A study of the effects of explicit story structure instruction on narrative writing in the upper primary school : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of MLitEd (Master of Literacy Education) at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Many New Zealand middle and upper primary students, struggle with writing.
This is a challenge, as research shows a continuing downward trend in writing
standards as children move across the grades. Therefore, it is helpful to know whether
children can write better narratives after appropriate instruction so that writing
achievement can be improved. Previous research has found that teaching story
structure in a very explicit way improves narrative writing quality and quantity but
few studies have been done in New Zealand classrooms. Hence the present study.
Participants were initially 50 children from a country school and a city school. The
study started with 50 children from two classrooms in schools, one in the country and
one in the city. Of these, 41 children completed all the assessments, 18 in the country
school and 23 children in the city school. Initial data from the schools about the
children in terms of ethnicity, gender, and writing achievement enabled the researcher
to assign children randomly either to an experimental group or control group. The
experimental group received writing instruction that focused on aspects such as
setting, characters, plot, and theme. The control group received writing instruction
that focused less on structure and more on main ideas and using literary elements.
Both groups received tuition in how to use a story planner as a guide when writing.
The lessons ran daily, for an hour at a time, for three days. The classroom teacher
taught the experimental group and the researcher taught the control group. Children
wrote three stories across five days. The results showed that the story structure
intervention did have an effect on children’s writing of stories in the country school
but the effect was smaller in the city school. The discussion focuses on possible
reasons for this.