Stages of Writing

Your child went through several necessary stages in the development of oral language:  cooing, babbling, and playing with sounds.  Similarly, written language development follows predictable stages.  These are the stages your child will probably go through as he or she becomes a competent writer.

Level 1:  Emerging/Scribble

This is the beginning level at which your child scribbles.  You may not be able to tell what the picture is about, but it's important to praise your child's beginning drawing.

The flower is growing.

Level 2:  Pictorial

At this level, your child begins to draw a somewhat recognizable picture and may tell about it.  He or she may also imitate writing.

There are webs in Spidertown.

Level 3:  Precommunicative

Your child may now be printing his or her own name or an occasional known word and may be writing strings of letterlike forms or a series of random letters.  Sometimes he or she may attempt to read the message back, but you probably can't read it.

I have a goldfish called Arielle.

Level 4:  Semiphonetic

At this level, your child begins to use some letters to match sounds, often using one beginning letter to write a word.  He or she usually writes from left to right but may reverse some letters.

I found a lamp and a genie came out.

Level 5:  Phonetic

Now your child writes most words using beginning and ending consonant sounds and spells some frequently used words correctly.  He or she may begin to add vowel sounds, but they are often not the correct ones.  At this level, your child may begin to leave spaces between words.  It's getting easier to read your child's writing.

Once upon a time, there was (were) four butterflies.  They went on an adventure in the woods.

Level 6:  Transitional

At this level, your child is writing words the way they sound, representing most syllables in words.  He or she may sometimes be adding an extra silent e at the end of a word or doubling letters when they're not needed while trying visually to remember how spelling works.  Now your child usually leaves spaces between words and is spelling many words correctly as he or she writes more than one sentence.

Dear Blue Ranger,

Why do you fight?  I see you on TV.  You are the best.  Why do you go to the command center?  Why are you on Fox Kids?  I like your show.  Are you my friend? 

Love, Alex

Level 7:  Conventional

At this level, your child spells most words correctly, although he or she may use phonics-based spelling for advanced words.  Remember, we can only expect children to correctly spell words they have already learned!  Now your child is usually using capital and lowercase letters and periods and question marks correctly. 

Level 8:  Traditional

Advanced writers use a rich, varied body of written vocabulary.  They may still use phonics-based spelling for advanced words, but have mastered the spelling of commonly used words.  At this level, your child uses quotation marks, commas, and apostrophes correctly and usually organizes writing into appropriate paragraphs. 

My goal is for each child to enjoy writing and to begin little by little to understand how to become a better writer.  Remember, your child learned to speak gradually, and you celebrated each attempt.  Together, let's celebrate your child's attempts and gradual growth as a beginning writer!  If you have any questions about how you might help at home, please see me.

The information on this page was taken from the book Kid Writing with permission from one of the authors, Isabell Cardonick.  The book Kid Writing is published by the Wright Group and is available from McGraw-Hill.