Title: Parent involvement in the composing processes of kindergarten children
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00097413/00001
 Material Information
Title: Parent involvement in the composing processes of kindergarten children
Physical Description: xi, 179 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Green, Constance Ruth, 1950-
Copyright Date: 1984
Subject: Language arts (Preschool)   ( lcsh )
Reading readiness   ( lcsh )
Parent and child   ( lcsh )
Curriculum and Instruction thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Curriculum and Instruction -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1984.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 172-178.
Additional Physical Form: Also available on World Wide Web
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
Statement of Responsibility: by Constance Ruth Green.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00097413
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000473822
oclc - 11698164
notis - ACN9031


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This study is dedicated to my daughters-Christy, Marie, and

Emily-the most important part of my life.


First, I would like to thank my committee: Dr, Linda Lamme,

for her prompt and thorough feedback, her patience, and her unfading

enthusiasm and friendship; Dr. Dorene Ross, for her thorough criticisms,

availability, and friendship; Dr. Suzanne Krogh, for her stimulating

questions and suggestions; Dr. Athol Packer, for his wonderful support

and calmness; and Dr. Linda Crocker, for her insightful, creative ideas

on measurement and data analysis and for being a responsive listener.

Next I would like to thank Noille Silk, Ann Amos, and Cindy

Holmes, for their time, suggestions, and involvement; Betsy Nies, for

collecting writing samples; Karen Kilgore, Rhonda Royston, and Sharen

Halsall for rating the writing and fluency samples; Jean Brown, Dwight

Rogers, Tish Denny, and Tess Bennett for encouragement and support, and

the wonderful parents and children who willingly and enthusiastically

participated in the study.

Finally, I would like to thank Christy, Marie, and Emily, for

helping me keep my life in perspective; Paul, for his gentle understand-

ing; and my parents and sister, Carol, for believing in me.




LIST OF TABLES . . . . . .

LIST OF FIGURES . . . . . .

ABSTRACT . . . . . . . .



Definition of Terms ..
Statement of the Problem .
Theoretical Rationale . .
Significance of the Problem
Limitations and Assumptions
Summary . . . . .


Introduction . . . . . . . .
Connections between Drawing, Oral Language,
Reading, and Writing . . . . .
Drawing and Writing . . . .
Oral Language and Writing . . .
Reading and Writing . . . .
Summary . . . .
The Development of Writing . . . .
Writing Stages . . . . . .
Summary . . . . . . .
Invented Spelling . . . . . .
Spelling Development . . . .
Suimmarv . . . .

Fostering the Writing Process in
and at Home . . .
Writing Environments . .
Summary . . . . .


. . .

. . . . . iii

. . . . . . . ix

. . . . . . . x



. . . I9

. . . 11
. . . 11
. . . 13
. . 17
. . . 23
. . . 25
. . 25
. . . 30
. . . 31
. . 31
. . . 36

. . 37
. . . 37
. . . 45


Educational Programs Supplemented by
Parent Involvement . . . . . . . ... .47
Studies of Parent Involvement . . . ... 47
Summary . . . . . . . . .. . 57
Sex Differences in Language Arts . . . . .. 58
Reading and Oral Language . . . . .. 63
Summary . . . . . . . .... . 63
Summary . . . . . . . . .. . . 63

III ORDER OF THE STUDY . . . . . . . ... . 68

Sample . . . . . . . . ... .. .. . .68
Study Design . . . . . . . . ... 69
The Settings . . . . . . . . ... 69
Instrumentation . . . . . . . . . 73
Concepts about Print . . . . . .... .73
Lamme/Green Composing Scale . . . .. 74
Parent Response Sheet . . . . .... .75
Procedure . . . . . . . .... . .. 75
Data Collection . . . . .. . . . 76
Writing Samples . . . . . . ... 77
Fluency . . . . . . . .... . 78
Data Analysis . . . . . . . .... . 78

IV RESULTS . . . . . . . . ... . . . .80

Introduction . . . . . . . . .. ... 80
Treatment Effects on Concepts about Print . . .. 82
Treatment Effects on Writing Fluency . . . .. 87
Treatment Effects on Compositional
Writing Achievement . . . . . . . . 87
Effects of Class, Gender, and Interactions . . .. 90
Summary . . . . . . . . ... . . 97


Introduction . . . . . . . . . . 100
Summary of the Problem . . . . . . . . 100
Findings and Conclusions . . . . . . . 101
Concepts about Print . . . . . . . 102
Writing Fluency . . . . . . ... 102
Writing Achievement . . . . . .... 103
Class Differences . . . . . .... 104
Gender Differences . . . . . .... .106
Two-way Interactions . . . . . .... .106
Assistance during Writing . . . . . 107
Types of Writing Children Did at Home . .. .108
Parent Response Sheets . . . . .... 108
Summary . . . . . . . .. .. . 108


Recommendations . . . . .
Recommendations for Researchers
Recommendations for Teachers . .
Recommendations for Parents . .
Recommendations for Administrators
Summary . . . . . . .
Summary . . . . . . . .




C WRITING BOOKLET . . . . . . . .

D RESPONSE SHEET . . . . . . . .


F TEACHER LETTERS . . . . . . . .



REFERENCES . . . . . . . . . . .

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . .



. . . 19


. . . 146


. . . 158

. . . 161

. . . 171

. . 172

- . 179



1. Concepts about Print pretestt) means and
standard deviations . . . . . . .

2. Summary of correlation coefficients of the
pretest with the five dependent variables .

3. Summary of ANCOVA for Concepts about Print

4. Summary of least squares means for
Concepts about Print . . . . . .

5. Summary of ANCOVA for Writing Fluency . .

6. Summary of least squares means for Writing
Fluency . . . . . . . . . .

7. Summary of ANCOVA for Writing Achievement-
first posttest . . . . . . . .

8. Summary of least squares means for Writing
Achievement-first posttest . . . . .

9. Summary of ANCOVA for Writing Achievement-
second posttest . . . . . . . .

10. Summary of least squares means for Writing
Achievement-second posttest . . . .

11. Summary of ANCOVA for Writing Achievement-
third posttest . . . . . . . .

12. Summary of least squares means for Writing
Achievement--third posttest . . . . .

13. Total number of sharing episodes per class

14. People with whom children wrote (all classes)

15. People with whom children wrote (by class)


. . . . 83

. . . . 84

. . . . 85

. . . . 86

. . . . 88

. . . . 89

. . . . 91

. . . . 92

. . . . 93

. . . . 94

. . . . 95

. . . . 96

. . . . 106

. . . . 106

. . . . 106

Table Page

16. Types of writing children did at home . . . . . 109

17. Number of response sheets returned . . . . .. 109




1. Writing Achievement-second posttest, gender
x treatment interaction . . . . . . . . .

2. Writing Achievement-first posttest, gender
x class interaction . . . . . . . . . .


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Constance Ruth Green

August 1984

Chairperson: Linda Leonard Lamme
Major Department: Curriculum and Instruction

This study investigated the impact of a home composing curriculum

on kindergarten children's concepts about print (a measure of reading

readiness), writing fluency (the number of words children can write), and

writing achievement. In addition, the study investigated gender differ-

ences on the above measures, types of writing done by children at home,

and family members with whom children wrote.

A sample of 74 children was drawn from four kindergarten classes,

two at a university laboratory school and two at a public school.

Parents of children in the treatment group participated in a parent

workshop and received a booklet which introduced the concept of writing

with young children, the importance of writing, and the interrelationship

between writing and reading. During the ten-week treatment period

parents and children wrote together at home several times each week.

The home writing samples were brought to school for sharing time with

other children in the treatment group.

Data were analyzed by analysis of covariance, using the Concepts

about Print test as the covariate. This procedure was conducted for

each of the five dependent variables: Concepts about Print posttest,

writing fluency, and three writing achievement samples. The treatment

group was found to be significantly higher on the Concepts about Print

test, writing fluency, and the first posttest of writing achievement.

There were no significant gender differences on any of the measures.

Data from parent response sheets indicated that these children

wrote notes, letters, and lists more than other types of writing. They

wrote with their mothers or alone more often than with other family


The findings of this study suggest that a flexible home composing

curriculum, combined with the sharing of writing at school can have an

impact on reading readiness, the number of words children can write,

and possibly writing ability.


Research in many fields of education has demonstrated the

influence of the home environment in children's cognitive development

(Durkin, 1966; Gordon, Greenwood, Ware, and Olmsted, 1974). For

example, Gordon et al. (1974) stated that the home situation provided "a

major source of a student's pattern of achievement, as well as his per-

sonality structure . ." (p. 1). Olmsted (1980) reinforced this idea

in concluding that parental teaching style combined with the home

atmosphere had a decided impact on children's learning.

One area in which the out-of-school environment has been shown to

be particularly influential is that of reading. Certain characteristics

of the home have been found to be extremely important for reading

development (Chomsky, 1971; Durkin, 1966), leading educators to encourage

parental involvement in reading. In studying children who read before

formal instruction, Clark (1976) and Durkin (1966) found that none of

these children learned to read on their own. All had adults and/or older

siblings who modeled reading and writing behaviors and responded to the

children's interest in print by reading to them, providing writing

materials, and answering questions. Thus, both Durkin and Clark con-

cluded that the home environment was a crucial factor in the development

of reading competence.

Recent ethnographic studies of parents and their children as

they acquire literacy (Bissex, 1980b; Taylor. 1983) indicate that


parents' interactions with their children through writing, as well as

through reading, help children become literate. These studies point

out many ways in which writing fits naturally into family routines.

Few parent involvement programs in schools have focused on


Recommendations that parents provide reading materials, that
they read to their children, and that they demonstrate a
model of reading behavior are common. Perhaps corresponding
recommendations about writing should also be given. Early
exposure to and experience with writing as communication
may facilitate interest in both writing and reading and may
contribute to initial success in school. (Hall, Moretz,
and Staton, 1976, p. 585)

It seems logical that the home environment may provide an appropriately

subjective audience for beginning writers as well as beginning readers.

Possible suggestions for parental activities would include interacting

with children as they write (Dyson and Genishi, 1982), providing purposes

for writing, and responding positively to early attempts at written


Because the process of composing/writing is important not only

as a means of communication, but also in relationship to reading

(Cramer, 1978; Durkin, 1966; Hildreth, 1936; Shanahan, 1980), teachers

need to inquire into ways to foster composing at home, as well as at

school. Almost no experimental research exists in this area. The few

qualitative studies that have been done point to a need for controlled

quantitative studies (Graves, 1982).

Teachers have occasionally noted developmental differences and

differences in fine motor control between boys and girls (Maccoby and

Jacklin, 19/4). Specific differences in levels of writing or differen-

tial effects of home writing experiences on boys and girls have not

been explored.

Definition of Terms

Composing/Writing-Communicating ideas and feelings through the process

of drawing, writing, or dictation

Handwriting-The motor process of putting graphic symbols on paper

Fluency-The number of words a child writes at any given sitting

Invented Spellings-Experimentation with sound/symbol relationships for

the purpose of writing words

Parent Involvement-The participation of parents in the home composing

project; this included workshop attendance, completing and

returning weekly forms, and working with children on at least

one composing activity each week

Home Composing Curriculum-A booklet consisting of eight composing

activities parents used with their children at home; the intro-

duction includes suggested parental behaviors, ideas for moti-

vating young writers, and a materials list; response sheets

are included in the parent booklet (Appendix E)

Statement of the Problem

The impact of a home composing curriculum at the kindergarten

level was investigated in this study. The results provide information

about the effects of the curriculum on children's writing achievement,

concepts about print, and writing fluency. This study contributed to

the present knowledge of parent involvement, the composing processes of

young children, and the interaction of these two areas.

Specifically, the purpose of the study was to examine the

following research questions:

1. Would children who received the home composing

curriculum display a higher mean score for reading

readiness than children in the control group when

reading readiness was measured by the Concepts about

Print test?

2. Would children who received the home composing cur-

riculum display a higher mean level of writing fluency

than children in the control group when they were

asked to write as many words as they knew how to


3. Would children who received the home composing cur-

riculum display a higher mean level of writing

achievement than children in the control group when

writing achievement was measured by three separate

posttest writing samples, evaluated by the Lamme/Green

composing scale.

4. Would there be differences between the mean scores

of kindergarten girls and kindergarten boys who

were exposed to the home curriculum on any of the

five measures?

5. Would there be any interactions between gender

and treatment on any of the five measures?

6. Would there be any interactions between class

and treatment on any of the five measures?

7. Would there be any interactions between gender

and class on any of the five measures?

8. Would there be differences among the mean

scores of the four classes on any of the five


9. Would there be any three-way interactions among

class, treatment, and gender on any of the five


Theoretical Rationale

According to research by Clark (1976) and Durkin (1966), the

home environment can provide reading and writing experiences that

schools find difficult to offer. Dyson and Genishi (1982) and Teale

(1982) posit the view that natural literacy development depends upon

social interaction and speech. For many children, the home affords a

situation where they can interact with adults and older siblings as

they begin to read and write. A supportive home environment can enhance

the interrelationships between reading and writing (Durkin, 1966;

Hildreth, 1926; Taylor, 1983; Teale, 1978, 1982).

The connection between reading and writing was documented

when Clay (1975) found a high correlation between writing vocabulary

(fluency) 'core', and her word .reading test score for children five

years, six months old. A correlation of 0.79 between Clay's Concepts

about Print and Word Reading tests indicate interrelationships among

these instruments and the constructs they measure.

Some specific items in the Concepts about Print test appear

to be directly related to the home writing curriculum used in this

study. Several items assess left-to-right movement. Adults model

left-to-right movement when they take dictation from children and

follow the text with their fingers as they read back the words. Per-

ception of word boundaries and matching spoken and written words can

also be learned through dictation and rereading experiences (Clay,

1975). Three items in the Concepts about Print test assess knowledge

of punctuation marks. Children can become aware of these symbols as

their parents model appropriate use of punctuation in meaningful


Though writing development does not follow a set sequence

(Vukelich and Golden, 1982, 1984), the Lamme/Green scale developed

for this study provides a hierarchy of categories through which

children typically progress as they learn to compose/write. Since

writing is enhanced by interaction with supportive adults and other

children (Dyson and Genishi, 1982; Teale, 1982), it seems likely that

the level of composing should increase as a result of experiences with

the home writing curriculum.

Significance of the Problem

In light of the academic skills orientation that is currently

flourishing in early childhood programs it is not difficult to

understand parental anxiety over reading and writing readiness.

Most parents are concerned that their children become competent

writers, but are unsure of materials and methods they can use to

facilitate the writing process. The results of this study will pro-

vide parents with information about the effectiveness of a field-

tested composing curriculum.

This study may also influence the ways in which teachers

approach parent involvement. Teachers are a potential source of infor-

mation for parents as they select home reading and writing activities.

With the many commitments and responsibilities of kindergarten

teachers, it is difficult for them to spend time developing home as

well as school curriculum. Teachers will be able to use materials

from this study as a guide when they plan parent workshops and home

writing curricula for their individual settings.

Knowledge about parent involvement should also be expanded by

the results of this study of home writing. Literature in early child-

hood reading aptly describes the home environments of early readers

(Durkin, 1966; Teale, 1978, 1982), but does not address specific activi-

ties and parental teaching strategies that foster writing at home.

Because the home situation is such an important factor in cognitive

development, it seems imperative that research on home learning be

extended to the area of writing. Research in the area of home writing

has seriously neglected quantitative data to justify home writing cur-

ricula, indicating a need for further study.

Limitations and Assumptions

The internal validity of this study may have been threatened

by interaction between the writing/composing curricula (history) that

were used in the classrooms and the treatment. It was difficult to say

whether or not the changes in the dependent variables could be attributed

solely to the treatment. Classroom curricula are discussed in Chapter


The generalizability of the study was limited to parents who

were able to attend workshops and spend a minimal amount of time each

week working on composing activities with their children.

Posttest scores could have been influenced by several factors.

In the researcher's classroom scores may have been higher because the

parents tried to do more to help with the study. Occasionally children

in the experimental group discussed the home writing activities with

the control groups. Parents were told that the other group would have

these activities the second semester and were urged to wait until that

time to participate.


The researcher investigated the effects of a kindergarten home

composing curriculum on three important areas of reading and writing

readiness: writing achievement, writing fluency, and concepts about

print. The study was designed to add to the existing knowledge of

parent involvement, early childhood composing, and the interaction of

these two variables. Results of the study should assist kindergarten

teachers in fostering composing at home and at school.



Parents are teachers of their own children, either conscious

or unconsciously, as they model, directly instruct, and respond to th ir


Most parents intuitively do an adequate job of helping their

babies learn to talk, but often do not feel prepared to teach their

children to write. Letter formation and correct spelling are more of on

emphasized than the trial and error approach that these parents used

when their children were learning to speak (Forester, 1980). In

addition, the tenor of language transactions between parents and their

young children is often directive and controlling (Hoffman and McCull; ,

1984). When parents suggest words to be written, spell, and give

directions about spacing, children may learn to feel incompetent about

their writing.

Most children learn the intricacies of oral language by imita'-

ing what they hear at home and by experimenting with speech patterns id

rules. Sometimes infants play with language as they babble and repea'

sounds. At other times they use language for a purpose, e.g., "dat"

tells an adult what the child wants. Children's awareness of meaning

takes precedence over the specific language that is used (Donaldson,

1978). Parents are usually able to understand their own children's

language. Bissex (1981) states that "Children learn language among

people who respond to their meanings before their forms" (p. 787).

A parallel can be drawn between the development of oral and

written language. Just as speech develops only in an environment rich

in oral language, writing develops when children are regularly exposed

to print. The availability of writing and drawing materials and exposure

to adults who write are potent influences in the lives of young writers

(Bissex, 1981; Calkins, 1980; Durkin, 1966).

Research on comparative language environments demonstrates that

in programs where children's composition is an integral part of language

arts, children become more proficient readers and writers (Birnbaum,

1980; DeFord, 1981). Kindergarten children are just beginning to explore

the rudiments of written language. The home environment can do much

to support the school's writing curriculum if teachers are able to

communicate to parents appropriate ways to facilitate young children's

writing. There is a need for educators to learn the most effective

ways to foster parent involvement in the composing process.

Few research studies directly address this specific area.

However, research in several related areas suggests some potentially

important relationships between parent involvement and composing/

writing curriculum. A survey of the literature related to parent

involvement in writing revealed five areas for investigation: (a)

connections between drawing, oral language, reading, and writing;

(b) the development of writing in early childhood; (c) fostering the

writing process in early childhood; (d) education programs supplemented

by parent involvement; (e) sex differences in language arts.

Writing is not an isolated process. Oral language, drawing,

and sometimes reading precede and/or accompany young children's writing.

Scribbles and designs form a common origin for both drawing and writing

(Kellogg, 1969) and both processes can be enhanced by appropriate con-

versation (Hoffman and McCulley, 1984). Similarly, exposure to printed

materials and literacy experiences enhance both reading and writing

development. The interrelationships between these language and literacy

processes will be examined in the following section.

Drawing and Writing

For most children, writing evolves naturally from drawing (Emig,

1977; Kane, 1982; Zepeda de Kane, 1980). As children gain experience in

drawing, their scribbles become symbolic and often look like shapes or

letters (DeFord, 1981; Kellogg, 1969). Children who observe adults

writing and live in an environment where printed materials are valued

will be more likely to make "mock letters" (Birnbaum, 1980; Hall,

Moretz, and Staton, 1976) and attempt to read their own messages (Dyson,

1981). These children are beginning to understand that ". .the marks

on paper are a written version of speech" (Donaldson, 1978).

In studying over 500,000 children's drawings, Kellogg (1969)

found that 20 types of scribbles emerged. The scribbles involved the

use of six categories of lines: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, cir-

cular, alternating, and dots (no line movement). These strokes, which

appear in the formation of alphabet letters, are practiced spontaneously

I/ ,,iini children as they draw. When a two- or thrpe-year-old draws a1

%cribble thdt reosmbles d shape, this shape is often rcii( nimb( rd and

repeated in subsequent artwork. The shape stage follows patterned

scribbling and emerges in the third or fourth year, depending upon

individual experiences. Shapes evolve into six distinct diagrams:

rectangles (including squares), ovals (including circles), triangles,

Greek crosses, diagonal crosses, and odd shapes. At first diagrams

are combined with scribbles, then later with other diagrams, forming

combines. Aggregates, combinations of three or more diagrams, are

the most predominant art form of three- to five-year olds. Kellogg

(1969) observed that these stages are self-taught through practice,

rather than learned by adult instruction.

The diagrams, combines, and aggregates that Kellogg described

are not always perceived as drawing by young children. Frequently pre-

schoolers classify certain shapes or patterns in their drawing as

writing. The transition between drawing and writing represents a shift

in modes of self-expression. ". .[U]ntil the task of writing has

been mastered, the system of drawing is the only one sufficiently

elaborated to permit expression of inner life" (Gardner, 1980).

Scribbling experiences allow children to refine the motor skills

necessary for writing (Kane, 1982). Children move spontaneously from

scribbling to representational drawing to writing. The drawing/writing

process often allows children to think through their experiences before

expressing their thoughts orally (Kane 1982).

The literature regarding the relationship between drawing and

writing stressed the importance of scribbling and forming mock letters

as precursors to writing. Frequent and spontaneous experiences with

pencil and paper provide children with opportunities to move through

the developmental sequences of graphic representation.

Gardner (1980) also drew an analogy between language play and

art activities of young children. Both types of play featured recurring

patterns, versatility, and a concentration of energy. Oral language

frequently accompanies the drawing activities of young children

(Gardner, 1980; Kane, 1982).

Just as young children's drawing activities are often accompanied

by talk, writing also has an important link to oral language. The

following subsection will expore this connection.

Oral Language and Writing

Ethnographic and observational studies of beginning writers focus

on the importance of oral language during the writing process (Bissex,

1980b; Childers, 1981, Dyson and Genishi, 1982). Graves (1980) and two

other researchers observed sixteen first through third grade children

from a rural New Hampshire School over a two-year period, to gather

direct classroom information on the writing process. Data were col-

lected by audio and video taping during the writing process, interviews,

structured interventions, and analysis of the children's writing.

Though efforts were made to minimize the influence of the researchers

in the classroom, Graves admitted that their presence may have affected

some of the data.

Graves and his associates found that oral language almost always

accompanied the writing of these young children. The following types

of oral language were recorded: sounding to prove for sound-symbol

relationship, sounding to break off a phonetic unit from a word, reread-

ing the composition to reorient, conversation with friends, procedural

talk, advanced statement of text, and conversation before and after com-

posing. When teachers paid careful attention to the talk that sur-

rounded writing, they were better able to help children gain and main-

tain control of the writing process. "In summary, the amount of language

a child must produce before, during, and after the written event is

paramount. Beginning writers show through voice alone that writing is

much more of a speech event than a writing event" (Graves, 1982, p. 22).

Following Graves' observational research methods, Calkins (1983)

found that when third-graders shared their writing verbally with peers

they received constructive responses which helped them grow as writers.

The sharing sessions took several forms; whole class meetings with

several children sharing each time, clusters of three to four children,

quiet sharing where responses were written, sharing which focused on

one specific aspect of writing, sharing about the process of writing,

and giving writing to friends or the class library. The teacher in

the classroom emphasized that everyone in the classroom was a writing

teacher and encouraged verbal communication among the children as

they wrote, as well as during sharing times.

Lamme and Childers (1983) observed the composing processes of

three young children (ages three to five) in a laboratory setting. All

children were from white, middle-class homes. The children were video-

taped as they composed in weekly sessions for sixteen weeks. The

researcher presented a topic for each session, then became an

observer-participant and audience for the young writers. The taped

transcripts were later analyzed in four categories: composing behaviors,

behaviors accompanying composing, nature of oral interaction while com-

posing, and functions of oral interaction while composing.

It was reported that these children ". . talked constantly

while they were composing." They engaged in basically four types of

oral interaction during the composing sessions: questions, answers/

responses, sharing/telling, and taking breaks. By far, the sharing/

telling interactions were most common among this group of children.

Sixteen functions of oral language were also recorded, the most common

being response to questions, sharing products, and explaining (Childers,

1981; Lamme and Childers, 1983).

This study was one of the first to examine the activities of

young children as they composed. The researchers thoroughly categorized

behaviors of the children as they wrote, raising questions to be

answered by future research. The population and setting of the study

limited the generalizability of their results.

The relationship between the oral and written language of

kindergarteners was observed by Dyson (1983) in two separate three-

month studies conducted in a self-contained public school classroom.

Dyson set up a writing center in the classroom that the children could

come to whenever they wished. As an observer-participant, Dyson was

able to eavesdrop on conversations between children and collect writing


Names of friends and family members were the most conmnon words

written by these children. Second in popularity were lists of words that

labeled the environment. Both of these categories were particularly

relevant to the children. Words and topics for writing often emerged

as the children talked together at the writing center. Some children

were more dependent on this talk which surrounded the writing than

others. The four children discussed in this article used oral

language for different purposes as they wrote. One child used oral

language to interpret her writing. Another narrated her writing by

talking as she wrote. A third little girl used the talk around her

for writing stimulus.

Dyson (1981, p. 783) concluded that ". writing does not

necessarily begin with the understanding of the alphabetic principle."

For some children writing began with an idea, then they found a way to

put that idea into print. Other children began with print, then needed

to find a way to make that print meaningful. In either case, oral

language seemed to be the salient factor preceding or extending child-

ren's composing.

Dyson's research is a valuable asset to the literature on

beginning writing. It is one of only a few studies which focus on

the role of oral language during composing. Two strengths of this

study were that it was conducted in two segments over a considerable

length of time (six months total) and that the researcher was able to

interact with the children as the study was being conducted.

Dyson and Genishi's (1982) observations of two first graders

confirmed findings by Graves (1981) and Dyson (1981). The social con-

text seemed to be extremely important to these young writers as they

clarified spellings and discussed their "work" back and forth. The

children also directed speech to themselves. In conclusion, the

researchers stated that "these children's interactions had positive

effects on their ability to write" and enhanced their capacity to "take

responsibility for their own learning-to seek out needed information-

and to contribute positively to another's learning" (Dyson and Genishi,

1982, p. 131).

Reading and Writing

The language arts are integrated processes for young children.

Just as writing depends on speech, reading can be learned or enhanced

through writing. The early levels of basal reading series and kits

used in most kindergartens approach reading first as the pronunciation

of a sequence of letters and then the comprehension of meaning (Kita,

1979). Chomsky (1971) proposed that this approach to reading disregards

what children already know about language and distorts children's

understanding of the purpose of reading. When children learn to read

primarily through phonetics they may come to view reading as a decoding

process, rather than a communication process (Kita, 1979).

Chomsky (1971) argues that developmentally children are able

to write before they are able to read. It is easier for young children

to compose words by the sound-symbol relationship than to decode an

unfamiliar word (Chomsky, 1971). Teaching reading before writing

seems to be a backwards approach, according to several researchers

(Chomsky, 1971; Graves, 1982; Hall, Moretz, and Staton, 1976; Hildreth,


Graves (1983) found that through writing, children were moti-

vated to read as well as write. "Children acquire perceptions by

writing. Eye, hand, mouth, and ear work together to aid a child to

understand the process of putting words on paper. Because they write,

children's perceptions expand. Children learn to read their own writing

and the writing of others which is very different from reading a pub-

lished reader or a library book" (Graves, 1983, p. 152).

Hall, Moretz, and Staton (1976) studied 18 children in four

nursery school classes in Maryland to determine the sequence of learning

to read in relation to learning to write. The children, who ranged in

age from three years, four months, to six years,one month, came from homes

where most of the parents were college graduates and the fathers were

professionals. Seventeen of the eighteen children showed an interest

in writing before an interest in reading. The availability of writing

materials, books, magazines, and newspapers, along with parental

responsiveness and the learning of letter names seemed to be salient

factors in the writing development of these children.

Kita (1979) studied the concepts of reading and writing of

twenty kindergarteners in Virginia from a range of socioeconomic back-

grounds. These children ranged in age from five years five months to

six years three months. Interviews were conducted within the classroom

setting. In response to the researcher, the children indicated that the

nature and purpose of reading could vary. Most believed that word

recognition was necessary for reading signs, but not for reading books.

They believed that an important part of reading books was looking at

pictures, and in fact, that was one way to read books. The most fre-

quent purpose the children mentioned for reading books was to learn

how to read. Their purposes for reading signs, labels, and newspapers

were similar to those of mature readers.

The same children's responses to questions about the nature and

purpose of writing showed a more accurate understanding of this process.

All reported that they had purposes when they wrote and that writing

helped in learning to read. Writing samples indicated that most of

the children tried to tell a story through writing. Kita (1979) con-

cluded that language learning should include both books with related

illustrations and an informal writing program where children "can

experiment with print in a meaningful context" (Kita, 1979, p. 8).

Although limited to a small number of children from only one

classroom, Kita's (1979) study has the strength of including lower SES

children in the sample. Using the teacher as an interviewer could

have affected the children's answers. The study is, however, a

beginning for research on children's concepts about reading and writing.

Research by Chomsky (1979) and Graves (1982) indicated that

children can begin composing words as soon as they have learned a few

letter-sound combinations. Graves (1983) reports that 90 percent of

the children entering school believed they could write. Only 15 percent

believed they could read.

Graves (1980) stated that children want to write. His year-

long investigation into the current status of writing in the United

States revealed a trend toward more reading, less writing, and an

emphasis on language arts subskills (e.g., grammar, punctuation) over

writing content. Ethnographic studies by Graves and his colleagues

(Calkins, 1980; Kamler, 1980) support the value of informal writing

experiences in learning to read and in children's choice of writing

topics. When children were encouraged to write independently and

invent their own spellings for words, grammar and punctuation improved

along with reading comprehension and word recognition (Shanahan, 1980;

Sulzby, 1980; Whiteman, 1980).

Birnbaum (1980)conducted a case study of eight children from

the fourth and seventh grades in two school districts. The students were

selected by teachers and administrators as the most proficient writers

and readers in their grades. Video-tapes were made of each student three

times during two semesters as she/he composed and read. Thirty hours

of classroom observation, as well as parents' and teachers' interviews,

were part of the study. Compositions written by the students were rated

by two Educational Testing Service (ETS) readers and the researcher.

Differences were found in several areas between the more pro-

ficient and less proficient writers. More proficient writers were more

reflective as they composed and showed an awareness of writing for an

audience. Less proficient writers viewed composition as an externally

imposed task and were more concerned with conventions of writing than

the meaning conveyed by their texts. The proficient writers saw them-

selves as good writers and readers, whereas less proficient writers said

their teachers thought they were good writers.

The home environment of the less proficient writers lacked two

features that were present in the homes of the more proficient writers.

The first characteristic was the presence of an adult who wrote

extensively and impressed upon the child the importance of writing.

The second was the presence of audiences who responded with interest

to the children's compositions. School environments of more proficient

writers stressed composing for audiences, peer conferences, and

dramatic presentation of student writings. The language arts curricu-

lum at the other school was based on a series of performance objectives

which allowed for individual pacing. The majority of the time students

worked alone on their instructional exercises.

Birnbaum's (1980) study made a thorough investigation into the

attitudes, composing styles, and academic and non-academic backgrounds

of eight young writers. By limiting the sample size, the investigator

was able to collect data on most factors that appeared to be relevant

to successful composing. The sample was limited in size, ages of

children, and geographic setting. However, the strengths of the study

far outweighted the weaknesses and merit consideration for further

research on environmental influences that affect children' writing.

The relationship between reading and writing also was studied

by Durkin (1966). In a longitudinal study of children who learned to

write and spell words, availability of a chalkboard and availability

of reading materials in the home were important influences to these

children. These early readers, identified from 61 schools in Oakland,

California, achieved consistently higher reading scores through the

sixth grade. The strengths of this study lie in both the large sample

size and the longitudinal aspects. Generalizability is limited by the geo-

graphic location and SFS level in the area where the study was conducted.

Zeman (1969) examined the relationship between reading compre-

hension and the basic sentence types and sentence structural patterns

in the compositions of 180 second and third graders in seven Allentown,

Pennsylvania, classrooms. Two of the schools were in a rural area

and one was in a suburban area. Students in each grade level were

separated by sex and reading level (above-average, average, below

average) based on reading comprehension scores. The sample population

was randomly selected from each of these twelve groups. Information

on SES status of the students was not provided. Writing analysis was

done on endings to unfinished stories. Analysis of the data revealed

that above-average readers used the most complex sentence structures in

their writing.

To explore the impact of different language environments on

developing reading and writing strategies, DeFord (1981) collected

writing samples from three first grade classes over a seven-month

period. The language emphasis in the three classrooms stressed phonics,

skills, or whole language models. The phonics teacher introduced each

letter and sound separately to the class. The skills teacher used

drills, workbooks, and lessons from the Ginn 720 series. The teacher in

the whole language classroom integrated language experience, literature,

and children's writing.

Oral readin-g strategies were analyzed in all three classrooms by

Goodman's miscue analysis. Children in the phonics room exhibited a

high dependence on decoding strategies. They frequently pronounced

nonwords that looked and sounded like the text, but made no sense.

Children from the skills room had a high percentage of omissions and

substitutions of graphically similar words. Readers from the whole

language classroom manipulated the text by substituting words that

were similar in meaning to the author's words. To these children, it

seemed very important that the text make sense.

Reading comprehension was higher in the language/literature

classroom than in the other two classrooms. Children were better

at retelling stories, used more story conventions, and recalled more

story information. The writing of children in the whole language class-

room also "produced a wider variety of literary forms, such as stories,

informational prose, songs, poetry, and newspaper reports" (DeFord,

1981, p. 656).

In conclusion, DeFord stated that interaction between reading

and writing is necessary for children to become.literate. As they

read, children learn about writing, and they learn about reading as

they write. The classrooms that separated reading and writing instruc-

tion were, therefore, self-defeating.


The controversy over methods of reading instruction has con-

tinued for years. In this controversy, writing has been almost ignored.

Yet, the studies cited above point toward a strong positive relationship

between compositional writing and proficient reading for young children.

When children are provided with materials and allowed to talk and write

in an accepting environment, they tend to compose whole texts from the

bt niinninj (Deford, 1980; Gundlach, 1'I'1).

As children write they use letters and sounds to form words,

then phrases, sentences, and longer compositions that have meaning for

them. After the symbols are written they can be read back by the child

and understood. Hildreth (1964) postulates that

In the initial stages of learning to read any experience
with writing benefits reading no matter what methods are used
in reading instruction. With more emphasis on writing
paralleling the reading experience fewer children would
reach an early plateau in reading and be unable to read at a
normal rate (p. 16)

When young children are exposed to print and writing materials,

writing evolves naturally from drawing. Writing almost invariably

enhances the reading process when children master these abilities out-

side the school setting and without formal instruction (Chomsky, 1971;

Durkin, 1966). Chomsky (1971) emphasizes that through writing children

develop awareness of print and purposes for reading and writing. She

states that we should allow children to ". .. get to the point where

they can make their own productions before they are expected to read

other people's productions. This would be true preparation for learning

to read!" (p. 299).

The majority of studies that link the language arts areas

together have been cross-sectional and limited to middle SES children

and populations that were convenient to the researcher, leaving ques-

tions about their implications for more diverse populations. Few

studies have looked at the effect of sex differences on drawing or

oral language during the writing process. These areas need to be

explored by further research.

It is clear from these studies that all areas of language arts

are interconnected in young children's learning. The nature of these

connections over time and across populations, and outside influences on

these connections, need further investigation.

The Development of Writing

Writing Stages

Children who have been exposed to print and who have had

experiences with drawing materials may begin to distinguish between

drawing and writing by age three (DeFord, 1980; Gardner, 1980; Hiebert,

1978; Lavine, 1972). During the early stages, a child's writing may

not appear much different from scribbling to an adult (DeFord, 1980).

The difference lies in the pattern of the scribbles and the child's

interpretation. When DeFord (1980) studied the spontaneous writing

processes of fifty children, ages two to seven, she found that graphic

symbols children called writing were usually characterized by linearity,

directionality, uniformity, flow, and rhythm and were interpreted as

messages by the writers. This understanding clearly differentiates

writing from drawing. DeFord observed that some rules of writing, such

as linearity, uniformity, and directionality, may "swing in and out of

conventional use between the ages of two and seven" (p. 159). The

development of writing is enhanced when children play alone with print

or share the writing experience with another child. Although DeFord

cautioned that the following stages she observed were not necessarily

sequential, they demonstrate a movement from global to specific concepts

about print.

These stages are

1. Scribbling

2. Differentiation between drawing and writing

3. Concepts of linearity, uniformity, inner complexity,

symmetry, placement, left-to-right motion, and top to

bottom directionality

4. Development of letters and letter-like shapes

5. Combination of letters, possibly with spaces, indicating

understanding of units (letters, words, sentences), but

may not show letter/sound correspondence

6. Writing known isolated words-developing sound/letter


7. Writing simple sentences with use of invented spellings

8. Combining two or more sentences to express complete


9. Control of puncutation-periods, capitalization, use of

upper and lower case letters

10. Form of discourse-stories, information materials,

letters, etc. (DeFord, 1980, p. 162)

Harste, Burke, and Woodward (1981) video-taped three- to six-

year-old children engaged in three literary tasks: reading environmen-

tal print, writing their names and anything else they wished to write,

drawing self-portraits, and signing their names. The study included

children from lower, middle, and upper SES homes. Socioeconomic status

did not appear to be a relevant factor in children's performance on the

literary tasks. Like DeFord, these researchers found that three-year-

olds often distinguish drawing from writing. When writing, children

use different movements which appear to be more purposeful. The tape

recordings of the sessions also revealed that when children write,

they put meaning over object, rather than later labeling their marks.

Clay (1975) looked beyond writing development to children's

awareness of written language. She studied children in school settings

in New Zealand where copying words and tracing were encouraged. There-

fore, her progression may not reflect the natural sequence children

would go through without this form of stimulus. According to Clay,

children develop an awareness of written language in the following


1. Understanding that print talks

2. Forming letters

3. Building up memories of common words they can construct

out of letters

4. Using those words to write messages

5. Increasing the number and range of sentences used

6. Becoming flexible in the use of sentences

7. Disciplining the expression of ideas with the spelling

and punctuation conventions of Fnglish (Clay, 1975,

pp. 11-12)

Clay posits that children do not learn about writing at one level, then

move to higher levels, as many curriculum sequences would imply.

Knowledge of all alphabet letters does not necessarily precede writing

words, sentences, and stories. Language learning is more intermingled

than sequential.

Through her research Clay (1980) revealed a number of principles

commonly found in children's early writing development. The recurring

principle, exemplified by repeated letters or words, gives young writers

the self-selected practice they need to provide them with a sense of

accomplishment. The directional principle refers to children's

developing the habit of starting at the left side of the paper when they

write. Clay reports that this principle usually takes about six months

to become established. Children demonstrate the generating principle

by writing strings of letters or words. The inventory principle is

exhibited when children write lists of letters or words. The contrast

principle is reflected in the writing of opposites-letters which con-

tain contrasting lines, or words which are opposite in meaning. When

using the abbreviation principle, children let one or two letters

represent a word. The flexibility principle refers to children's

tendency to explore the limits of letter and word formation. These

principles are not sequential but are integrated in different ways as

children gain experience with writing.

Clay did not address the transition from drawing to writing or

the impact of oral language on writing. Her subjects were taken from a

school district where writing instruction was already in progress,

therefore she was not able to observe the natural progress of children

who had not had formal writing instruction. The development of grapheme/

phoneme relationships and other spelling concepts were basically not

addressed by Clay.

Observational research by Vukelich and Golden (unpublished

manuscript) confirms DeFord and Clay's stages of writing development.

Vukelich and Golden investigated the nature of children's concept of

writing as a symbol system and the predominant patterns in children's

writing. They collected writing samples from 34 four-year-olds and

39 five-year-olds on two different days in October, January, and April.

The children were invited to a writing table in groups of five or six,

given writing books and pencils, and directed to "Write anything you

wish to write." When children indicated they were finished, the

researcher asked them individually to "Tell me what you wrote."

The writing samples were classified into seven categories, with

several subcategories in each. The main categories were

1. Drawing scribbles

2. Linear scribbles

3. Shapes, lines, symbols

4. Recognizable picture

5. Recognizable picture and unrelated writing

6. Recognizable picture and relating writing

7. Writing only

This study exemplified the wide range of drawing/writing pro-

duced by nursery school and kindergarten children and the progress they

made during the year. Vukelich and Golden observed two distinct stages

in the children's developing concept of message. First was the recog-

nition that symbols are necessary to write; second, an awareness that a

"precise message can be represented using written symbols" (Vukelich

and Golden, p. 19). These children write letters and numbers in

strings, rather than scattering them about the page, thus demonstrating

an early awareness of linearity.

The recent findings of Harste, Burke, and Woodward (1981)

supported Vukelich and Golden's (unpublished manuscript) observation

that age is not necessarily correlated with language development. Their

study of the effects of home environments on the reading and writing

development of three- to six-year-olds indicated that when children

have equal opportunities to write and a wide exposure to environmental

print, their responses to writing tasks do not differ across age levels.


Several important implications emerge from the research on

children's writing development. First, it appears -that children can

differentiate their writing from drawing at an early age (DeFord, 1980;

Gardner, 1980; Harste, Burke, and Woodward, 1981; Hiebert, 1978;

Lavine, 1972). Early writing appears before children produce letters

or words that can be understood by adults (Clay, 1980; Vukelich and

Golden, unpublished manuscript). Secondly, writing development does

not necessarily follow an orderly sequence (Clay, 1980; Ford, 1980;

Newman, 1983; Vukelich and Golden, unpublished manuscript). Thirdly,

children's writing should be interpreted within the context of oral

language in order to understand the meaning of the message (Harste,

Burke, and Woodward, 1981; Newman, 1983; Vuchelich and Golden, unpub-

lished manuscript). Finally, children seem to practice common principles

as they gain experience in early writing (Clay, 1980).

Invented Spelling

Spelling Development

Some of the earliest research on invented spelling was con-

ducted by Read (1971), who found that a few children began to write

their own words at age three-and-a-half, often before learning to read.

The youngest children Read studied used blocks or other alphabet toys

to form words. He found that instead of memorizing, these children

were learning ". .. a complex, but generally systematic phonology

system (Read, 1971, p. 1).

Read presented a complex sequence that he found children

followed in developing spelling skills. The first sounds that children

related to letters were clear consonants (p t k b d f v s z j m n r 1).

The next step was for children to learn long vowel sounds. Read

believed that children distinguished letter names from the sounds they

represent. One child in his study represented this by putting dots

over names of letters. At about the same time children were usually

taught some sight words by their parents. The acquisition of ending

sounds and short vowel sounds was linguistically described in Read's


The parents in Read's study provided writing materials for

their children and accepted their invented spellings. None of the

parents were experts in this area. Some of the children in the study

began to read, as well as write early, though no statistical data were


Read concluded that children who invent spellings have made

abstract inferences about a complex phonetic system. This type of

language development, to some extent, is essential for reading and


Building on the work of Read and Chomsky, Paul (1976) categor-

ized features and stages of invented spelling based on writing samples

she collected in her own kindergarten classroom. The first stage

involved writing the first letter or phoneme of each word or syllable.

In the second stage, children added ending phonemes and sometimes long

vowels. Short vowels appeared in the third stage. The children inter-

changed vowels that were formed similarly in the mouth. A variety of

vowels were used to represent each vowel sound. Children at the fourth

stage were usually reading already. Their writing included memorized

sight words and some diagraphs.

Paul also found that the thinking process involved in invented

spelling took priority over the final product. Children seldom

repeated the same invented spelling for a word. Often different

spellings for the same word appeared several times in a text. Children

frequently could not read back what they had written immediately after

their composing and almost never by the next day.

Paul concluded that children's spontaneously invented

spellings provide them with opportunities for independence in enhancing

their written communication skills. The strategies children employ

reflect their developing language abilities. Unfortunately, her

study was limited to kindergarten children in her own classroom and does

not reflect the continuity of spelling development in first and second


The stages of young children's spelling were investigated

by Forester and a first-grade teacher in Victoria, B.C., Canada, over

a three-year period (Forester, 1980). The data consisted of classroom

observations and anecdotal records. The stages Forester outlined sup-

port funding of other researchers (Bissex,-1980b; Read, 1971).

Forester noted many similarities between stages of oral language

and written language development. In particular, she noted that

children vary widely in the length of time they spend at each stage

and that movement to lower stages is common at first. "Learning is not

a linear process, but one of gradual synthesis and integration" (Forester,

1980, p. 187). From her observations, Forester concluded that spelling

development is usually characterized by the following sequence of


1. Consonants (beginning, final, median)

2. Blends (ch, sh, bl, tr, ek), morphologic markers (-ed,

-ing, -'s, etc.)

3. Words in frequent use (today, we, have, etc.)

4. Vowels

Miscues in writing are usually indicative of growth, rather than mis-

takes, Forester cautioned. This can be exemplified by the observational

findings of Gentry (1981) and Bissex (1981)

Gentry (1981) proposed five stages in early spelling development.

Children in the deviant stage have no knowledge of letter/sound cor-

rrfspondence. Letters, and sometimes numbers, are used randomly to repre-

sent words. At this stage children are rarely able to "read back" their

compositions. Pre-phonetic spellers use the most salient sound

features in their representations of words. Pre-phonetic words usually

contain one, two, or there letters, and rarely contain vowels. The

phonetic stage is characterized by an almost exact correspondence

between letters and sounds. At this stage children have enough

command of sound/letter relationships to write fluently.

The transitional stage emerges when children become familiar

with more standard spellings and are able to apply many correct spelling

patterns. The correct spelling stage indicates a readiness for formal

spelling instruction. Gentry cautioned that time spent on creative

writing experiences should exceed spelling instructions. Gentry's

stages, based on Read's (1971) findings, explained spelling development

in a way that could be understood and applied by teachers and parents.

Bissex's (1980a, 1980b) five-year case study of her son Paul's

writing development supports many of the findings of Read (1971) and

Gentry (1981) on invented spellings. Paul's early attempts at writing

were characterized by. nonlinear, letter-like forms that communicated

a message, but did not represent individual sounds and words. Next,

he used what he had learned about letter-sound relationships from the

environment to construct messages. He used letter-name relationships

(R = ARE), predominantly consonants, to represent some words at this

stage. When the lack of spacing was pointed out to Paul, he used dots

to separate words. Messages grew in length and vowels gradually

became more prevalent.

Biss.ex described Paul as being very ego-involved with his

writing and becoming upset when she could not read it. For Paul,

writing with invented spellings preceded both reading and formal

writing instruction. As an awareness of words and correct spellings

evolved from reading, Paul made his own spelling book, complete with

correctly spelled words. At this point he became concerned with

correctness and fluctuated between phonetic spellings, word analysis,

and memorized spellings.

At approximately age six years seven months, Paul began using

punctuation, double consonants, and visually recalled the approximate

spellings of some words he had not memorized. By the end of first

grade he had moved into conventional spacing and correct representations

of short vowel sounds.

The case study approach is valuable in that it can lead to

questions and patterns to investigate in broader studies. It also

provides insight into the uniqueness of children's interests and pat-

terns of development that large-scale studies are not able to do.

Paul's development as an invented speller paralleled the stages

outlined by DeFord (1981), Read (1971), and Gentry (1981). Gentry (1981)

used Paul's spellings as an example of his five stages of developmental

spelling. At the pre-communicative stage (formerly called deviant),

Paul demonstrated some knowledge of alphabet letters, but no awareness

of letter-sound correspondence. The pre-phonetic stage (formerly called

semi-phonetic) lasted only a few weeks for Paul. The letter-name

strategy seemed to be the salient feature of this stage. During the

phonetic stage all of the important sound features of words were repre-

sented in some way. Word segmentation and spacing also appeared. At

l.his stage Paul was aware that words could be spelled phonetically in

more than one way. The transitional stage was characterized by

visual spelling strategies, based on more extensive experiences with

print. Reversals of letters within words were common at this stage.

Paul reached the correct stage of developmental spelling at age eight,

when he had established the basic rules of the English orthographic


Most of the studies described above were conducted in middle

or upper SES homes or schools. This leaves questions about their

applicability for lower SES children. Also, none of the studies com-

pared differences in writing development between boys and girls, and

factors that might influence differences.

Until this time, all of the research on early writing develop-

ment has been observational. There is a strong need for more controlled

studies that can more clearly investigate some of the conclusions of

these researchers.


The studies on early writing and spelling strengthen each other

in their findings. They generally conclude that there is a develop-

mental trend in children's writing, which does not necessarily follow

the same sequence for every child. Spelling generally begins with

scribbles, mock letters, or pretend writing. Next, one letter, usually

a consonant, is used to represent a word. The use of two or more

consonants, and occasionally long vowels, follows. Short vowels, and

close letter-sound correspondence characterize the next stage. As

children begin to read, their spelling becomes more conventional

(Bissex, 1981; Forester, 1980; Gentry, 1981; Paul, 1976; Read, 1971).

Fostering the Writing Process
in School and at Home

Writing Environments

Parents usually provide a climate that allows trial-and-error

practice in learning to speak (Forester, 1980). There is also evidence

that many parents have found successful ways to foster reading and

writing development at home. It has been suggested that many positive

factors in home language climates might be applied to classroom settings

(Durkin, 1966; Forester, 1980; Harste, Burke, and Woodward, 1981; Moss

and Stansell, 1983; Vukelich and Golden, unpublished manuscript). This

section will examine ways that both parents and teachers can foster the

writing process in early childhood. Recommendations emerging from

these studies will be synthesized into two lists.

Hall, Moretz, and Staton (1976) studied the home backgrounds of

early writers "to ascertain the sequence of learning to write in rela-

tion to learning to read" (Hall, Moretz, and Staton, p. 585). The study

included ten girls and nine boys ranging in age from three years, four

months to six years, one month. Most of the parents were college

graduates, the fathers holding professional positions. They were all

identified by their teachers as early writers. Classification was

confirmed by a writing sample. Questionnaires were completed by both

parents and teachers, and both children and parents were interviewed.

Children were selected from four different nursery-kindergarten classes.

Pll the children had frequently observed parents and/or sibling.

writing and had access to writing materials. Reading was a frequent

activity in these homes.

Although the population in this study was extremely limited

in number and SES levels of students, the findings were similar to

findings of other studies of early writers and readers.

Durkin (1966) also studied the home environments of early

readers to determine common factors in their development. The popula-

tion consisted of first graders from 61 schools in Oakland, California.

Children were identified by word or sentence reading ability and

scores on Gates Reading Tests. The children were followed until sixth

grade and found to have consistently higher reading scores.

The strengths of Durkin's study were found in the number of

schools and subjects included in the investigation as well as the use of

standardized measures to assess reading achievement. It also showed

the continuing importance of a positive home reading environment for

children from similar populations.

Snow (1983) examined the oral language interactions of an

academically oriented middle-class mother and her preschool son. Like

many middle-class families, this parent/child dyad frequently engaged

in literacy-focused dialogue. In homes where activities with print

(i.e., reading, writing, typing, word games) are common, conversations

between preschoolers and parents often center around letters, numbers,

words, and books. Snow discussed several techniques this parent used

to facilitate language acquisition and literacy. These included

expanding on the child's utterances, adding new information to the

topic, clarifying questions, answering questions, taking steps to help

the child focus on the task at hand, and insisting that a task be

completed. Snow concluded that differences in reading achievement

between middle-class and working-class children may be attributed

partly to availability of literacy materials and partly to the way

parents prepare children for writing and reading though their oral

language transactions.

The quality, or tenor, of oral language transactions between

parents and children was observed by Hoffman and McCully (1984). The

researchers recorded conversations between parents and children when

the children drew pictures and when they wrote about their pictures.

As the children drew, their parents were warm and encouraging, demon-

strating an acceptance of the meaning in their children's art. The

tenor changed abruptly when the children began writing. Parents

became directive and controlling, instructing their children about

spelling, spacing, punctuation, and even the content of their writing.

In essence, the parents demonstrated a totally different set of

expectations for their children as artists and as writers.

These researchers concluded that several conditions in the home

environments of early writers may contribute to writing development.

1. Adults and older siblings in the home wrote and showed

an interest in the children's writing (Birnbaum, 1980;

Durkin, 1966; Haley-James, 1982; Hall, Moretz, and

Staton, 1976; Harste, Burke, and Woodward, 1981).

2. Writing materials were available to the children

(Durkin, 1966; Harste, Burke, and Woodward, 1981;

Teale, 1978).

3. H wide range of printed materials was available to

the children and the children were read to regularly

(Durkin, 1966; Harste, Burke, and Woodward, 1981;

Snow, 1983).

4. Children were included in family outings (e.g., cook-

ing, writing to Grandma, reading the comics) where

language development occurs spontaneously (Harste,

Burke, and Woodward, 1981).

Moss and Stansell (1983) compared the home and school writing

of a five-year-old girl. This case study revealed extreme differences

in the child's perceptions of writing in these two environments. At

school, Heather said she wrote to learn how to make letters and spell

words. At home, she reported writing for enjoyment-"Notes to people

and stuff like that" (Moss and Stansell, 1983, p. 347). At home she

was able to choose her topic and method of writing and make decisions

about language, meaning, and writing conventions.

Although the case study involved only one child, it raised

questions about children's perceptions of writing when taught by two

very different methods.

Gentry (1978) concluded from observational research (not

described) that kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers could

improve the writing and spelling instruction in their classrooms by

encouraging creative writing, de-emphasizing standardized spelling, and

responding to nonstandard spelling appropriately. In order to implement

these steps at home and at school, teachers must be aware of children's

stages of spelling development (Gentry, 1981) and be dble to communi-

cate these to parents. "Teachers should accept children's early

misspellings in the same spirit that parents accept the early mispro-

nunciations in their children's oral language" (Cramer, 1978).

Because writing and oral language are so interrelated for young

children, it is important to allow children to write together and talk

freely as they write (Childers, 1981). Dyson and Genishi (1982) and

Lamme and Childers (1983) found that writing was as much an oral as a

written process for the children they studied. Children use oral

language to ask for assistance, to "sound out" words, to reread what

they have written to each other, to answer and respond to questions, and

to share their writing with others. These case studies provide valuable

information for parents and teachers in planning environment conducive

to writing.

A comparison of the writing strategies of five kindergarten

children in formal and informal language arts settings was made by Dyson

(1982). The subjects were already participants in one of Dyson's two

other studies, in which they were invited to write at a writing center.

This writing was not observed by their teacher. Parent and child inter-

view supplemented the information obtained at the writing center.

The five children Dyson described were all at different stages

in their writing development. The open-ended activities at the writing

center allowed them to use their current writing strategies and explore

new ones. The language arts curricula in the classrooms focused on

workbooks and worksheets used for practicing names, sounds, and formation

of alphabet letters. For the children who were inventing spellings on

their own and knew many letter sounds, writing strategies were com-

pletely stifled at school. For the child who was not yet aware of the

connection between talk and print, the attempt to teach letter sounds

was not very helpful.

Although the small sample size and number of classrooms

observed limited the generalizability of this study, it does demonstrate

the ineffectiveness of a "typical" pre-reading curriculum for enhancing

the writing strategies of kindergarten children.

In a study of 17 four- and five-year-olds who had no formal

writing instruction, Wiseman and Watson (1980) found that children can

learn a great deal about printed language without being taught. The

researchers collected three writing samples from each child. For the

first sample the children were asked to write everything they could

write. The second sample was a written conversation in which children

responded with writing and reading to statements read and written by an

adult. Family pictures and stories about the pictures comprised the third

sample. The children demonstrated numerous writing skills ranging from

a combination of scribbles and occasional letters to punctuated sentences

with phonetically spelled words that were close to standard spelling.

The writing samples and interviews with the children provided evidence

that young children can become aware of grapheme/phoneme relationships

and experiment with writing without formal instruction. Wiseman and

Watson concluded that perhapsas out-of-school situations in [these

children's] lives should be approximated in the classroom to encourage

a natural learning process" (1980, p. 753).

Once again a small sample size and lack of information about

the children's socioeconomic backgrounds limits the generalizability

of this study's results. No information was given on the home language

environments of these children. Two strengths of Wiseman and Watson's

study were that they collected three writing samples in different ways

and interview data was collected from the children.

Another study of positive classroom writing environments was

conducted by Florio and Clark (1982). Data were collected in two

classrooms: a second/third grade open space classroom and sixth grade

middle school classroom. The open space classroom, on which this

article was based, had 100 students from two distinct populations;

children of students and professors from a nearby university and lower

SES students (Title I). Approximately half the children came from

single parent homes. Data collection for study included ethnographic

field notes, selected video-tapes, weekly journals by teachers on

teaching, writing, teacher interviews, and collections and discussion

of children's written work.

The researchers found that most of the writing in this class-

room was not evaluated by the teachers, writing initiated by children

gave them the most control over their own writing, and the most informal

writing experiences appeared to involve children the most. This ethno-

graphic study has the strengths of a wide range of data and a large,

varied population.

Lickteig (1981) reviewed research studies on writing to gather

recommendations for teachers of composition at all levels. She asserted

that the "basic skills" speak to little that is basic in education.

"[T]eacher attitude, which is audibly and visibly reflected in teacher

words and actions, is the single most important ingredient in a success-

ful composition program for children" (Lickteig, 1981, p. 45). In a

supportive atmosphere, children can afford to take risks and make

mistakes. This is true for composition, as well as other areas of self-

expression. Another basic for successful writing is real experiences

accompanied by discussion. Ideas, feelings, and attitudes are also

important to share before writing. Because reading, writing, and talking

are such integrated processes, the importance of oral and silent reading

in the classroom cannot be over-emphasized. Finally, frequent writing

experiences are necessary if growth is to occur. Children should have

opportunities to write individually, in pairs, and in small groups with

teacher support, but not constant instruction and guidance.

The value of teachers' responses to children's writing was dis-

cussed by Tway (1980). The researcher observed and worked with ten

children, ages six and one-half to eleven at the McGuffey Laboratory

School of Miami University. These children were selected by their

teachers as talented writers. Tway found that teachers' writing with

children, encouraging discussions of writing, and accepting writing in an

authentic way helped children grow as writers. Another successful tech-

nique for motivating children's writing was to invite children's authors

to visit the classroom, read their books, and interact with children.

Graves and Giacobbe (1982) investigated first grade children's

progress in writing from December to May, through a series of questions

asked before and after the children wrote. Ten of the twenty-three

children in Giacobbe's class, representing a continuum from low to

high writing performance, participated in the study. Xeroxed writing

samples were collected to demonstrate parallels between concepts of

writing and actual performance. Two children, one showing high writing

performance and one showing low writing performance, were used as case


Between December and May the lower child showed differences in

his process of choosing a subject, a clearer ability to differentiate

between drawing and writing, and a sense of continuity about writing.

During the same time span the more advanced child showed a decrease in

the number of oral words that accompanied her writing and the percentage

of written words made up from oral. The length of her writing increased.

She became more aware of the process of writing, composed over a longer

period of time, developed a sense of audience, and evaluated her own

work more extensively.

This study provided insights into ways that effective question-

ing techniques and a classroom atmosphere conducive to composition

writing can enhance certain areas of writing development. The lack of

a control group was a definite handicap in this study. It was the

only study reviewed that focused on the topic of teachers' questions.


The current research on writing development points to certain

implications for parents and early childhood teachers.

1. Introduce alphabet letters informally (Forester, 1980;

Templeton, 1980)

2. Allow children to choose writing topics and messages;

provide frequent opportunities for creative writing

(Forester, 1980; Gentry, 1978; Lickteig, 1980; Templeton,

1980; Vukelich and Golden, unpublished manuscript,

1984; Wiseman and Watson, 1980)

3. Encourage oral language during the composing process

(Dyson and Genishi, 1982; Gentry, 1978; Lickteig, 1981)

4. Immerse children in print (DeFord and Harste, 1982;

Lickteig, 1981)

5. Provide language experience activities (Forester, 1980;

Vukelich and Golden, unpublished manuscript;

Wiseman and Watson, 1980)

6. Make writing materials accessible to children (Vukelich

and Golden, 1984; Wiseman and Watson, 1980)

Include markers, pens, pencils, paper, magnetic letters,

typewriter, wooden letters, and sand (Vukelich and

Golden, 1984)

7. React to the meaning of children's writing, rather than

conventional spelling and punctuation (DeFord and Harste,

1982; Florio and Clark, 1982; Forester, 1980; Gentry,

1978; Hoffman and McCulley, 1984; Moss and Stansell,

1983; Tway, 1980)

8. Provide word-game activities (Moss and Stansell, 1983;

Templeton, 1980)

9. Base creative writing on real experiences (Lickteig,

1981; Tway, 1980)


10. Enhance risk-taking and self-expression by providing

a supportive atmosphere for young writers (Lickteig,


11. Encourage children to explore and experiment with

writing (Dyson, 1983; Lamme and Childers, 1983)

12. Provide opportunities for children to share what they

write (Childers, 1981)

13. Collect writing samples throughout the year to allow

children to observe their own progress and evaluate

their own work (Wiseman and Watson, 1980)

14. Become models of good writing by writing with students

(Forester, 1980; Newman, 1983; Tway, 1980)

Educational Programs
Supplemented by Parent Involvement

Studies of Parent Involvement

A generation ago parent involvement was usually limited to

parents dropping their children off at school, occasional P.T.A. meetings,

and voting on school bond issues. The inception of the Elementary and

Secondary Education Act (1965), the California Early Childhood Education

Program, and the Florida Primary Education Program, among other state-

wide programs, have emphasized the role of parents in education.

The majority of parent involvement programs in the past twenty

years have focused on early intervention with lower-class families.

The programs typically involved children from birth to three years or

the preschool years from three to five. Research on these programs was

usually correlational in design and did not always control for factors

such as maternal education, family income, pre-test information, or the

voluntary status of the parents (Irvine et al., 1979). Many of these

programs involved home visitations as well as center-based parent

participation. Current research projects have experimentally studied

the impact of home interventions on children in preschool programs and

elementary schools as well. Both types of programs will be examined in

this section to provide an understanding of the importance of parent

involvement in children's cognitive development.

Bronfenbrenner (1974) evaluated data from twenty-seven pre-

school parent involvement projects, some that included home visits and

some that did not. Only those that had follow-up data for two years

following the termination of the program were included in the evalua-

tion. Bronfenbrenner's conclusions emphasized the importance of family

involvement during early childhood (Bronfenbrenner, 1974; Boger et al.,


1. Children made substantial initial IQ gains in early

intervention programs in a group setting. These gains

showed a progressive decline that seemed to be related

to home factors.

2. Programs focusing solely on home-based tutoring had

similar results to center-based, group programs.

3. IQ gains were maintained for three to four years in

programs that focused simultaneously on parent and

child. These gains also had a carryover effect for

siblings of the target child. Gains were most substan-

tial when the parent (usually the mother) felt she was

primarily responsible for the child's learning.

Bronfenbrenner credits the continuity of the family social structure with

the maintenance of IQ gains. Families were able to reinforce and con-

tinue positive teaching behaviors in the years following an intervention


In Parents as Teachers of Young Children: An Evaluative Review

of Some Contemporary Concepts and Programs, Goodson and Hess (1975)

studied the impact of twenty-nine parent involvement programs. Nine

of the programs included follow-up testing from three months to five

years after the program. Significant IQ gains were maintained for

children in seven of the nine programs over these various lengths of

time. The few programs that measured achievement gains had evidence

that children maintained these gains one to two years later. Goodson

and Hess concluded that these twenty-nine parent involvement programs

. . consistently produced significant immediate gains in children's

IQ scores, seemed to show long-term effects on children's IQ and school

performance, and seemed to positively alter the teaching behavior of

parents" (Boger et al., 1978).

Gordon's Parent Education Head Start Planned Variation Program

was implemented in four counties in different areas of the United States.

(Olmsted et al., 1980). Paraprofessionals were employed to spend half

days making home visits and half days in the classroom. On a series of

five roqnitive measures the children in this particular program performed

about as well as children in other Head Start Programs and exceeded

the control group on the Caldwell Preschool Inventory.

The Parent Education Follow Through Program (PEFTP) is currently

serving children in grades kindergarten through three in ten communities

in nine states. The population of the program includes urban, rural,

and multiethnic families. Parent educators have a dual role of working

as home visitors and classroom aides. A major focus of the program is

to include parents in six major areas of parent involvement: teacher

of own child, classroom volunteer, paraprofessional, decision maker,

learner, and audience. Home learning activities were developed by

teachers, parents, and paraprofessionals. The Abt evaluation indicated

long-term achievement gains for children involved in PEFTP. Subsequent

evaluations confirmed positive achievement results for children involved

in this project (Olmsted et al., 1980).

Teacher attitudes and experiences appear to affect methods of

parent involvement. A survey conducted by Becker and Epstein (1982)

revealed techniques used by teachers to involve parents in home learning

activities. Data were collected from 3,700 public elementary school

teachers of grades one, three, and five, in over 600 schools in Maryland.

The survey questioned teachers about 14 possible techniques they could

use to involve parents. The responding teachers (73 percent) reported

a positive view of home learning and varying use of these techniques.

"Only a minority of teachers initiate interactions with parents

that go beyond what is traditionally expected of them" (Becker and

Epstein, 1982, p. 88). For example, only 7 percent of the teachers

reported conducting three or more parent workshops or group meetings

a year. Conventional methods of parent communication, e.g., talking

with parents, open-school night, and notes home were reported by a vast

majority of teachers.

Reading to children or listening to children read aloud was the

most common technique for involving parents of younger children in

home learning. Seven out of eight first grade teachers reported using

this activity. In addition, some teachers supplemented the reading by

suggesting that parents take children to the public library or by loaning

books and teaching materials to parents. Reading activities were used

by teachers with families from all educational levels. Teachers of

younger children also reported more frequent use of classroom observa-

tions by parents to help them learn some teaching strategies. Only

one-third of the teachers surveyed believed that many or most of their

parents would attend a workshop, even if it were held in the evening.

The survey did not include the possibility of a weekend meeting.

The results of this survey provided an overall view of tech-

niques that elementary teachers in one state used to involve parents in

home learning. Although a response rate of 73 percent is very good, it

still leaves questions about methods used by the other 27 percent of

teachers. More specific techniques for involving parents were discussed

in the following article.

Epstein and Becker (1982) also examined the comments of over

1,000 teachers concerning parent involvement in home learning. These

comments were part of the survey described above. They found that

variation in comments was related to number of years of teaching

experience and number and types of contacts with parents.

The issue of time spent on parent activities seemed to be a

crucial consideration for many teachers. They questioned whether or

not the time necessary to plan and implement parent projects was worth

their effort. This is a very valid question considering the lack of

research on the effects of home learning programs in schools. In their

conclusion, Epstein and Becker, 1982, p. 111) noted:

Because of an absence of research on the effects of parent
involvement, it is impossible to assure teachers that
certain practices will lead to improved parent-child
exchanges, or improved parent-teacher relations.

Without research evidence, it would also be difficult to answer

questions teachers have about the most valuable ways for parents to

spend their limited time with their children. Some teachers felt that

parents should spend their time on socialization and development. Others

believed that a short amount of time spent each day on specified skills

was beneficial. In contrast, one teacher remarked parents might become

frustrated and impatient if expected to work on skills at home.

In commenting on children's time and feelings about home learning,

some teachers expressed the belief that academics should be kept to a

minimum and more time spent on play and individual interests. Others

added that parents should instill values, responsibility, and home-

related skills. One reason given for not asking parents to tutor their

children was the added stress it might cause in the family if a parent

took on this role. The authors also questioned whether the benefits of

parent involvement were the same for older and younger children, parents

of all educational levels, and married and single parents.

Based on statistical analysis of the survey and additional

teacher comments, Epstein and Becker identified areas where research is

needed. These included investigating the most educationally significant

type of parent involvement, advantages and disadvantages of various

programs, and skills parents would need. The attitudes of parents,

teachers, administrators, and students toward parent involvement warrants

further research, as does the role of the teacher in organizing parent

activities (Epstein and Becker, 1982).

The following two experimental studies demonstrate that parental

assistance with reading appears to have a positive influence on

children's standardized reading scores.

The impact of a parent involvement reading project in an inner

city school was the focus of a study by Shuck, Ulsh, and Platt (1983).

Their population included 150 third and fifth grade remedial reading

students randomly assigned to experimental and control groups. All

students were given a Slosson Intelligence Test and were pre- and

posttested using the Stanford Achievement Test, reading comprehension

subtest. Both groups also attended the reading laboratory daily for

30 minutes. Students in the experimental group did individualized

activities at home with their parents. Records were kept via calendars

that parents used to record the types of activities and time spent on

them. A behavior modification system, using points and prizes, rein-

forced homework and class participation. Parent-teacher conferences

were held three times during the year, though not all parents were able

to attend.

The data were analyzed by analysis of covariance, using per-

centage of school attendance and reading achievement scores as co-

variates. There was a significant main effect for parental tutoring.

The experimental group had a mean posttest grade equivalent score of

3.8, compared to the control group's mean grade equivalent of 2.6.

Limitations of this study included the possibility of a teacher

variable, and an inability to generalize from an urban population. Also,

the use of a behavior modification system could have confounded the

results. The authors indicated that future research is needed to deter-

mine whether or not home programs are effective for different age levels,

in curriculum areas other than reading, and whether or not parent

tutorial programs have lasting effects.

A research study from Great Britain (Tizard, Schofield, and

Hewiston, 1982) showed that significant gains in reading achievement

were obtained by children whose parents listened to them read. The

research project was conducted in six schools in a working-class section

of London. Two schools were randomly selected for the experimental

parent involvement group, two were selected for an in-school reading

intervention, aid the remaining two schools served as a control group.

One class was chosen from the top infant class (six- to seven-year-olds)

in the two experimental schools to have the intervention. The other

classes formed within a school control group. Parents were first

informed of the project by letter, second by a school meeting, and

finally by a home visit by the researcher. The project continued for

two full school years. During the first year, children took home their

school readers. Second-year students read supplementary books and

library books in addition to school readers.

All children were tested with three reading tests at the

beginning, middle, and end of the intervention period. Mean scores on

all three instruments showed a highly significant improvement for

children who received the parent intervention, but no comparable improve-

ment for children receiving the in-school reading instruction or the

control group. This study was extremely well planned and well designed.

The length of the study (two years) and the home visits by the researcher

added to its strength. Limitations would include possible teacher effect

because of no in-class control group, and the possibility of between-

school differences.

Several recent studies have exemplified methods that early

childhood teachers can use to involve parents in their language arts

programs. Teachers at Wayne State University Nursery School in Michigan

used journals as a home activity for parents and children (Elliott,

Norwosad, and Samuels, 1981). Parents were introduced to purposes and

procedures regarding the journals at a Saturday morning workshop.

Mimeographed pages provided specific assignments related to school

topics that parents'could focus on when writing with their children,

e.g., toys at home, friends at home. The topics appeared at the top of

the page and space remained for dictated sentences and copying by those

children who were ready. The journals were sent home on Friday and

expected to be returned on Monday. Journal topics were discussed at

school and home writing was read and shared at the book center.

The teachers believed that this was one way parents could be helped

to ". . understand that family conversation, family outings, looking

at books, being read to, and seeing adults read are as important as

learning the alphabet" (Elliott et al., 1981, p. 691).

Burgess (1982) found that parent participation in a readiness

program can have a positive effect on overall readiness and language

readiness scores on standardized tests. A sample of 90 families was

chosen from a total population of 200 children entering kindergarten in

a small town in Maine. Sixty of the parents volunteered to participate

in the parent training; 30 prior to their children's testing, and 30

after the children's testing. The control group of 30 parents did not

volunteer to participate.

The researcher and an assistant conducted eight, two-hour parent

workshops during February and March preceding the children's entrance

in school. The workshops consisted of sharing and evaluation, presen-

tation of new information, and the preparation of games and activities.

The following eight topics were covered in the workshops: reading to

children; stimulating oral language; color, size, shapes, textures,

and classification; more abstract sequencing, comparison, and classi-

fication; body awareness; listening skills; number recognition, one-

to-one correspondence; and writing stories-taking dictation and modeling

correct letter formation.

The two posttest measures were the Utah Test of Language

Development and four subtests of the Metropolitan Readiness Test, Level 1.

The experimental group scored significantly higher than either of the

control groups on both measures.

The use of volunteers was well controlled in this study by

having an extra group who volunteered, but did not receive the treat-

ment until after testing. However, future researchers might consider

ways of motivating parents who did not volunteer. This study was con-

ducted with a limited rural population. Similar studies should be

attempted with more divergent groups. Other early intervention pro-

grams have been shown to have long-term gains when parents have been

highly involved (Bronfenbrenner, 1974; Olmsted et al., 1980). Follow-

up studies similar to the one described above might support these

findings. Also no mention was made of whether or not any of these

children had attended preschools. This should be considered as a factor

in future research.


It is evident from the research studies reviewed in this section

that various types of parent involvement have positively affected

children's cognitive development. Limitations in design, population,

and curriculum areas indicate a need for closely controlled experiments

that have a wide generalizability. With one exception (Elliott et al.,

1981), parent participation in the language arts area has focused on

reading. Early childhood teachers, in particular, often encourage

parents to read to their children but may overlook other equally

important areas, such as writing.

Future research should explore the strengths and weaknesses

of different types of parent involvement and methods of motivating

parents and children in various situations (Epstein and Becker, 1982).

Methods of training parents and communicating with them during the

period they are working with their children should also be investigated

(Epstein and Becker, 1982). While several of these studies looked at

differences in grade level, socioeconomic level, and educational level

of parents, none examined the possibility of a parent involvement pro-

gram having a differential effect for boys and girls. The possibility

of sex differences in home learning needs to be explored by future


Sex Differences in Language Arts

Reading and Oral Language

Any sex differences that exist in the area of language arts

could be attributed to a number of factors: heredity, brain specializa-

tion, cultural attitudes toward sex roles, prenatal development,

creativity, achievement, motivation, and ability. Because of a lack

of research on sex differences in writing, this review will predomi-

nantly examine research on sex differences in attitudes toward reading,

language achievement, and verbal ability. Though other areas of

research are possibly relevant, it would be difficult to draw any

definite conclusions from them in relation to this study.

The superior reading ability and achievement of young girls has

been widely accepted in the field of education. A study by Downing et al.

(1979) and his associates sought to discover the impact of cultural

expectations and sex role standards on attitudes toward reading using

a cross-national population. The population sample included adults

and children in grades one, four, eight, and twelve in the following

countries: Denmark, England, Finland, Israel, Japan, and the United

States. One hundred subjects were randomly selected from each age

group in each country. Interviewers were trained to administer ques-

tions from two test booklets. One booklet showed objects, which were

described as presents. The subjects were told to circle either the

picture of the girl or boy, depending on whom they thought should receive

the presents. An activity book, marked the same way, showed neuter

stick figures engaged in various actions. Adult subjects were inter-

viewed individually in their homes, whereas school-age subjects were

tested in total classroom groups.

Females of all levels, in all seven countries, gave a majority

of "girl" responses, indicating that they believed reading was a

feminine activity. Younger boys in all countries started out with a

majority of "boy" responses. "Girl" responses increased with age,

particularly in the United States, England, Canada, and Israel. The

results of this study indicate that cultural expectations and sex-role

standards about reading differ between countries. It appeared inmany

countries that viewing reading as a feminine activity increases with age.

Downing and his associates reported that the stick figures may

not have been psychologically neutral in all cases. Also, in Denmark,

where children are rarely tested, it may have been difficult to obtain

accurate responses. The use of intact classrooms may have produced

some teacher bias in the results.

Using methods similar to those of Downing et al. (1979), May

and Ollilla (1981) had very different findings for younger children.

The researchers tested 136 children from day-care centers and public

school kindergartens, ranging in age from three-and-one-half to five-

and-one-half years. The data indicated that preschoolers of both sexes

assess reading objects and actions to be more appropriate for boys. In

addition, one girl out of sixteen reported that her father read to her,

but eight boys out of eighteen said they were read to by their fathers.

Research on differences in achievement and ability of males

and females was recently reviewed by Levine and Ornstein (1983).

Several studies they cited indicated that girls have higher reading

achievement than boys in the early 1970s, but that the gap had narrowed

by 1980. Other studies supported the finding that sex differences are

diminishing in most areas of achievement and attainment (Levine and

Ornstein, 1983, p. 66).

Plomin and Foch (1981) reanalyzed data from several large

studies that found sex differences in verbal ability in favor of girls.

They found that the average differences between sexes were far greater

than differences within the groups. Gender was found to account for

only about 1 percent of the differences in verbal ability and samples

of at least 1,000 were needed to find this difference.

In a lengthy and comprehensive review of sex differences in

many fields, Maccoby and Jaklin (1974) reported that few differences

appeared between sexes on ability tests over most age ranges. However,

in 18 studies of children under the age of seven, girls had slightly

higher scores in eight studies, boys in only one study. These findings

may be attributed to cultural differences, since the studies that

found higher scores for girls were predominantly done among "disad-

vantaged" groups. The type of items on the test may also have had an

effect if the test was not well balanced for verbal and non-verbal


Maccoby and Jaklin (1974) also reported that research up until

the time of the publication of their book gave some support to the

generalization of females having higher verbal ability than males.

These differences were almost always non-significant, and in many popu-

lations did not exist at all. Among preschool children, only one study

in the thirteen reviewed by the authors showed girls to be superior to

boys in verbal abilities. From the age of 10 or 11 on, the research

showed a stronger trend for girls to have higher verbal ability. For

children under seven, no sex differences were found on verbal tests of

creative ability. After age seven, girls usually demonstrated superior

performance to boys on these tests.

Graves (1975) found sex differences when he studied the writing

of 94 second graders from a middle-class community. The length of

girls' writing exceeded boys' writing. However, boys wrote more on

their own than girls. Differences were found on topics chosen, style

of writing, spacing, letter formation, and neatness.

The large number of writing samples examined and the four phases

of data collection added to the thoroughness of this study. Additional

research is n(.drdd to determine whether or not these differences extend

to other aqv groups and populations.

Bodkin (1978) found significant differences in the writing of

boys and girls at third and sixth grade levels. One hundred twenty

children were randomly selected from a population of 301 children.

The subjects were part of four intact classrooms. All children were

given writing journals and instructed to write daily for ten days on

any subject they chose. The analysis revealed that girls wrote more

in primary territory-about family, home, school, and interpersonal

relationships. Boys wrote more in extended territory-about sports,

metropolitan, world, and catastrophic events. Girls also wrote more

often and at greater length, regardless of their socioeconomic level.

The differences between boys' and girls' writing topics appear

to be related to cultural, sex-role attitudes more than ability. Girls'

greater interest in writing could possibly be attributed to their moti-

vation to please a teacher or parents. Further research is needed

before reasons can be determined for these differences.

Even though most intelligence tests have been standardized to

minimize sex biases, some research on sex differences still indicates

that females are higher in verbal ability from preschool through

adulthood (Deno, 1982). In critiquing studies of sex differences in

cognition, Deno pointed out that many weaknesses existed in the research.

First, she noted that sex differences in verbal ability generally

account for only 1 percent to 5 percent of the population variance.

Second, most of the research in this area has been done on white,

middle-class Americans, often of high ability. Third, tests need to be

developed that will measure more specific abilities to aid in the

understanding of cognitive differences between males and females.

Fourth, the higher variability of male scores over female may be

responsible for some measurement error that has been overlooked by

researchers. Fifth, there was a lack of longitudinal studies.

In addition, most of the research has been done with high school

and college students, some with elementary, but very little with pre-

school and kindergarten children. Because of developmental differences

it would be dangerous to generalize between age groups. Even if

differences in verbal ability exist, it would be difficult to say what

aspects of language arts would be affected by these differences.


Evidence of sex differences in intelligence, verbal ability,

and language achievement of young children is weak. Most researchers

in this field would agree that a tendency exists for girls to have

higher verbal ability than boys and that this tendency increases with

age. Cultural attitudes toward sex roles in reading seem to be a

salient factor influencing these differences, possibly in combination

with other factors (Downing et al., 1979; Levine and Ornstein, 1983).


Young children who have been widely exposed to print, who have

seen adults writing, and who have had many drawing experiences, often

start writing with no formal instruction (Gardner, 1980; Kane, 1982).

Oral language seems to play an important role in the drawing/writing

development of successful writers (Bissex, 1980a; Childers, 1981;

Dyson and Genishi, 1982; Graves, 1980). Talking during the writing

process helps children as they learn about sound-symbol relationships

reread compositions, ask questions, answer/respond, and share or tell

about their writing (Calkins, 1983; Graves, 1980; Lamme and Childers,

1983). Thus, writing is often a social experience for young children

(Dyson and Genishi, 1982; Graves, 1981; Lamme and Childers, 1983).

Some research implies that writing should, and often does,

precede reading (Chomsky, 1981; Graves, 1982; Hall, Moretz, and Staton,

1976; Hildreth, 1936). Composing words by sound-symbol relationship

may be a less complex task than decoding unfamiliar words (Chomsky,

1971). Also, more young children believe they can write than believe

they can read (Graves, 1983). Children who read early almost always

have a simultaneous interest in writing and spelling (Durkin, 1966).

Children are able to distinguish their writing from their

drawing before they are able to produce letters or words recognizable

to adults (Clay, 1980; Vukelich and Golden, 1984). After the early

stages of scribbling and mock letters, writing development does not

necessarily follow an orderly sequence (Clay, 1980; DeFord, 1980;

Newman, 1983). Children may move back and forth over a "range" of

writing stages, depending on the topic of writing and their motivation.

When children are encouraged to write independently, their

spelling evolves through a predictable sequence of stages. Invented

spelling usually begins with the child representing words with the

initial letter of each word or syllable (Bissex, 1980a;Forester, 1980;

Gentry, 1981; Paul, 1976; Read, 1971). Ending consonants and

occasionally long vowels follow in the second stage. Short vowels

are used, though not always accurately, in the third stage. A

transition to conventional spelling is characterized by the wide use of

short vowels, blends and diagraphs, and memorized sight words. The

thinking process involved in invented spelling is a higher importance

than the resulting product and plays an important part in reading

and writing development (Paul, 1976; Read, 1981).

Research on early writers indicates that characteristics in

the home environments of these children might be successfully adapted

in school settings. Early writers were exposed to printed materials

and read to regularly, owned a variety of writing materials,

saw adults and siblings writing, and were included in family outings

(Birnbaum, 1980; Durkin, 1966; Haley-James, 1982; Hall, Moretz, and

Staton, 1976; Harste, Burke, and Woodward, 1981). In addition to

these factors teachers should encourage student selection of writing

oral language during writing, exploration, and experimentation with

writing (Dyson, 1981; Forester, 1980; Gentry, 1978; Lamme and Childers,

1983; Lickteig, 1981; Shane, 1980; Vukelich and Golden, 1984; Wiseman

and Watson, 1982).

There is a tendency for girls to perform better than boys on

tests of general intelligence, verbal ability, and language achievement,

and for this tendency to become stronger as age increases. In addition,

cultural attitudes toward sex roles appear to influence attitudes

toward reading (Downing et al., 1979; Levine and Ornstein, 1983).

Although most of the research on parent involvement in

language arts has involved reading activities rather than writing,

the methods and findings are relevant to this study. Holsinger (1979)

found that primary age children improved significantly on one measure of

reading achievement when their parents helped them at home using

individually prescribed activities. A second finding of Holsinger's

study was that parents who participated in the home program had sig-

nificantly more contacts with the school than parents who did not

participate. Shuck, Ulsh, and Platt (1983) found that a combination

of home reading activities, parent record-keeping on calendars, home

visits, and classroom reinforcement resulted in significant differences

between experimental and control groups in an inner-city school.

Research by Chomsky (1971), Graves (1982), Hall, Moretz, and

Staton (1976), and Lamme and Childers (1983) shows that pre-first grade

children can show a keen interest in writing if writing materials are

available, parents are responsive, and there is some familiarity with

letter names. Several research studies (Gentry, 1978; Lickteig, 1981;

Wiseman and Watson, 1980) that positive language/literary environments,

at home or at school, can enhance children's growth as writers.

Writing development also appears to be fostered when children

share the processes and products of writing with others (Calkins,

1983; Dyson and Genishi, 1982; Graves, 1983). The process of sharing

seems to help not only the writer, but those who listened and responded

as well (Calkins, 1983).

Writing fluency, the number of words a child can write at any

given sitting, can logically be tied with children's experiences in

writing. It has been suggested that writing words is a good indicator

of knowledge about print and writing (Clay, 1980; Hildreth, 1964).

A large body of research (Chomsky, 1971; Clay, 1980; DeFord,

1981; Durkin, 1966; Graves, 1983; Gundlach, 1981; Hildreth, 1964) shows

that early informal writing experiences can have a decided impact on

reading readiness. Clay's Concepts about Print test (1975) is a valid

and reliable measure of reading readiness. The twenty-four item test

includes items designed to measure children's knowledge about books,

letters, words, and punctuation marks (see Appendix A) all indicators

of reading readiness.

Several researchers (Clay, 1980; DeFord, 1980; Vukelich and

Golden, unpublished manuscript) have noted that, although children do

not move through a definite sequence in their writing development,

there is a hierarchical nature to writing development. These studies

provided the framework for the development of a valid and reliable

scale (Lamme/Green scale) to measure children's writing achievement

at the kindergarten level.

The research cited above points out the value of parent involve-

ment in language arts. The presentstudy is designed to measure the

effects of parent involvement, using a specified curriculum, on child-

ren's writing achievement, writing fluency, and concepts about print.

The methodology of the study will be presented in Chapter III.


This study was undertaken to examine the impact of a home

composing curriculum on kindergarten children's concepts about print,

writing fluency, and writing achievement. The lack of research on

parent involvement in the composing/writing process and writing research

pointed to a need for quantitative research on young children's writing.


The sample was drawn from four kindergarten classes: two at

a university laboratory school and two at a public elementary school.

The two classes at the laboratory school were representative of the

population of the state in terms of race, sex, and SES. The public

school drew from two distinctly different populations. Seventy percent

of the students, predominantly white, were from middle SES families.

Thirty percent of the students, predominantly black, came from lower SES


Seventy-four children participated in the study: 38 female and

34 male. These children were drawn from a total population of 90

children. Eight children were not included because they could not be

matched with another child of the same gender on the pretest. Two

other children did not participate because of parent request. Six

children moved during the study or were absent when postest data were


Study Design

A four-group, randomized-matched-subjects, pretest-posttest

design was used. One covariate was used to control for initial

differences in children's concepts about print.

All children in the four classrooms were administered the

Concepts about Print test during the first month of school. Three

writing samples were gathered from each child during the first four

weeks of school. These were analyzed using a revision of the Vukelich/

Golden scale (Vukelich and Golden, unpublished manuscript). One pre-

test sample of writing fluency was also gathered from each child during

the initial four weeks of school. These variables were later dropped as

covariates because of inconsistent data collection techniques and their

low correlations with posttest data.

Data from the Concepts about Print test were used to rank-order

the boys and girls in each of the four classes. The top-ranked two

girls formed a match pair (block), and so on, until as many girls as

possible had beem matched. The same procedure was followed for boys in

each class. From the matched pairs children were randomly assigned to

either the experimental or control group.

The Settings

The two kindergarten classes at the public school are described

t 'o other because the classes shared an open-space area and combined

.Ludents for an hour of lanquagq arts instruction each day. The forty-

five children in the two classes were hoioqc nrou.rly grouped into four

ability groups. The lowest level, a readiness group, worked primarily

on listening skills, following directions, print awareness, writing

letters in the air, and name writing. The teachers used the Ginn 720

series, Level 1, Module 1, with this group. The middle two groups

started with Ginn 720, Level 1, Module 3, where letter recognition and

beginning sounds were emphasized. The high group began with Ginn 720,

Level 2. This group was introduced to two D'Nealian letter forms each

day. Throughout the Ginn series there was an emphasis on literature and

print awareness which these teachers stressed in their small group


During total group instruction the teachers wrote experience

stories on chart paper from the children's dictation. They exposed the

children to a wide variety of literature supplemented with flannelboard

stories, puppets, and films. In addition, parent volunteers wrote dic-

tated stories for individual children and children were given key

vocabulary words (words that were particularly meaningful for each child).

The two kindergarten teachers at the university laboratory

school used different approaches to language arts instruction. In one

classroom the Alpha-Time series formed a basis for introducing letter

names and sounds during the first two months of school. Language

experience was also part of the language arts program in this classroom.

Small and large groups of children dictated stories on topics such as

trips, visitors to the classroom, special plays, etc. These charts were

used to introduce basic sight words, punctuation, and comprehension.

Dictated sentences were also written about individual children's pictures.

Writing was sometimes copied from the chalkboard or a chart. During

the learning center time, the teacher divided the class into three

groups. One group played in the courtyard under the supervision of

the aide, a second group worked independently on manipulative activi-

ties, and a third group had direct instruction in math or reading.

These groups rotated during the learning center time.

The other kindergarten class at the laboratory school was taught

by the researcher. This classroom was organized into nine basic learn-

ing centers: math, art, dramatic play, books and listening, manipulative

games, drawing and writing, unit blocks, large hollow blocks, and sand

play. The latter two centers are accommodated in an outside courtyard.

Writing was frequently modeled by the teacher, university

students, and volunteers in the classroom. Total group experience

stories, thank-you notes, and lists were frequently dictated by the

children. The teacher also wrote words to songs and chants on chart

paper for the class to read together. Stories were read to the children,

with or without props, from one to four times daily. The writing and

drawing center was one of four centers all children were required to

attend for fifteen minutes each morning. The center was supplied with

markers, pencils, crayons, and various sizes snd shapes of paper. The

children typically wrote or drew on a topic related to the week's theme

or wrote notes back and forth to each other or the teacher. In

addition, some children also chose to come to the writing and drawing

center during the afternoon activity times.

Beginning November 1, approximately halfway through the inter-

vention period of this study, the laboratory school began implementing

the John Henry Martin Writing to Read program for all kindergarten and

first grade children. During the two weeks of the program children in

the two classes were introduced to all the computers and tape-recorded

lessons on stories. The children were grouped and paired by ability

during this introductory period. Each progressed through the program

at an individual pace and regrouping frequently occurred. Each class

used the Writing to Read lab for one hour daily. The children were

typically divided into four groups and rotated centers. During the time

they were in the lab each day the children used the computer to learn

about the phonetic sounds in one word for a ten to fifteen minute

period. After this exposure, they listened to audio-tapes for rein-

forcement for these sounds and wrote the word they had learned on the

computer, as well as other words containing these sounds. During the

next fifteen minutes the children listened to story tapes. At the last

center they typed letters, words, sentences, or stories. Both the

classroom teacher and a Writing to Read teacher were present in the lab

each day.

It is the opinion of the researcher that the Writing to Read

program had very little impact on the children in the study. For two

weeks, the children attended the lab for short periods to be introduced

to equipment and procedures. The average child was introduced to only

three words (nine phonemes) by the end of the study.


Concepts about Print

The Concepts about Print test (Appendix A) was designed to

measure young children's book awareness and understanding of print. The

purpose of this instrument is to provide the teacher with an indication

of each child's level of readiness for various reading experiences. It

is appropriate for use with non-readers because it involves pointing

and brief verbal explanations. The test is administered individually and

the 24 items are dichotomously scored.

Two tables are provided in the manual for converting raw scores

to stanines. The first table, based on an urban population of 320

children ages five years, zero months, to seven years, zero months, were

used in this study.

The reliability of Concepts about Print, calculated on 40 urban

children aged five years, zero months to seven years, zero months, in

1968, was 0.95 (Kuder-Richardson). Test-retest reliability coef-

ficients were reported to range from 0.73 to 0.89 for 56 Texas kinder-

garten children in 1978. Corrected split-half coefficients ranged

from 0.84 to 0.88 for the same population (Clay 1972). The correlation

between Concepts about Print and Clay's Word Reading test was 0.79,

based on a population of 100 children at six years, zero months in 1966.

Concepts about Print was chosen for this study because the

researcher believed thdt writing experiences and interaction with

paretns during writing would enhance children's understanding of many of

the roncupts coveredd on this test. This instrument was used by the

county public schools and the laboratory school kindergartens as part

of their initial screening.

Lamme/Green Composing Scale

Three writing samples were collected from each child in each

of the four classes during August and September. The four teachers

who participated in the study asked small groups of children in their

classes to "Write anything you want to write." From this pilot data,

the authors of the scale developed a set of 22 descriptors. These

descriptors were based on studies conducted by Vukelich and Golden

(unpublished manuscript) and DeFord (1980). For the present study,

the descriptors ranged from scribbles to stories or letters with five

or more sentences. Based on these descriptors, the authors grouped

writing samples that appeared to have similar characteristics. When

these groups of samples were arranged hierarchically, thirteen cate-

gories emerged. Three raters used the thirteen category scale to

evaluate the pilot test writing samples. They found that several cate-

gories either overlapped or contained very few samples. As a result,

the categories were condensed into six hierarchical groupings which

adequately described the data. The Lamme/Green Composing Scale

(Appendix B) is a description of these categories.

Three raters (two graduate students and one professor) used

the Lamme/Green Composing Scale to rate the three posttest samples of

writing achievement collected in December. High interrater correla-

tions were found for the three raters (r = 0.94, 0.90, 0.91). Validity

of the scale is based on correlations with the Concepts about Print

test (r = 0.78), writing fluency (r = 0.75), and total percentiles

for the Metropolitan Readings Test (r = 0.57).

Parent Response Sheets

On Friday of each week during the study, parents were asked

to complete a parent response sheet (Appendix D) and return it to

their children's teachers. The response sheet provided space for

recording the writing activities the child did each day and persons

with whom the child wrote. Additional space allowed parents to comment

on other writing activities of their children.


A workshop introduced the parent in the experimental group

to the concept of writing at home with their children, the importance

of writing, and the interrelationship between writing and reading.

(The workshop outline appears in Appendix E.) The workshop at the

laboratory was conducted by the researcher's chairperson and the

workshop at the public school was conducted by the researcher.

The laboratory workshop was held on a weekday evening and the

public school workshop was held on a Saturday morning. Both sessions

lasted approximately one hour. Fifteen parents attended the workshop

at the laboratory school and five parents attended at the public school.

Those parents who were unable to attend, but still wanted to participate

in the study, met with their children's teachers on an individual


The workshops focused on the importance of informal and spon-

taneous writing activities parents could use with their kindergarteners.

Both workshop leaders emphasized that writing should be pleasurable

activity for both parents and children. Parents were told that writing

need not occur at a specific time each day, but to try to write for and

with their children several times each week. The workshop leaders

showed samples of children's writing and explained typical categories

in writing development. Parents were encouraged to accept invented

spellings as a natural part of young children's writing.

At the end of the workshop a booklet was given to the parents,

presenting ideas for home writing (Appendix C). Three ways parents can

help young children with writing were presented and discussed. Samples

of various writing activities were shown and parents shared other

writing ideas they had tried.

Each parent received ten response sheets to indicate which

activities were used with a child each day and to identify who did the

activity with the child. Space was provided for comments and the

listing of additional activities. Parents were encouraged to send

their children's writing to school where it was shared. Biweekly notes

(Appendix F) were sent home to parents encouraging continued participa-

tion and suggesting additional home writing ideas.

The study began the second week in October and ended the first

week in December.

Data Collection

Writing Samples

Data were collected both before the study in August and Septem-

ber, and after the study in December and January. Posttest writing

samples were collected in all four classrooms by an experienced univer-

sity student who was taking an early childhood language art class at the

time. Consistent directions were given to children in all four classes.

Samples were collected in groups of eight to nine children during the

second and third week of December. The time children stayed at the

writing tables ranged from ten minutes to one hour, with an average

time of approximately thirty minutes.

All children were given black felt-tip pens and white 8-1/2x 11"

unlined paper. They were encouraged to write for as long as they

wanted. The groups were taken outside or to the cafeteria when they

wrote. All samples were scored using the Lamme/Green composing scale

previously described.

During orientation in August and during the first few weeks of

school all children were individually administered the Concepts about

Print test. The teachers administered the test at the public school.

At the laboratory school the Title I teacher and aide administered the

test. In December and January the Concepts about Print test was

administered by the teachers at the public school and by the Title I

dide and a research assistant at the laboratory school.


Levels of writing fluency were established by asking the

children, in large groups, to "Write all the words you know how to

write." If children hesitated, they were asked, "Can you write your

name? Can you write any other words?" One sample was collected from

each child during the first three weeks of school and again during the

second week of December. Three raters counted both the number of

words spelled correctly and the number of words which could be iden-

tified (including misspellings). These ratings were labeled fluency A

and fluency B, respectively. Fluency B was dropped during analysis

because of its high correlation with fluency A (r = 0.93672).

The same test of fluency is currently used as part of the

kindergarten screening for the public schools in the county where the

study was conducted. In this fluency test, only the number of words

spelled correctly is counted.

Data Analysis

The first step in the analysis was to determine correlations

between pretest and posttest data. It was found that the Concepts

about Print test given in September had the highest correlations with

a posttest data. Therefore, only the Concepts about Print test was used

as a covariate.

The independent variables in this study were gender, class, and

treatment (the home composing curriculum). The dependent variables

included Concepts about Print, three measures of writing level (rated

using the Lamme/Green scale), and writing fluency.

The significance of observed mean differences between treat-

ment, classes, and gender groups and the effect of group interactions

was tested with a general linear model procedure, described in more

detail in Chapter IV. An overall alpha level of 0.10 was used for

testing effects on the three compositional writing measures, so that

for the compositional writing sample at each of the three occasions,

an alpha level of 0.033 was used. An alpha level of 0.05 was specified

for testing effects on Concepts about Print and writing fluency.

In Chapter IV the results of these analyses are presented and

answers to each of the research questions is discussed.



The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of a

nome composing curriculum on kindergarten children's concept about

print, writing fluency, and writing achievement. Children from four

classrooms were rank-ordered and matched, based on pretest results

from Clay's (1980) Concepts about Print test. Approximately half of

the children in each of the four classrooms participated in the home

composing curriculum (treatment). The treatment involved parents writ-

ing at home with their children, following guidelines described in a

parent workshop (Appendix E) and writing composing booklet and the

sharing of home writing in the classroom. The control group partici-

pated in outside play with a classroom aide during the sharing of home

writing products, then shared science materials while the treatment

group played outside. Following the intervention period, all children

in the four classes were administered Clay's Concepts about Print

test (1975). Three writing achievement samples and one writing fluency

sample were also collected from each child.

To control for initial differences in the student population

data were analyzed by analysis of covariance, using Concepts about

Print as the covariate. This procedure was conducted for each of the

five dependent variables: Concepts about Print, writing fluency, and

the three writing achievement posttests.

The first General Linear Model procedure tested for interac-

tions between the covariate and treatment, using the following model:

Y! = aO + alCAP + a2GEN + a3CL + a4TRT

+ a5(GEN)(TRT) + a6(TRT)(CL) + a7(GEN)(CL)

+ a8(GEN)(TRT)(CL) + ag(CAP)(TRT) + ERROR

Y! = i dependent variable and i ranges from 1 to 5

for the five separate variables: posttest 1, posttest

2, posttest 3, Concepts about Print (posttest), and


CAP = Concepts about Print pretestt)

GEN = gender

CL = class

TRT = treatment

a0 = the intercept and al-ag are the regression coefficients

When no covariate by treatment interaction was found, the follow-

ing reduced model was used:

Y! = a0 + al(CAP) + a2(GEN) + a3(CL) + a4(TRT)

+ a5(GEN)(TRT) + a6(TRT)(CL) + a7(GEN)(CL)

+ a8(GEN)(TRT)(CL) + ERROR

Table 1 summarizes the pretest means and standard deviations

for the three dependent variables: gender, treatment, and class. As

can be seen from the table, girls began at a slightly higher level

than boys. The experimental group was slightly higher than the control

and classes 1 and 2 were significantly (a < 0.01) higher than 3 + 4.

Class 1 also had much wider variance than the rest of the classes.

Table 2 summarizes the correlation coefficients of all pretest

and posttest measures. The Concepts about Print pretest was signifi-

cantly correlated with all five posttest measures. Therefore, it was

considered to be a good choice for the covariate. Each of the writing

achievement posttests was highly correlated to the other two, indicating

that they measured the same construct.

Treatment Effects on Concepts about Print

The first question to be answered from the statistical analysis

was: Were the observed differences in mean levels of the Concepts

about Print test, statistically significant (at the alpha level < 0.05)

for children in the experimental and control groups? Results of the

analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) reported in Table 3 indicate that there

was a significant difference between the two treatment groups on the

Concepts about Print test. There were also significant differences

among the four classes.

Least squares means were used in this analysis to include the

effect of the covariate. Table 4 summarizes the least squares means on

the Concepts about Print test. The treatment section shows that the

mean of the treatment group was higher than the mean of the non-treatment

Table 1. Concepts about Print pretestt) means and standard deviations

Standard Deviation

























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, O O0
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) a- 0 0 0 o _
0 0 04 (

4-' = >

0 C) C ) C) 0 u 1
- 0 0-- i 0 n 3 -
E) - - ) C -

0 L 0 C C C)

( .- .,- -

4-' 0) 0 m 0) 4-) :K
CA- CA CA CA d- --

a)0 r- ) 0 4c C
1..- a) 4/ 4-) ( CA 4-. C

U 0- 0 0 0 4- E3
4- 4- 2 4 49 4-' 4

Ss- a) a) a) o. u
.. 0- E E E 4 (U

E > 4-1 C)
E : 4 a) a) a) C 0 (
CI *. *= a) C) a) r
U) Sf C C C S U *-
ra U (U () -) O V CC 4

S 4- ) >r > r >U U 4-) 0 4

-J (-Q -= 4- 4-. 4 0U a)

Table 3. Summary of ANCOVA for Concepts

Type IV
Source DF SS F P

Concepts about Print 1 414.08 53.61 0.0001

Gender 1 17.69 2.29 0.1357

Class 3 69.02 2.98 0.0384*

Treatment 1 35.03 4.54 0.0375*

Gender x Treatment 1 4.90 0.63 0.4291

Treatment x Class 3 45.60 1.97 0.1275

Gender x Class 3 11.54 0.50 0.6891

Gender x Treatment x Class 3 16.31 0.70 0.5569

*p < 0.05.

about Print

Table 4. Summary of least squares means for Concepts about Print

Concepts about Print Least Squares Means








group. Children who wrote at home and shared their writing at school

had higher mean scores on this measure of reading readiness. Follow-

up analysis using the Scheff6 formula showed that class 2 was signifi-

cantly lower than class 1 and class 4 was significantly lower than

classes 1 and 3. The mean score for females was slightly higher than

the mean score for males.

Treatment Effects on Writing Fluency

The second question to be answered from the statistical analysis

was: Were the observed differences in mean levels of writing fluency

statistically significant for children (at an alpha level < 0.05) for

children in the experimental and control groups?

The data in Table 5 indicate that there was a significant

difference between the two treatment groups on the writing fluency


Table 6 summarizes the least squares means for writing fluency.

The treatment section shows that the mean of the treatment group was

higher than the mean of the non-treatment group. Classes 2 and 3 were

lower than classes 1 and 4. The mean score for females was slightly

higher than the mean score for males.

Treatment Effects on
Compositiona I Writi_ Achievement

The third question to be answered from the statistical analysis

was: Were the observed differences in mean levels of writing achieve-

ment statistically significant (at an alpha level 4 0.05) for children

Table 5. Summary of ANCOVA for Writing Fluency

Type IV
Source DF SS F P

Concepts about Print 1 329.4428 16.97 0.0001

Gender 1 23.3577 1.20 0.2775

Class 3 96.4730 1.66 0.1857

Treatment 1 107.0356 5.51 0.0225*

Gender x Treatment 1 45.8289 2.36 0.1302

Treatment x Class 3 12.6176 0.22 0.8835

Gender x Class 3 139.4192 2.39 0.0771

Gender x Treatment x Class 3 42.9609 0.74 0.5373

*p < 0.05.

Summary of least squares means for Writing Fluency

Writing Fluency Least Squares Means







Table 6.

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