Stages of Children’s Writing

Educators look at writing very differently than they did a generation ago. The things that young children seem to do naturally when given paper and markers are now viewed as true forms of writing.

There are at least six different stages of writing:

  • Drawing. Children draw and “read” their drawings as a form of communication. They may draw an unrecognizable form and say, “I played in the home center today with my friends.” Or they may draw a treelike form and say, “This says remember to take me to the park.”
  • Scribbling. Young children believe they are writing when they scribble and often “read” what they have just scribbled. Children often will move the pencil like adults, making their scribbles from left to right.
  • Invented letters. Many young children make up their own letters. A circle with a line drawn down from the bottom (resembling a lollipop) is a common invented letter. Again, children believe they are writing.
  • Random letters. As children become more aware of the alphabet, they often write the letters in long strings, usually at random.
  • Invented spelling. Invented spelling takes many forms but is related to the sounds the child hears in each word. At the beginning of this stage, children may write one letter to represent one word. Later, words are represented by two letters, the initial and ending letter sounds. As the child’s writing continues to mature, most sounds are represented in their invented spelling.
  • Common spelling. The child begins writing more and more words spelled as adults spell.

    Family Friendly Communication for Early Childhood Programs
    National Education for the Education of Young Children
    Deborah Diffily and Kathy Morrison, editors; 1996; pg. 52.

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