Writing Development 101

One of my goals this summer was to get my son to legibly write his name. A task that he is less than enthusiastic about. At the end of his 3-year-old preschool year in May, he could almost complete this task but the letters in his name were all over the page. The other day I asked him to write his name for his great-grandmother, who was visiting at the time, and he politely declined. Later I got him to write his name in his daddy's birthday card and I was dismayed to find that he has regressed somewhat in his name writing abilities. The first letter is great, but the rest are a mess, in no particular order and without attention to giving each letter it's own space. A month ago I would have said, "He's only 3." But now he's 4 and in one short year he will be heading off to kindergarten. Yikes!

So here I am, forced to review what I remember about writing development through what I've learned in college and grad school combined with what I know about how children develop as writers through my classroom experience. Where is my son on the spectrum of writing development and what can I do at home to further his writing? So here goes.

First and foremost it's important to remember that reading and writing develop simultaneously. Also, as with reading, children develop their writing skills in a sequence. In the beginning, children scribble. 


Does this look familiar? It should, all children begin writing this way. This scribbling is actually a combined effort between my 16 month old and 4 year old on our white board easel. Towards the end of the scribbling stage, which is where my son is now, kids start drawing things that resemble more of a picture, like this picture my son drew recently of a person. 


It's really just a more organized scribble, right? But you can start to make out features like the head, the eyes, a nose that looks like a backwards four and two legs sticking out of the bottom. Next comes the pretend writing stage where kids writing resembles squiggly lines. After pretend writing children start writing actual letters in a random assortment. Later kids go on the write letters that represent sounds and then even later start grouping their letters into words and sentences. 

So what glaring fact did I learn from going back through the stages of writing and comparing them to my son's writing? Why can't he write his name? Well, he's simply not ready yet. So what can I do to help him get there? For starters, I need to model writing for him. Not sit him down and make him watch me write, but write things around him, for example making a grocery list or leaving a note for Daddy. In this digital age I type most of my lists into my phone or contact others through text messages and of course I'm always typing something on the computer, but he doesn't really see me hand write much. Also, I need to encourage him to participate in writing activities more often. We have plenty of paper, crayons, markers, etc. but I usually keep them put away in a drawer. I need to make more of an effort to get them out and use them. Okay, I have my start. I will keep you posted on how it goes. More pre-writing development ideas to come!