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Preschool Children's Writing


M Susan Burns

on 10 November 2013

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Transcript of Preschool Children's Writing

Environmental set up?
Socio-dramatic play
Writing Center during play
Writing Materials

Connor, C. M., Morrison, F. J., & Slominski, L. (2006). Preschool instruction and children's emergent literacy growth. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 665-689.
156 children - 4 year olds (3-5 year range), Head Start, preK for at-risk, fee for service, transitioning neighborhood, 28 from ethnic minorities (8 African-American, 4 Hispanic, 8 Middle Eastern, 8 Asian), with range of parent education (1 not complete high school, 27 some college, 29 completed college, 45 post college)
Observed full day
No writing in play
Code related activity in whole group structured activity - explicit teaching - 6 minutes per day in such activity - was impactful for children entering with low levels of code related skills at pretest
Is there a problem with availability of writing materials?
Very little time writing in preschool, when it takes place it tends to be teacher directed (including copying & tracing letter of week)--Even less time in writing happens during play (Clark & Kagler, 2005; Connor, Morrison, & Slominski, 2006). Gerde & Bingham's (2012) results are consistent with these, as are our current observations in Head Start classrooms.
Clark, P., & Kagler, S. (2005). The impact of including writing materials in early childhood classrooms on the early literacy development of children from low-income families. Early Childhood Development and Care, 175, 285-301.
34 children - 4-5 years old in three classrooms,
literacy inventory fall and spring
observation of literacy activities fall and spring
2 classrooms in PD - literacy, writing
2 of 3 had writing materials in fall and 3 of 3 had writing materials in spring (writing cart)
2 of 3 had teacher directed writing activities in fall and 3 of 3 had teacher directed writing activities in spring; 1 of 3 had child initiated writing activities in fall and 2 of 3 had child initiated writing activities writing activities in spring (science journals)
Writing carts an answer?
K: Here's one more picture for you.
DR: Can you tell me what you wrote me and I'll know what to write back?
K: Well, I wrote 7, and 6, 5
DR: 7 and 6, 5
(Rowe 2008, p. 422)

Neuman, S. B., & Roskos, K. (1991). The influence of literacy-enriched play centers on preschoolers’ conceptions of the functions of print. In J. F. Christie (Ed.), Play and Early Literacy Development (pp. 167-188). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, .
Two classrooms, 50 children
Observed natural environment
Then set up literacy-rich (including writing) environments
Many examples of positive, quality interactions in writing enhanced environment
Significant increases in literacy demonstrations, conventions about print
VERY INTERESTING "teachers appeared concerned with the literacy materials in the play environments. A number expressed concern that the design changes were "overwhelming" and perhaps not good for the children... "too much paper," ... "too much access to pencils and markers."
When play environment is changed to reflect centers that afford writing, more writing takes place in play (Neuman & Roskos, 1991; Schrader, 1989)
Interaction of environmental supports and children's interests (Newman & Roskos, 1991; Schrader, 1989)
Writing Centers (Rowe & Neitzel, 2010)
Environment, children's own interests and prior knowledge, and social supports (adult and peers) provide rich educational opportunities for young children to be involved in symbolic expression. Still, how serious is the problem of low frequencies of such experiences?
Neves, P., & Reifel, S. (2002). The play of early writing. Conceptual, social-cognitive, and contextual issues in the fields of play. In J. L. Roopnarine (Ed.), Conceptual, social-cognitive, and contextual issues in the fields of play. Play & culture studies, (Vol. 4, (pp. 149-164). Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing.
One classroom, 20 children, 4yrs 3mos to 5 yrs 3mos, Chapter 1 school, 1 child with disability, 16 white, 3 Latino, 1 African American
Set up writing center in adjacent space - students could come in and out during play - adult seemed in passive role
Examined physical and social pivots (meaningful sources for writing) and graphemes (scribbling to conventional writing, including pictographs and ideographs - interesting categories)
Constructive and constructive/symbolic play provide meaningful sources for changes in graphemes
High frequency pivots - peer graphics alone and also when coupled with peer interaction, and ones own graphics
High frequency graphemes - pictograph, ideograph, symbolic drawing, letter writing
Preschool Children’s Writing: Concerns About Research Limitations

M. Susan Burns & Julie K. Kidd

Literacy Research Association
December, 2013
Rowe, D. W. (2008). The social construction of intentionality: Two-year-olds’ and adults’ participation at a preschool writing center. Research in the Teaching of English, 42(4), 387 – 433.
18 European American children-middle income-2 year old children-27 to 36 months old at end of study
9-month ethnographic study
Children attended preschool 1 or 2 days per week
Researcher as teacher at writing center
Observations, field notes, etc., regarding activity at writing table
Kinds of literacy events: dialog with adults, coordination of materials, space, bodies, learning about writing, label with name of child on product, providing word or sentence for labeling picture
Input from teacher at writing table that indicate that scribbles and individual marks have meaning.
Adult questions “Can you tell me what you wrote me ... and I’ll know what to write back?” indicate child “would need to take up the role of writer and verbalize her textual intentions. To engage in valued social interactions, it was necessary to have intentions” (p. 420)
Scaffolds--adult talk, arrangement of space afforded valued kinds of writing“Children learned what kinds of roles they were entitled to take up, specific procedures for accomplishing writing events, . . . kinds of textual intentions appropriate for preschool writers . . .while adults played powerful roles in guiding children's participation in learning -to-write events, children exerted considerable agency in shaping local writing practices as they introduced their own interests and intentions" (p. 427).

Why is writing so infrequently addressed? Especially writing in play?
Children's interests and prior knowledge
Teacher availability
Teacher understandings of writing
Teacher interaction and practice
Schrader, C. T. (1989). Written language use within the context of young children's symbolic play. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 4, 225-244.
Seven prekindergarten children (5-5.5 years old) - middle class families, 4 children from minority/ethnic groups
In symbolic play centers (e.g., house, post office, animal hospital, office) enriched with writing materials, writing and drawing took place for real life purposes
Writing was read and meaning discussed among teachers and peers
Children wrote for a number of purposes of language use (Halliday), these being, instrumental (e.g., writing a check), regulatory (e.g., writing plans), interactional (e.g., writing letters and post cards) , personal (e.g., writing a diary) and informational (e.g., writing money).
Research on Preschool Writing Centers
Teachers and children together at the writing table manage materials, space, their bodies and take part in verbal and non-verbal communication - children learning what it means to be a writer
(Neves & Reifel, 2002; Rowe 2008)
Teacher's Understanding of Preschool Children's Writing
Familiar with writing materials
Identify/form letters
Copying words (often name)
Express/ communicate
Show understanding
Conceptual meaning of writing
Examining features of code

additional areas of relevant research that need to be examined
additional studies that we missed in our examination of the literature
areas of study that we all as a field should be pursuing

K: This is a cat. A cat's head.
C: You know how to make a good cat. [pause] I'm going to make a cat right here.
KB: [laughs] A birdie cat.
C: A birdie cat.
B: I am going to make a rabbit.
C: A Birdie cat [laughs] I'm going to make a birdie cat.
B: I made a cat.
KB: It is a birdie cat.
(Neves & Reifel, 2002, pp. 158-159)
There is evidence that peers provide support for writing (Coates, 2002; Kissel, 2011; Neves & Reifel, 2002; Schrader, 1990).
Graphemes (from Neves and Reifel, 2002)
Scibbling Symbolic drawing
Scribble-writing Letter writing
Pictograph Invented Spelling
Ideograph Conventional name
or word writing
Bailystok (1992); Bodrova & Leong (2001); Clay (1975); Cruikshank (2001); Ehri (1975); Lauria (1983); Love, Burns, & Buell (2007); Martlew & Sorby (1995); National Early Literacy Panel (2008); Puranik, Lonigan, & Kim (2011); Shanahan & Lonigan (2013); Sulzby & Teale (1985); Tolchinsky, & Levin (1987)
red dots represent the little bits of time in writing
With intensive professional development, fidelity data indicate that teachers consistently included needed materials except in writing (Barnett et al., 2008)
From Neuman & Roskos (1991, p. 185)
"preschool teachers appeared concerned with the literacy materials in the play environments. A number expressed concern that the design changes were "overwhelming" and perhaps not good for the children... "too much paper," ... "too much access to pencils and markers."
Teachers in early writing during play
Matt: Debra, I need to write down a list (Takes pencil and paper, sits at table in the house)
T: Ok.
Matt: I need some...some more lettuce.
T: Ok. Now then...
(Schrader, 1990, p. 91)

Prior knowledge and experiences (Bodrova & Leong, 2001; Boyle & Charles, 2010; Dunsmuir & Blatchford, 2004; Heath, 1983; Scull, Brown & Dean, 2009).
Why few occurrences of writing?
Especially writing in play?
Children's interests and prior knowledge
Teacher availability; understandings of writing
Teacher interaction and practice
“The emerging writer requires sustained recursive opportunities to engage with the experiences, which take the child from ‘mark making’ to the abstractions of written composition” (Boyle & Charles, 2010, p. 213).
The interactions often described in studies are reminiscent of the interactions that are ones in which teachers and children share responsibility for the learning rather than being teacher-controlled or child controlled as codified by Stipek and Byler (2004).
Also, research articles - Brown, Scull, Nolan, Raban, & Deans, 2012; Gerde & Bingham, 2012; MacKenzie, 2011; and practice article - Cabell, Tortorelli, & Gerde, 2013.
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