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To investigate the strategies children use in comprehending written stories, third, sixth, and ninth grade students were given scrambled six-sentence stories and asked to reorder them. Three versions of each of six stories were created. The first version was the canonical form of the story predicted by story grammar rules; the second version began with a sentence which questioned the conclusion of the canonical form; and in the third this conclusion began the story. Significant effects of grade and structure indicated that the canonical form was more easily ordered than were the other structures, and also that third grade students were less accurate at the task than were sixth or ninth grade students. These effects were shown for pairwise and completely correct orderings and for a confidence-rating measure. Additionally, children were shown to use an event-sequence strategy and to attend to various surface text features. However, the results suggested that the deep structure (story grammar structure) was of much greater importance in comprehension than were features of surface structure.


Center for the Study of Reading, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Technical Report No. 122.