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Development of Academic Skills


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From printing to writing
Actual writing begins in the random-letter stage of writing development (Brewer, 2004), around three years of age (Berninger, 2001). Children combine letters with other forms of writing, such as scribbling.(Brewer, 2004).
Typically, a child's first written word is his or her name (Lu, 2000). In order to begin to write, children need to represent things symbolically, which begins around two years of age.
So, why do we not see children writing at two?  Children are still learning to represent objects symbolically (Hetherington, Parke, and Schmuckler, 2003): representing words in written language is a second stage in symbolic language (ie. first oral language, then written language).  In addition, working memory is taken up with other tasks at two years of age (ie. oral language learning, naming, grammar development).

Children often have problems learning to draft a piece of writing.
Why? The topics children are asked to write about are often unfamilar to them.  Children have to pull information from various parts of their memories in order to write a cohesive composition, and this is often very difficult for them (Siegler & Alibali, 2005).
Another reason children have difficulty drafting is the fact that there are multiple goals to be considered, (Siegler & Alibali, 2005).  Questions children might ask themselves when trying to write include:
What do I want to say?
How do I want to say it?
How is this word spelled?
What kind of punctuation should be here?
What word should I use?
What should I say next?
Adults answer some of these questions automatically, but it is often such a laborious task for children that they sometimes end up forgetting what they were going to say (Siegler & Alibali, 2005).
A third struggle children encounter when writing is mechanical requirements such as the time it takes to actually form letters and words on paper.  Children aften write slowly and this can bog them down. 
Activities and Strategies for Drafting
1. Brainstorming: Write down thoughts on a certain topic as they
come. There is no need for logic at this point (LINKS Guidebook)     
2. Write down personal thoughts as they come without stopping
for a specified length of time.
3. knowledge telling strategy: answer the question asked, then
write down other information about it- one goal at a time (Siegler
& Alibali, 2005).
4. Knowledge transforming strategy: look at more than one goal at
a time- cue cards with prompts on them for when children do not
know what to say next (Siegler & Alibali, 2005).
5. Typing: lets children concentrate on what to say instead of
how to say it (Siegler and Alibali, 2005).
6. Dictate into a taperecorder or to another, more experienced
writer (Siegler & Alibali, 2005).

Once children have mastered actually writing a composition, they usually struggle with making changes to make a piece of writing sound better, become more accurate, or have correct spellings.  As well, children have trouble taking the perspective of the audience they are writing for and can only see their composition from their own viewpoint (Siegler & Alibal, 2005).
Activities and strategies for revision
1. Discuss specific areas such as spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure (Siegler & Alibali, 2005).
2. Writer's mumble: The writer asks himself or herself is the
composition is coherent, one sentence at a time (LINKS Guidebook).
3. Go over initial goals with children or get them to put their work
away for a specified period of time (Chanquoy, 2001).
4. Make revision mandatory (Frater, 2004).
General activites (Frater, 2004)
1. Publish student work.
2. Make work visible.
3. Make writing exercises frequent.
4. Make writing fun (let children choose topic, play writing game).

Writing Samples

- Sarah Steeves - Morgan Barnhill - Kate Heffernan -
- Cognitive Development -
- PSYC 3310 -