Written narratives of Grade 5 learners with developmental language difficulties: A group discussion intervention study

Keywords: Narratives, Macrostructure, microstructure, written language


Increased demand on a learner’s linguistic, cognitive and metacognitive abilities is expected at higher grades in schools. The application of cognitive and metacognitive strategies when learning is, however, not always automatic, therefore explicit mediation to retrieve and apply these processes appropriately, is essential. This paper aims to compare the linguistic experiences of Grade 5 learners with Developmental Language Difficulties (DLD) when writing a narrative, pre- and post-discussion intervention.The intervention approach is grounded in Feuerstein (2006) and Vygotsky’s (1934/1987) theories of cognitive development. This quantitative and qualitative study was a quasi-experimental, pre- and posttest design. The sample consisted of 10 Grade 5 learners from a remedial school. The pretest written narratives preceded the intervention phase and were followed by the posttest narratives. The macro- and microstructure of the written narratives were analysed, using an adapted framework based on Fey’s (2001) and Moonsamy’s (2009) analysis protocol.Explicit discussions on writing processes should generalise to familiar and novel tasks required in all learning situations. The findings suggest that interventions, using group discussions, were beneficial for learners with DLD where knowledge was coconstructed. Improvements in microstructure were evident while the macrostructure remained the same at post-intervention. This study contributes to evidence-based practice for learner instruction in mainstream and special needs environments.

Author Biographies

Sharon Moonsamy, University of the Witwatersrand
Sharon Moonsamy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and the Head of the School of Human & Community Development at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her research foci include pre-school and school-aged language, oral & written narratives, literacy, cognition, communication disorders and intervention studies.
Natalie Barnes, Speech Pathologist
Natalie Barnes is a Speech-Language Pathologist, as well as a medical writer and editor. Her interest includes literacy, language and auditory processing in the school-age population. She is currently a Master’s Health Research student at Stirling University, Scotland.