Development

Children learn to write first by watching others. Later, they start to experiment with writing by themselves. Then, skilled writers step in to provide guidance in writing technique. And then experience, experience, experience will help them to develop these skills.  During this development process, it is important to provide students with a variety of opportunities to experiment with writing. A set of development guidelines has been created and is referred to as Six Levels of Sulzby’s Continuum (Writing and Composition PowerPoint). It is important to understand that though there are phases in which students are expected to develop, it is still possible for them to move between phases, and it may not always be clear which stage a child is in at times.

The first stage on this list is drawing. Drawing is considered a way to communicate and is therefore considered writing. At this stage children believe you read pictures and not words. The drawing soon becomes scribbles, which is a bit more structured. The scribbles will usually take on a specific form such as a letter or a list, but still no letters are used. The child eventually understands that we do not read drawings or scribbles, but words that are made of letters. At this stage, letter- like shapes and letter strings are used to compose a piece of writing. These letter strings will not actually form words, but there are signs that the use of the alphabet is developing. Once children have an understanding of letters and letter sounds, they will move onto the estimated spelling stage of writing development. During this stage, the letter sounds are more important than the correct spelling of the word. The letters used to form new words make more sense than the letter strings. And finally, there is conventional spelling, which is spelling that is done the correct way.

In order to move to the last stage of writing development, a writer must also go through the stages of spelling development. Much like the stages of writing development, these stages are not set in stone. Also, similar to the stages of writing, the first stage of writing development begins will scribbles, this stage is called the Emergent stage. This is mostly the child pretending to write words which usually only has one letter or a shape to represent a letter. The next phase is called the Letter-Name-Alphabetic stage. During the early parts of this stage students are able to use the correct first and last letters in the word. They use inventive spelling utilizing their growing knowledge of the alphabet and alphabet sounds. Somewhere around the time a student enters kindergarten, students enter the middle and later part of the Letter-Name-Alphabet stage. During this stage, students are able to spell phonetically, are able to correctly spell first and last consonant clusters in a word, as well as some digraphs and blends, and will also use letter names to spell vowel sounds. Students in this phase are also able to read simple books and are able to correctly point to words as they read them. In the next phase, students are not able to spell most single syllable words as well as correctly spell words with short vowel sounds. They are also able to spell the beginning parts of consonant digraphs and blends. Reading and writing also becomes more fluent. The syllable and affix phase comes next. In this phase, students are able to correctly spell single syllable words, but still make mistakes when using low frequency sight words. These students now read better silently than they do orally, and fluency has become more advanced. Last in the process of development is the Derivational Relations Stage. These students have mastered high frequency words, but still make errors with the less familiar words. Their writing is now sophisticated and uses critical thinking. This phase usually occurs around the sixth grade and beyond (Writing and Composition PowerPoint).

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