paley,
1990)
remain
indispensable.
They
suggest
that
it
helped
promote
chil-
dren’s
cognitive
and
language
skills
as
well
as
their
socioemotional
development.
But
Paley’s
insightful
examinations
of
children’s
developing
abilities
in
and
through
their
play
and
narrative
activi-
ties
do
not
include
systematic
measures
of
those
child
outcomes
or
comparisons
between
her
classrooms
and
control
classrooms
that
were
not
using
her
STSA.
Child
outcome
measures
or
controlled
comparisons,
and
usually
both,
are
also
missing
from
most
other
work
concerned
with
the
educational
and
developmental
value
of
this
activity,
including
research
that
is
useful
in
other
respects
and
for
other
purposes
(Cooper,
2005;
Fein,
Ardila-Rey,
&
Groth,
2000;
Groth
&
Darling,
2001;
Nicolopoulou
et
al.,
2006).
So
far,
the
only
research
that
has
systematically
examined
whether
this
STSA
promotes
skills
and
capacities
related
to
young
children’s
school
readiness
has
been
a
handful
of
studies
by
McNamee
et
al.
(1985)
and
Nicolopoulou
(1996,
2002).
These
studies
were
encouraging,
but
all
had
important
limitations.
An
exploratory
study
by
Nicolopoulou
(1996)
made
a
very
preliminary
attempt
to
assess
the
impact
of
this
practice
on
young
children’s
narrative
development
by
comparing
the
quality
of
stories
gen-
erated
through
the
STSA
in
one
middle-class
preschool
classroom
with
findings
about
the
story
production
of
children
at
similar
ages
reported
by
other
research
in
narrative
development.
The
positive
results
were
suggestive,
but
hardly
conclusive.
A
stronger
study
using
a
controlled
comparison,
reported
in
Nicolopoulou
(2002),
studied
a
Head
Start
class
of
children
from
low-income
back-
grounds
in
which
the
STSA
was
introduced
and
conducted
for
an
entire
school
year;
a
control
class
in
the
same
Head
Start
program
continued
its
usual
curriculum.
The
results
confirmed
that
partic-
ipation
in
the
STSA
significantly
enhanced
the
development
of
the
children’s
narrative
skills
(as
measured
by
a
narrative
production
task)
and
other
decontextualized
oral
language
skills
(as
measured
by
the
Expressive
Vocabulary
Task).
But
that
study
was
limited
in
size.
The
one
other
study
that
used
controlled
comparisons,
McNamee
et
al.
(1985),
included
ten
classrooms
from
five
different
preschool,
kindergarten,
and
day
care
sites,
with
one
experimental
and
one
control
class
in
each.
(The
sample
was
ethnically
diverse,
but
other
demographic
information
such
as
socioeconomic
status
was
not
provided.)
The
study
focused
on
examining
whether
the
story-dramatization
portion
of
the
STSA
was
critical
to
its
effec-
tiveness
in
promoting
narrative
development.
During
a
12-week
intervention
period,
the
experimental
classes
implemented
the
full
Paley-style
STSA,
with
both
story
dictation
and
story
dramatiza-
tion,
twice
per
week.
In
the
control
classes,
there
was
also
story
dictation
twice
per
week,
but
the
stories
were
never
acted
out.
In
both
types
of
classes,
adult-authored
stories
were
read
to
the
class
twice
a
week,
and
in
the
experimental
classes
these
were
also
acted
out.
The
results
confirmed
both
the
effectiveness
of
the
STSA
for
promoting
narrative
development
and
the
importance
of
the
story-acting
portion
of
the
practice.
Applebee’s
scale
of
narrative
complexity
and
coherence
was
applied
to
stories
composed
and
dictated
by
the
children
specifically,
to
the
first
20
and
last
20
stories
dictated
in
each
class.
Among
3-year-olds,
improvements
in
scores
for
both
experimental
and
control
classes
over
the
inter-
vention
period
were
similar
and
relatively
small.
For
both
4-
and
5-year-olds,
however,
children
in
the
experimental
classes
showed
substantially
more
narrative
improvement
than
those
in
the
control
classes.
Two
secondary
findings
were
also
reported.
Unsurpris-
ingly,
children
in
classes
with
story-acting
borrowed
considerably
more
elements
from
each
other’s
stories
than
children
in
the
con-
trol
classes
(though
information
about
what
they
borrowed
was
sketchy).
The
complexity
of
children’s
conversations
with
adult
story-takers
during
story
dictation,
and
indications
of
children’s
awareness
of
the
writing
process,
also
increased
in
the
experimen-
tal
classes
more
than
in
the
control
classes
an
intriguing
analysis
that,
again,
may
be
worth
fleshing
out
more
fully.
The
key
finding
was
that
participation
in
this
practice
strongly
promoted
young
children’s
narrative
development,
but
only
if
both
the
storytelling
and
the
story-acting
components
were
included.
McNamee
et
al.
(1985)
was
an
ambitious,
conceptually
sophisticated,
and
very
promising
study,
but
it
also
had
some
methodological
and
statistical
weaknesses.
In
particular,
its
sta-
tistical
analysis
was
limited.
The
strongest
analysis,
concerning
narrative
development,
relied
on
percentage-difference
compar-
isons
without
tests
of
significance.
In
addition,
choosing
the
first
20
and
last
20
stories
in
each
class
to
analyze,
combined
with
the
use
of
straight
percentages
rather
than
mean
proportions,
leaves
open
the
possibility
that
changes
reported
between
the
begin-
ning
and
end
of
the
intervention
period
might
reflect
different
distributions
of
child
storytellers
at
different
times
rather
than,
or
in
addition
to,
narrative
development
by
individual
children.
In
this
and
other
respects,
it
is
hard
to
fully
assess
the
validity
of
the
analysis
because
relevant
information
about
procedures
and
about
the
sample
(e.g.,
the
amounts
of
turnover
or
attrition
in
classes
during
the
intervention
period,
total
numbers
of
stories
told,
variations
in
stories
per
child)
is
missing
or
incomplete.
It
is
also
worth
noting
that
in
terms
of
child
outcomes,
the
key
findings
of
both
McNamee
et
al.
(1985)
and
Nicolopoulou
(2002)
focused
on
one
dimension
of
school
readiness:
oral
language
skills,
primarily
narrative
skills.
The
present
study
The
present
study
sought
to
follow
up
the
previous
research
and
to
go
beyond
its
limitations
both
substantively
and
methodologi-
cally.
It
examined
whether
this
STSA,
integrated
as
a
curriculum
module
within
the
regular
preschool
curriculum,
can
enhance
the
abilities
of
low-income
preschool
children
in
three
major
dimensions
of
young
children’s
school
readiness:
(a)
narrative
and
other
oral
language
skills,
(b)
skills
related
more
directly
to
emergent
literacy,
and
(c)
social
competence.
This
curricu-
lum
module
was
introduced
for
an
entire
school
year
into
six
preschool
classrooms
in
an
established
child-care
program
serving
children
from
low-income
backgrounds,
and
seven
other
class-
rooms
in
the
same
program
were
used
as
controls.
We
expected
that
participation
in
the
STSA
would
promote
key
elements
of
the
children’s
school
readiness
in
all
three
areas
just
outlined.
We
also
expected,
as
a
corollary,
that
the
more
frequently
indi-
vidual
children
participated
in
this
activity
(indicated
by
the
number
of
stories
they
told),
the
greater
these
effects
would
be
for
them.
A.
Nicolopoulou
et
al.
/
Early
Childhood
Research
Quarterly
31
(2015)
147–162
151
Table
1
Means
(and
standard
deviations)
for
Early
Language
&
Literacy
Classroom
Observation
(ELLCO)
by
year
and
condition.
Year
1
Experimental
(n
=
3)
M
(SD)
Control
(n
=
3)
M
(SD)
F
p
Literacy
Env.
Checklist
(range:
1–41)
15.33
(4.04)
21.67
(3.79)
3.92
.119
Classroom
Observations
(range:
16–80) 42.00
(3.64)
36.67
(4.73)
2.49
.190
Literacy
Activities
Rating
Scale
(range:
0–13)
2.67
(2.31)
2.33
(2.52)
.03
.874
Year
2
Experimental
(n
=
3)
M
(SD)
Control
(n
=
4)
M
(SD)
F
p
Literacy
Env.
Checklist
(range:
1–41)
20.33
(2.31)
18.25
(4.03)
.63
.465
Classroom
Observations
(range:
16–80)
35.33
(3.01
37.00
(10.23)
.07
.800
Literacy
Activities
Rating
Scale
(range:
0–13)
5.33
(1.16)
3.75
(2.50)
1.00
.362
Method
Research
sites
The
study
was
conducted
in
preschool
classrooms
in
six
centers
which
were
part
of
a
child
care/preschool
organization
serv-
ing
low-income
children
from
diverse
ethnic
backgrounds
in
a
medium-sized
urban
area
in
the
northeastern
U.S.
Using
a
ran-
domized
waitlist
design,
six
classrooms
were
assigned
to
be
experimental
(or
intervention)
classrooms
in
which
the
STSA
was
introduced
and
conducted
throughout
the
school
year.
Seven
other
classrooms,
which
continued
their
usual
activities
without
change,
were
used
as
controls.
The
study
was
conducted
over
two
years
(2005–2007),
but
each
participating
classroom
was
studied
for
one
year,
and
no
child
was
included
in
the
study
for
more
than
one
year.
There
were
three
experimental
and
three
control
classrooms
in
the
first
year,
three
experimental
and
four
control
classrooms
in
the
second.
At
the
end
of
the
first
year
we
invited
the
three
teachers
of
the
control
classes
to
continue
in
the
study
for
the
second
year,
with
their
new
classes
being
used
as
experimental
classes.
Two
accepted,
but
the
third
teacher
left
this
child
care/preschool
organization;
her
replacement
requested
that
her
class
be
used
as
a
control
class,
since
this
was
her
first
year
with
this
organization
(though
not
her
first
year
as
a
preschool
teacher).
The
other
four
classes
partici-
pating
in
the
second
year
were
new,
and
were
randomly
assigned
to
experimental
or
control
conditions,
with
an
effort
to
(roughly)
equalize
the
overall
number
of
children
in
each
condition.
All
classrooms
provided
full-time,
full-year,
preschool
educa-
tion
and
care
for
a
minimum
of
6.5
hours
per
day,
5
days
per
week,
52
weeks
per
year.
In
principle,
the
basic
instructional
program
was
the
Teaching
Strategies
Creative
Curriculum,
but
nor-
mal
practices
did
not
include
substantial
amounts
of
structured
educational
activities.
Scores
on
the
Early
Language
and
Literacy
Classroom
Observation
Toolkit
(ELLCO;
Smith
&
Dickinson,
2002)
administered
to
all
the
classrooms
in
the
middle
of
each
year
(February/March)
indicated
that,
except
for
the
STSA,
there
were
no
significant
differences
in
classroom
language
and
literacy
activities
across
conditions
and
across
years
(see
Table
1).
On
average,
class-
rooms
in
both
conditions
and
both
years
were
rated
as
medium
in
the
Literacy
Environment
Checklist
(range:
15–22
from
a
possible
range
of
1–41),
medium
on
Classroom
Observations
(range:
35–42
from
a
possible
range
of
16–80),
and
low
on
Literacy
Activities
(range:
2.33–5.33
from
a
possible
range
of
0–13).
Participants
At
the
beginning
of
each
school
year,
parental
consent
forms
were
obtained
for
97–100%
of
the
children
in
every
class
being
stud-
ied.
This
yielded
a
total
of
216
children,
almost
all
3-
and
4-year-olds
(mean
ages
in
months
in
September:
48.59
experimental
and
48.94
control).
There
were
119
children
in
the
first
year,
52
experimen-
tal
and
67
control,
and
97
in
the
second
year,
59
experimental
and
38
control.
(For
more
details
on
these
and
other
demographic
characteristics,
see
Table
2.)
This
sample
was
ethnically
diverse
and
otherwise
not
demo-
graphically
unusual
for
low-income
preschool
classrooms
in
the
northeastern
U.S.
About
half
of
these
children
were
Non-Hispanic
White
(49%),
24.5%
Hispanic,
24%
African
American,
and
2.5%
from
other