9.1 Introduction

Like emergent reading, emergent writing provides a critical foundation for future literacy development (NELP, 2008). When young children like the children in Mr. Jenbere’s and Ms. Daryl’s classes are provided opportunities to draw, scribble, and write, they gain understanding of the role print plays in their lives and the way writing is used to communicate ideas (Kidd et al., 2014). Through these experiences, young children learn they can write to express their thoughts, share stories, communicate information, and convey opinions. Like Richelle, they begin to view writing, including their drawings and scribblings, as symbolic representations that enable them to communicate with their classmates, family members, teachers, and others. They also develop an understanding that writing can be used to make notes for themselves, such as play plans and reminders. As they write, they gain insights into writing as a process and develop a sense of ownership of their writing. In addition, like Hasan, they start to develop understanding of written conventions, including sentence structure, spelling, grammar, and mechanics. At the same time, children’s fine motor and handwriting skills also begin to develop.

 

Photo of two young girls focus on writing with a pencil on a notebook.
Children begin to understand that writing carries a message

Literacy processes are reciprocal and symbiotic in nature. When young children are engaged in activities that foster their emergent literacy skills, they begin to see the interrelationship among language, reading, and writing and are able to draw upon their emerging knowledge to enhance their literacy development (Goodman & Goodman, 1983). Conceptually, children at a young age begin to understand that reading and writing are communication processes. When children write, these processes are integrated as they read and reread their written message (Sulzby & Teale, 1985). This is seen with a child, like Richelle, as she listens to a story, writes a thank you note, and reads the thank you note to her teacher. At the same time, children are developing emergent literacy skills, such as phonological awareness, alphabetic principle, and concepts of print. These emergent reading skills influence skill development in writing and vice versa. For example, a child like Hasan, who is writing letters and words by listening to the sounds in a word and writing down the corresponding letter, is using his emerging understanding of letter-sound correspondence. As he strengthens his skills in letter-sound correspondence in writing, he enhances his ability to apply these skills when reading. Similarly, as he reads and develops his abilities to decode (read) words, he will develop his abilities to encode (write) words. By engaging in activities that develop these skills, he will become more proficient at generating text as he writes and generating meaning from text as he reads.

Discussions that situate emergent writing within the broader context of literacy development and acknowledge the interrelationship between reading and writing are important for understanding children’s literacy development. However, too often, writing is not given the time and attention that is needed in early childhood education classrooms (Pelatti et al., 2014). Therefore, in this chapter, we will focus specifically on understanding children’s writing development and how to use this knowledge to assess, plan, and implement meaningful writing experiences throughout the school day and at home. We will also examine factors that influence children’s emergent writing development. Developing this understanding is critical for ensuring that writing instruction is an integral part of the instructional day and multiple opportunities for writing are provided across the school day as well as at home.

 

Circle is divided into three equal parts with conceptual written in one part, generative in one part, and procedural in one part. There are three arrows moving clockwise moving from one part to the next
Figure 9.1 Framework for Developing Emergent Literacy

In this chapter, we will use the Framework for Developing Emergent Literacy (see Figure 9.1) introduced in the previous chapter to explain the dimensions of emergent writing (Puranik & Lonigan, 2014). The first dimension, conceptual knowledge, focuses on the conventions and functions of writing, including children’s understanding of how print works and that print conveys meaning. The second dimension, procedural knowledge, focuses on the mechanics of writing, such as knowledge of the alphabet, name writing, letter writing, spelling, and handwriting. Lastly, the third dimension, generative knowledge, focuses on composing phrases and sentences that communicate meaning. For very young children, generative knowledge includes the emerging ability to communicate intentionally with others using drawings, scribblings, and symbolic representations.

This chapter will enable each student to

Illustration of a bird's nest  Build ways in which young children can develop an understanding that writing conveys meaning and that they can write to communicate their thoughts and ideas.
Illustration of a bird in flight  Examine the progress of emergent writers on a continuum of development.
illustration of a branch  Illustrate effective instructional strategies and literacy assessments.

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The Early Literacy Journey: Supporting and Celebrating Young Learners Copyright © 2024 by Sandra Carrie Garvey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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