Development of semantic verbal fluency and narrative ability during summer vacation versus formal schooling

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The detrimental effect of a lengthy summer vacation on important scholastic abilities such as reading, writing and mathematical skills is relatively well documented, but how language skills are affected by summer vacation is less investigated. The purpose of our study is to investigate how lexical organization and retrieval assessed by a semantic verbal fluency (SVF) task and oral narrative ability develops during summer vacation compared to during formal schooling, and if the development differs between monolingual and bilingual children. 
The participants (n = 68, MAgeT1 = 7;9) were assessed with a semantic verbal fluency (SVF) task with two categories (Animals and Clothes). A subsample (n = 20, MAgeT1 = 7;11) was evenly divided into two groups, monolingual and bilingual, matched for age and sex. The Swedish narrative production of the participants was assessed with MAIN (Gagarina et al., 2012) and scored with Narrative Scoring Scheme (NSS) (Miller et al., 2003; Heilmann et al., 2010), adapted to MAIN in Swedish. 
Both the SVF and narrative task showed a similar pattern with a decrease in scores following the summer vacation and a positive development following formal schooling. For SVF the participants had significantly lower scores post-summer vacation than pre-summer. However, the pre-summer scores did not differ significantly from the post-fall semester scores, indicating that the participants needed the fall semester to recoup from the losses made over the summer vacation, but that no additional gains had been made. When comparing the narrative development during summer vacation and formal schooling a negative development during the summer vacation and a positive development during formal semester was observed, although not significant. No statistically significant differences were found when comparing development of SVF and narrative ability of the monolingual and bilingual group during neither summer vacation, nor formal schooling. However, a slightly higher NSS mean change during formal schooling was observed for the bilingual group. 
The results of this study validate previous findings of a negative effect of summer vacation on language measures. The results show a negative effect of summer vacation and positive effect of formal schooling on semantic verbal fluency and narrative ability (although ns). No statistically significant differences in development during neither summer vacation nor formal schooling is seen between monolingual and bilingual participants.
REFERENCESGagarina, N., Klop, D., Kunnari, S., Tantele, K., Välimaa, T., Balciuniene, I., Walters, J. (2012). Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (MAIN). ZAS Papers in Linguistics, 56, 1-140. Miller, J., Andriacchi, K., DiVall-Rayan, J., Lien, P. (2003). Narrative Scoring Scheme.Heilmann, J., Miller, J. F., Nockerts, A., & Dunaway, C. (2010). Properties of the narrative scoring scheme using narrative retells in young school-age children. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 19(2), 154-166.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Apr 24
EventLund Symposium on Cognition, Communication and Learning - Museum of Artistic Process and Public Art (Skissernas Museum), Lund, Sweden
Duration: 2019 Apr 242019 Apr 26


ConferenceLund Symposium on Cognition, Communication and Learning
Internet address

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Other Medical Sciences not elsewhere specified
  • General Language Studies and Linguistics

Free keywords

  • language acquisition
  • semantic verbal fluency
  • narrative ability
  • summer slide
  • schooling


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