In this study, we examined the development of beginning writing skills in kindergarten children and the contribution of spelling and handwriting to these writing skills after accounting for early language, literacy, cognitive skills, and student characteristics. Two hundred and forty two children were given a battery of cognitive, oral language, reading, and writing measures. They exhibited a range of competency in spelling, handwriting, written expression, and in their ability to express ideas. Handwriting and spelling made statistically significant contributions to written expression, demonstrating the importance of these lower-order transcription skills to higher order text-generation skills from a very early age. The contributions of oral language and reading skills were not significant. Implications of these findings for writing development and instruction are addressed.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
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.
Abbott, R., 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, 281–298.
Almargot, D., & Fayol, M. (2009). Modelling the development of written composition. In R. Beard, D. Myhill, J. Riley, & M. Nystrand (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of writing development (pp. 23–47). London: SAGE.
Aram, D. M. (2005). Continuity in children’s literacy achievements: A longitudinal perspective from kindergarten to school. First Language, 25, 259–289.
Bereiter, C., Brown, A., Campione, J., Carruthers, I., Case, R., Hirshberg, J., et al. (2002). Open court reading. Columbus, OH: SRA McGraw-Hill.
Berman, R., & Verhoevan, L. (2002). Cross-linguistic perspectives on the development of text-production abilities. Written Language and Literacy, 5(1), 1–43.
Berninger, V. W. (1999). Coordinating transcription and text generation in working memory during composing: Automatic and constructive processes. Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 22, 99–112.
Berninger, V. W. (2000). Development of language by hand and its connections with language by ear, mouth, and eye. Topics in Language Disorders, 20, 65–84.
Berninger, V. W. (2008).Written language instruction during early and middle childhood. In R. Morris & N. Mather (Eds.), Evidence-based interventions for students with learning and behavioral challenges (pp. 215–235). New York: Taylor & Francis.
Berninger, V. W., Abbott, R. D., Abbott, S., Graham, S., & Richards, T. (2002). Writing and reading: Connections between language by hand and language by eye. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 25, 39–56.
Berninger, V. W., Cartwright, A., Yates, C., Swanson, H. L., & Abbott, R. (1994). Developmental skills related to writing and reading acquisition in the intermediate grades: Shared and unique variance. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 6, 161–196.
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(3), 198–215.
Berninger, V. W., & Swanson, H. L. (1994). Modifying Hayes & Flower’s model of skilled writing to explain beginning and developing writing. In E. Butterfield (Ed.), Children’s writing: Toward a process theory of development of skilled writing (pp. 57–81). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Berninger, V. W., Vaughn, K., Abbott, R., Brooks, A., Rogan, L., Reed, E., et al. (1998). Early intervention for spelling problems: Teaching functional spelling units of varying size with a multiple-connections framework. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 587–605.
Berninger, V. W., Vaughn, K., Abbott, R., Rogan, L., Brooks, A., Reed, E., et al. (1997). Treatment of handwriting problems in beginning writers: Transfer from handwriting to composition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 652–666.
Berninger, V. W., Whitaker, D., Feng, Y., Swanson, H. L., & Abbott, R. (1996). Assessment of planning, translating, and revising in junior high writers. Journal of School Psychology, 34, 23–52.
Berninger, V. W., Yates, C., Cartwright, A., Rutberg, J., Remy, E., & Abbot, R. (1992). Lower-level developmental skills in beginning writing. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 4, 257–280.
Bishop, D. V. M., & Clarkson, B. (2003). Written language as a window into residual language deficits: A study of children with persistent and residual speech and language impairments. Cortex, 39, 215–237.
Bourdin, B., & Fayol, M. (1994). Is written language production more difficult than oral language production: A working-memory approach. International Journal of Psychology, 29(5), 591–620.
Brock, D., & Green, V. (1992). The influences of social context on kindergarten writing. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 7(1), 5–19.
Byrne, B., & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1989). Phonemic awareness and letter knowledge in the child’s acquisition of the alphabetic principle. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 313–321.
Byrne, B., Olson, R., Samuelsson, S., Wadsworth, S., Corley, R., DeFries, J., et al. (2006). Genetic and environment influences on early literacy. Journal of Research in Reading, 29(1), 33–49.
Chall, J. S., & Jacobs, V. A. (1983). Writing and reading in the elementary grades: Developmental trends among low SES children. Language Arts, 6, 17–26.
Clay, M. (Ed.). (1985). Early detection of reading difficulties (3rd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Coker, D. (2006). Impact of first-grade factors on the growth and outcomes of urban schoolchildren’s primary-grade writing. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(3), 471–488.
Edwards, L. (2003). Writing instruction in kindergarten: Examining an emerging area of research for children with writing and reading difficulties. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36, 136–148.
Foorman, B. R., Chen, D., Carlson, C., Moats, L., Francis, D. J., & Fletcher, J. M. (2003). The necessity of the alphabetic principle to phonemic awareness instruction. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 16, 289–324.
Graham, S., Berninger, V., Abbott, R., Abbott, S., & Whitaker, D. (1997). Role of mechanics in composing of elementary school students: A new methodological approach. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 170–182.
Graham, S., & Harris, K. (2000). The role of self-regulation and transcription skills in writing and writing development. Educational Psychologist, 35, 3–12.
Graham, S., Harris, K., & Chorzempa, B. F. (2002). Contribution of spelling instruction to the spelling, writing, and reading of poor spellers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(4), 669–686.
Graham, S., Harris, K., & Fink, B. (2000). Is handwriting causally related to learning to write? Treatment of handwriting problems in beginning writers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 620–633.
Harrell, L. E. (1957). A comparison of the development of oral and written language in school-age children. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 22, 1–77.
Hayes, J. R. (1996). A new framework for understanding cognition and affect in writing. In C. M. Levy & S. Ransdall (Eds.), The science of writing (pp. 1–27). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Hayes, J. R., & Berninger, V. W. (2009). Relationships between idea generation and transcription: How act of writing shapes what children write. In R. K. Braverman, K. Lunsford, S. McLeod, S. Null, & A. S. P. Rogers (Eds.), Traditions of writing research (pp. 166–180). New York: Taylorand Frances/Routledge.
Hayes, J., & Flower, L. (1980). Identifying the organization of writing processes. In L. Gregg & E. Steinberg (Eds.), Cognitive processes in writing: An interdisciplinary approach (pp. 3–30). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Hayes, J., & Flower, L. (1987). On the structure of the writing process. Topics in Language Disorders, 7, 19–30.
Hecht, S. A., Burgess, S. R., Torgesen, J. K., Wagner, R. K., & Rashotte, C. A. (2000). Explaining social class differences in growth of reading skills from beginning kindergarten through fourth grade: The role of phonological awareness, rate of access, and print knowledge. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 12, 99–127.
Hooper, S. R., Roberts, J., Nelson, L., Zeisel, S., & Kasambira Fannin, D. (2010). Preschool predictors of narrative writing skills in elementary school children. School Psychology Quarterly, 25, 1–12.
Houck, C. S., & Billingsley, B. S. (1989). Written expression of students with and without learning disabilities: Differences across the grades. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22, 561–572.
Hudson, R., Lane, H., & Mercer, C. (2005). Writing prompts: The role of various priming conditions on the compositional fluency of developing writers. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 18, 473–495.
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.
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.
Katusic, S., Colligan, R., Weaver, A., & Barbaresi, W. (2009). The forgotten learning disability: Epidemiology of written-language disorder in a population based birth bohort (1976–1982), Rochester, Minnesota. Pediatrics, 123, 1306–1313.
Kaufman, A., & Kaufman, N. (2001). Kaufman brief intelligence test (2nd ed.). Circle Pines, MN: AGS Publishing.
Kim, Y. S. (2010). Componential skills of spelling in Korean. Scientific Studies of Reading, 14, 137–158.
King, M., & Rentel, V. (1981). Research update: Conveying meaning in written texts. Language Arts, 58(6), 721–728.
Lonigan, C., Schatschneider, C., & Westberg, L. (2008). Results of the national early literacy panel research synthesis: Identification of children’s skills and abilities linked to later outcomes in reading, writing, and spelling (pp. 55–106). Washington, DC: National Early Literacy Panel.
Mackie, C., & Dockrell, J. E. (2004). The nature of written language deficits in children with SLI. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 47, 1469–1483.
MacMillan, D. L., Widaman, K. F., Balow, I. H., Hemsley, R. E., & Little, T. D. (1992). Differences in adolescent school attitudes as a function of academic level, ethnicity, and gender. Learning Disability Quarterly, 15, 39–50.
Malecki, C. K., & Jewell, J. (2003). Developmental, gender, and practical considerations in scoring curriculum-based measurement writing probes. Psychology in the Schools, 40, 379–390.
McCutchen, D. (1996). A capacity theory of writing: Working memory in composition. Educational Psychology Review, 8, 299–325.
McKenna, M., Kear, D., & Ellsworth, R. (1995). Children’s attitudes toward reading: A national survey. Reading Research Quarterly, 30, 934–956.
McMaster, K., Du, X., & Pétursdóttir, A. (2009). Technical features of curriculum-based measures for beginning writers. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 41–60.
McMaster, K., & Espin, C. (2007). Technical features of curriculum-based measurement in writing: A literature review. The Journal of Special Education, 41(2), 68–84.
National Assessment of Educational Progress. (2007). The nation’s report card. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retreived from: http://nationsreportcard.gov/writing_2007/w0001.asp.
National Commission on Writing for America’s Families, Schools, and Colleges. (April, 2003). The neglected R: The need for a writing revolution. New York, NY: College Entrance Examination Board. Retrieved from: http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/writingcom/neglectedr.pdf.
National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Nelson, N. W., Bahr, C., & Van Meter, A. (2004). The writing lab approach to language instruction and intervention. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.
Nelson, N. W., & Van Meter, A. (2002). Assessing curriculum-based reading and writing samples. Topics in Language Disorders, 22, 35–59.
Newcomer, P., & Hammill, D. (1997). Test of language development-primary 3. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
Nicholson, T. (1997). Closing the gap on reading failure: Social background, phonemic awareness and learning to read. In B. A. Blachman (Ed.), Foundations of reading acquisition and dyslexia: Implications for early intervention. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
O’Donnell, R. C., Griffin, W. J., & Norris, R. C. (1967). Grammatical structures in the speech of children: A transformational analysis. The Journal of Experimental Education, 36, 70–77.
Olinghouse, N. G., & Graham, S. (2009). The relationship between the discourse knowledge and the writing performance of elementary-grade students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 37–50.
Ouellette, G. P., & Sénéchal, M. (2008). A window into early literacy: Exploring the cognitive and linguistic underpinnings of invented spelling. Scientific Studies of Reading, 12, 195–219.
Puranik, C., & Apel, K. (2010). Effect of assessment task and letter writing ability on preschool children’s spelling performance. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 36, 46–56.
Puranik, C. S., Lombardino, L. J., & Altmann, L. J. P. (2007). Writing through retellings: An exploratory study of language impaired and dyslexic populations. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 20, 251–272.
Puranik, C., Lombardino, L. J., & Altmann, L. (2008). Assessing the microstructure of written language using a retelling paradigm. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 17, 107–120.
Reece, J. E., & Cummings, G. (1996). Evaluating speech-based composition methods: Planning, dictation, and the listening word processor. In C. M. Levy & S. Ransdell (Eds.), The science of writing (pp. 361–380). Mabwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Scarborough, H. (2001). Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities: Evidence, theory, and practice. In S. Neuman & D. Dickinson (Eds.), Strands of early literacy development. New York: Guilford Press.
Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (1986). Written composition. In M. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (3rd ed., pp. 778–803). New York: Macmillan.
Scott, C. (2005). Learning to write. In H. W. Catts & A. G. Kamhi (Eds.), Language and reading disabilities (2nd ed., pp. 233–273). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Scott, C., & Windsor, J. (2000). General language performance measures in spoken and written discourse produced by school-age children with and without language learning disabilities. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 43, 324–339.
Shanahan, T. (2006). Relations among oral language, reading, and writing development. In C. MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of writing research (pp. 171–183). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Shanahan, T., & Lomax, R. G. (1986). An analysis and comparison of theoretical models of the reading-writing relationship. Journal of Educational Psychology, 78, 116–123.
Shanahan, T., & Lomax, R. G. (1988). A developmental comparison of three theoretical models of reading-writing relationship. Research in the Teaching of English, 22, 196–212.
Snow, C., Burns, M. S., & Griffin, P. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Stanovich, K. E., Cunningham, A. E., & Freeman, D. J. (1984). Intelligence, cognitive skills, and early reading progress. Reading Research Quarterly, 19, 278–303.
Sulzby, E. (1986). Writing and reading: Signs of oral and written language organization in the young child. In W. H. Teale & E. Sulzby (Eds.), Emergent literacy: Writing and reading (pp. 50–89). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Sulzby, E., & Teale, W. (1985). Writing development in early childhood. Educational Horizons, 64(1), 8–12.
Swanson, H. L., & Berninger, V. W. (1996). Individual differences in children’s working memory and writing skill. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 63, 358–385.
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.
Treiman, R. (1993). Beginning to spell. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Treiman, R. (1997). Spelling in normal children and dyslexics. In B. Blachman (Ed.), Foundations of reading acquisition and dyslexia: Implications for early intervention (pp. 21–47). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Treiman, R., & Bourassa, D. C. (2000). The development of spelling skill. Topics in Language Disorders, 20, 1–18.
Treiman, R., Kessler, B., & Bourassa, D. (2001). Children’s own name influences their spelling. Applied Psycholinguistics, 10, 283–300.
Troia, G. (2009). Instruction and assessment for struggling writers. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wagner, R. K., Puranik, C., Foorman, B., Foster, E., Wilson, L. G., Tschinkel, E., et al. (2011). Modeling the development of written language. Reading & Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal. doi:10.1007/s11145-010-9266-7.
Wagner, R., Torgesen, J., & Rashotte, C. (1999). Comprehensive test of phonological processes. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
Woodcock, R., McGrew, K., & Mather, N. (2001). Woodcock-Johnson III tests of cognitive abilities. Itasca, IL: Riverside.
This work was supported, in part, by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD052120) and the Institute of Education Science, US Department of Education (R305A080488). Portions of this work were completed while the first author was supported by a postdoctoral training grant (R305B050032) from the Institute of Education Science, US Department of Education. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and have not been reviewed or approved by the granting agencies. The authors would like to thank Jessica Folsom and Luana Greulich at the Florida Center for Reading Research for their assistance with data collection, and Stephanie Cute and Lindsay Keffer at the University of Pittsburgh for their assistance with data entry, and scoring.
About this article
Cite this article
Puranik, C.S., AlOtaiba, S. Examining the contribution of handwriting and spelling to written expression in kindergarten children. Read Writ 25, 1523–1546 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-011-9331-x