Developed by Davey Thomas

Ruth Miskin - How to Teach Children to Write - Oxford School Improvement

Ruth Miskin, one of the UK's leading authorities on teaching children to read, explains how she teaches children to write.

Phases in Literacy Development:
  • Beginning
  • Early-Emergent
  • Emergent
  • Early
  • Transitional
  • Extending

Beginning Phase
In the beginning phase students understand that signs and symbols they see in the world tell a message and have a meaning behind them even if they are unaware of the meaning yet. They also begin to scribble on paper with crayons, paint or pencils and believe it to be actual writing.
Early-Emergent Phase
Students scribble begins to contain both drawing and writing within it. Able to write some letters (particularly ones in own name) and numbers that start to appear within their attempted writing pieces.
Emergent Phase
Students are now able to write both letters and words and also leave spaces within the words they are writing. They begin to understand the concepts of a sentence, punctuation, vowels and consonants. Students also begin to realise that other people can now read their own written work.
Early Phase
In the early phase students can now write high frequency words and one-syllable three and four letter words including blends. Students start to write about more meaningful topics with the use of simple sentences generally consisting of some repetition within it. The students are now building a vocabulary of words based on their own interests and can now use most forms of punctuation properly.
Transitional Phase
At the transitional phase students are now up to several different sentences using different ideas that include a range of punctuation. They are now able to check their own spelling and tell whether it is right or wrong. Students are able to now write and an increased speed than in earlier phases and also can now use a range of strategies to write their words such as visual, phonics and morphology.
Extending Phase
In the extending phase students can now write a wide range of different text types for a specific audience. Students begin to revise, edit and proofread, check the flow and the meaning behind their text. Students can also construct paragraphs with topic sentences for each and a link to their main ideas. Students are also able to use visual, morphological and phonic strategies to spell complex words whilst also using vocabulary to suit different genres to express in their writing.

Examples of students writing
Below are two examples of writing samples from students between the years of prep to grade 2. One student has difficulties in their learning whilst the other student has no difficulties with their learning. The two samples show that literacy phases cannot be judged based on students age groups as all students are different and will learn and develop at different stages.


Styles of writing
The many styles of writing that are present within the literacy sessions provide a range of processes, genres and techniques that students are exposed to that help to develop their learning. The styles, which include interactive writing, guided writing, independent writing, modelled writing and shared writing are all important in the development of writing skills within the classroom. This can be directly linked to the styles of reading.

Interactive writing - During interactive writing the teacher assists, guides, responds and extends the students thinking in their development of composing texts. In interactive writing, both the student and the teacher share the pen and write ideas up on the board. This is designed to help the student work on new and unknown words with the support of their teacher with them.

Guided writing - Guided writing is mostly used within small groups for those students who are under way with their writing. The teacher assists, guides and responds to students thinking in composing texts. In guided writing the student holds the pen and does all the writing. This form of writing is different to independent writing as the student is being guided by the teacher.

Independent writing - Independent writing is the main part of the writing block in which students are not involved in small groups. Students write on their own with no restrictions to the content and quality of the writing as these matters are attended to at a later time or during guided writing sessions.

Modelled writing - Modelled writing begins with a whole class activity. In modelled writing the teacher holds the pen and writes in front of the students , verbalising his/her own thoughts as well as showing the students what is actually being written. In this form of writing there is no interaction of ideas between students and teacher as the students are merely the observers in the exercise.

Shared writing - Shared writing is a construction of text shared between both the student and the teacher. In this form of writing the teacher holds the pen whilst both the student and teacher work on the structure of the text. Shared and modelled writing are not the same forms of writing as in modelled the teacher presents all the ideas while in shared the ideas are spread between both student and teacher. However, in both shared and modelled writing the teacher needs to be aware of the different processes and genres that each form presents and needs to ensure the students are exposed to both forms.

Examples of writing styles

Modelled Writing - Primary

Lamb Elementary School Teacher Jennifer Wisner demonstrates the Modelled Writing element of the Literacy Model to a group of primary students.

Vogt_Shared_Writing.jpg guided_writing.JPG
Example of Shared Writing and of Guided Writing

Literacy observations from placement - What was seen in the classroom.
A look at what types of writing styles the students used and were taught whilst out on placement.

Grade P-2

  • Preps focused on letter formation, directionality of text and repetition of skills.
  • Preps learnt pencil grip.
  • Preps given a single letter to focus on at a time. e.g. the letter 'e'.
  • Preps learnt about capital letters and where they go in a sentence.
  • Grade 1 and 2 focused on writing sentences and groups of sentences that made sense.
  • Grade 1 and 2 students learnt about talking marks and how to use them in their writing.
  • Grade 1 and 2 focused on punctuation and what the different symbols mean and how they are used. e.g. ? - question mark. Used at end of sentence when asking a question.
  • Grade 2 students produced short stories using their own words and online images in publisher.
  • Grade 2 began expanding their written vocabulary into using WOW words.

Grade 3-4

  • Were shown how to create word clouds in Wordle then worked in groups to produce one on butchers paper. Students who struggle with group work produced word clouds online.
    Worked on persuasive text, sentence structure and punctuation.
  • Focused on neat legible writing, punctuation, grammar and sentence structure.
  • Had to write longer bodies of text with beginnings, middle and ends.
  • Focused on coming up with reasons to persuade the audience int heir writing and also come up with some examples to back it up with.
  • Practiced using powerful language in text.
  • Some grades had blogs they contributed.
  • began doing plans, drafts and editing.

Grade 5-6

  • Had to provide work that made sense, got the readers interest and paid attention to detail.
  • Worked on persuasive text.
  • Wrote debates and then ran them.
  • Prepared presentations around ANZAC day using a combined of handwriting, print text and visual images.
  • They used 'Sizzling Starts' after teachers attended PD The Seven Steps to Writing Success
  • Wrote lesson plans, submitted them and rewrote them for student guided activity day.
  • Prepared front pages of their own newpapers using Publisher.
  • A couple of classes had blogs they regularly contributed to.

All Grades

  • Had shared and group times.
  • Independent and group work.
  • Writing styles modelled to them.
  • Opportunity of extend their knowledge base and skills.
  • Silent and interactive lessons.
  • A broad range of ability levels.