The development of writing in four to seven year-old children: a longitudinal study

Dunsmuir, Sandra Murray (2001). The development of writing in four to seven year-old children: a longitudinal study. PhD thesis The Open University.



This longitudinal study investigates the factors at home and school that influence children's attainment and progress in writing at Key Stage 1. Sixty children between the ages of four and seven years in four Reading primaiy schools were tracked and data was collected in the term before they started school, at school entry, on a termly basis once in school and at the end of Key Stage 1. Semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, observation schedules, checklists and standardised assessments were used. Associations between measures and continuity over time were assessed using multiple regression analysis.

Pre-school independent variables that were found to be significantly associated with writing proficiency at school entry included mother's educational level, family size, parental assessment of writing and a measure of home writing.

Child characteristics, skills and competencies were measured at school entry and those found to be significantly associated with writing at outcome included season of birth, WPPSI-R vocabulary score, pre-reading skills and proficiency in writing their own name. The only pre-school variable that maintained its significant relationship to writing at outcome was home writing. Teacher assessments of pupil attitudes to writing were consistently found to be significantly associated with writing at outcome. Data from the termly writing samples indicated that only the handwriting assessment predicted general writing ability at seven years of age.

Eight pupils were observed writing at two points in time and the records are discussed in terms of processes and products. Issues such as quality and quantity of writing generated are considered in relation to the development of component skills (e.g. handwriting, spelling, vocabulary), within the context of the curriculum and role of the teacher. The results confirm the complexity of learning to write for children at Key Stage I and developmental considerations are discussed in relation to policy and practice issues.

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