Keeping Grounded: A Longitudinal Study Exploring Immersive Strategies to Improve Children's Comprehension of Narrative Texts

In support of the grounded nature of discourse-level comprehension, encouraging children to immerse themselves in a story’s content has been found to improve their performance on reading comprehension measures. The current study explored the long-term benefits of two immersive strategies, storyboard construction (SC) and active experiencing (AE), on children’s (9-10 year olds) overall comprehension of narrative texts. At the beginning of the year, one third of participants learned how to use SC (the active recreation of a story using plastic cut-outs), one third learned how to use AE (to act out a story using emotional expression and movement) and one third participated in a session with no specific training. After training, participants read two short stories, using their respective strategy, and then answered a combination of emotion-based and spatial-based comprehension questions. We found that children who used AE performed better on emotion-based questions and children who used SC performed better on spatial-based questions. The benefits did not persist when children used imagery-based versions of the strategies with novel stories. The differential benefits of the two strategies support the grounded, multi-dimensional nature of children’s mental representations of narrative texts.