Fact File on Drawing and Writing

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Below is a fact file on early stages of writing: scribbling, drawing symbols, handwriting and invented spelling.

  • Homo sapiens began creating significant marks as long as 40,000 years ago by making lines in soft clay. Prehistoric cave drawings and pictographs (Sumerian or Egyptian) often are considered to be the origins of writing (Sheridan, 2002).
  • Semiotics is the study of signs. A sign is a something that represents something else, such as tracks in the snow, emergency flares on the highway, or the wave of a person's hand. Signs are interpreted by those who experience them (Suhor, 1982). The letters of the alphabet are one category of signs.
  • Children are expected to become multiple symbol users, who interpret and use a wide variety of signs in the process of communication (Dyson, 1989, 1993, 1994; Hartman & Hartman, 1993).
  • One powerful influence on symbol systems is technology. Each time the communication environment changes due to technological advances (e.g., the printing press, the Internet), the effects are felt in three ways. Technology changes our interests (what we think about), the character of our symbols (what we think with), and the nature of our communities (our contexts and interactions) (Innis, 1982).
  • Most of the initial markings and scribblings of the youngest children represent objects, not letters (Ferrerio, 1990). Drawing often serves as a scaffold for writing (Oken-Wright,1998).
  • Preschool children tend to rely on drawings or drawing-like devices if they are unable to communicate by writing. They also recognize drawing as drawing before they recognize writing as writing, which suggests that drawing is the primary representational/communicative system (Levin & Bus, 2003).
  • Children observe their culture and incorporate its features into their attempts to write. Even before there are any recognizable letters in a child's writing, it reflects some features of print from the language(s) children see and use.
  • Very young children's scribbling uses both hemispheres of the brain. Scribbling is a visually guided mental strategy. It helps the child to practice and organize the shapes or patterns of thought and builds an affinity for making marks that supports the very young brain as it develops speech and literacy (Sheridan, 2002).
  • Part of the process of learning to write is the child's realization that it is not just the marks or forms that matter (straight lines, curved lines, dots) but also the way that they are organized and combined (Ferreiro, 1990).
  • In a study of kindergarteners' writing, Dyson (1989) found that 67 percent of it could be categorized as "art notes," or brief comments and captions for their drawings.
  • In an Israeli study of 3- to 5-year-olds from low-income families, children who were actively involved in joint writing activities outperformed those who participated in a traditional early childhood program and those who participated in a program that emphasized reading only in four areas: phonological awareness, word writing, orthographic awareness, and letter knowledge (Aram & Biron, 2004).
  • Research suggests that children who are deaf may learn written communication in advance of hearing peers because writing is these children's main way of communicating with those who are not proficient in sign language systems, such as American Sign Language or finger spelling (Ruiz, 1995).
  • Children master handwriting better when they actually form letters than when they trace, copy, or write in the air (Peck, Askov, & Fairchild, 1980).
  • Although large-group instruction in handwriting is the most common strategy, it is not the best strategy. Giving individualized feedback and working with small groups of children with similar writing needs are both more effective than large-group instruction (Koenke, 1988). The teacher should demonstrate how to form letters and encourage the children to compare their letter formation with his or her model.
  • There is no support in handwriting research for the use of big pencils. Even young children prefer adult-sized pencils, and using the oversized ones does not improve their writing (Peck et al., 1980). By the time children reach third grade, most of them produce more letters more quickly and legibly when using a ballpoint or felt-tip pen (Askov & Peck, 1982).
  • School-age children who are left handed do not necessarily have poor handwrtting (Bonoti, Vlachos, & Metallidou, 2005).
  • In a study that compared four groups of kindergarteners—those who were encouraged to use invented spelling, those who copied correctly spelled words, those who made drawings, and those who used invented spelling but received feedback on correct spelling—those in the fourth group attained the highest scores on spelling and word reading (Rieben, Ntamakiliro, Gonthier, & Fayol, 2005).
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