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Learning to write letters: Examination of student and letter factors

Learning to write the letters of the alphabet is an important part of learning how to write conventionally. In this study, we investigated critical factors in the development of letter-writing skills using exploratory item response models to simultaneously account for variance in responses due to differences between students and between letters. Letter-writing skills were assessed in 415 preschool children aged 3 to 5 years. At the student level, we examined the contribution of letter-name knowledge, letter-sound knowledge, and phonological awareness to letter-writing skills. At the letter level, we examined seven intrinsic and extrinsic factors in understanding how preschool children learn to write alphabet letters: first letter of name, letters in name, letter order, textual frequency, number of strokes, symmetry, and letter type. Results indicated that variation in letter-writing skills was accounted for more by differences between students rather than by differences between letters, with most of the variability accounted for by letter-name knowledge and age. Although significant, the contribution of letter-sound knowledge and phonological awareness was relatively small. Student-level mechanisms underlying the acquisition of letter-writing skills are similar to the mechanisms underlying the learning of letter sounds. However, letter characteristics, which appear to play a major role in the learning of letter names and letter sounds, did not appear to influence learning how to write letters in a substantial way. The exception was if the letter was in the child's name. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States
Florida; Pennsylvania

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