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Helping Teens With Narrative Language

Updated: Jul 5

In the world of speech-language therapy, one essential skill for effective communication is the ability to retell stories or events, or narrative language. For teenagers, mastering this skill not only aids in academic success but also enriches their social interactions and comprehension abilities. Whether recounting a personal experience or summarizing a complex narrative, the art of retelling is a valuable tool that can be honed through structured guidance and practice. Here are a few strategies for parents on how to help their teenagers retell information in a more comprehensive manner.

Why Narrative Language Matters

Narrative language serves as a bridge between listening and speaking skills, requiring individuals to process information, organize thoughts, and convey them coherently to others. Across multiple settings, teenagers are frequently tasked with summarizing information, discussing events, presenting ideas orally, and providing family members and friends with important information that affects their everyday lives. Proficiency in narrative language empowers teens to effectively participate in these activities, contributing to their academic performance, confidence and improved family, peer and community interactions.

Moreover, narrative language fosters comprehension by encouraging active engagement with content. Instead of passively consuming information, all individuals must analyze, synthesize, and internalize it before conveying it in their own words. This process deepens understanding and retention, laying a solid foundation for future learning endeavors and improved social communication.

Strategies for Teaching Narrative Language Skills


Begin by modeling the narrative process yourself. Choose a familiar story or event and verbally recount it in a clear, organized manner. Emphasize key details, chronological order, and cohesive transitions. This demonstration provides a template for teens to follow and illustrates effective retelling techniques. Let your teenager know that you are modeling this process in order to help them improve their communication style so that friends, teachers and other family members can better understand their overall message and thus communicate with them in a more effective way.

Graphic Organizers 

Graphic organizers encompass various visual or written tools utilized to aid in organizing, processing, retaining information, and accomplishing tasks. Common examples include Venn Diagrams, flowcharts, timeline charts, word lists and checklists. Within a home setting, parents can assist their teenagers in visually mapping out task elements or narratives using graphic organizers. This facilitates organizing thoughts, processing information, and maintaining focus on tasks such as recalling information or managing household chores. Encouraging teenagers to utilize graphic organizers tailored to their specific tasks and communication requirements fosters the creation of frameworks to support them in various retelling endeavors. By employing a graphic organizer, teenagers can structure their thoughts and pinpoint essential components of their message effectively.


Breaking down the narrative tasks into manageable parts is referred to as chunking. Instead of expecting teens to recount an entire story at once, divide it into smaller sections or episodes. This approach reduces cognitive load, allowing them to focus on one segment at a time and gradually build their retelling skills.

Active Listening 

Cultivate active listening skills by incorporating activities that requires your teen to listen attentively and respond thoughtfully. After hearing a story, reading a book or watching a movie, prompt them to summarize the main points, identify key details, or retell the narrative from a different perspective. This fosters both comprehension and communication abilities.

Feedback and Reinforcement 

Provide constructive feedback on your child's retelling efforts, highlighting areas of strength and offering specific suggestions for improvement. Encourage peer feedback as well, fostering a supportive learning environment where everyone can learn from each other's perspectives. Positive reinforcement, such as praise or rewards, reinforces progress and motivates continued growth.

Real-World Application 

Connect retelling activities to real-world contexts to enhance relevance and engagement. Encourage teens to retell personal experiences, current events, or about their day, allowing them to practice retelling skills in authentic situations. This application reinforces the practical utility of retelling beyond the family setting.

Overcoming Challenges

Teaching narrative language skills to teens may encounter certain challenges, such as language barriers, attention deficits, or difficulties with organization. Addressing these challenges is on-going and it requires patience, flexibility, and personalized support. Adapt strategies to accommodate their learning style or specific needs and provide additional helpful steps as needed. Incorporating multi-sensory activities, visual aids, or technology-enhanced tools can also enhance accessibility and engagement.

Furthermore, foster a growth mindset by emphasizing effort, persistence, and incremental progress. Encourage your teenager to embrace mistakes as opportunities for learning and improvement, fostering resilience and self-efficacy.

Teaching narrative skills to teens is a multifaceted endeavor that enhances communication skills, fosters comprehension, and promotes success. By employing strategies, providing targeted support, and fostering a positive communication environment, teenagers can become more empowered, confident, and effective communicators.



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