Developmental Stages of Writing

Image of a pencil and the word writing
How do children learn to write?                                                 

Learning how to write is much like learning to read; it actually begins before children come to school. Many parents get upset with the early stages of writing because it is actually the scribbling stage. Scribbling is a child’s way of trying to convey their message through a picture. They aren’t yet able to coordinate their hands to create the picture they see in their minds, so their initial attempts appear to be scribbles.
These scribbles are very important. A parent’s role at this stage which occurs around the age of 2 or 3 years old is to praise their work. “Oh, tell me about your picture” (because you will have NO idea what it really is!) It is at this stage that children can be taught the beginning rules of writing, which are: Writing needs to be written on paper, not walls, or books or tables. Keep in mind early scribbles won’t stay completely on the paper, so when you start the writing process with your child, have your table protected. Or like me, just plan in the future to know that you will need to sand and refinish the child’s table you allow them to use for writing. It’s actually interesting. The older my children get, the more I cherish those little scribbles left on the tiny oak table we purchased just for them to use when they were younger. I’m not sure I will ever refinish the table.

These are the stages your child will move through when learning to write.                                                                                                                                                             
*Levels 1-3 are typically Kindergarten
*Levels 3-5 are First Grade
*Levels 5-6 are Second Grade.                                                                                      
1) Scribbling stage – a child makes random circular motions with their writing utensil.

2) Beginnings – your child will start to put random letters together to try to mimic adult writing. FMKIROOKSMMCJE might be your child trying to communicate “I went to grandmas yesterday”. Again your role is to praise their work.

Once your child shows an interest in learning how to write their name around age 3 or 4. If they don’t you should encourage it!. You can begin to explain that the letters of their name have sounds. So if a child’s name is Pat. You can begin to point out that they should use a P when they want to write “puppy”. “Puppy starts with the sound /p/, just like in your name /p/ Pat. They start with the same sound.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
3) Consonants – At this stage children typically begin to use consonants to represent words. They switch between using the initial consonant, a strong consonant in the middle of a word or a final consonant they may hear. So for instance a child may want to say “yesterday it was raining.” It would be a typical response for them to write “y d t s r” as their sentences. As long as the consonants they chose to represent words are correct, this is a stage they will pass through. This is typically a beginning Kindergarten stage. They are unaware of spacing at this time.

4) Initial and final consonants – The next stage of writing is when students begin to pay attention more to what they hear when writing. You will see initial and final consonant sounds correct with maybe a vowel or two interspersed. The writing meant to say “My dad works at Sonic” might appear as “mi dd wk at sok”.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
5) Vowel/consonant combinations – Consonants and vowels start to appear more regularly in the middle of words. Parents can now almost figure out what their children are saying. “Today I am going to ride a train after school.”  Could appear as: Tda I am gog to rid a tan afr skol.

6) Words – All syllables in words are now represented at this stage and basic sight words begin to appear. “I went sledding with my family” may be represented as “I wint sledng with my famlee”     
7) Standard Spelling - Students begin to understand and use spelling patterns. They add to their knowledge and use of basic sight words. “Tomorrow we are going to see a play called Sleeping Beauty.” Would be presented as “Tomarrow we are going to see a play called Sleeping Buety.”
boy with a pencil