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  • Rebecca Carlisle Cothern

Research on Why Preschoolers Should be Writing

Writing in preschool is often debated. While writing on lines and worksheets is not developmentally appropriate, real authentic writing should be encouraged. And it's not just me that has this view. Research for over the past 10 years has supported writing in preschool classrooms. So what is research saying? and why is writing in preschool crucial for your child's education?

Emergent writing (early stages of writing) skills are important predictors of children's future reading and writing skills. (National Center for Family and Literacy 2008, Piranik & Lonigan 2012). These skills include becoming proficient with name writing, scribbling for meaning, purposeful letter like formations, as well as inventive spelling. Children as young as 2 years old have began to imitate the act of writing by creating drawings and symbolic markings that are representative of their thoughts and ideas. (Rowe & Neitzel 2019, Dennis & Votteler 2013) These findings show that preschool students are not too young to begin writing as long as the writing is authentic. Allowing students writing materials, tools, a writing environment, and time will help students develop themselves as writers. As these young children are encouraged in their writing development they will have success in their future. The National Early Literacy Panel has stated, "Early writing is one of the best predictors of children's later reading success." (NELP 2008)

However, even with all the research, writing in the classroom is sparse at best. A research study done with 81 preschool classrooms (4-5 years old) looked at the amount of time teachers spent on writing during the instructional day. During this study researchers took in account all writing opportunities. The results were startling! These classrooms averaged just 2 minutes of writing or writing instruction per day. (Pelatti et al. 2014) For being "one of the best predictors" is 2 minutes of writing a day really enough?

As an educator myself I would have to stress the importance of increasing the amount of writing our students are doing in the classroom. It is important for us to understand the 3 types of writing knowledge students should be learning. They are Conceptual Knowledge, Procedural Knowledge, and Generative Knowledge.

Conceptual Knowledge is the function of writing. It is understanding that print is meaningful. Examples of this are environmental print (McDonald's, STOP, etc.), identify print in picture books, and watching adults write.

Procedural Knowledge is the mechanics of letter or word writing. Examples of this one are name writing, developing fine motor skills, writing the alphabet, tracing, and labeling.

Generative Knowledge is the ability to write phrases and sentences. Examples of this are writing their own stories, using more than one word, writing notes, and making lists. This type of knowledge starts orally with children dictating to an adult what they would like to write.

Writing develops through different stages. You can take writing samples and compare them to the developmental stages to see where your child is at and where they should be going next. To help teachers identify the different stages of writing development and what to do in each stage I have included the following chart.

Make sure you pin the image above to reference this chart throughout the year. And check out next week's post where I'll share how you can incorporate writing into all your learning centers. Thanks for reading! Share this blog with your friends and colleagues through social media.

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