Reading and Writing

, Volume 27, Issue 7, pp 1163–1188 | Cite as

Writing fluency and quality in kindergarten and first grade: the role of attention, reading, transcription, and oral language

  • Shawn Kent
  • Jeanne Wanzek
  • Yaacov Petscher
  • Stephanie Al Otaiba
  • Young-Suk Kim


In the present study, we examined the influence of kindergarten component skills on writing outcomes, both concurrently and longitudinally to first grade. Using data from 265 students, we investigated a model of writing development including attention regulation along with students’ reading, spelling, handwriting fluency, and oral language component skills. Results from structural equation modeling demonstrated that a model including attention was better fitting than a model with only language and literacy factors. Attention, a higher-order literacy factor related to reading and spelling proficiency, and automaticity in letter-writing were uniquely and positively related to compositional fluency in kindergarten. Attention and higher-order literacy factor were predictive of both composition quality and fluency in first grade, while oral language showed unique relations with first grade writing quality. Implications for writing development and instruction are discussed.


Component skills Beginning writing Kindergarten First grade Writing development 



This research was supported by Grant P50HD052120 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and Grant R305B04074 from the Institute of Education Sciences. Dr. Petscher’s time was also supported by Grant R305F100005 from the Institute of Education Sciences. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institutes of Health, or the Institute of Education Sciences.


  1. Abbott, R. D., & Berninger, V. W. (1993). Structural equation modeling of relationships among development skills and writing skills in primary- and intermediate-grade writers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 478–508. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.85.3.478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abbott, R. D., Berninger, V. W., & Fayol, M. (2010). Longitudinal relationships of levels of language in writing and between writing and reading in grades 1 to 7. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(2), 281–298. doi: 10.1037/a0019318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Al Otaiba, S., Connor, C. M., Folsom, J. S., Greulich, L., Meadows, J., & Li, Z. (2011). Assessment data-informed guidance to individualize kindergarten reading instruction: Findings from a cluster-randomized control field trial. Elementary School Journal, 111, 535–560. doi: 10.1086/659031.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  5. Asparouhov, T. (2006). General multi-level modeling with sampling weights. Communications in Statistics: Theory and Methods, 35, 439–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barkley, R. (1996). Linkages between attention and executive functions. In G. R. Lyon & N. Krasnegor (Eds.), Attention, memory, and executive functions (pp. 307–326). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.Google Scholar
  7. Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1987). The psychology of written composition. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  8. Berninger, V. W., Abbott, R. D., Abbott, S. P., Graham, S., & Richards, T. (2002). Writing and reading: Connections between language by hand and language by eye. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 39–56. doi: 10.1177/002221940203500104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berninger, V. W., Abbott, R., Jones, J., Wolf, B., Gould, L., Anderson-Youngstrom, M., et al. (2006). Early development of language by hand: Composing, reading, listening, and speaking connections; three letter-writing modes; and fast mapping in spelling. Developmental Neuropsychology, 29(1), 61–92. doi: 10.1207/s15326942dn2901_5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berninger, V. W., & Rutberg, J. (1992). Relationship of finger function to beginning writing: Application to diagnosis of writing disabilities. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 34, 155–172. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.1992.tb14993.x.Google Scholar
  11. Berninger, V. W., & Winn, W. D. (2006). Implications of advancements in brain research and technology for writing development, writing instruction, and educational evolution. In C. A. MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of Writing Research (pp. 96–114). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  12. Blair, C. (2002). School readiness: Integrating cognition and emotion in a neurobiological conceptualization of children’s functioning at school entry. American Psychologist, 57(2), 111–127. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.57.2.111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Byrne, B., & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1993). Evaluation of a program to teach phonemic Awareness to young children: A one year follow up. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 104–111. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.85.1.104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Byrne, B., Wadsworth, S., Corley, R., Samuelsson, S., Quain, P., DeFries, J., et al. (2005). Longitudinal twin study of early literacy development: Preschool and kindergarten phases. Scientific Studies of Reading, 9, 219–235. doi: 10.1207/s1532799xssr0903_3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chenault, B., Thomson, J., Abbott, R. D., & Berninger, V. W. (2006). Effects of prior attention training on child dyslexics’ response to composition instruction. Developmental Neuropsychology, 29(1), 243–260. doi: 10.1207/s15326942dn2901_12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2010). Common core state standards for English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Retrieved from
  17. Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., et al. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1428–1446. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.43.6.1428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ehri, L. C. (2000). Learning to read and learning to spell: Two sides of a coin. Topics in Language Disorders, 20, 19–36. doi: 10.1006/ceps.1999.1002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fitzgerald, J., & Shanahan, T. (2000). Reading and writing relations and their development. Educational Psychologist, 35, 39–50. doi: 10.1207/S15326985EP3501_5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Graham, S., Berninger, V. W., Abbott, R. D., Abbott, S. P., & Whitaker, D. (1997). Role of mechanics in composing of elementary school students: A new methodological approach. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 170–182. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.89.1.170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Graham, S., Bollinger, A., Booth Olson, C., D’Aoust, C., MacArthur, C., McCutchen, D., et al. (2012a). Teaching elementary school students to be effective writers: A practice guide (NCEE 2012-4058). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education. Retrieved from
  22. Graham, S., & Harris, K. R. (2000). The role of self-regulation and transcription skills in writing and writing development. Educational Psychologist, 35, 3–12. doi: 10.1207/S15326985EP3501_2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & McKeown, D. (2013). The writing of students with learning disabilities, meta-analysis of self-regulated strategy development writing intervention studies, and future directions: Redux. In L. Swanson, K. R. Harris, & S. Graham (Eds.), Handbook of learning disabilities (2nd ed., pp. 405–438). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  24. Graham, S., McKeown, D., Kiuhara, S., & Harris, K. R. (2012b). A meta-analysis of writing instruction for students in the elementary grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 879–896. doi: 10.1037/a0029185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). A meta-analysis of writing instruction for adolescent students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 445–476. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.99.3.445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Happaney, K., Zelazo, P. D., & Stuss, D. T. (2004). Development of orbitofrontal function: Current themes and future directions. Brain and Cognition, 55(1), 1–10. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2004.01.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hooper, S. R., Costa, L., McBee, M., Anderson, K. L., Yerby, D. C., Knuth, S. B., et al. (2011). Concurrent and longitudinal neuropsychological contributors to written language expression in first and second grade students. Reading and Writing, 24, 221–252. doi: 10.1007/s11145-010-9263-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hooper, S. R., Swartz, C. W., Wakely, M. B., de Kruif, R. E. L., & Montgomery, J. W. (2002). Executive functions in elementary school children with and without problems in written expression. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35(1), 57–68. doi: 10.1177/002221940203500105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jones, D., & Christensen, C. A. (1999). Relationship between automaticity in handwriting and students’ ability to generate written text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 44–49. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.91.1.44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Juel, C. (1988). Learning to read and write: A longitudinal study of 54 children from first through fourth grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 437–447. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.80.4.437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Juel, C., Griffith, P. L., & Gough, P. B. (1986). Acquisition of literacy: A longitudinal study of children in first and second grade. Journal of Educational Psychology, 78, 243–255. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.78.4.243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kent, S. C., Wanzek, J., & Al Otaiba, S. (2012). Print reading in general education kindergarten classrooms: What does it look like for students at-risk for reading difficulties? Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 27(2), 56–65. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5826.2012.00351.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kim, Y.-S., Al Otaiba, S., Folsom, J. S., Folsom, J. S., & Greulich, L. (2013). Language, literacy, attentional behaviors, and instructional quality predictors of written composition for first graders. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28, 461–469. doi: 10.1016/j.ecrsq.2013.01.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kim, Y.-S., Al Otaiba, S., Folsom, J. S., Greulich, L., & Puranik, C. (in press). Evaluating the dimensionality of first grade written composition. Journal of Speech, Hearing, and Language Research.Google Scholar
  35. Kim, Y., Al Otaiba, S., Puranik, C., Folsom, J. S., Greulich, L., & Wagner, R. K. (2011). Componential skills of beginning writing: An exploratory study. Learning and Individual Differences, 21, 517–525. doi: 10.1016/j.lindif.2011.06.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kline, R. B. (2011). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  37. Lehto, J. E., Juuiärvi, P., Kooistra, L., & Pulkkinen, L. (2003). Dimensions of executive functioning: Evidence from children. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 21, 59–80. doi: 10.1348/026151003321164627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lembke, E., Deno, S. L., & Hall, K. (2003). Identifying an indicator of growth in early writing proficiency for elementary school students. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 28, 23–35. doi: 10.1177/073724770302800304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McClelland, M. M., Acock, A. C., Piccinin, A., Rhea, S. A., & Stallings, M. C. (2013). Relations between preschool attention span-persistence and age 25 educational outcomes. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(2), 314–324. doi: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2012.07.008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McCutchen, D. (2000). Knowledge, processing, and working memory: Implications for a theory of writing. Educational Psychologist, 35, 13–23. doi: 10.1207/S15326985EP3501_3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McMaster, K. L., Du, X., & Pestursdottir, A. L. (2009). Technical features of curriculum-based measures for beginning writers. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 41–60. doi: 10.1177/0022219408326212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mehta, P. D., Foorman, B. R., Branum-Martin, L., & Taylor, W. P. (2005). Literacy as a unidimensional multilevel construct: Validation, sources of influence, and implications in a longitudinal study in grades 1 to 4. Scientific Studies of Reading, 9(2), 85–116. doi: 10.1207/s1532799xssr0902_1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Moats, L., Foorman, B., & Taylor, P. (2006). How quality of writing instruction impacts high-risk fourth graders’ writing. Reading and Writing, 19(4), 363–391. doi: 10.1007/s11145-005-4944-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. National Commission on Writing. (2004, September). Writing: A ticket to work… Or a Ticket Out. New York, NY: College Entrance Examination Board. Retrieved from:
  45. Newcomer, P. L., & Hamill, D. D. (1997). Test of language development-primary (Vol. 3). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.Google Scholar
  46. Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. (2011). 6 + 1 Trait ® Writing. Retrieved from
  47. Puranik, C. S., & Al Otaiba, S. (2012). Examining the contribution of handwriting and spelling to written expression in kindergarten children. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 25, 1523–1546. doi: 10.1007/s11145-011-9331-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Puranik, C. S., Al Otaiba, S., Sidler, J. F., & Greulich, L. (in press). Exploring the amount and type of writing instruction during language arts instruction in kindergarten classrooms. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal. doi: 10.1007/s11145-9441-8.
  49. Puranik, C. S., Lombardino, L. J., & Altmann, L. J. (2007). Writing through retellings: An exploratory study of language-impaired and dyslexic populations. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 20, 251–272. doi: 10.1007/s11145-006-9030-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rhoades, B. L., Warren, H. K., Domitrovich, C. E., & Greenberg, M. T. (2011). Examining the link between preschool social-emotional competence and first grade academic achievement: The role of attention skills. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 26(2), 182–191. doi: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2010.07.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Saez, L., Folsom, J. S., Al Otaiba, S., & Schatschneider, C. (2012). Relations among student attention behaviors, teacher practices, and beginning word reading skill. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 45, 418–432. doi: 10.1177/0022219411431243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Salahu-Din, D., Persky, H., & Miller, J. (2008). The nation’s report card: Writing 2007 (NCES 2008–468). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  53. Shanahan, T. (2006). Relations among oral language, reading, and writing development. In C. A. MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of writing research (pp. 83–95). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  54. Shell, D. F., Colvin, C., & Bruning, R. H. (1995). Self-efficacy, attribution, and outcome expectancy mechanisms in reading and writing achievement: Grade-level and achievement-level differences. Journal of Educational Psychology, 87(3), 386–398. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.87.3.386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Storch, S. A., & Whitehurst, G. J. (2002). Oral language and code-related precursors to reading: Evidence from a longitudinal structural model. Developmental Psychology, 38(6), 934–947. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.38.6.934.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Swanson, J., Shuck, S., Mann, M., Carlson, C., Hartman, K., Sergeant, J., et al. (2006). Categorical and dimensional definitions and evaluations of symptoms of ADHD: The SNAP and SWAN Rating Scales. Unpublished manuscript. University of California Irvine, CA.Google Scholar
  57. Tangel, D. M., & Blachman, B. A. (1992). Effect of phoneme awareness instruction on kindergarten children’s invented spelling. Journal of Reading Behavior, 24, 233–261. doi: 10.1080/10862969209547774.Google Scholar
  58. Thomson, J. B., Chenault, B., Abbott, R. D., Raskind, W. H., Richards, R., Aylward, E., et al. (2005). Converging evidence for attentional influences on the orthographic word form in child dyslexics. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 18, 93–126. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroling.2004.11.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Torgesen, J. K., Wagner, R. K., & Rashotte, C. A. (1999). Test of word reading efficiency. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.Google Scholar
  60. Wagner, R. K., Puranik, C. S., Foorman, B., Foster, E., Tschinkel, E., & Kantor, P. T. (2011). Modeling the development of written language. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 24, 203–220. doi: 10.1007/s11145-010-9266-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Willcutt, E. G., Pennington, B. F., Boada, R., Ogline, J. S., Tunick, R. A., Chhabildas, N. A., et al. (2001). A comparison of the cognitive deficits in reading disability and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110, 157–172. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.110.1.157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Woodcock, R. W., McGrew, K. S., & Mather, N. (2001). Woodcock-Johnson III tests of achievement. Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shawn Kent
    • 1
  • Jeanne Wanzek
    • 1
  • Yaacov Petscher
    • 3
  • Stephanie Al Otaiba
    • 2
  • Young-Suk Kim
    • 1
  1. 1.Florida Center for Reading Research and School of Teacher EducationFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Simmons School of Education and Human DevelopmentSouthern Methodist UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  3. 3.Florida Center for Reading ResearchFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

Personalised recommendations