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Image 1: An early years writer
http://writeview.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/girl-child-w-notebook.jpg

Writing is a system of symbols that is closely connected to, but does not entirely mirror spoken language (Hill, 2012).
There are many different aspects of writing that are all interdependent. These different aspects include; handwriting, spelling, grammar, punctuation and sentence structure.



Phases of Early Writing Development

Children are all unique, and therefore their literacy development is also going to be individualised and unique. Though there are many differences in the way in which their literacy develops, there are also many similarities. Several broad stages can be used to describe the general pathway of literacy development in the majority of children. These phases are as follows;

Beginning = the child pretends to write by scribbling. They do not know the letters yet, but they have an understanding that signs and symbols are used to convey a message.

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Image 2: Example of beginning writing
http://www.lindaslearninglinks.com/stage2.gif


Early Emergent = the scribble may now have developed further to now contain pictures and writing. The child may 'invent' some of their own letters. They begin to understand the appropriate directionality that a piece of writing should take, and they start copying some of the letters of the alphabet.
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Image 3: Example of early emergent writing
http://www.lindaslearninglinks.com/stage3.gif



Emergent = the child now writes letters and words. They understand that there are spaces between words, and begin to understand the concept of a sentence and punctuation. Children have the knowledge that writing conveys a message, and others are able to read this message.
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Image 4: Example of Emergent writing
http://mason.gmu.edu/~cwallac7/TAP/TEST/images/writingProcess2Tile.jpg

Early = children learn to write about topics that have meaning to them. They can write simple sentences and have an understanding and awareness of most forms of punctuation. During this stage, the child may use repetitive sentences to convey their ideas.
early.gif
Image 5: Example of Early writingHill, 2012, p. 318 (Figure 13.6)

Transitional = at this stage, the child can write a series of sentences containing several ideas. They are able to record their own thoughts, and have the capacity to check spelling and punctuation. The speed that a child can write at is increased at this stage, and their ideas are able to expand, rather than having to focus on the mechanics of writing.
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Image 6: Example of Transitional writing
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Extending = the child writes a range of text types that are specified to a particular audience. They have learnt to proof read their writing to check for mistakes, to check it makes sense and to check the flow of the piece. This stage is where the child's writing is formalised and they can link several ideas to create a formal piece of writing.

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Image 7: Example of extending writinghttp://mdk12.org/assessments/high_school/look_like/2008/english/anchors/images/21_g_005.gif

Genres of Literacy and Text Types

As children are coming towards the traditional and extending phases of writing, there tends to be a greater focus upon the use of different genres and text types in order to suit the purpose of the written piece. Children need to learn how and when to use appropriate text types and this decision should be related to the purpose, context and the intended audience.
Examples of the various text types that early years writers shouldbe encouraged to use include; narratives, recounts, reports, explanations and descriptions.
A detailed explanation of the various text types can be found at the following web pages;

http://www.det.nsw.edu.au/eppcontent/glossary/app/resource/factsheet/4108.pdf

http://www.sac.sa.edu.au/Library/Library/Topics/Literacy/book_review.htm

One genre of writing that was used extensively by the children in a school that I visited was 'blog' writing. The children in the classroom had an online blog whereby they would post about current events taking place in the school. The children learnt about what language and structure was required for posts and comments on the blog. The children all really enjoyed posting these comments and they learnt about emoticons and other forms of writing specific to computers. This demonstrated that the school was preparing their students for the way of writing in the future.
The blog, and examples of the comments children posted can be found at;
http://threefourlonnie.global2vic.edu.au/

Experiences from Teaching Rounds

There are many similarities, but also many differences with regards to the way that different teachers and schools choose to teach and assess early years writing.
One school tended to use a much more technological approach to teaching children writing, they would alternate between using their laptops during the writing section, or completing the writing the traditional way with pen and paper. They also had time in which they took part in various activities which assisted in improving their typing competency, rather than solely focusing on the mechanics of handwriting.
Contrasting to this were schools that tended to use a more traditional approach. The students did not have a lot of time on the computers learning to type their ideas, but rather spent more time handwriting their work. This could be due to the lack of computers that were available for student use, as in the class that used the computers frequently, each student had their own personal lap top.

Another difference in the early years writing classes was found between the way in which the early writers were grouped during this time. At some schools, teachers broke the students up into seperate groups, based on their level of writing, and each group completed a similar, but specialised activity. In other schools, the children completed the writing activity as a whole group, and the level of work that the children individually produced varied greatly depending on their abilities.

Though the children at different schools were being taught in different ways, and had different experiences related to writing, there were still some commonalities between the students across all these different schools.
One of these similarities is a common mistake the children made in their writing. Many children made mistakes related to the use of capital and lowercase letters. They would put capital letters in the middle of words. This mistake could be related to a lack of understanding about where capital letters should be placed, or it could be related to the motor skills of children, and they may find it difficult to form some of the lower case letters, and therefore turn to the use of captial letters as an easier alternative. Perhaps, as a teacher, more emphasis could be placed on this as children develop their writing, as it seems to be an incredibly common error.

A similarity that was also found across the majority of schools was the use of the 'Thrass' chart or the Sound Waves. These both focus on the sounds that the letters can make, rather than just the letters themselves, and the children would use these when writing in order to sound out the words that they were trying to spell.
Thrass Charts -
http://www.thrass.com.au/
Sound Waves -
http://www.fireflyeducation.com.au/soundwaves/



References:

Hill, S 2012, Developing Early Literacy, Eleanor Curtin Publishing, South Yarra, Victoria.

Point Lonsdale Primary, 2012, The Grade 3/4 Learning Legends, http://threefourlonnie.global2.vic.edu.au

THRASS Australia, 2012, ‘About THRASS’, retrieved 21st May 2012, <http://www.thrass.com.au/about.htm>.