Early writing development across orthographies

Early writing development across orthographies

First Author: Gary Bingham -- Georgia State University
Keywords: Writing development, Early Literacy, Chinese, Hebrew, Spanish
Abstract / Summary: 

Early writing skills are important predictors of children’s reading and academic achievement (Graham & Hebert, 2011; Hammill, 2004). Although research on early writing development has increased considerably in recent years, an important limitation of this research is that it has primarily occurred in English speaking countries. Because English has been argued to be an outlier orthography in terms of spelling and sound correspondences (Share, 2008), it is important for researchers to push against the widespread assumption that all languages are ‘English-like’ but vary as a function of different phonological systems, orthographies, and vocabularies (Evans & Levinson, 2009).
This symposium addresses the importance of examining children’s early writing development in four unique orthographies (Chinese, Hebrew, Spanish, and English). Presentations represent diverse theoretical and empirical perspectives of writing development across multiple international contexts and across a variety of early writing and reading skills. This symposium will advance the small, but growing, body of research addressing how writing skills develop across languages.

Symposium Papers: 

Chinese early composing and its associations with early reading skills

First Author/Chair:Chenyi Zhang -- Georgia State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Gary Bingham; Liying Zhang; Xiao Zhang

Purpose: This study examines the early writing development of preschool children in Mainland China. While early literacy research consistently reveals the important role of early writing development, and to a lesser extent composing skill, to children’s reading development, studies of composing in orthographic contexts other than English are limited. It is unclear whether children from different orthographic language system may develop composing skill follow a universal pattern in early years.
Method: 200 preschool age children from Mainland China. Children’s early reading (i.e. phonological awareness, Pinyin and vocabulary), writing (i.e. name writing and Chinese character writing), and composing skill (ideas, coherence, match of oral and written language) were assessed. Children’s writing samples were coded to reflect a developmental pattern of children’s composing development.
Results: Hierarchical Regression analyses investigated concurrent associations between children’s early composing and reading skills. Preliminary analyses demonstrate that Chinese children followed a sequential pattern of writing development from scribbling to writing recognizable Chinese characters. Although Chinese is a logographic language system, Chinese children’s pre-reading skills (e.g. phonological awareness and Pinyin) are highly associated with children’s character writing and name writing skills. Chinese vocabulary and morphological awareness predicts early composing skill.
Conclusion: Findings demonstrate important insights into the development of children’s writing and reading skills within a logographic language system.

Examining children’s early writing development in English: Associations among handwriting, spelling, composing, and executive function skills.

First Author/Chair:Xiao Zhang -- Georgia State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Gary Bingham; Hope Gerde; Ryan Bowles

Purpose: This study examines children’s writing development in English with attention to handwriting, spelling, and composing skills. Specific attention is given to children’s composing skills (i.e., children’s ideas about writing, their coherence in producing oral language to support their writing products) and related skills that may impact or predict it.
Method: Participants included 150 ethnically diverse prekindergarten-aged children (mean age in Spring = 59.39, SD = 5.90) from centers serving children from low income backgrounds. Children were assessed on a variety of early writing, oral language, executive function, and prereading assessments in the fall and spring of the school year. Composing tasks included two contextual composing prompts that elicited children’s oral language along with their writing. Children’s writing was coded using scoring systems that attended to transcription skills (e.g., Puranik & Lonigan, 2014) and oral language-focused (Quinn, et al., 2016). Correlational and regression analyses were used to examine associations among variables in the fall and spring of the school year.
Results: Children’s early reading, writing, and language skills were related in both the fall and spring of the school year (rs ranging from .25-.55). Regression analyses indicated that fall letter writing and letter sound knowledge were related to children’s transcription skills (invented spelling) in the spring of the school year while receptive vocabulary, executive functions, and letter-sound knowledge was related to children’s composing skills.
Conclusions: Results highlight concurrent and longitudinal relations among prereading, writing, and executive function skills in preschool. Findings have implication for early writing assessment and instruction.

Early writing skills of monolingual Spanish-speaking children attending early childhood programs in Chile

First Author/Chair:Gary Bingham -- Georgia State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Kathrine Strasser; Hope Gerde; Ryan Bowles

Although writing is a critical early literacy skill, writing opportunities in prekindergarten and kindergarten vary (Gerde, Bingham, & Pendergast, 2015). In Chile, writing is rare; in the USA many early childhood programs offer writing activities, though they tend to be basic (i.e., name writing, Bingham, Quinn, & Gerde, 2017). Also, the orthographies of these two languages differ. As a result of environmental and/or language-based variation, writing development may proceed differently in both countries. This study describes and compares the early writing skills of Chilean and USA children, at the beginning of the school year in prekindergarten and kindergarten.

100 monolingual Spanish-speaking children from Chile (50 prekindergarten, 50 kindergarten) and 257 English-speaking children from the USA (163 prekindergarten, 94 kindergarten) completed a comprehensive assessment of early writing including name writing, letter writing, word writing, and a novel story writing, coded for both transcription (i.e., spelling, handwriting) and composing (e.g., alignment to theme, complexity). The assessment was translated, adapted (i.e., for orthographic and cultural differences), and piloted in Chile prior to administration. All English data are collected and coded; Spanish data will be collected in March 2019, at the beginning of the school year in Chile.

Results will provide a comprehensive description of young children’s writing, including composing, in Spanish. The English sample identifies extensive variation across children and significant differences in transcription and composing for prekindergarteners and kindergarteners. Depending on the results of the comparison analyses, we will examine whether differences may exist due to environmental (instructional) or language-based factors.

A parent-child joint writing intervention: Associations with Hebrew writing skills

First Author/Chair:Coral A Shachar -- Tel Aviv University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Dorit Aram

Background: Despite an understanding that parents play an important role in the literacy development of their young children, little research exists on how parents work with their children in digital literacy environments.
Purpose: The study assessed the impact of a parent-child on-line joint writing intervention program within the preschools on early Hebrew writing skills (consonants and vowels) and interest in writing.
Method: Parents of 174 children in eight preschools participated in a two-hour workshop where they learned about effective writing support. Parents were asked to write on an Internet forum with their children twice a week for 10 weeks. Parents were instructed to write at least five words per post. Children's writing skills, self-regulation, and their interest in reading and writing experiences were assessed.
Results: The extent of participation (number of written words) predicted growth in children’s early writing skills and interest in literacy, controlling for their SES and self-regulation. Conclusion: The implications of this study relate to parents’ ability to promote their children’s early writing skills and interest in literacy, which play a key role in predicting children’s reading and writing achievements. The practical implications relate to the need to teach parents how to effectively support their children’s early writing in a variety of formats.


First Author/Chair:DISCUSSANT Cynthia Puranik -- Georgia State University