Promoting Early Writing Development: The Role of Interactions and Interventions Across Multiple Contexts

Promoting Early Writing Development: The Role of Interactions and Interventions Across Multiple Contexts

First Author: Gary Bingham -- Georgia State University
Keywords: Writing, Emergent literacy, Writing development, Early childhood age 3-8
Abstract / Summary: 

Children’s writing development is a critical, yet understudied, contributor to their literacy development and related to later reading and academic achievement (Graham & Hebert, 2011; Hammill, 2004). This symposium will expand current research by articulating the role that peers, parents, teachers, and technology play in writing development. Papers address how interaction quality and intervention processes promote children’s early writing development. Importantly, presentations represent diverse perspectives of children’s development of writing skills across multiple instructional and international contexts (e.g., Australia, Israel, and the United States). This symposium will advance the small, but growing, body of research addressing how writing skills might be promoted through creating high quality early writing interactions in the home and at school.

Symposium Papers: 

Using peer assisted strategies to improve writing outcomes for kindergarten children

First Author/Chair:Cynthia Puranik -- Georgia State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Melissa Patchan; Christopher Lemons ; Stephanie Al Otaiba ; Yaacov Petscher

Purpose: Despite the poor outcomes for U.S. students on national writing tests, overall research on how to teach writing is sparse, and this scarcity is more pronounced in the early years of beginning to write. In this study we present findings from Year 3 of a three-year Institute of Education Sciences (IES)-funded Goal 2 project aimed at improving the writing performance of kindergarten children. We designed peer assisted writing strategies (PAWS) and tested its initial feasibility and promise in Year 1 and 2. In Year 3, teachers delivered PAWS

Method: 150 kindergarten children from high and medium performing schools were assigned to treatment and control conditions. Classroom teachers were trained to deliver PAWS in whole classroom format. The quasi-experimental pre- post-design included standardized and CBM assessments of reading and writing. Following the pre-test, the children in the experimental classrooms received instruction for 26 weeks. Lessons that targeted writing letters focused on formation and fluency, and lessons that targeted spelling focused on teaching letter sound correspondence for spelling decodable words and recognition and spelling practice for sight words. Instruction at the sentence level included sentence combining and punctuation.

Results: Data were analyzed using residualized ANCOVA’s controlling for age, gender, school performance, and pre-test letter naming fluency. School performance mediated writing outcomes. For medium performing schools, the PAWS children outperformed the control children on all writing variables. The results were opposite for the high performing schools. Discussion will focus on the reasons for these results and future directions.

Infusing writing instruction into classroom routines

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

Despite the important role that early writing skills play in children’s later literacy development, translation of scientific findings to classroom teaching practice is limited. Preschool teacher’s writing instruction occurs at a low frequency during classroom activities and at low adherence to principles of best practice (Gerde, Bingham, & Pendergast, 2015). This study implemented a classroom-based professional development intervention in high-need preschool classrooms and promoted teachers’ writing instruction during an existing daily routine, morning message.
Lead pre-kindergarten teachers in 14 classrooms and 118 low-income children (56.8% girls, mean age = 55 months, SD: 3.68) participated in this study. Eight teachers from two child-care centers were assigned to the intervention group and received a four-hour PD workshop during which teachers received training on explicit instruction of letter and sound knowledge, modeling writing actions, and guiding children’s writing by providing letter formation instruction and prompts to promote letter knowledge. Children’s literacy (letter knowledge and phonological awareness) and writing skills (name writing, letter writing and spelling) were assessed before and after the intervention. Teachers’ instructional practices were observed at three time points for fidelity to the intervention and twice (pre-post) for the quality of literacy instructional practices.
Intervention group teachers significantly improved in the quality of their writing instruction by providing more frequent teacher-child writing interactions than teachers in the comparison group (F=5.61,p < .05). Intervention fidelity reached 90%, suggesting high fidelity to intervention principles. Children’s data are currently being coded and analyzed.
Morning message time appears to be a promising intervention context for promoting teachers’ writing instruction and children’s writing skills.

Feasibility study of innovative online teacher professional development for writing: An iterative approach to the design of professional development

First Author/Chair:Hope Gerde -- Michigan State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Gary Bingham; Margaret Quinn; Megan Goetsch

Purpose: Early childhood classrooms offer few opportunities for writing. However, writing is an important early literacy skill (NELP, 2008), which may be one meaningful way to promote print concepts, letter knowledge, and phonological awareness (Aram & Biron, 2004; Diamond, Gerde, & Powell, 2008). Consequently, the development of teacher professional development (PD) to enhance literacy through writing is warranted. Engaging teachers in the development process is central to designing PD that is relevant and functional for teachers, particularly for innovative PD delivered online. This study engaged Head Start teachers in evaluating the content and feasibility of online writing PD.
Method: Sixteen Head Start teachers from two programs across two states received a tablet containing the PD. Teachers utilized the PD for one month and answered questions via Survey Monkey about the content, formatting, and navigation. Website analytics tracked teacher usage to record accessed content (e.g., pages, videos, assignments). Teachers submitted assignments online which were scored for fidelity. Descriptive statistics were used to describe website usage, fidelity, and quantitative survey responses. Thematic coding was used to analyze open-ended survey responses (e.g., PD strengths, weaknesses).
Results: On average, teachers completed one module within the month. Analytics indicated the amount of “logged-in” time, video-viewing time, and number of pages varied but informed specific changes to video duration and navigation. Qualitative coding of open-ended questions remains ongoing.
Conclusions: Results inform both content and formatting revisions. Key changes to the website will be shown as illustrations of fundamental recommendations for developing online PD for preschool teachers.

Mother-child joint writing using a touch screen tablet and paper and pencil: What’s the difference?

First Author/Chair:Michelle Neumann -- Griffith University

Purpose: It has been well established that mothers play a key role in scaffolding young children’s letter and word writing using traditional writing tools. However, little is known about mother-child joint writing using touch screen tablets. The present study examined maternal mediation during a mother-child joint-writing task using an iPad and paper and pencil. Method: Mother-child dyads (N = 48) were video recorded as they wrote two words using an iPad followed by the same task using paper and pencil. The children (M age = 3.5 years) were assessed on emergent literacy skills (letter and name writing, alphabet knowledge, print concepts, and phonological awareness). Maternal print mediation (maternal scaffolding of written formation of a letter) and grapho-phonemic mediation (maternal scaffolding of letter sound connections) during the joint writing task were scored. Results: After controlling for child age, positive correlations were found between maternal iPad and paper-pencil mediation, and children’s emergent literacy skills. Mothers were observed to hold their child’s finger to write letters on the iPad whereas the mothers held their child’s hand (that grasped a pencil) for the pencil-paper task. Mothers provided affective feedback during both joint-writing tasks. Conclusions: Mothers positively mediated their child’s letter and word writing regardless of the type of writing tool used and this mediation was associated with emergent literacy ability. Mothers were flexible and adjusted their scaffolding strategies when their child used each writing tool. Potential applications, benefits, and limitations of using touch screen tablets to support joint-writing interactions are discussed.

Associations between Parenting Dimensions and Parents’ Writing Supports in Israel and the United States

First Author/Chair:Dorit Aram -- Tel Aviv University, Israel
Additional authors/chairs: 
Lori Skibbe; Fred Morrison

Purpose: To date, there is no study that has related parenting practices to the nature of their writing support. Some aspects of parenting practices are culturally dependent. In our study, we explored parenting practices and the nature of parents' writing support in Israel and the U.S. We learnt how orthography and parenting practices in these cultures predict the nature of parents' writing support.
Method: Participants were 130 parent-preschooler dyads (69 American dyads and 61 Israeli). We videotaped the parents helping their children write a birthday invitation and analyzed the nature of their literacy support. Parenting practices: Home Learning Environment (HLE); Warmth, Support for autonomy, and Expectations for appropriate behaviors (WSE); and Management and Discipline (MD) were assessed via a questionnaire.
Results: We did not find significant differences between the groups in parents' writing support. As to parenting practices, parents in the USA scored higher than the Israeli parents on all the measures. A series of hierarchical regression analyses predicting parents' writing support showed that in both countries child's age and parents' MD predicted the nature of parents' support. Further, beyond age and orthography, HLE and WSE predicted the nature of parents' writing support differently in the USA and in Israel.
Conclusions: Writing is a challenging activity that gives parents an opportunity to teach their children about the writing system. Our study shows that parents' writing support is sensitive to children's age across orthographies and cultures. It also reveals the general and culture-specific aspects of parents' writing support.