Age-by-age learning skills

Writing Skills: What to Expect at Different Ages

By Amanda Morin

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Learning to write involves more skills than knowing what makes a good story or using correct grammar and punctuation. Writing also requires physical skills to hold a pencil and make letters and the thinking skills to use language to express ideas. Find out what writing skills to expect at different ages.

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Writing Skills: What to Expect at Different Ages

Kids develop at different rates, but there are milestones that they generally meet. Here are typical ages for the development of writing skills.

• Hold a pencil straight up and down in a clenched fist
• Begin to understand that text goes from left to right
• Attempt to write letters and words by making “scribbles”

• Move from scribbles to “squiggles,” which stand for something very specific, such as a list to recite or a story to tell
• Try to make some letters of the alphabet and copy some words
• Draw repeated lines across a page that look like waves with high and low points, like letters
• May be able to spell own name
• Dictate stories, watch adults write down the sentences, and begin to recognize some of the words they dictated

Kids Ages 5-7
• Learn to hold a pencil correctly, which makes it easier to write letters
• Use letters and sight words to tell stories or explain drawings
• Start recognizing and reproducing the shape of sight words (common words children remember by their shape)
• Leave out words they don’t know or use inventive spelling to fill in the blank

Kids Ages 7–9
• Develop improved handwriting
• Group sentences about one idea together to make paragraphs
• Start adding spaces between words, capital letters at the beginning of sentences and punctuation at the end
• Learn how to write contractions (such as “don’t” for “do not”), make compound sentences and use adjectives and adverbs to be more descriptive

Kids Ages 9-11
• Learn how to use different types of writing (such as narrative and expository writing) for different purposes
• Practice writing stories, persuasive letters and informative reports
• Start to use the writing process: writing, proofreading, correcting and writing a final draft

• Continue to sharpen grammar skills and the writing process
• Write reports individually or in groups, summarizing information read or learned through lectures
• Start creating more complex sentences, using words like “however” and “because” to link ideas together
• May be expected to write multi-paragraph essays

• Have a good grasp of the mechanics of writing, which they continue to refine as they add words to their vocabulary
• Start jumping between different styles of writing as they write for everyday purposes (such as essay writing for school and informal text via email or social media)
• Take notes in class
Graphic of Writing skills: what to expect at different ages
Graphic of Writing skills: what to expect at different ages

About the Author

Portrait of Amanda Morin

Amanda Morin

A parent advocate and former teacher, Amanda Morin is the proud mom of kids with learning and attention issues and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

More by this author

Reviewed by Bob Cunningham, M.A., Ed.M. Dec 10, 2013 Dec 10, 2013

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