You probably know from experience that reading and writing skills are highly correlated (Spivey & King, 1989). Children who learn the alphabet early, become skilled decoders, and automatize word recognition will later have a strong foundation for spelling and some of the other mechanics of writing. Further, children who can read and synthesize text from multiple perspectives will likely write more effectively because they can keep the perspective of the audience in mind. And both reading and writing show similar developmental progressions. That is, children move from early mastery of the alphabet, to greater fluency and confidence with words and language, to greater sophistication in comprehension and the ability to use reading and writing to suit their purposes or fulfill their goals. In this section we outline some of the major accomplishments that children achieve in the writing process as they move from the early phases of inventive spelling to the more mature phase of successful revision.
In the early phases of writing, young children struggle to learn spelling. Before they memorize conventional word spellings, they frequently invent their own made-up versions, a process called inventive spellings. For example, a beginner might write two as tu or sometimes as sumtyms. We are all painfully aware of the myriad complexities, letter blends, and spelling exceptions that exist in English. Schools today generally accept and encourage inventive spelling, teaching beginners to focus more on their meaning and message than on writing mechanics. Research indicates that inventive spelling does not interfere with children's ability to learn to spell words correctly later on. Instead, as children construct their own spellings, they gain practice with letter sounds and blends, enhancing their phonemic awareness. The use of inventive spelling therefore correlates with later success in conventional spelling, word recognition, and reading fluency (Adams et al., 1998; Uhry & Shepard, 1993).
Mechanics and Intermediate Writing
During the elementary school years, children gradually learn conventional spellings and begin to form increasingly complex sentence structures. Even when schools emphasize meaning and message in writing, children in the earlier grades must still devote much of their processing capacity to the technical requirements of writing—spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and the formation of complete sentences—in order to produce pieces that others can understand. Children tend to write from an egocentric perspective—they have a difficult time keeping the needs of the reader in mind. Organization also tends to be lacking. Beginning writers tend to engage in knowledge telling, a strategy in which children simply add ideas to their essays as they come to mind (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987). Even high school and college writers show this strategy, in fact. It seems that many assignments in formal education encourage students to "dump in" all they know about a topic. In addition, few assignments require or encourage students to write creatively, so children often rely on rudimentary and stereotyped structures during this intermediate phase of their writing development.
Planning and Revising
In addition to the tendency toward knowledge telling, young writers have particular difficulty knowing when and what to revise. Once weaknesses are pointed out, however, they do seem capable of correcting most mistakes. As students move into more mature phases of writing, they spend increasing amounts of time on planning and revising. Before writing their first sentence, mature writers spend time gathering facts and sources and organizing their ideas. Their first draft is not their last draft. They realize that good writing evolves through the dynamic process of recursive revision, so that, after planning and writing, they reevaluate their plan and rewrite several times. In early revisions accomplished writers attend above all to the meaning and message of their writing. They tend to defer the mechanics of spelling, grammar, and punctuation to later revisions (Adams et al., 1998). Strong writers become skilled at reviewing their own material from the reader's perspective—even reading it aloud—and continually revise their work to meet their writing goals.
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