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First Steps Writing Map and Case Studies Yokohama International School 2011


Role Play Phase First Steps Writing Map of Development

• • • •

Imitate adult writing by experimenting with marks to represent written language Are beginning to understand that writing is used to convey meaning or messages Have not yet developed an understanding of sound/symbol relationships Rely heavily on topic knowledge to generate text

Role Play writers show an understanding that writing and drawing are different. They assign a message to their own writing and symbols, but this message may be different each time the child “reads” back their writing. They are able to explain why or for whom they are writing. Children in the Role Play Phase are beginning to understand that print in English goes from left to right. They write using scribble writing or letter strings and are learning to differentiate between letters and numerals. In this phase children have not yet developed an understanding of the relationship between letter symbols and the sounds they represent, so their writing can not be read by others.

Case Study: Maki


Yokohama International School

Maki loves to write at school. He is delighted by the fact that he can write his own name and takes pleasure in showing his name writing to adults and peers. Maki has shown a particular interest in lists and has worked for several days on compiling a list of the names of the children in his class. In Free Inquiry Time, Maki often chooses to work in the writing area, making cards and notes for his friends. He understands that people write for a purpose, and explains to others that he is writing a message for one of his friends. Maki knows that writing is different to drawing. He imitates adult writing by writing scribbles on a page. Maki understands that writing in English goes from left to write and consistently starts writing form the top left-hand side of the page. Over the last few months, Maki’s scribble writing has changed. First, his writing began to include symbols which resemble letters in the English alphabet. Now almost all of his letters are conventional representations of letters. He writes letter strings and shows a preference for the letters in her name and the names of his friends and family members. Maki needs to be given lots of opportunities to write. He needs to have access to a wide range of writing materials (different kinds and sizes of paper, pens, pencils, computer keyboard, etc). He needs to be exposed to different forms of writing (recipes, shopping lists, emails, cards, etc...) and to be engaged in discussions about the purposes of different kinds of writing. Maki needs to see adults and older children writing for authentic reasons. Maki is in E2. He has been in the Role Play Phase since E1 and will probably be in Role Play Phase for at least some of his time in Kindergarten.


First Drafts from Experimental Writers across grade levels.

Experimental Phase First Steps Writing Map of Development

• • • •

Are aware that speech can be written down Rely on familiar topics to generate a variety of texts Represent most spoken words in their written texts Use appropriate letters to represent initial vowel sounds and may represent other sounds

In the Experimental Phase, children begin to experiment with familiar forms of writing such as lists and personal recounts. They understand that people write for a purpose and can provide reasons why people write. They use writing with the intention of communicating a message and can state their audience. Experimental Phase writers write using simple language structures, such as “I like ... and “I can ...”. They know most of the letters of the alphabet and can choose letters to represent some of the sounds in the words they write. They are becoming increasingly aware of writing conventions such as direction of text and punctuation and may experiment with punctuation in their writing.

Case Study: Jenny


Yokohama International School

Jenny enjoys experimenting in the writing area. She is becoming increasingly confident when experimenting with familiar text forms such as lists, letters and personal recounts. Recently she has been particularly interested in writing stories and often chooses to write short stories in Free Inquiry Time. She knows that people write for a purpose and can give lots of examples of reasons to write. In a class discussion, she suggests writing a letter to the principal to ask for a new fish tank. Jenny knows the most common sounds of all of the letters of the alphabet and can recognize both upper and lower case letters. She knows that some sounds can be represented in several ways (e.g. c, k, ck). When writing, Jenny is able to sound out words and select letters to represent the sound she hears. She understands the need for conventional spelling so that others can read her writing and is developing a bank of words she can spell correctly (the, to, went, my, etc...). Jenny is learning to plan and edit her writing and re-reads her writing to check that it makes sense. Her vocabulary is becoming richer and she is beginning to think about the words she chooses in her writing. In a recent piece of writing, she crossed out the word said and replaced it with shouted. Jenny is in Kindergarten. Over the next year, Jenny needs to be exposed to an increasing range of text forms. She needs opportunities to discuss and engage in the writing processes for authentic reasons. She needs time to experiment with writing and to have constructive feed back on her writing to help her develop and progress to the next phase.


First Drafts from Early Writers across grade levels.

Early Phase First Steps Writing Map of Development

• • • •

Produce a small range of texts that exhibit some of the conventions of writing Are able to share experiences, information or feelings in writing Have a small bank of frequently used words that they spell correctly When writing unknown words, they choose letters on the basis of sound, without regard for conventional spelling patterns

In the Early Phase, children attempt to write a range of texts. They are starting to explain the purpose of their writing and can imitate simple devices authors use like color or print size. They experiment with words, and they can spell a small bank of known words correctly. Their sentences are simple but usually correctly punctuated. They have a small bank of strategies they can use to write. Before writing, they can plan out their writing. Their writing shows that they have begun to think about how to organize their text and words. After they are finished, they are beginning to proofread when directed. Their published text is beginning to reflect their intended purpose.

Case Study: Ceci


Yokohama International School

Ceci loves to write at home and at school. She has taken up each new writing form with enthusiasm and tries every type of writing. Poetry was one of her favorites, and she wrote copious amounts of poems during her unit at school. She can write about things that are personally significant to her and can find information in texts and record it through drawing or writing. In her recounts, she is becoming more fluid and detailed and thinks about the organization of her writing. Because she enjoys writing, she experiments with words, sentences and spellings. She can spell a small bank of words correctly and is heading toward conventional spelling. She writes unknown words using phonetic spelling. Her sentences are becoming more varied, and she experiments with punctuation and book language. Before writing, she can plan what she wants to say. After she is finished a piece, she needs prompting to proofread and edit. Her texts, overall though, are beginning to reflect the intended purpose. Writers like Ceci in this phase need a supportive writing environment that allows for experimentation. They need plenty of practice at writing different types of texts. Writers at this stage need to understand how to construct and manipulate sentences and how to structure different types of writing. Spelling strategies and adding to students’ word banks is critical. They will need continued prompting to edit and proofread so that it becomes a natural part of the writing cycle. Ceci is a 3rd grader and may stay in the Early Writing Phase for several years but could also make the leap into the next phase. All of this depends on the environment and the child.



First Drafts from Transitional Writers across grade levels.

Transitional Phase First Steps Writing Map of Development

• Show increasing control over the conventions of writing--punctuation, spelling and text organization • Consider audience and purpose • Compose a broad range of texts • Have a bank of known words that they can spell correctly • Able to spell unknown words using visual and meaning strategies Transitional writers can compose a range of texts and are beginning to show their own voice. They can explain why they are writing different types of texts and think about purpose and audience. They vary their vocabulary in their writing and write a variety of simple and compound sentences, mostly using correct punctuation. They understand the importance of correct spelling and grammar in published work but aren’t in full control of all elements. Before writing, transitional writers can plan in a variety of ways. During writing, they group like information together, not always with regard for paragraphing conventions. After writing, with direction, they can proofread for grammar mistakes, edit for larger meaning and revise. Their published texts reflect the intended purpose and needs of the audience.


Case Study: Peter Peter can write a variety of texts and fits the style of writing to the purpose. He can talk about the audience and purpose for writing. In his recounts, for example, he can zoom in on one aspect of the experience and provide detail. In poetry, he experimented with a variety of poetic elements. His writing is clear, and it’s evident that he organizes his thoughts before writing. With increasing comfort, he writes a variety of sentences punctuated correctly. He spells most words correctly, and those that are unknown he uses a close alternate. When making revisions to his work, he needs prompting. However, when directed, he can make bigger idea changes to his work (adding detail, recording, for example). He knows when punctuation and spelling isn’t correct and can find resources to change it. Writers like Peter in this phase need a supportive writing environment that exposes them to a variety of forms of writing. Because they are fairly confident with the structure of different text forms and can write fairly fluidly, they can focus on their own personal voice. Writers at this stage can dig deeper to find information to enhance their writing and benefit from the use of graphic organizers to do this. They need direct instruction on expanding their use of punctuation and vocabulary. Studying prefixes, suffixes and homophones, for example, will extend their vocabulary. Writers at this stage will benefit from reflection and discussion about the purpose of their writing and how to improve the finished product so it reflects that purpose. Peter is a 5th grader and could easily remain in the Transitional Writing Phase for several years. Like many things at this stage of development, progress is more on a continuum than in giant leaps.


First Drafts from Conventional Writers across grade levels.

Conventional Phase First Steps Writing Map of Development

• Show control over the conventions of writing--punctuation, spelling and text organization • Apply most components of the writing process • Adjust language and content to suit specific audiences and purposes • Can compose a wide range of texts • Integrate a range of strategies to spell unknown words • Use a wide vocabulary in their writing Conventional writers successfully craft a range of texts and are more consistently expressing their own voice. They tailor their writing to different audiences and purposes and can choose text forms that are appropriate. Their writing uses a large bank of vocabulary and includes a variety of sentences, punctuated correctly. Before writing, conventional writers can plan in a variety of ways. During writing, they use topic sentences and detail in their paragraphs. After writing, conventional writers generally independently can proofread, edit and revise writing. They conscientiously choose publication formats that enhance and impact the audience.

Case Study: Jena


Yokohama International School

Jena is a 5th grader who writes naturally and effortlessly. When given any writing assignment, she quickly deciphers the purpose and audience and writes a full, thoughtful piece. Her personal voice is coming through in a variety of writing. In her recounts, for example, she focuses on certain details that appealed to her interests. When she writes about novels she read, she can easily step into characters’ voices and write from their perspective. Her writing is clear and fluid. She varies sentences and punctuates them correctly. Her paragraphs are laid out with increasing detail and transition smoothly from one to the other. She shows evidence of prewriting in the logical order of her writing. She spells most words correctly and is starting to use her knowledge of Greek roots and bases to expand her vocabulary and spell more difficult words correctly. When asked to revise, Jena can independently edit her writing to enhance meaning and make it more precise. She can find careless errors when she proofreads and make the changes needed. The variety of work that she publishes is generally high quality and exemplifies the voice of a strong writer. Writers like Jena in this phase need a supportive writing environment that challenges them to craft a variety of forms of writing. Because they are confident and can write with ease and voice, they need higher expectations and more challenge. They should talk about their writing and its purpose and reflect to make sure they have written toward their purpose and audience. They should use their strong writing skills in real situations and if possible toward the goal of social change. Jena is unusual in elementary school, and many others might not reach this stage until into middle school or high school. She may also remain in this comfortable phase for a while.

First Steps Writing Map and Case Studies  

Developmental writing approach at YIS, based on First Steps

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