Beginnings of Writing, The (4e) : 9780205501847

Beginnings of Writing, The (4e)

Published by
Out of stock
Title type

In The Beginnings of Writing, the authors give the clearest, most comprehensive source on young children’s development of writing, illustrating every concept with student artifacts.From scribbles and invented spelling to composition, this book also presents the most careful attention to children’s development available, illuminating what they are trying to do as they write.


Teachers who want to understand each child’s present challenges and successes as (s)he develops competence in writing—and then offer appropriate instruction and support at each point in the child’s learning—can turn to this highly popular, well-respected book for practical, clear guidance. In it readers get a detailed story of children’s development of writing, from scribbles to letters; from imaginative inventions to conventional spelling; and from enthusiastic and boisterous utterances on paper to effectively structured compositions. The guide covers best practices for teaching handwriting, spelling, and composition and gives readers a rich understanding of our English writing system, from its amazing past to its complicated present, providing teachers with a wealth of instructive and fascinating answers to the question, “But why do we do it this way?”


The Beginnings of Writing broke new ground when the First Edition appeared over 30 years ago and it remains the clearest and most comprehensive explanation of children’s development of writing. It tells the story of the English writing system, along with our composition from the ancient Roman schools rhetoric to the genres of writing recognized today. An introductory chapter is followed by sections on early graphics, invented spelling, and composition. New information is included in each section.

Table of contents


Chapter One: A Child Discovers How to Write



What’s Next?


SECTION ONE: The Beginnings of Writing


Chapter Two: The Beginnings of Handwriting

The History of the Alphabet

The Evolution of Handwriting


Chapter Three: Learning to Write at the Level of Letters


      The Precursors of Writing

Discovering the Basics of the Writing System

      Children and Iconic Writing

      Children and Syllabic Writing

      The Appearance of Letters:  Graphic Principles

Strategies for Early Writing

Encouraging Children to Make Print

      Providing Models of Writing

      Suggestions That Get Children Writing

Handwriting in the Curriculum

Assessing and Teaching Handwriting

      Handwriting Assessments

      Handwriting Instruction Programs



SECTION TWO: The Beginnings of Spelling


Chapter Four: What is there to learn about English spelling?


      The Disappointment of English

How We Make Speech Sounds

      What are Phonemes, Really?

      How We Make Speech Sounds

      How Vowels Are Made

      How Vowels Are Represented in IPA

      How Consonants Are Made

The Development of English Spelling

      Runes Were Alphabet Letters

      The Coming of the Roman Alphabet

      The Norman Invasion

Steam Radiators, Minims, U’s, O’s, and N’s

Long Vowels, Short Vowels, and the Great Vowel Shift

Latin and (and in) English

Printing and the (Almost) Standardization of English Spelling

Toward Modern Spelling

English and the World

Greek and Latin Continue to Influence English

English Spelling and English Language Learners



Chapter Five: A Close Look at Children’s Invented Spelling


A Progression of Spelling Development

      Prephonemic Spelling

      Early Phonemic spelling

      Letter-Name Spelling

      Transitional Spelling


Chapter Six: Helping Children Make Progress in Spelling


Assessing Children’s Spelling Development

      Spelling Knowledge Inventory

      The Gentry Spelling Grade-Level Test

Helping Children Make Progress in Spelling

      For the Prephonemic Speller

      For the Early Phonemic Speller

      For the Letter-Name Speller

      For the Transitional Speller

Teaching Spelling Words

Working with English Language Learners



SECTION THREE: The Beginnings of Composition


Chapter Seven


Composition: Who Defined Our Choices?

How Did the Teaching of Writing Evolve?

Children Discover the Forms and Functions of Composition

Self, Audience, Topic, and Purpose: A Menu of Writing Forms

      The Expressive Function

      The Poetic Function

      The Transactional Function



Chapter Eight: Writing in the Expressive Mode


A Variety of Expressive Writing Forms

Assumptions About Expressive Writing: Symbol Systems and Thinking

Concerns About Expressive Writing in the Classroom

Classroom Strategies that Promote Expressive Writing

Working with English Language Learners

Conclusion  (needs to be added)

Useful Teacher Resources


Chapter Nine: Writing in the Poetic Mode


Children Write Stories: Development and Instruction

Stages and Interpretations

      Caveats and Considerations

Nine Intermediate Forms: Developing Story Structures



      No Structure

      Descriptive Sequence

      Action Sequence

      Reactive Sequence

      Goal-directed 1

      Goal-directed 2

      Goal-directed 3

      Goal directed 4

Joey’s Works:  A First Grader Learns to Write Stories

Sarah’s Works: Literature Influences Story Development

Helping Children Write Stories

      Teaching the Structure of Stories

      Outer Actions and Inner States:  Souriau’s Dramatic Roles

Useful Ways of Assessing Story Writing


Working with English Language Learners


Useful Teacher Resources


Chapter Ten: Writing in the Transactional Mode


Transactional Writing: Explaining, Describing, and Arguing

The Importance of Transactional Texts in Children’s Lives

      Developmental Trends in Writing Exposition

      Teaching Strategies and Assessment

      Encouraging Writing/Thinking in a Variety of Genres and Across Modes

      Working with English Language Learners

      Useful Ways of Assessing Transactional Writing


Useful Teacher Resources


Chapter Eleven: Writing: The Child, The Teacher, and the Class

Writing is a Social Activity

A Description of the Writing Process

      The Stages of Writing

Atmosphere, Assignment and Response: The Teacher’s Role in the Writing Process

      An Atmosphere for Writing

      Choosing Topics for Writing

      Appropriate Responses to Children’s Writing

The Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Years

      Setting Up a Literate Community

      Drawing Out Oral Language

      Connecting Writing to Speech

The Primary Years

      An Overview of a Process-Writing Classroom

      What to Do on the First Day

      Beyond Day One: A Typical Day

      Setting Up the Classroom

      The Dynamics of Moving a Promising Draft Along

      Conferencing Techniques

      Publishing Possibilities



Useful Teacher Resources
New to this edition

This new edition features a detailed, lively discussion of the story of the English writing system—letters and spelling—as well as an overview of the development of story writing and the writing of basic exposition. Also included is a clear explanation of how speech sounds are made, essential to understanding developmental spelling and helping children learn to spell. Pointers for teaching English language learners are included throughout the book.


Teachers discover how our writing system developed—and get a sound understanding of the alphabet, along with stories to tell children when they ask about letters—in a fascinating addition to the first section on children’s early graphics.


Readers are able to more intelligently follow the challenges facing children as they spell an alphabetic language like Engllsh in the second section on invented spelling that has been expanded to cover the history of English spelling and a background in linguistics.


Readers gain an historical perspective on how we’ve come to teach writing the way we do in an expanded composition section of the book.


Teachers get the tools and language they need to make observations about students’ work through the expanded section on composition (Chapters 9 and10) with detail on the development of both poetic and transactional writing.


Keeping in line with the Common Core Standards which require that students work in many genres is made easier through the inclusion of many more research-based strategies for generating reports, stories, and poems.


A better understanding of, and appreciation for, children’s efforts to write in different genres is heightened through Chapter Seven’s expanded discussion of expressive writing.


In keeping with the new consensus on the need to teach children to form letters efficiently, Chapter Three now includes a discussion of handwriting in the curriculum, and suggestions for teaching handwriting.


Developing a better understanding of how children learn to spell—so that teachers are better equipped to teach spelling and reading words more successfully—is the focus of an updated account of how children learn to spell words in Chapter Five. Included in Chapter Six are two new instruments for assessing children’s knowledge of spelling features and their level of spelling growth.


Teachers get concrete help for dealing effectively with the spelling and writing problems of English language learners in discussions now included throughout Chapters Four through Ten.


To help teachers understand children’s judgments about speech sounds, a greatly expanded section on English phonetics, how we make speech sounds, is included in Chapter Four.



Features & benefits

A new edition of the book that broke new ground when first published over 30 years ago, this book remains the clearest and most comprehensive explanation of children’s writing development.


Teachers get a firm understanding of each child’s present challenges and successes as (s)he develops competence in writing, plus guidelines for providing appropriate instruction and support at each point in the child’s learning.


Arming teachers with a wealth of instructive and fascinating answers to the ever-present question, “But why do we do it this way?” this book helps educators share in a rich understanding of our English writing system, with its amazing past and complicated present.


The story of the English writing system is brought to light, from the development of our letters from hieroglyphs and runes to our current 26; the development of our spelling from anything-goes medieval inventions to the odd, historically phonetic system we have today; and the development of our composition from the ancient Roman schools rhetoric to the genres of currently recognized writing.


Teachers learn best practices for teaching handwriting, spelling, and composition.

Author biography

Charles Temple, Ph.D. teaches courses in literacy, storytelling, children’s literature, and peace studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, in Geneva, New York. He has co-authored many editions of All Children Read, Understanding Reading Problems, Children’s Books in Children’s Hands, and also Intervening for Literacy and The Developmental Literacy Inventory, as well as a handful of books for children. Temple volunteers in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, East and West Africa, and South America as a teacher trainer and children’s book developer through the Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking Project and CODE Canada.  He has a large and wonderful family and an aging Springer spaniel. He plays guitar and banjo. He sails, slowly, on Seneca Lake in Upstate New York, and other places, too, when he can.


Dr. Ruth Nathan, formerly an elementary and middle school teacher and university instructor and researcher, is currently working as a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, and as the developer of a second and third grade curriculum for a bay-area start-up. Directly prior to her current position at Berkeley, she served as a school-based, language and literacy consultant, as well as an educational consultant in the private sector. You’ll find publications by Ruth in such diverse journals as Child Development, Reading Research Quarterly, and Language Arts.  She’s written several books and chapters on literacy and has developed curriculum for LeapFrog SchoolHouse and Great Source/Houghton Mifflin. She’s written several columns for GRAND Magazine, a magazine for grandparents, and is the co-author of the chapter on orthographic development in the most recent edition of the Reading Research Handbook. She lives in Alamo, California, with her husband, Larry.  Three grandchildren live nearby.


Codruta Temple taught English and French in Romania before moving to the United States, where she earned a Ph.D. in English Education and Linguistics from Syracuse University. She now teaches ESL literacy and second language methods courses at State University of New York College at Cortland. She has co-authored the eighth edition of Understanding Reading Problems: Assessment and Instruction (Pearson), has contributed a chapter to the edited text Best Practices in Adolescent Literacy Instruction (Guilford), and has presented several papers on content area literacy at NCTE and AERA national conventions over the past six years. She lives in Geneva, New York, with her husband, son, and dog, and travels whenever she can to California, Texas, Illinois, the Netherlands, and Romania, to see her other six children, her grandson, her mother, and her grandmother.