Writing is a complex process that requires a wide range of skills — a strong vocabulary; an understanding of genre, text structure, and voice; basic mechanical skills (grammar and punctuation); organizational skills; and higher order thinking.
A child's writing development parallels the child's development as a reader. Part of early print awareness is the realization that writing can be created with everyday tools such as pens, pencils, crayons, and markers. Children begin to imitate the writing that they see in the environment. What often starts as scribbling ends up being important clues to a child’s understanding that print carries meaning.
As with reading skills, writing grows through explicit instruction. Writing is a skill with rules and structures. Across multiple grade levels, good writers are created through systematic, explicit instruction, combined with many opportunities to write and receive feedback.
Writing may be the most complex process that we expect our students to learn.
To write well, students must develop a broad set of skills
- Basic writing skills: These include spelling, capitalization, punctuation, handwriting/keyboarding, and sentence structure (e.g., elimination of run-ons and sentence fragments). Basic writing skills are sometimes termed “mechanics” of writing.
- Text generation: Text generation involves translating one’s thoughts into language, what might be thought of as the “content” of writing. Text generation includes word choice (vocabulary), elaboration of detail, and clarity of expression.
- Writing processes: Especially beyond the earliest grades, good writing involves planning, revising, and editing one’s work. These processes are extremely important to success in writing, and increasingly so as students advance into the middle and secondary grades.
- Writing knowledge: Writing knowledge includes an understanding of discourse and genre — for example, understanding that a narrative is organized differently than an informational text. Another example of writing knowledge includes writing for an audience, that is, the writer’s understanding of the need to convey meaning clearly and appropriately to the people who will be reading a particular piece of writing.
Our Looking at Writing interactive tool features writing samples from real kids pre-K to third grade. You'll find advice about instruction, guidance on assessment, classroom strategies, video, and more.
To learn more about writing, browse the articles, parent tips, research briefs, and video below.