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When children tell stories, they gesture; their gestures can predict how their narrative abilities will progress. Five-year-olds who gestured from the point of view of a character (CVPT gesture) when telling stories produced better-structured narratives at later ages (Demir, Levine, & Goldin-Meadow, 2014). But does gesture just predict narrative structure, or can asking children to gesture in a particular way change their narratives? To explore this question, we instructed children to produce CVPT gestures and measured their narrative structure. Forty-four kindergarteners were asked to tell stories after being trained to produce CVPT gestures, gestures from an observer’s viewpoint (OVPT gestures), or after no instruction in gesture. Gestures were coded as CVPT or OVPT, and stories were scored for narrative structure. Children trained to produce CVPT gestures produced more of these gestures, and also had higher narrative structure scores compared to those who received the OVPT training. Children returned for a follow-up session one week later and narrated the stories again. The training received in the first session did not impact narrative structure or recall for the events of the stories. Overall, these results suggest a brief gestural intervention has the potential to enhance narrative structure. Due to the fact that stronger narrative abilities have been correlated with greater success in developing writing and reading skills at later ages, this research has important implications for literacy and education.
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