Developmental Stages of Writing

— State: Indiana Department of Education
Updated on Jul 24, 2013

Your child has been learning to write since he could hold a crayon. Below are the developmental stages of writing your child will go through. By the end of kindergarten, children should be moving from the emergent stage to the transitional phase.  Most students will not reach the fluency phase until the third grade.

Keep in mind children do not learn to walk or talk at the exact same age; it is a developmental process, just as it is with writing stages. As your child moves through these stages your encouragement is very important to your child.


Scribbling looks like random assortment of marks on a child's paper. Sometimes the marks are large, circular, and random, and resemble drawing. Although the marks do not resemble print, they are significant because the young writer uses them to show ideas.

Letter-like Symbols

Letter-like forms emerge, sometimes randomly placed, and are interspersed with numbers. The children can tell about their own drawings or writings. In this stage, spacing is rarely present.

Strings of Letters

In the strings-of-letters phase, students write some legible letters that tell us they know more about writing. Students are developing awareness of the sound-to-symbol relationship, although they are not matching most sounds. Students usually write in capital letters and have not yet begun spacing.

Beginning Sounds Emerge

At this stage, students begin to see the differences between a letter and a word, but they may not use spacing between words. Their message makes sense and matches the picture, especially when they choose the topic.

Consonants Represent Words

Students begin to leave spaces between their words and may often mix upper- and lowercase letters in their writing. They begin using punctuation and usually write sentences that tell ideas.

Initial, Middle, and Final Sounds

Students in this phase may spell correctly some sight words, siblings' names, and environmental print, but other words are spelled the way they sounds. Children easily hear sounds in words, and their writing is very readable.

Transitional Phases

This writing is readable and approaches conventional spelling. The students' writing is interspersed with words that are in standard form and have standard letter patterns.

Standard Spelling

Students in this phase can spell most words correctly and are developing an understanding of root words, compound words, and contractions. This understanding helps students spell similar words.

Writing is a process that flows gradually. As you give your children time to explore and experiment with writing, you will begin to see evidence of growth. Since writing is a process and stages are connected, your child may show evidence of more than one stage in a single piece of writing.

These Developmental Stages of Writing are based on the work of Richard Gentry.

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