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Writing and reading performance in Year 1 Australian classrooms: associations with handwriting automaticity and writing instruction


Theories of writing development and accumulating evidence indicate that handwriting automaticity is related to the development of effective writing skills, and that writing and reading skills are also associated with each other. However, less is known about the nature of these associations and the role of instructional factors in the early years. The present study examines: (1) the influence of handwriting automaticity in the writing and reading performance of Year 1 students, both concurrently and across time; (2) associations between students’ writing and reading performance and writing instruction. The current study involved 154 children enrolled in 24 classrooms from seven government-funded primary schools in Western Australia. Handwriting automaticity and word-reading were assessed at the end of kindergarten (Mage = 70 months, SD = 4.37 months) and a year later at the end of Year 1 (Mage = 82 months, SD = 3.64 months). Child-level measures of writing quality and production as well as teacher-reported measures of writing instruction were added in Year 1. Teachers reported on amount and type of writing instruction (i.e., teaching basic skills and teaching writing processes) and amount of writing practice in their classrooms. Data analyses included multilevel modelling. Handwriting automaticity predicted writing quality and production concurrently and across time after accounting for gender and initial word-reading skills. Handwriting automaticity predicted reading performance across time. Writing and reading performance were associated with amount of writing practice, while teaching planning and revising were positively associated with writing performance. Implications for writing development and writing instruction are discussed.

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This research was funded by the Australian Research Council through the Discovery Early Career Award Funding Scheme (DECRA 150100731).

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Correspondence to Anabela Abreu Malpique.

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Malpique, A.A., Pino-Pasternak, D. & Roberto, M.S. Writing and reading performance in Year 1 Australian classrooms: associations with handwriting automaticity and writing instruction. Read Writ 33, 783–805 (2020).

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  • Early education
  • Handwriting automaticity
  • Reading development
  • Writing development
  • Writing instruction