Teaching story grammar to develop retell and speaking skills in an EFL context

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom contexts, developing speaking skills is important. In Mexico, efforts have been made towards achieving this goal. In 2009, the National English Program in Basic Education passed an initiative to teach English from kindergarten, elementary, to secondary public schools. Székely, O’Donoghue, and Pérez (2015) showed, however, students still lack proficiency after receiving English instruction for 6 years in basic education. The purpose of this study was to investigate the efficacy of teaching story grammar to develop speaking skills, specifically, narrative retell skills. Story grammar instruction with English speakers and second language learners has been beneficial to develop oral retell skills, though not with EFL young learners (Short & Ryan, 1984; Spencer, Petersen, Slocum, & Allen, 2015). The participants were 58 students in sixth grade at an elementary public school in northern Mexico. They formed two intact groups (experimental or comparison). Participants received 15 lessons, of 15 minutes each, over three weeks. The experimental group listened to stories using visuals, received explicit instruction in story grammar, and had speaking activities using the Story Champs curriculum (Spencer & Petersen, 2012). The comparison group listened to the same stories without visuals, discussed vocabulary, and had written activities. Participants’ retell and speaking skills were pretested and posttested using the Test of Narrative Retell (TNR; Petersen & Spencer, 2012). TNR scores, number of English words, and length of production time in English were analyzed as the dependent measures. TNR scores were higher for both groups at posttest; however, the difference between the groups was not statistically significant, and participants continued to speak mostly Spanish on the test. The number of words in English increased for the experimental group. Both groups increased the length of time speaking English. Results indicated that both groups improved after the treatment, although the experimental group showed a greater improvement. Measures of ecological validity were investigated through fidelity checklists, teacher’s log checklists, and participants’ perception surveys. Results showed that the instruction followed the methodology established and that the participants had positive reactions to both treatments. Practical implications are curricular adaptations to Story Champs to best suit the context and culture, including beginning in fourth grade, having one lesson per week, and preteaching vocabulary and grammar. Methodological implications include innovative analyses for number of words in English and length of time speaking English.
Date of Award12 May 2017
Original languageAmerican English
Awarding Institution
  • Northern Arizona University
SupervisorJoan Jamieson (Director), Mary McGroarty (Advisor), Okim Kang (Advisor) & Trina Spencer (Advisor)

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