Getting Mad at the Zoo

Zoo Miami July 2, 2011

Photo by osseous

In our graduate level communication studies language class we studied narratives and how we use these in everyday conversations. We often narrate when we don’t realize we are doing so. One way to think of it is storytelling and some of us have better skills than others. It depends really on the ‘language’ we use — words that describe, words that put us in a different time, place, experience. Here is an example that will put a smile on your face:

The link was posted by one of my friends on facebook. I decided to use this link as a post this week, allowing me to practice the structures of a narrative. It is of a child who narrates his day at the zoo. His use of language — description, sequence, feelings — allow us to empathize with him in his angry situation. Better than me and than most adults, this child, despite his very young age, also managed to create narrative that is complex, using all of the following structures of a narrative:

1. Abstract: Summary of story

Example: He basically tells us his trip didn’t go well

2. Orientation: Time, place, persons, activity, situation

Example: It’s his daily trip to the zoo with friends but they only saw the gentle


3. Complicating action: Found in Temporally sequenced clauses

Example: See what he says about Harmony (and what dad writes…)

4. Evaluation: The point of the narrative

Example: He really wanted it to be a terrific day. He wanted to see the otters.

5. Result or resolution: Termination of temporarily sequenced clauses

Example: Dad offers a revisit another day to which he agrees.

6. Coda: Found at the end of the narrative

Example: His final comment “I don’t like it. Let’s go.”

Perhaps we can learn something from this child and his parent’s prompts for information. These prompts shaped the perfect narrative, and allowed for a two-way communication between adult and child that honors affect from start to finish. Not only is this the type of parent I want to develop into — but it’s the type of therapist I hope to be one day.


Liz Guerrini has been a K-12 and college teacher for the past 18 years and is entering her final graduate year in Communicative Disorders at CSUN. She’s an Olympian who finds many applications of her sport world to the teaching and therapy worlds. She home-schools her bright and beautiful son who lives with trisomy 2, severe dysarthria, severe CAS, hearing loss, ASD and hypotonia. She is a member of ASHA’s Minority Student Leadership Program. Liz blogs at  Christopher DaysSLP to-Be and the Signing Time Academy.