The Development of Bilingual Narrative
Retelling Among Spanishâ€“English Dual
Language Learners Over Two Years
Purpose: This exploratory study investigates the development
of oral narrative retell proficiency among Spanishâ€“English
emergent bilingual children longitudinally from kindergarten
to second grade in Spanish and English as they learned
literacy in the 2 languages concurrently.
Method: Oral narrative retell assessments were conducted
with children who spoke Spanish at home and were enrolled
in a dual language immersion program (N = 12) in the spring of
kindergarten and second grade. Retells were transcribed and
coded for vocabulary and grammar at the microlevel (Miller,
Andriacchi, & Nockerts, 2015, 2016) and story structure at
the macrolevel (Heilmann, Miller, Nockerts, & Dunaway, 2010).
Results: In microstructure paired-sample t tests, children
showed significant improvements in vocabulary in both
languages (Spanish total number of words Î·2 = .43, Spanish
number of different words Î·2 = .44, English total number
of words Î·2 = .61, English number of different words
Î·2 = .62) but not grammar by second grade. At the
macrostructure level, children showed significantly higher
performance in English only (English narrative scoring
scheme Î·2 = .47).
Conclusions: The finding that children significantly improved
in vocabulary in both languages but in overall story structure
only in English suggests that discourse skills were being
facilitated in English whereas Spanish discourse development
may have stagnated even within a dual language immersion
program. Results contribute to what is currently known about
bilingual oral narrative development among young Spanish
speakers enrolled in such programs and can inform
assessment and instructional decisions.
The importance of oral language in the development
of reading skill is well documented for both monolingual and bilingual children (Crosson & Lesaux,
2010; Roth, Speece, & Cooper, 2002; Snow, Tabors,
Nicholson, & Kurland, 1995; Speece, Roth, Cooper, &
De La Paz, 1999). Oral language proficiency may be especially important for predicting reading outcomes among
bilingual children because their language skills are distributed across two languages (Kieffer & Vukovic, 2013;
Verhoeven & StrÃ¶mqvist, 2001), and they typically have
smaller vocabularies in each of their languages. Throughout
the early years of formal schooling, bilingual children may
have more developed morphosyntactic knowledge in their
home language, leading to lower reading comprehension in
the second language (L2) despite reaching comparable levels
of decoding as their monolingual peers (Verhoeven & Van
Leeuwe, 2012). Assessment should therefore tap skills in both
the first language (L1) and L2 (Marinova-Todd & Uchikoshi,
2011). This is important because â€œthe development of both
languages is often interdependent and related to the quality
of exposure in distinct contextsâ€ (Collins, 2014, p. 390).
Oral narrative proficiency, in particular, requires the
integration of multiple domains of language at various
levels (Curenton & Justice, 2004; Paradis, Genesee, &
Crago, 2011) and is therefore likely developmentally sensitive (Heilmann, Miller, & Nockerts, 2010; Lucero, 2016;
Paris & Paris, 2003; Roch, Florit, & Levorato, 2016; Squires
et al., 2014; Suggate, Schaughency, & Reese, 2011). Tools
used to assess narrative proficiency are based within â€œa
framework that combines a general theory of narrative
structure with an overall developmental conception of how
children extend and reorganize their knowledge of linguistic
form and structure in the context of language useâ€ (Berman,
1995, p. 285). Narrative assessment may be especially useful
when investigating the development of oral language in the
first years of schooling, because this is the period when childrenâ€™s narrative abilities are evolving rapidly (Bohnacker,
2016). In addition, it is a useful metric with emergent bilingual children because it measures both global story-structuring
proficiency and local linguistic skills.
College of Education, University of Oregon, Eugene
Correspondence to Audrey Lucero: [email protected]
Editor-in-Chief: Shelley Gray
Editor: Patrick Proctor
Received December 15, 2017
Revision received February 9, 2018
Accepted February 27, 2018
Disclosure: The author has declared that no competing interests existed at the time
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools â€¢ Vol. 49 â€¢ 607â€“621 â€¢ July 2018 â€¢ Copyright Â© 2018 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association 607
In this study, exploratory analyses of bilingual oral
narrative development were conducted with a group of
Spanish-speaking children over the first 3 years of participation in a dual language immersion (DLI) school. Microlevel and macrolevel data drawn from retells in both
languages are reported.
Oral Narrative Assessment
There is a considerable amount of research on oral
narrative proficiency among preschoolers and kindergarteners (Bedore, PeÃ±a, Gillam, & Tsung-Han, 2010; MuÃ±oz,
Gillam, PeÃ±a, & Gulley-Faehnle, 2003; Peets & Bialystok,
2015; Rezzonico et al., 2016; Westerveld, 2014). However, it
is important to understand ongoing narrative development throughout elementary school because oral language
may take on an increasingly important role in literacy outcomes as children get older (Gough, Hoover, & Peterson,
1996; Hoover & Gough, 1990), depending on when they
reach developmentally appropriate levels of reading comprehension (Mancilla-Martinez & Lesaux, 2010, 2017;
Nakamoto, Lindsey, & Manis, 2008). In addition, Berman
(2009) noted that adultlike narratives are not consistently
produced until the age of 9 or 10.
Language is assessed at two levels in oral narratives:
the macrolevel and the microlevel (Miller et al., 2006). The
macrolevel includes elements of story structure that organize the discourse into a coherent whole (Heilmann, Miller,
& Nockerts, 2010), whereas microlevel components are
those related to vocabulary, grammar, and other linguistic
skills. Macrolevel ability has been studied more extensively
than microlevel skills, using a number of different tools
and coding schemes (Fiestas & PeÃ±a, 2004; Heilmann,
Miller, Nockerts, & Dunaway, 2010; MuÃ±oz et al., 2003;
Reese, Suggate, Long, & Schaughency, 2010), many of
which correlate with or predict reading proficiency. A
small amount of research has specifically explored performance on individual elements of story structure in both
monolingual and bilingual children. Fiestas and PeÃ±a (2004)
reported that the macrolevel scores of Spanishâ€“English bilingual 4- through 6-year-olds were comparable across
languages overall. However, children included significantly more attempts and initiating events in Spanish (L1)
and more consequences in English (L2). The authors suggested, therefore, that even young bilingual children may
have the ability to employ appropriate linguistic devices in
each of their languages, while maintaining coherence and
comprehensibility in both.
Similarly, Rezzonico et al. (2016) found that Englishâ€“
Cantonese bilingual children in the same age range included more attempts and mental state verbs in English
than in Cantonese, whereas the inclusion of other story
grammar elements did not vary significantly by language.
For slightly older English monolingual children, some
research has reported that character introductions were
significantly related to reading outcomes in 4- to 7-yearolds (Barnes, Kim, & Phillips, 2014; Reese et al., 2010).
This may be because providing an adequate orientation
to the listener indicates an awareness of the knowledge
the listener needs to follow a story, which may facilitate
text comprehension as well.
Another aspect of story structure that has been found
to relate to reading outcomes is coherence (Barnes et al.,
2014; Cain, 2003; Pinto, Tarchi, & Bigozzi, 2016), which
refers to the inclusion and sequential organization of key
events in a storyâ€”especially those that are critical to advancing the plot. To a large extent, the coherence of a
story is what allows it to be comprehensible to a listener
or reader, and it is enacted linguistically through the appropriate use of referencing to connect sentences or clauses
(Akinci, Jisa, & Kern, 2001; Berman, 1997; Cain, 2003).
There is evidence that children who struggle with reading
comprehension tell less organized stories, including fewer
causal connectives and more ambiguous referential cohesion than children who do not struggle (Cain, 2003).
A final reason to study narrative development in
children as they get older is that â€œin an extended discourse
like narrative, there is no one single correct way of constructing a text on a given topicâ€ (Berman, 1997, p. 47).
Rather, children make choices based on their understanding of the demands on their listener, the cultural norms
around storytelling, and the developmental factors that
dictate their command of oral language and literacy conventions. All of this suggests that further research may underscoreâ€”and begin to explainâ€”the differences in narrative
performance in the early years of formal schooling.
Oral Narrative Development in Emergent
Microstructure Development in Bilingual Children
Vocabulary is the most commonly studied component of narrative microstructure, and the few studies that
have compared the performance of emergent bilingual
children at different ages have had disparate, even contradictory, findings. Some research has found that length
of narratives did not differ significantly between 4- and
5-year-olds in their L2 (MuÃ±oz et al., 2003) or in both
languages (Kupersmitt, Yifat, & Kulka, 2014). However,
other researchers have found significant differences between
younger and older children on the total number of words
(TNW) used to tell stories among monolingual children
(Paris & Paris, 2003) and bilingual children in both languages (Gagarina, 2016; Lucero, 2016).
Beyond length, some elements of microstructureâ€”
such as grammatical complexity and accuracyâ€”have been
found to differ by age in the early years of schooling among
emergent bilinguals. MuÃ±oz et al. (2003) reported that
Spanishâ€“English bilingual 5-year-olds produced stories
with greater mean length of C-units and a higher proportion of grammatically acceptable sentences than 4-year-olds.
Similarly, Lucero (2016) found that second graders used
significantly longer utterances than kindergarteners in
Spanish, but not in English. Eight-year-olds in the study of
Kupersmitt et al. (2014) used more coordinating conjunctions
608 Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools â€¢ Vol. 49 â€¢ 607â€“621 â€¢ July 2018
than 6-year-olds, though the number of subordinating conjunctions used was low at both ages.
A small number of studies have also been conducted
longitudinally on the development of microstructure components among Spanishâ€“English bilingual children from
preschool through the end of first grade. Findings have been
inconsistent, depending on the specific skills measured, the
ages of participating children, and whether children were
assessed in both languages. In terms of vocabulary productivity, one study reported nonsignificant growth on a measure of diversity (number of different words [NDW]) in
either language from the beginning to the end of kindergarten (GÃ¡mez & GonzÃ¡lez, 2017), whereas another study
reported significant growth on NDW in English (but not
Spanish) from kindergarten to first grade (Uccelli & PaÃ©z,
2007). Similarly, in terms of grammatical skills, GÃ¡mez
and GonzÃ¡lez (2017) reported that the number of lexical
and grammatical errors and revisions did not improve over
the kindergarten year, whereas Melzi, Schick, and Bostwick
(2013) found that 5-year-olds incorporated a greater variety of coordinating and subordinating conjunctions into
stories than they had as 4-year-olds. Finally, Squires et al.
(2014) found significant differences from kindergarten to
first grade only in Spanish microstructure. However, it is
hard to compare their findings to those of others because
they calculated an overall microstructure score that included multiple aspects of grammar, rather than reporting
scores for each component separately.
Notably, there have also been inconsistent findings
with regard to cross-linguistic relations between microlevel
components at different time points in these longitudinal studies. In one study, children showed comparable performance
across languages at both the fall and spring of kindergarten
(GÃ¡mez & GonzÃ¡lez, 2017); one study found no significant
relations at either kindergarten or first grade (Squires et al.,
2014); and a third study found significant relations at first
grade, but not at kindergarten (Uccelli & PaÃ©z, 2007). Other
cross-linguistic narrative research has found vocabulary and
grammar to be less likely to transfer across languages because
of their dependence on knowledge of two specific linguistic
systems (Bedore et al., 2010; Kang, 2012). Such discrepant
findings suggest a need for more research in this area.
Macrostructure Development in Bilingual Children
In general, narrative research conducted in the past
15 years has shown that macrostructure skills improve with
age and formal schooling, with older children telling better
sequenced stories that include more events than younger
children (Paris & Paris, 2003; Suggate et al., 2011). As in
the case of microstructure, findings are hard to compare
directly for several reasons: the variety of elicitation tools
and protocols used, the language(s) assessed, and the specific elements of discourse assessed (Bohnacker, 2016;
Gagarina, 2016; Kupersmitt et al., 2014; Melzi et al., 2013;
MuÃ±oz et al., 2003; Uccelli & PaÃ©z, 2007). In addition,
most researchers have compared childrenâ€™s performance
cross-sectionally, whereas only one study was conducted
longitudinally. Nonetheless, there are a few consistent
themes with regard to the development of macrostructural narrative skill in bilingual children.
Most notably, several cross-sectional studies have
reported that older bilingual children (5â€“9 years old) tell
more proficient stories (Lucero, 2016), including significantly more story structure elements or complete episodes,
than younger children (3â€“6 years old) in both of their languages (Bohnacker, 2016; Gagarina, 2016; MuÃ±oz et al.,
2003; Roch et al., 2016). In contrast, in a longitudinal
study, GÃ¡mez and GonzÃ¡lez (2017) assessed Spanishâ€“
English emergent bilinguals in the fall and spring of
kindergarten and found that their narratives showed
comparableâ€”but not significantâ€”growth in the number
of story structure elements they included across languages.
In addition, one longitudinal study (Uccelli & PaÃ©z,
2007) reported that, on a composite story score (the inclusion of story elements, sequencing, and perspective
taking), Spanishâ€“English bilingual children showed significant growth from kindergarten to first grade in both
languages, with moderate correlations across languages
at both grades. However, on average children performed
better in English at both time points.
Much of the research cited above has investigated
development on specific macrostructure elements as well as
overall narrative proficiency. In general, this research has
investigated the prevalence of certain elements rather than
the sophistication with which they are deployed. For example, at least three longitudinal studies have shown that emergent bilingual children in the first 3 years of school produce
more references to setting/characters and initiating events
than they do at younger ages (GÃ¡mez & GonzÃ¡lez, 2017;
Kupersmitt et al., 2014; Squires et al., 2014).
Finally, from the cross-sectional research, there is
evidence that older children may produce more mental state
terms than younger children (Bohnacker, 2016; Gagarina,
2016; Roch et al., 2016), although this remains cognitively
challenging for children throughout the elementary school
years (FernÃ¡ndez, 2013; Pearson, 2001).
In terms of cross-linguistic relations in narrative story
structure among emergent bilingual children, a sizable
amount of research suggests that structure relies heavily
on cognitive processes that are common across languages
and can therefore potentially transfer (Gagarina, Klop,
Tsimpli, & Walters, 2016; GÃ¡mez, Lesaux, & Rizzo, 2015;
Iluz-Cohen & Walters, 2012; Laurent, Nicoladis, &
Marentette, 2015; Pearson, 2002; Rodina, 2016; SimonCereijido & GutiÃ©rrez-Clellen, 2009). Emergent bilingual
children are likely able to draw on their conceptual understanding of the elements used to structure coherent
stories in both of their two languages (Squires et al., 2014).
Language Development in Dual
It is well established in the literature that Spanishspeaking children enrolled in DLI programs tend to perform
Lucero: Development of Bilingual Narrative Retelling 609
better academically over time than those enrolled in
English-only or transitional bilingual programs (Collier
& Thomas, 2017; Lindholm & Aclan, 1991; Thomas &
Collier, 1997, 2002). However, much of the research has
reported outcomes in academic areas rather than language
development per se. The interest in this study is on bilingual oral language development, and here the literature is
somewhat more limited. One recent longitudinal study that
did investigate language outcomes for children enrolled in
English-only versus bilingual programs was Collins (2014),
who found that, from kindergarten to second grade, children who received bilingual instruction made significant
gains on a language composite (on the Woodcock Language
Proficiency Batteryâ€“Revised (WLPB-R)) in both Spanish
and English, nearly reaching age-appropriate levels of proficiency by second grade.
In addition, oral narrative assessment has been used
in a small amount of research with bilingual children in
different instructional contexts, although such differences
are not always taken into account when analyzing childrenâ€™s
performance (Iluz-Cohen & Walters, 2012; Uccelli & PaÃ©z,
2007). GutiÃ©rrez-Clellen (2002) assessed children who received instruction in both languages (n = 28) and who enrolled in English-only (EO) programs (n = 5) and found
that, overall, children recalled significantly more story propositions in English than Spanish. She posited that this seemingly counterintuitive finding could mean that even bilingual
programs emphasized Spanish only to the extent that it
facilitated the development of English. Similarly, in the
Squires et al. (2014) study noted above, a slight majority
of students in their study were enrolled in EO programs (n =
26, compared to n = 16 in DLI), but children performed
comparably on English and Spanish story structure. The
authors suggested that greater exposure to Spanish helped
children produce long and elaborate retells in their L1,
even while receiving instruction exclusively in English.
Children in this study spoke Spanish at home and
had been attending a DLI program for 3 years, meaning
that they had ample opportunities to both hear and produce comprehensible language (Collins, 2014). However,
how DLI instruction actually impacts outcomes remains
an open question with regard to narrative story structure
(Kang, 2012). It seems likely that the cross-linguistic transfer of elements of narrative story structure, in particular,
would be influenced by classroom language experience and
instruction, especially with regard to the specific cultural
and linguistic demands of both languages (Laurent et al.,
2015; Montanari, 2004; Rezzonico et al., 2016).
Recent findings related to narrative production among
emergent bilingual children in the first few years of formal
schooling suggest that some aspects of narrative performance are better developed among older children, but little
of this research has been conducted longitudinally. Schooling likely plays a role in narrative development, as children are exposed to more formal literacy practices at
school than at home. It is therefore expected that the
stories they produce will also show more conventional
structure and greater complexity as they progress through
school. In addition, little is known about relations between
languages in narrative over time. In the case of this study,
children had received literacy instruction in Spanish and
English for 3 years, so development was expected in both
languages. The research questions guiding this study were
1. How does the bilingual microlevel performance of
Spanishâ€“English emergent bilingual children on oral
narrative retells develop over 2 years in a DLI program?
2. How does bilingual performance develop at the
macrolevel, both in terms of overall discourse structure skill and on individual elements?
Microlevel hypotheses were considered for vocabulary and grammar. In terms of vocabulary, it was expected
that children would exhibit growth on measures in both
languages (Gagarina, 2016; Lucero, 2016), but it was not
known whether they would be significantly correlated
cross-linguistically at either grade, given conflicting findings in the literature (GÃ¡mez & GonzÃ¡lez, 2017; Uccelli &
PaÃ©z, 2007). In terms of grammar, it was expected that
children would exhibit significant growth in Spanish (L1)
but not in English, given that it can take up to 7 years to
develop proficient communicative skills in an L2 (Cummins,
1981, 1991). Furthermore, it was not expected that grammar measures would be cross-linguistically correlated at either time point (Lucero, 2015).
In terms of macrolevel performance, it was predicted
that overall discourse scores would improve significantly
between kindergarten and second grade in both languages
(Lucero, 2016; Roch et al., 2016; Squires et al., 2014) and
that scores would be significantly correlated at both time
points (Uccelli & PaÃ©z, 2007). Because of a lack of previous research related to development in individual macrolevel elements, there was no hypothesis about them.
Method and Data Analysis
Participants were 12 children who spoke Spanish at
home and attended a Spanishâ€“English DLI program in a
mid-sized city in the Pacific Northwest. The school enrolled approximately 330 children in grades Kâ€“5, with a
demographic profile as follows: 51% Latino, 41% White,
4% multiracial, 2% African American, 1% Native American,
and 1% Asian (Oregon Department of Education, 2016).
Seventy-seven percent of students were considered economically disadvantaged, and 31% were eligible for ESL
(English as a second language) services. The school enrolled a considerably higher percentage of Latino students
and those eligible for free and reduced lunch than the district averages (14% and 44%, respectively). It was located
in a working class area, and most of the children lived
within the schoolâ€™s neighborhood boundaries.
610 Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools â€¢ Vol. 49 â€¢ 607â€“621 â€¢ July 2018
The DLI program followed a 70:30 model, such that
all children received daily instruction in both languages.
Content instruction was strictly separated by language, in
that teachers were expected to use only the language
assigned to each content area for the duration of each
lesson. Children were also encouraged to use the target
language in each content area, although all classroom
teachers were bilingual and generally responded to childrenâ€™s contributions in either language. Assessments were
also conducted exclusively in one language or the other,
and children were therefore much less likely to engage
in code switchingâ€”or other forms of translanguaging
(GarcÃa, 2009; Garcia & Wei, 2014)â€”during instruction
and assessment than they were in more informal settings
like the halls or the playground.
Literacy instruction was conducted in both Spanish
and English at all grades, following core curricula, and in
Kâ€“2 classrooms, children received math and science instruction in Spanish. Starting in third grade, the model transitioned to a 50:50 model, such that math continued to be
taught in Spanish, but science was taught in English. In
Kâ€“2 classrooms, there were approximately an even number
of children who spoke Spanish and English at home.
The school followed the district procedure for identifying those in need of ESL services: Parents completed a
home language survey indicating the primary language(s)
spoken in the home. If a language other than English was
indicated, the child was assessed using the English IDEA
Oral Language Proficiency Test (IPT) I Oral Language
Proficiency Test (Ballard & Tighe, 1999). Children qualified
for ESL services if they were designated non-English speaking
or limited English speaking according to the IPT scoring
criteria. Children who were designated fluent English speaking using IPT criteria did not qualify for ESL services.
In spring 2015, consent forms were sent home with
all kindergarteners who were identified on a home language
survey as speaking Spanish at home. Twenty-three consent
forms were returned, and those children (mean age =
6;2 years;months) were assessed. In spring 2017, consent
forms were sent home with the 20 children who were still
enrolled in the school as second graders. Twelve forms
were returned, and assessments were conducted with
those children (mean age = 8;3). Nine participating children qualified for and continued to receive ESL services
through second grade, whereas three did not qualify due to
high English proficiency at kindergarten entry. Those
who qualified received daily push-in or pull-out English
language development instruction with an ESL teacher
or bilingual instructional assistant.
Oral Narrative Retell Assessments
Oral narrative assessments were conducted by the
principal investigator (in both languages) or a trained graduate research assistant (in English only). At both time
points, assessments were conducted in both languages,
first in Spanish and then in English approximately a week
later. Children heard one wordless picture book in each
languageâ€”Frog, where are you? (Mayer, 1969) and Frog
goes to dinner (Mayer, 1974). Audio scripts provided by
Miller, Andriacchi, and Nockerts (2015) were used to record a highly proficient bilingual speaker reading both
stories. These scripts are designed to have comparable
lengths, sentence complexity, and levels of cohesion
(Greenhalgh & Strong, 2001) and have been used with
Spanishâ€“English bilinguals in other studies (Bedore
et al., 2010; Simon-Cereijido & GutiÃ©rrez-Clellen, 2009).
Books were randomly counterbalanced such that half of
the children heard Frog, where are you? in Spanish and
Frog goes to dinner in English, whereas the opposite was
true for the other half of children. Each child heard the
same book in the same language at both time points to allow for longitudinal comparison.
Assessment sessions were conducted individually in
a quiet space in the school and lasted for approximately
20 min. The assessor spoke only the target language for
the entire session. To begin the session, the assessor read
the title of the book and told the child that they would be
asked to retell the story in their own words after listening
and that they would not be able to look at the pictures
while doing so. Children listened to the story using headphones while the assessor sat next to or across from the
child and did unrelated work. This naive listener condition typically leads to more detailed retelling because of
the lack of shared knowledge between researcher and
child (Berman & Slobin, 1994; Boyd & NauclÃ©r, 2001;
After listening to the story, the child was given the
option to review the book one more time before giving it
to the assessor. Then the audio recorder was turned on,
and children were asked to begin the retell. The assessor
remained silent throughout the retell, except in the case of
pauses lasting more than 3 s, at which point she gave a
general prompt such as â€œtell me moreâ€ (â€œdime mÃ¡sâ€) or
â€œanything else?â€ (â€œÂ¿algo mÃ¡s?â€; Miller et al., 2015). Once
the child retold most of the story, the researcher asked
â€œis that all you remember?â€ (â€œÂ¿es todo lo que recuerdas?â€)
to end the assessment (Justice, Bowles, & Gosse, 2010;
Justice et al., 2006).
At second grade, participants were assessed using
the Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Testâ€“Fourth
Edition: Spanishâ€“Bilingual Edition (EOWPVT-4: SBE;
Martin, 2012) in the first session and the Receptive OneWord Picture Vocabulary Testâ€“Fourth Edition: Spanishâ€“
Bilingual Edition (ROWPVT-4: SBE; Martin, 2013) in the
second session to ensure that their vocabulary was within
the normal range. These assessments are norm-referenced
and standardized on bilingual Spanish-speaking individuals
living in the United States (Martin, 2012, 2013). They are
designed to provide an estimation of childrenâ€™s conceptual
vocabulary across languages. In each case, therefore, the
assessor used the target language of the session (Spanish
in the first, English in the second) to present children with
Lucero: Development of Bilingual Narrative Retelling 611
a series of illustrations representing objects, actions, and
concepts. In the EOWPVT-4: SBE, if the child did not
respond to the prompt in the Spanish, the assessor would
then prompt the child in English. Children could respond
in either language at either point, and the response would
be counted as correct, although the language of the response
was noted. In the ROWPVT-4: SBE, the assessor initially
named the object, action, or concept in English, but if the
child did not point to an illustration (or say the number
associated with it), the assessor would then repeat the prompt
in Spanish. There was no penalty for responding to either
prompt, and again the language of the response was noted.
The mean standard score on the EOWPVT-4: SBE
was 106.64 (SD = 10.76), and age equivalents ranged from
6;11 to 11;5. The mean standard score on the ROWPVT-4:
SBE was 119.43 (SD = 18.57), and age equivalents ranged
from 6;9 to 18;0, such that all children were performing
within the expected range for their age.
Narratives were transcribed by either the principal
investigator or trained university students who were highly
proficient in the target language. Professional coders from
Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts (SALT;
Miller et al., 2015; Miller, Andriacchi, & Nockerts, 2016)
coded all transcripts using accompanying conventions. In
line with this, measures were calculated using only complete and intelligible utterances. Maze behaviors such as
repetitions and reformulations were omitted and did not
count in any of the measures. Translanguaging occurred in
the narratives of only three children and only at the level
of individual word code switches to English in the context
of Spanish narration. It was considered maze behavior
not only because of the infrequency with which it occurred
but also to facilitate the analysis of a childâ€™s proficiency
in the two languages separately.
Following SALT conventions, transcripts were segmented into C-units using Lobanâ€™s (1976) rules; a C-unit
includes a main clause and any subordinate clauses. Coding
of C-units only differed in the case of coordinated clauses
with omitted subjects in the second main clause, as recommended in the literature on oral narrative retells with
Spanish-speaking children (GutiÃ©rrez-Clellen & Hofstetter,
1994; Miller et al., 2006). Therefore, utterances containing
a succession of verbs without repeating the subject were
segmented into separate C-units in both languages (GutiÃ©rrezClellen & Hofstetter, 1994; GutiÃ©rrez-Clellen, Restrepo,
Bedore, PeÃ±a, & Anderson, 2000; Heilmann et al., 2008).
For example, the frog jumped and landed in the water would
be considered a single utterance using standard C-unit coding. However, in this study it was coded as two utterances:
the frog jumped/and landed in the water. This modified coding accounts for the pronoun-drop nature of Spanish; it
results in a greater overall number of utterances than standard coding but prevents the overinflation of grammatical complexity.
Vocabulary was measured in two ways: TNW and
NDW (Miller et al., 2006). TNW is a productivity measure
to indicate how many total words the child used to the
story, whereas NDW is a count of the unique, uninflected
root words used. NDW is particularly useful as a crosslinguistic measure because it allows for direct comparison
across languages (Simon-Cereijido & GutiÃ©rrez-Clellen,
2009). It is also considered a developmentally sensitive
and robust indicator of a childâ€™s vocabulary (Heilmann,
Miller, Nockerts, et al., 2010). It has been found to be
positively related to reading achievement in Spanishspeaking children (Miller et al., 2006; Rojas & Iglesias,
2013). TNW and NDW are calculated automatically by
the SALT program.
Grammatical complexity was also measured in two
ways: mean length of utterance at the word level (MLUw)
and subordination index (SI). Grammatical analysis is
important because syntactic knowledge plays a role in
reading comprehension, especially with regard to childrenâ€™s
ability to synthesize information (GutiÃ©rrez-Clellen, 1998;
Verhoeven, 2011). MLUw is a measure of the mean length
of C-units and is widely considered a general measure of
syntactic complexity that has been used in many oral narrative retell studies with bilingual children (Bedore et al.,
2010; Fiestas & PeÃ±a, 2004; Iluz-Cohen & Walters, 2012;
Miller et al., 2006; Simon-Cereijido & GutiÃ©rrez-Clellen,
2009). The SI is the ratio of the total number of clauses divided by the total number of utterances, and research
suggests that it can be used to quantify complex grammar
across the two languages of bilingual children (Miller et al.,
2015). MLUw is analyzed automatically by the SALT program, but the SI is not, so it was hand-coded by SALT
To establish interrater reliability, approximately 20%
of transcripts in each language (three in Spanish and three
in English at each grade level) were randomly selected to
be segmented and coded by the principal investigator in addition to SALT coders. Percent agreement was calculated
for each of the microstructure measures. In Spanish, agreement on TNW ranged from 85% to 97%, NDW ranged
from 84% to 100%, MLUw ranged from 92% to 97%, and
SI ranged from 93% to 100%. In English, agreement on
TNW ranged from 90% to 96%, NDW ranged from 96%
to 98%, MLUw ranged from 92% to 97%, and SI ranged
from 90% to 99%. All percentages were considered to be
within the acceptable range.
Macrostructure was assessed using the narrative
scoring scheme (NSS; Heilmann, Miller, Nockerts, et al.,
2010), a tool that provides an overall assessment of a
childâ€™s ability to produce a coherent, sequential, and detailed narrative. It consists of seven elements (introduction,
character development, mental states, referencing, conflict
resolution, cohesion, conclusion), each of which is scored
holistically on a scale of 1â€“5 for a possible 35 points total
(Heilmann, Miller, Nockerts, et al., 2010; see Table 1).
Scoring the NSS requires qualitative examiner judgment
612 Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools â€¢ Vol. 49 â€¢ 607â€“621 â€¢ July 2018
to assign scores ranging from minimal/immature (1, 2) to
emerging (3) to proficient (4, 5). All seven elements receive
equal weight in the overall score because each is considered necessary to developing a complete and coherent story.
Transcripts were coded for NSS by SALT professionals.
The NSS integrates the basic elements of story grammar with high-level narrative skills such as the use of metacognitive verbsâ€”which describe characterâ€™s thoughts and
feelingsâ€”and first-person dialogue, as well as elements
related to coherence. It has been found to be sensitive to the
performance of 5- through 7-year-old children (Heilmann,
Miller, & Nockerts, 2010) and offers researchers a way
to identify specific elements of a childâ€™s narrative that are
areas of strength or challenge. In this study, bilingual childrenâ€™s performance across languages on each of the seven
elements was compared in an effort to better understand
the cross-linguistic development of emergent bilingual
children. Table 1 includes examples of language scored
â€œproficientâ€ (score of 4 or 5) for each element taken from
the present set of transcripts.
As with microstructure measures, 20% of transcripts
in each language at both time points were coded for
NSS by the principal investigator in addition to SALT
professionals, and percent agreement was calculated. In
Spanish, agreement on NSS was 81% at kindergarten and
83% at second grade; in English, agreement was 86% at
kindergarten and 90% at second grade. Agreement was
therefore somewhat lower at the macrostructure level than
at the microstructure level, which is not surprising given
that scoring the NSS involves some qualitative judgment.
Nonetheless, all levels of agreement were considered within
the acceptable range.
To answer the first research question, regarding
longitudinal development in microlevel skills, crosssectional, cross-linguistic correlations and paired-sample
t tests at both grades are reported first to provide context. Results from within-language paired-sample t tests
comparing vocabulary and grammar scores at kindergarten and second grade are reported next. Finally, to answer the second research question, regarding longitudinal
development in macrolevel performance, findings from
within-language paired-sample t tests comparing scores
at kindergarten and second grade, including both NSS
Table 1. Narrative scoring scheme (Heilmann, Miller, Nockerts, & Dunaway, 2010) with examples from the current sample.
Criteria for assessment
Example of characteristic earning
Example of characteristic earning
Introduction Introduces setting and main
characters with some level
of description or detail
â€œPrimero lo que pasÃ³ en el
restaurante fue que la rana se
cayÃ³ en el vaso de un seÃ±or.â€
â€œEl NiÃ±o se estaba poniendo ropa para
ir a la tienda de comer. Y dijo â€˜adios,
(The first thing that happened was
that the frog fell in a manâ€™s glass.)
(The boy was getting dressed to go
out to dinner. And he said, â€œGoodbye,
Discriminates between main
and secondary characters;
uses character voices
â€œUno tenÃa el rana. Y luego XX saltÃ³
que se escapÃ³.â€
â€œAnd then they walked to a beehive.
They saw holes. They yelled, â€˜Frog,
(One had the frog. And then XX where are you?â€™â€
jumped so it escaped.)
Mental states Uses a variety of words to
expresses the thoughts
or emotions of characters
[no use of mental state words at all] â€œLa seÃ±ora se fue porque no querÃa
estar acÃ¡â€¦no estaba sintiendo bien.â€
(The woman left because she didnâ€™t
want to be hereâ€¦she wasnâ€™t feeling
Referencing Appropriately uses pronouns,
referents, and antecedents
to create a coherent narrative
â€œAnd the frog he is no anymore
in there. And but sheâ€™s a frog
sheâ€™s have a dad.â€
â€œThe boy was getting ready for dinner,
and then the frog jumped on his
sweater. And then they went on their
Conflict resolution Includes all major conflicts and
resolutions that are critical to
the development of the plot
â€œAnd then the dog was stuck in
the jar. And then they found the
frog with a mom and babies.â€
â€œAnd then they went to sleep. And then
they woke up. And the frog went out
of the jar, and the dog was looking
for the frog too like the boy.â€
Cohesion Applies logical sequencing and
smooth transitions, placing
greater emphasis on critical
â€œY fue en la copa de una seÃ±ora y
un seÃ±or. Ã‰l se fue en la copa
â€œLuego se cayÃ³ en el tambÃ³r. Luego se
(And he went in a womanâ€™s cup
and a manâ€™s cup. He went in
a manâ€™s cup.)
(Then he fell on the drum. Then everything
Conclusion Provides general conclusion
to the story in addition to
â€œThe boy say â€˜where are you, frog?â€™
Then he found his frog with
â€œAnd there was two froggies together, and
them had baby frogs. The boy took one
of the baby frogs, and said that he would
take care the baby frog for them.â€
Note. Samples are transcribed using the childrenâ€™s own words, but mazes (filler words, repetitions) have been omitted.
Lucero: Development of Bilingual Narrative Retelling 613
composite scores and performance on individual NSS elements are reported.
Development on Microlevel Skills
Cross-Linguistic Relations by Grade Level
Two-tailed Pearson productâ€“moment correlations
among all measures were run to investigate similarities and
differences in the relations among microlevel narrative
skills across languages at the two assessment time points.
Correlations at kindergarten are reported in Table 2, and
correlations at second grade are reported in Table 3. Table 3
also includes correlations between narrative measures and
the two vocabulary assessments given at that data collection time point.
At kindergarten, both of the vocabulary measures
were significantly correlated cross-linguistically (TNW r =
.706, p < .05; NDW r = .779, p < .01), suggesting that
children performed similarly across languages in terms of
how many words they used to tell stories as well as the variety of words they used. At second grade, TNW was again
significantly correlated cross-linguistically (r = .683, p < .05),
but NDW no longer was (r = .562, ns). The two grammar
measures were not significantly cross-linguistically correlated
at either kindergarten or second grade. The ROWPVT-4:
SBE was significantly correlated with EngMLUw (r = .641,
p < .05) only, and the EOWPVT-4: SBE was not significantly correlated with any of the narrative measures.
Paired-sample t tests were run to investigate differences in performance across languages at kindergarten and
second grade. All results were not significant; in other words,
children did not perform significantly better in either language at either time point on any of the microstructure
Longitudinal Paired-Sample t Tests
Results from paired-sample t tests for microstructure
components are shown in Table 4. By second grade, children showed significantly higher performance on TNW
in both languages: kindergarten SpTNW mean = 128.92
(SD = 79.22) and second grade SpTNW mean = 223.25
(SD = 92.18), t(1) = âˆ’3.02, p = .012; kindergarten
EngTNW mean = 123.17 (SD = 81.33) and second grade
EngTNW mean = 259.67 (SD = 86.48), t(11) = âˆ’4.36, p =
.001. The magnitude of longitudinal differences in both
languages was large (SpTNW Î·2 = .43, EngTNW Î·2 =
.61). Differences in NDW were also significant: kindergarten SpNDW mean = 51.00 (SD = 23.18) and second grade
SpNDW mean = 75.75 (SD = 22.10), t(11) = âˆ’3.06 (p =
.011); kindergarten EngNDW mean = 50.08 (SD = 25.97)
and second grade EngNDW mean = 86.33 (SD = 22.61),
t(11) = âˆ’4.41, p = .001. The magnitude of differences
in both languages was also large (SpNDW Î·2 = .44,
EngNDW Î·2 = .62).
In terms of grammar, there were no significant differences between performance at kindergarten and second
grade in either measure (MLUw or SI) in either language,
suggesting that children produced utterances of comparable
length and grammatical complexity at the two assessment
Development on Macrolevel Skills
Cross-Linguistic Relations by Grade Level
Table 2 shows that, at kindergarten, overall NSS was
significantly correlated cross-linguistically (r = .668, p < .05),
a finding that has been shown repeatedly in previous research (Pearson, 2002; Squires et al., 2014; Uccelli & PaÃ©z,
2007). However, at second grade, NSS was no longer significantly correlated cross-linguistically (r = .281, ns; see
Longitudinal Paired-Sample t Tests
Results from paired-sample t tests for macrostructure
elements at kindergarten and second grade are shown in
Table 4. In Spanish, participants showed no significant improvement on overall NSS and only scored significantly
higher on the element of conclusion: kindergarten SpConc
mean = 2.08 (SD = .99) and second grade SpConc mean =
2.75 (SD = .62), t(11) = âˆ’2.15, p = .05 (see Figure 1), with
a large effect size (Î·2 = .28). In contrast, in English, children showed significantly higher performance on overall
NSS scores: kindergarten EngNSS mean = 14.08 (SD = 5.57)
and second grade EngNSS mean = 18.83 (SD = 2.41),
t(11) = âˆ’3.25, p = .008. The magnitude of the difference
was large (Î·2 = .47). In addition, students showed significantly improved performance on four individual NSS elements: character development, referencing, conflict resolution,
and cohesion (see Figure 2). Effect sizes, as measured by
eta squared, were large for all elements, ranging from .43
This study examined the longitudinal performance
of 12 Spanishâ€“English emergent bilingual children on an
oral narrative retell task in both languages. The children
Table 2. Correlations at kindergarten.
Measure 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1. SpNSS .668* .912** .721** .934** .699* .254 .142 .654* âˆ’.023
2. EngNSS .704* .884** .718** .917** .107 .530 .295 .094
3. SpTNW .706* .974** .718** .343 .198 .581* .129
4. EngTNW .771** .987** .151 .423 .501 âˆ’.241
5. SpNDW .779** .328 .274 .675* .044
6. EngNDW .183 .487 .447 âˆ’.160
7. SpMLUw .545 .515 .026
8. EngMLUw .276 .037
9. SpSI âˆ’.150
Note. Bold font indicates a cross-linguistic correlation. Sp = Spanish;
Eng = English; NSS = narrative scoring scheme; TNW = total
number of words; NDW = number of different words; MLUw =
mean length of utterance-word; SI = subordination index.
*p < .05 (two-tailed). **p < .01 (two-tailed).
614 Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools â€¢ Vol. 49 â€¢ 607â€“621 â€¢ July 2018
were enrolled in a DLI program and assessed at the end of
kindergarten and second grade. Their performance on
microlevel and macrolevel skills was measured and analyzed quantitatively.
At the microlevel, it was hypothesized that children
would exhibit significant growth on both vocabulary measures in both languages based on previous cross-sectional
research (Gagarina, 2016; Lucero, 2016). This hypothesis
was confirmed; the TNW used and the NDW used increased
significantly from kindergarten to second grade in both
languages. In addition, TNW was significantly crosslinguistically correlated at both time points, whereas NDW
was correlated only at kindergarten (although it approached
significance at p = .057).
The existing longitudinal literature has shown mixed
findings with regard to bilingual vocabulary development
in oral narratives (GÃ¡mez & GonzÃ¡lez, 2017; Uccelli &
PaÃ©z, 2007), and the present findings contribute in two
meaningful ways: First, they show development over the
first 3 years of formal schooling in both languages, and
second, they highlight the potential vocabulary development
of children enrolled in DLI programs. Previous research
has included children from various instructional contexts
without accounting for language of instruction. For example, in the Uccelli and PaÃ©z (2007) study, one third of the
children were enrolled in DLI programs, whereas the majority were not. Therefore, their finding that NDW improved significantly only in English from kindergarten to
first grade is not surprising when considered alongside the
fact that children in this study improved in both languages. One of the key goals of the present research was
to investigate the potentially facilitative effects of dual language instruction on bilingual oral language development,
and the vocabulary findings seem to bear this out. It is impossible to say whether vocabulary findings would have
been different had this study been conducted in an Englishonly setting, but it seems likely that the pattern of greater
improvement in English would be even more pronounced in
Table 3. Correlations at second grade.
Measure 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
1. SpNSS .281 .716** .610* .772** .506 .475 âˆ’.013 .465 âˆ’.230 .212 .166
2. EngNSS .378 .730** .324 .882** âˆ’.042 .655* âˆ’.138 .369 âˆ’.206 .326
3. SpTNW .683* .983** .620* .624* .141 .478 .114 .323 .128
4. EngTNW .623* .947** .308 .386 .216 .134 .116 .528
5. SpNDW .562 .651* .092 .482 .078 .390 .065
6. EngNDW .168 .516 .082 .263 .040 .465
7. SpMLUw .275 .794** .343 .782** .391
8. EngMLUw .055 .862** .107 .641*
9. SpSI .113 .568 .382
10. EngSI .263 .421
11. EOWPVT-4: SBE .269
12. ROWPVT-4: SBE
Note. Bold font indicates a cross-linguistic correlation. Sp = Spanish; Eng = English; NSS = narrative scoring scheme; TNW = total number
of words; NDW = number of different words; MLUw = mean length of utterance-word; SI = subordination index; EOWPVT-4: SBE = Expressive
One-Word Picture Vocabulary Testâ€“Fourth Edition: Spanishâ€“Bilingual Edition; ROWPVT-4: SBE = Receptive One-Word Picture Vocabulary
Testâ€“Fourth Edition: Spanishâ€“Bilingual Edition.
*p < .05 (two-tailed). **p < .01 (two-tailed).
Table 4. Paired-sample t tests for macrolevel elements and microlevel components from kindergarten to second grade.
Measure Kdg Spanish 2nd Spanish t Test sig. Kdg English 2nd English t Test sig.
TNW 128.92 223.25 p = .012 123.17 259.67 p = .001
NDW 51.00 75.75 p = .011 50.08 86.33 p = .001
MLUw 6.99 7.51 ns 7.48 8.07 ns
SI 1.14 1.19 ns 1.23 1.25 ns
NSS composite 16.75 18.42 ns 14.08 18.83 p = .008
Introduction 2.50 2.58 ns 2.00 2.42 ns
Character development 2.17 2.58 ns 1.67 2.92 p < .001
Mental states 2.42 2.42 ns 1.92 1.92 ns
Referencing 2.75 2.83 ns 2.17 2.92 p = .012
Conflict resolution 2.25 2.50 ns 2.08 3.08 p = .007
Cohesion 2.58 2.75 ns 2.18 3.00 p = .002
Conclusion 2.08 2.75 p = .054 2.17 2.58 ns
Note. Kdg = kindergarten; 2nd = second grade; TNW = total number of words; NDW = number of different words; MLUw = mean length of
utterance at the word level; SI = subordination index; sig. = significance; ns = not significant; NSS composite = narrative scoring scheme composite.
Lucero: Development of Bilingual Narrative Retelling 615
contexts where children received no literacy instruction in
Spanish at all.
The other microstructure measures examined in this
study were two related to grammarâ€”MLU and SI (Miller
et al., 2016). It was hypothesized that grammar would
improve in Spanish, but not in English, given ample
research showing that communicative development in an
L2 can take 5â€“7 years to develop, even in optimal conditions
(Cummins, 1981, 1991). This hypothesis was not supported; children did not significantly improve on either
grammar measure in either language. There are at least
two possible reasons for the unexpected finding. First, the
measures themselves may not be sensitive enough to identify growth among children at this age, although previous
cross-sectional research has found differences between kindergarteners and second graders on MLUw (Lucero, 2016).
Figure 1. Spanish NSS by individual element at kindergarten and second grade. NSS = narrative scoring scheme; Sp =
Spanish; Intro = introduction; CD = character development; MS = mental states; Ref = referencing; CR = conflict
resolution; Coh = cohesion; Conc = conclusion. * indicates significance at p < .05.
Figure 2. English NSS by individual element at kindergarten and second grade. NSS = narrative scoring scheme; Eng =
English; Intro = introduction; CD = character development; MS = mental states; Ref = referencing; CR = conflict
resolution; Coh = cohesion; Conc = conclusion. ** indicates significance at p < .01.
616 Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools â€¢ Vol. 49 â€¢ 607â€“621 â€¢ July 2018
In terms of the SIâ€”which was quite low among children
at both assessment time pointsâ€”it is likely that, even at
second grade, children are not using a lot of subordination in their home language, least of all in their L2
(Kupersmitt et al., 2014).
An alternate possibility is that children in this DLI
program were not being exposed to highly complex instructional language during the Spanish literacy block, a
concern that has been raised in the literature (Palmer, 2009;
ValdÃ©s, 1997; Wiese, 2004). Because instruction was not
observed, however, such a conclusion goes beyond the
scope of this study. Moreover, neither grammar measure
was significantly cross-linguistically correlated at either
grade and was slightly higher in English at both assessment
time points. It is therefore impossible to draw even tentative conclusions about grammatical development based on
the findings presented here.
At the macrolevel, it was hypothesized that overall
NSS scores would improve significantly between kindergarten and second grade in both languages. Because discourse ability is not dependent on linguistic skills, such as
vocabulary and grammar, it is widely considered to be
prone to cross-linguistic transfer (Gagarina et al., 2015;
Iluz-Cohen & Walters, 2012; Pearson, 2002; Schwartz &
Shaul, 2013). As children continue to develop those skills
in their home language, it follows that those skills would
become more proficient in English as well as they progress
through school (Roch et al., 2016; Squires et al., 2014),
especially among those enrolled in DLI programs. However, the hypothesis was confirmed only in English. If
confirmed by further research, this finding is important
because one of the professed benefits of dual language education is that children from Spanish-speaking homes can
continue to develop proficient and complex Spanish even
as they improve their English abilities. However, the present findings suggest that this may not be the case in all
programs. Notably, children in this sample performed better in Spanish NSS at kindergarten than they did in English
(albeit not significantly), but by second grade performed
slightly higher in English. Moreover, contrary to some existing research (Uccelli & PaÃ©z, 2007), overall NSS scores
were significantly correlated cross-linguistically at kindergarten, but not at second grade. Taken together, these analyses
indicate that childrenâ€™s overall discourse skills across languages were diverging over time in the direction of English.
Further evidence of this shift in language proficiency
is that children showed significant improvement on four
individual elements of the NSS in English, but only one
element in Spanish. Specifically, English performance
on character development, referencing, conflict resolution,
and cohesion was significantly higher at second grade than
at kindergarten, whereas in Spanish conclusion was the only
element on which children scored significantly higher at second grade. Because of a lack of previous research in this area,
no hypotheses were proposed about individual elements.
The structure of the NSS makes the findings related
to referencing and cohesion particularly notable. Referencing
measures the appropriate use of linguistic devices such as
pronouns and antecedents that contribute to overall wellorganized stories. In contrast, cohesion addresses more
global measures such as sequencing events in a logical
order, emphasizing critical events over minor events, and
using appropriate transition words throughout. Referencing is often considered a microlevel measure because
it is assessed at the word or sentence level (Alvarez, 2003;
Kang, 2012; Lever & SÃ©nÃ©chal, 2011; MÃ¤kinen, Loukusa,
Nieminen, Leinonen, & Kunnari, 2014; Paradis & Kirova,
2014). However, adequate referencing requires the integration of local and global aspects in order to achieve coherence between utterances across a narrative (Berman, 2009),
so it considered an element of story structure in the NSS,
alongside the more global element of cohesion. To score
proficiently on referencing, a child needs to provide â€œnecessary antecedents to pronounsâ€ and references that are
â€œclear throughout the storyâ€ (Heilmann, Miller, Nockerts,
et al., 2010, p. 165).
In this study, both referencing and cohesion improved significantly from kindergarten to second grade in
English, while neither improved significantly in Spanish.
Although no specific hypotheses about these elements were
proposed, concurrent English improvement in these two
elements in particular was somewhat surprising given that
referencing is considered the most linguistically oriented
element measured by the NSS, and research suggests that
proficient L2 development typically takes 5â€“7 years
(Cummins, 1981, 1991).
Finally, considering macrolevel and microlevel findings in concert with one another provides another layer
of analysis that can begin to elucidate patterns of narrative
development for bilingual children receiving dual language instruction. First, the fact that the vocabulary measures were significantly higher at second grade than at
kindergarten in both languagesâ€”while only English discourse scores were higher over timeâ€”suggests that children
used more (and more diverse) vocabulary at second grade
to tell stories of comparable sophistication to those they
told in kindergarten in Spanish. Perhaps, then, children in
this dual language program were continuing to learn isolated Spanish words, but not how to deploy them in the
service of producing complex stories in their home language. In English, on the other hand, they were possibly
able to put their newly acquired vocabulary words to work
in the service of producing more sophisticated stories.
Second, given that childrenâ€™s performance did not
improve significantly in grammar in either language, improvement on the English NSS element of referencing
raises questions about the specific mechanisms that may
account for development in the accuracy of referencing.
One possibility is that â€œacross time, known linguistic forms
are used to serve new functions, and new forms are developed to meet old functionsâ€ (Berman, 2009, p. 289). In
other words, by the end of kindergarten, these children
were able to use words such as â€œheâ€ and â€œtheyâ€ in English
(their L2), but they may have struggled to do so accurately
and consistently until they had been in formal schooling
for 2 years more. At the same time, their proficiency at
Lucero: Development of Bilingual Narrative Retelling 617
producing longer sentences with more subordination may
be slower to develop (Kupersmitt et al., 2014).
Limitations and Future Directions
Given the exploratory nature of this research, there
are some limitations that should be noted and addressed
in future studies. First, the number of children from the
original kindergarten sample who were not available for
assessment at second grade (11/23) means that only approximately 50% of children could be included in the final analysis. This led to a small sample, especially for conducting
quantitative analyses. Nonetheless, one major contribution
that this study makes is laying the foundation for future
work that investigates within-language development of
narrative skills at both the macrolevel and microlevel,
as well as cross-linguistic relations at different time points
in that development. In particular, attention to individual
macrolevel elements that may map onto later reading
comprehension was a focus of this study and has been
underinvestigated in the literature.
Another limitation was related to the little that was
known about childrenâ€™s language proficiency or the quality
of literacy instruction they received in the two languages.
Expressive and receptive vocabulary assessments were conducted with participating children at the second grade assessment time point, and scores indicated that no child
scored below âˆ’1 SD on either assessment. However, those
are bilingual assessments designed to tap into childrenâ€™s
conceptual vocabulary and therefore do not necessarily
provide information about their knowledge of vocabulary
in each language separately. In addition, no instruction was
observed, and therefore, it is not possible to make connections between childrenâ€™s performance on narrative retells
and the literacy instruction they received. This is a particular issue that should be addressed in future research, because it seems likely that the quality of instruction influences
childrenâ€™s narrative retell skills and can add to our understanding of the role of dual language education in such development in particular.
A related caveat worth noting is that these narratives
were collected and analyzed using a monolingual approach
to language development. Although the prevalence of
translanguaging behaviors was exceedingly low in this
sample, children likely engage in these behaviors in their
everyday lives and communities (GarcÃa, 2009; Garcia &
Wei, 2014), and their facility with flexible uses of their bilingual resources was therefore not captured in this study.
Given the value of employing a variety of linguistic resourcesâ€”and the potential of dual language schooling to
support students in developing the tools to do so proficientlyâ€”future studies should consider the role of translanguaging in oral narrative production.
Another key area for future research is the continuation of longitudinal data collection to go beyond the first
3 years of formal schooling. It would be informative to
continue to study bilingual narrative retell skills as children progress through elementary school. It would also be
valuable to investigate changing relations between oral
narrative skills and reading outcomes both within languages and cross-linguistically over time.
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