Stages of Writing

     I don't have a lot of experience with a specific writing curriculum, but I have acquired a lot of knowledge though observation, conferences, college classes, and reading.  I was very fortunate to have a really good language arts teacher in college.  She showed us how important real literature and writing go hand in hand to teach children to read and write.

     Before a child is ready to write, Handwriting Without Tears, has shown that children progress in markings in a certain order.  First, side to side, then up and down, then a cross, then a circle, then a square, then a triangle.  This just states that diagonal writing is the hardest for little hands to make.  So, don't start writing with letter A.  When children start to assign meaning to their marks, then starts the real writing.

I found this very neat worksheet somewhere and thought it was a good description for parents to look at.  I hang it up on my parent board, so they can see that their child isn't just scribbling.

My daughter has really been interested in writing lately so here are some of her writings.  She is almost 4 1/2 now, so keep that in mind.  Also all of these writings happened in the last 6 months.  Children can move quickly through stages if they are interested. 

Stage 1 
Simple pictures tell the story.  I believe she told me this was our family.  She is the biggest one, of course.

Stage 2
Do you remember scribbling the continuous mountains.  They do mean something in this stage.  This was a fish.

Stage 3
Various letters in random order on the page.

Stage 4
We are not quite here yet but close.  Children in this stage start to use the phonemic knowledge they have to apply it to the letters they write.  I think you will notice the next 3 stages blend together very easily, so it may seem a child is skipping around.

You will start to see her L(upside down) and the i in her name.  She also found out that an M starts with her dad's name, so when her scribbles started to look like M's she continued to make them.
Stage 5
Children use the initial letter of each word to write sentences.
"I L U"
Stage 6
More phonemic awareness and maybe some words they know.
"I LV M Mommy"

Stage 7
Vowels appear.

Stage 8
Syllables are represented
"My Fav or it clr is prple

Stage 9
Many words are spelled correctly and more sentences are used.

Remember all children are different and progress at different rates, so I do not put ages next to any of these stages. 

There are ways to help children progress through these stages.  If you are familiar with guided reading you will probably know that guided writing goes right along with it. 

Write for children.  You are the model.  At calendar time you could write the date.  While children are making pictures or art, you could have the child dictate what they want their picture to say.  Make sure to use correct spelling and grammar. 

Write with children.  Called Shared writing.  Here is where correct spelling and grammar does not need to be enforced.  We do not want to discourage children from trying.  But if the class or child notices, use "boo boo tape" (any tape you can cover a mistake that the child notices and write over.)  Some people do a morning message.  I prefer to write about meaningful things that have happened in or outside the classroom.  Go for a walk.  Write what you saw.  If someone visited write about that.  Allow them to share the pen, writing the letters or words they know.  This also works really well one on one with students.  If a child is making a book, walk over and ask if you can help.     

Provide opportunities for children to write alone.  Have a writing center.  Use daily journals.  I would recommend asking the child to dictate after they are finished with their work so not to disturb their work.  This is helpful for children to see what they say can be translated into words, and as a parent, it is nice to understand what the child is drawing.  Children need to experience writing in order to progress through the stages.  I will be sharing some ideas for writing centers in a later post.

Handwriting Without Tears does offer a lot of neat writing manipulatives that help the child form letters correctly, use the pencil grip, start writing at the top of the paper, and others.  The CD's are great.  The wooden sticks and curves are great manipulative for kids to form letters.

Many of these tools can be bought cheaply through other means.

Playdough is one of these tools.  You can find many recipes for playdough on my blog.
This magnetic writer is another tool.  I would recommend buying one of their versions because they come with wooden magnetic pieces that children use to form letters. (They are called sticks and curves.)  If you have used one of these you know how easily they are destroyed, so finding them cheap is great.  This one $1.  Walmart had them as part of their Easter stuff.
Do you use a specific writing curriculum?


  1. My children love their magnetic writers. They are awesome and I especially like the little ones because we bring them everywhere with us.


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