Emergent writing

Emergent writing

Emergent writing

Date posted: March 28, 2014

Children are learning to write long before they start school. Their first attempts at communicating by making marks and drawing are the start of learning to write. The development of writing skills generally progresses in this order:

  • Drawing – Uses drawing to communicate a message.
  • Scribbling – Scribbling resembles writing and is intended as writing.
  • Pretend letters – Letter-like shapes created.
  • Conventional letters – Random letters or letter strings.  In the beginning, often letters from their name or a family member’s name.
  • Invented spelling – Conventional letters are clustered together to make word-like forms.
  • Phonetic spelling – As sounds are associated with letters, children approximate the spellings of words.
  • Conventional spelling – Usually starting with their own name, children begin to adopt conventional spelling.

Adults can support this by:

  • providing an environment that is rich in print
  • providing opportunities to practice drawing and writing
  • pointing out environmental print, such as writing on road signs, store signs, and labels
  • being a good model of writing.

To learn more:


The road to writing: a step-by-step guide to mark making, 3-7.
Sue Cowley. New York: Continuum, 2012.
Written for early childhood practitioners, parents, and teachers of children aged 3 to 7, this book offers practical advice on developing pre-writing and early writing skills. Includes ideas for building finger strength and eye-hand coordination, activities to help children understand the concept of symbols and signs, and strategies for building confidence in writing and reading.



For practitioners

Infant scribbling activities
Writing through art
Writing the world
Starting Write

For parents

Infant finger drawing
Scribble scribble
Art of Writing
Get write on it
Delighting in writing
Supporting writing at home

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