Moving On to the Next Writing Level

Please Note: This Home to Home Blog Post is a response to an Ask Beth question. I invite you to join in on the conversation. Let’s help each other out!


HTHL member and co-op leader, Andrea P. asked,

“How do I help my students transition from one writing skill level to the next?”

Pack your bags! It’s time to move to the next writing level. Making the transitions from one skill level of writing to the next is exciting and scary all at the same time. As home educators, we can help make the transitions easier with a lot of patience, and encouragement. Let’s explore how to make the move and guide our students.

First we must recognize, there’s a normal pattern of writing growth and development that ebbs and flows and spans a student’s education as he/she matures.

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We all grow in our written expression well into our college and adult years. Students move through the writing levels with varying speeds and will likely reside at a level for a couple of years. Your job as a parent educator is to introduce and expose your student to the writing world with all of its wonder and excitement each year. A parent’s attitude sets the tone for learning any subject, especially writing.

Let’s look at the first set of writing milestones:

  • Recognize writing in their surroundings
  • Scribbles, draws lines, and shapes (The marks have meaning to a child)
  • Writes wiggly or backwards letters
  • Writes letters-upper and lower case
  • Writing Words/Sentences
  • Copies words and sentences

Growing Awareness of the Written Word (about 3-6 years old)
This first level of writing/composition is filled with a growing awareness that the written word communicates. Your students should not only be learning the mechanics of writing but more importantly the writing process. Even at a young age, a child can go through the steps of the writing process with the parent transcribing his oral words and taking the child’s dictation.The dictation writing level helps to train a child to organize his thoughts and ideas and begin to value the written word.

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Here’s How to Help the Transition
•Take dictation! Record their stories and thoughts for them with the written word. Travel through the writing process to complete a writing project. Let them enjoy written expression.
•Point out signs with written words that are familiar to them.
•Use drawing books to teach a student to copy lines and learn positions of lines to make a picture which is more recognizable to them than letters.
•Why practice letter writing just with paper and pencil? Why not use shaving cream or wet sand? Visit HTHL’s Pinterest Board for more ideas.
•Don’t push the mechanics of writing. Pace with your child and make it an enjoyable process along the way.
Writes Words (about 3-6 years old)
The first word a child writes is so exciting. In that beautiful moment, the child learns letters have meaning!
Here’s How to Help the Transition
•Celebrate your child’s first written word. Put it up on the refrigerator and call grandma!
•Allow your child to choose their favorite word of the week and have them write it. Why not make a favorite word of the week booklet?
•Meanwhile, continue to have your child travel through the writing process and continue to have your child dictate their stories.

At this level, add a Language Arts K.I.S.S.

Writes Sentences (Simple to Complex)
(about 6-8 years old)
Build on your child’s ability to write words with a simple question, “How can you make a sentence using that word?”

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Here’s How to Help the Transition
•At first, write the sentence for your child but stop at the word they know how to write and have him write the word. Finish writing the sentence for him.
•You can also type the word into a handwriting generator that will print the sentence on paper for your child to trace.
•Ask questions that will help your child add descriptive words. Example: What did the fire smell like? Where in the sentence can you add the word “smoky”
•Continue to have your child travel through the writing process and have them dictate their stories.
Writing Sentences to Writing Paragraphs (Simple to Complex)
(about 6-9 years old)
This transition is gradual. At first, the child may write 3-4 unrelated sentences followed by adding an attention-getter/opening sentence and a closing sentence. True paragraph form emerges when you see a complete storyline with a beginning, middle, and an end.

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Here’s How to Help the Transition
•Follow the writing process and continue to fill in with their dictation as needed.
•Be prepared to see your child’s ability to write a paragraph see-saw between their own writing and dictation. This is very natural.
•Always, ask your child to read or help them read their writing out loud.
•Enjoy choosing words together that help tell the story.

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Writing Paragraphs to Writing Multi-paragraphs (Simple to Complex)
(about 9- 12 years old)
This transition can seem like the student is taking backward steps. Just the year before, the student was writing fabulous complex sentences and forming a solid paragraph. Now with adding the new skill of multi-paragraph writing, sentences become short and choppy for a while. I can assure you, it’s just temporary. Many home educators conclude, “I guess he wasn’t ready for the next level yet.” This is not usually not the case. The student is concentrating on the new skill of forming a multi-paragraph essay. Previous writing skills will wane for a time.

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Here’s How to Help the Transition
•Focus on learning the structure of a multi-paragraph essay.
•Be prepared to see the sentence quality diminish for a little while. They’re learning how to structure a multi-paragraph essay. This may take a student a whole year before they feel comfortable with it.
•Once they become proficient in the structure, encourage your student to increase the quality of their sentences.

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Writing a Book (about 11- 14 years old)
Here to Help Learning’s Write-a Book Project helps students expand their ability to tackle larger writing assignments in a fun way.

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The bottom line is no one ever stops growing as a writer. It’s more important to enjoy the journey rather than look for the final scholastic destination of a “proficient writer”. Creating a positive learning environment during each writing level transitions will have a lasting effect.


From Our Home to Yours,



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