Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

MaryAnn Hall

Second Advisor

Judith Richardson


NOTE: Presented in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education, Georgia State University

Purpose: The content and language structure of stories created by young children have been for many years an interest to researchers who have attempted to investigate children's thinking as reflected in their stories. These stories, believed to consist of children's actual thoughts during the story creation process, may reflect thinking and can be examined and analyzed according to identified criteria. The five characteristics of plot structures investigated for this study were story length, T-units, words per T-unit, characters, and incidents. Piaget's decreasingly egocentric speech features were causality, logical justification, and sequence. The purposes of this study were first, to examine nonconserving and conserving first grade children's oral expression as reflected in their stories, and second, to determine if a relationship existed between characteristics of plot structures and egocentric speech features.

Procedures: The subjects for this study were 181 first grade children enrolled in four elementary schools located in largely suburban residential areas of DeKalb County of metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. The study consisted of two phases. Phase one involved a study of conservation tasks to identify the children as nonconservers or conservers. A standardized test of conservation was administered individually. There were 134 nonconservers and 47 conservers. Phase two consisted of the collection and analysis of two language experience stories for each subject for a total of 362 stories and of establishing the reliability of the judges. The language samples were studied to determine any significant differences in the frequency of the plot structures and the presence or absence of the decreasingly egocentric speech features. To establish interrater reliability four judges rated a random sampling of ten subject's stories and a two-way analysis of variance was employed.

Results: The results of the interrater reliability revealed that the judges were highly consistent in their ratings with the exception of the variable incidents. The median reliabilities for story one and story two were each .99, respectively (p

Conclusions and Implications: Nonconserving and conserving children can retell a story previously heard much better than they can create their personal stories. Conserving children's language is more linguistically complex than nonconserving children's language. Nonconserving and conserving children's cognitive functioning and understanding of story structure can be inferred to some degree from their stories. Examining children's oral language production merits further research to investigate additional features of story structure and cognitive development. Story retelling is a better measure of children's linguistic complexity than creation of stories. Classroom teachers and reading specialists can use children's stories as sources of diagnostic information to study children's levels of cognitive functioning and understanding of story structure.