Writing: What It Looks Like in the Beginning

Writing: What It Looks Like in the Beginning

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Updated on Sep 23, 2008

It may be hard to believe that this year your five-year-old will formally learn to read and write. Formally that is, because he's been building towards this monumental task informally ever since the day he started cooing. While writing may take root in kindergarten, it's been in the making for a long time. Just as you taught your child that his babbles as a young baby had meaning by your reaction to them, the same is true for writing. It's important that you respond with the same zeal you did as he was learning to speak.

Kindergarteners will enter school at many different levels of writing. This depends on age, interests, and what kind of preschool experiences they had. The basic expectation, however, is that your child should enter kindergarten writing her name, recognizing the letters in her name, understanding that letters make up words, and knowing that spoken words can become written words.

In the beginning months of school, your child will build upon those skills, working towards writing a simple sentence by December. Again, sentences will vary depending on what level the child entered kindergarten. It might be a simple sentence made up mostly of sight words, such as "I see a car." Although, it might be written more like this: "I see a cr." Or, your child's sentence could be something slightly more complicated, such as "I like to play with my friends," written "I lik to pla wif mi frdz."

In the beginning stages of writing, the untrained eye may be hard pressed to see or read this emerging literature. Kindergarten teachers are trained to read this magical text. It’s important that parents learn to read it too! Still not sure what to look for, when it comes to writing progress? Here's a breakdown of the steps that emerging writers go through, as they make their journey towards becoming fluent writers:

Draw a Story

Children’s classics like Good Night Moon and modern favorites such as Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse have one thing in common: pictures. Illustrations are front and center for early readers, because pictures help children follow a storyline and enhance their comprehension. So, it’s no wonder that this is one of the first ways your child will be asked to "write." Starting from the first month of school, she'll likely be asked to draw a picture and tell the teacher or class what is happening in it. Giving stories a beginning, middle, and end lays the groundwork for plot, character, and setting. This stage in the writing process should not be passed over too quickly, as it's at the heart of the writing process.


While this is an older kindergarten practice, many teachers still use it in the beginning of the year. It gives young writers power, as they make that connection between the spoken and written word. What is it exactly? Dictation means that an adult writes down a child's story exactly as the child tells it. That means no editing! This helps reinforce the fact that spoken words have a correlation to written words, a fundamental building block for the emergent writer.

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