The Emergent Writing Philosophy of Stepping Stone School

At Stepping Stone School we are laying the foundation for success in literacy by providing children with early writing opportunities. Children begin demonstrating pre-writing skills as toddlers and these abilities continue to develop through the prekindergarten years.

The Progression of Writing

The first stage of writing development emerges between 15 and 30 months of age when children begin scribbling. Between 2 . and 3 . years, children incorporate circles and repeating lines into their artwork. These letter-like symbols may appear in a line or randomly on the page. At this age, most children are able to tell about what they have created and should be encouraged to do so.

Between 3 . and 4 ., children will attempt to include strings of letters (usually the letters in their name) when creating a work of art. Children will attempt to “read” their message or they may ask an adult to tell them what it says. It is at this point that children begin to recognize the power of print and to understand that writing carries a message.

Around 4-5 years of age, most children know a majority of their letters and letter sounds. They will use this knowledge to label their pictures by writing the beginning sounds. As children continue to mature, they will attempt to write ending sounds of words and then the medial sounds. Soon children will write simple phrases and sentences. As they learn to read, conventional writing will emerge.

Pre-Writing Opportunities

The ability to write depends on the physical development of several muscles in a child’s hands and forearms. Even in our toddler classes, the teachers at Stepping Stone School encourage children to participate in several of the following activities to build up the child’s strength and coordination and prepare her for future writing.

To work on gross motor skills for the upper body, shoulder, arm and wrist, the teacher provides opportunities for the child to climb, turn, and push himself up. Teachers also incorporate vertical spaces (like easels) for drawing activities and painting. They use playdoh regularly to strengthen and develop muscles in hands and wrists.

Fine motor control for strengthening pincer grip is developed as children use tools such as tongs, tweezers, clothespins, and eyedroppers. Teachers also provide alternatives to paint brushes such as q-tips to develop different hand holds. Children also work on fine motor skills as they tear paper into strips for art projects and participate in beading and lacing activities.

To work on eye-hand coordination and to develop hand muscles, children participate in activities that involve cutting with scissors and hole punching. Children can also play with squeeze toys or interlocking blocks such as Legos to develop muscle control in their hands.

Teacher-Directed Writing Experiences

Our teachers demonstrate how to write by modeling writing throughout the day. They invite children to participate in shared writing experiences during which the children actively assist the teacher in the writing process. As children complete a work of art, the teacher will ask the child about her artwork and write what the child says on her picture.

Child-Directed Writing Experiences

Additionally, Stepping Stone School teachers provide children with opportunities to experiment with writing on their own by incorporating writing activities into child-directed play. Teachers provide children with a variety of writing utensils like markers, crayons, chalk, and paint and allow them to write on multiple surfaces. Teachers strategically place writing materials in various centers so children can take another child’s food order, for example, as they play restaurant in the dramatic play center.


As children participate in early writing activities it is important for parents and educators to accept any attempts the child makes to write. Caring adults should take time to notice the child’s writing and artwork. Children at this age learn more when we focus on the process of writing rather than the final product. In order to support regular writing practice, teachers and parents should provide meaningful writing activities like writing letters to family members, writing “to-do lists,” and journaling. By participating in these early writing opportunities, the children at Stepping Stone School will be prepared for kindergarten.


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