Woman coloring with preschooler

Understanding how children learn to write

by Claire Miller

Research has shown that early writing skills predict how children develop other literacy skills, such as recognizing letters or identifying sounds that make up a word.

Associate Professor Gary Bingham’s recent article in Early Childhood Research Quarterly considers how preschool teachers actively promote children’s writing and how the learning environment they create in their classrooms has an impact on their students’ writing skills.

Bingham and two colleagues developed an assessment method called the Writing Resources and Interactions in Teaching Environments (WRITE) to observe preschool teachers’ writing instruction across a range of early childhood education settings. They found that nearly all preschool teachers provide materials to support children’s writing, but the ways they used these materials to teach writing skills varied widely across the classrooms they observed.

His study highlights the importance of better understanding how children’s access to writing materials and interactions in early childhood contexts make a difference in their writing development.

Bingham will continue this focus on writing in preschool classrooms as the co-principal investigator on a four-year, $1.49 million grant project (iWRITE) from the Institute of Education Sciences that will create an online professional development intervention for preschool teachers to improve their teaching practices and children’s literacy skills.

“Project iWRITE is intended to improve the quality of classroom writing environments, teachers’ implementation of effective writing strategies, and lead to better writing, literacy and oral language skills for preschoolers,” he writes in the grant proposal.