Written Narratives of Normal and Learning Disabled Children Doris I. Johnson

Northwestern University Evanston, Illinois James O. Grant

Grand ValleyState University AUendale, Michigan

Writing samples of children in grades one through three were collected in two midwestern elementary schools using the Picture Story Language Test. Each story was scoredfor productivity, syntax, and level of abstraction. Results indicated that performance in all aspects of written language improved with age. A second study was conducted to compare the writing of normal children who were average readers in grades one through three with learning disabled children who were reading at comparable levels. The results indicated no significant differences in productivity but there were differences in syntax. Problems were noted particularly in morphology. Further observations indicated the learning disabled poor readers also had more problems with handwriting and spelling than average readers.


Scholars from many fields have long been interested in the study of writing. Linguists, educators, psychologists, and special educators Annals of Dyslexia,Vol.39, 1989. Copyright ©1989by The Orton DyslexiaSociety ISSN 0474-7534 140



have contributed to our knowledge by studying the nature of languages, patterns of development in young children, and problems associated with various handicapping conditions (Beers and Henderson 1980; Frederiksen and Dominic 1981; Graves 1985; Gregg and Steinberg 1980; Litowitz 1981; Morris and Crump 1982; Nystrand 1982). Recent studies of young children (Frith 1980; Read 1986; Temple, Nathan and Burris 1982) have been particularly important because they provide developmental perspectives for comparing the writing of exceptional children. Writing difficulties among dyslexics were observed by Orton (1937) and Gillingham and Stillman (1973) many years ago. Such concern is still justified given the numerous reports of persistent spelling problems in adult dyslexics (Rawson 1968; Critchley 1973). Studies of both children and adults with learning disabilities indicate that most have problems with written expression (Johnson and Blalock 1987; Liberman et al. 1985; Myklebust 1973). Therefore, it seems reasonable to examine early patterns of writing development and to provide intervention as needed. Written language, like other complex behavior, requires the integration of many rules, subskills, and processes. Hence, tests and projects often are designed to study specific skills such as spelling, grammar, or word usage. Such tasks however, might not reflect the severity of problems because they are less demanding than spontaneous writing. Therefore, it is helpful to obtain both global, spontaneous samples as well as more structured tasks to determine the level and type of disturbance. Generally, a study of writing should examine the writer's performance across various contexts and should include letters, messages, narratives, and other forms of discourse. Samples of writing to both familiar and unfamiliar people also provide data about the writer's sense of audience. Many developmental theories of writing emerged from studying children in naturalistic settings. By observing young writers and listening to their questions, theorists gained new insights into the writing process (Bissex 1980; Read 1986). Such observations are essential to understand how children acquire these skills. However, in order to compare children at a particular age or grade level, it is helpful to use some standardized procedures to assess the level of achievement and to plan instruction. We emphasize, however, that any form of language should be studied comprehensively and that it is probably unwise to generalize from only one sample. At the present time, there are few standardized written language measures. One of the first to be developed was the Picture Story Language Test (Myklebust 1965). This test is standardized for ages 7 through 17 and can be given in small groups. Subjects are shown a picture of a



boy sitting at a table playing with toys and are asked to write a story about it. Some professionals feel the picture is somewhat outdated and that it might not stimulate much writing. Such criticism may be justified but we found that it often elicits interesting stories even with older students. However, in the future, it would be helpful to have two or three pictures from which children can choose to write a narrative. Another widely used test is the Test of Written Language (Hammill and Larsen 1981). Because it has a sequence of pictures, productivity is sometimes greater than with the PSLT. However, certain children (particularly those with nonverbal disabilities) may have picture interpretation problems that interfere with their performance. Since the Picture Story Language Test was used for previous research in our Center we decided to collect new samples as part of a larger programmatic investigation on development and disorders of written language. We felt new stories from normal writers would be helpful for several reasons. First, because of increased emphasis on writing instruction during the past decade, we wondered if new stories would reflect these changes. Secondly, since the Picture Story Language Test was normed according to age levels, we thought it would be helpful to have samples according to grade levels. Thus, the test was given to approximately 600 children in grades one through six and scored for Productivity, (which includes number of words, number of sentences, and words per sentence), Syntax, and Level of Abstraction. This paper includes a description of the performance of children in grades one through three and a summary of a project comparing the writing of normal and learning-disabled readers.

Developmental Study SubjectDescription The normal population included all children from two elementary school districts in the midwest. One was a rural district with students from lower middle to middle class families, and the other was a suburban district which included students from middle to upper middle class homes. Children receiving any type of special service were excluded as were gifted students and those in Chapter 1 programs. The normal population consisted of 92 fifth graders, 112 second graders, and 91 third graders. The reading and spelling instruction in both schools was similar. A basal reading series with a decoding emphasis was used in grades one and two, whereas a meaning or "top-down" approach was used in



the third and fourth grades. Spelling programs included word lists organized according to phonetic generalizations.

Procedures All students were administered the Picture Story Language Test (Myklebust 1965) and the spelling subtest of the Wide Range Achievement Test-R (Jastak and Jastak 1978) in November and December. We were particularly interested in obtaining writing samples of first graders before they acquired many reading skills in order to examine developmental patterns. Despite the fact that most children at that age level were just learning to write, only one turned in a blank page. All others willingly attempted the task. The spelling test was administered to an entire class at one time, whereas the PSLT was administered to groups of eight students or less. If any words or stories could not be read by the examiners, the child was asked to read what he wrote. This was particularly necessary for certain first graders who used invented spelling and for those with poor visual-motor skills. Group intelligence and reading tests were given as part of the school testing programs. Classroom teachers were also asked to rate each child's reading ability according to a 3-point scale--below average, average, or above.

Productivity Productivity was measured by counting the total number of words, total sentences, and calculating the average number of words per sentence. Results indicate the mean number of words increased from 16.85 at the first grade to 45 words at the second grade, and 91 words at third grade level (see Table I). However, there were large standard deviations at all ages. Thus, a classroom teacher must be prepared to deal with considerable diversity. The total Number of Sentences revealed a similar growth pattern. First graders wrote an average of 2.4 sentences; second graders, 5 sentences, and third graders, on the average, wrote stories that were ten sentences long, though some wrote as many as 37 sentences. Words per Sentence also increased. In general, these patterns are similar to those reported by Myklebust (1965).

Syntax The purpose of the syntax scale is to assess growth in language usage (Myklebust 1965). Therefore, it can be considered a measure of correctness. Syntactical quotients were calculated by examining: (1) word usage, (2) word endings, and (3) punctuation. Error categories included additions, omissions, substitutions, and word order. Findings indicated that syntax quotients improved with age (Table



Table I Productivity First Graders (N = 91) Age Total Words Total Sentences Words per Sentence Second Graders (N = 112) Age Total Words Total Sentences Words per Sentence Third Graders (N = 90) Age Total Words Total Sentences Words per Sentence


Standard Deviation

6 yrs. 7 too. 16.83 2.47 7.27

8 mo. 12.8 2.0 3.61

7 yrs. 8 too. 45.62 5.64 8.93

5 mo. 32.82 4.68 2.99

8 yrs. 8 mo. 91.4 10.71 8.75

6 mo. 46.26 6.39 2.4

II); however, very few children had perfect syntax. This is probably because older children attempted to use more complex sentences. Consequently, they made new and different types of mistakes. At all grade levels, punctuation errors accounted for 70 to 75 percent of the errors. The remainder were related to word usage, faulty word endings, and omissions or substitutions of words. Level of Abstraction

The Abstract-Concrete scale evaluates writers on their ability to express ideas beyond the immediate context and to make inferences about what is happening. It consists of five levels with several subscores. Level 1 is called Meaningless Language and consists of unrelated letters and words. Diagnosticians should be careful when scoring stories at this level, since what appears to be meaningless language may be invented spelling or faulty handwriting and spacing. Therefore, children should be asked to read their stories to the examiner immediately. Level 2 stories are Concrete-Descriptive. The writer labels and describes objects in the picture, and relates them to personal experience. Level 3 is labelled Concrete-Imaginative. The picture is still the center of the narrative, but the writer describes action and may assign names to characters. Imagination is evident by the interaction between characters. At Level 4, Abstract-Descriptive, concepts of time and sequence are more evident, but the temporal relationships are not necessarily consistent. The story has greater continuity and characters often



Table II Syntax Quotients First Graders (N = 91) Syntax Quotient Second Graders (N = 112) Syntax Quotient Third Graders (N---90) Syntax Quotient


Standard Deviation







appear that are not in the picture. Level 5, Abstract-Imaginative, is the highest level. The story is unified, the plot is imaginative, and there is continuity from beginning to end. Allegorical reference and statements of moral values may be expressed. In this study, the Abstract-Concrete scores increased with grade (see Table III). The mean for first graders was 6.55 (S.D. 2.33) which is at Level 2, Concrete-Descriptive. However, the mode was 7, which is the lowest score of Level 3, Concrete-Imaginative. An A - C score of 6 generally indicates the child wrote about a boy playing with objects, whereas a score of 7 indicates more action was included in the story. A typical first grader w r o t e - - " H e is playing with toys. He is having fun" or "The boy has toys. He has toy people." A score of 8 indicates the writer attributed feelings to the characters. Eighteen (19 percent) of the first graders expressed ideas of happiness or sadness. The second-grade stories were predominantly at Level 3 with a mean A/C score of 9. Writers expanded descriptions of the boy and the action. To achieve this score, they assigned a specific character to certain figures (e.g., mother, father, baby, brother, or sister) and attributed feelings to the characters (e.g., "This boy looks like he is going to church. He is dresst up. He looks sad.') Table HI Abstract-Concrete Scores First Graders (N--92) A/C Score Second Graders (N = 112) A/C Score Third Graders (N = 90) A/C Score


Standard Deviation









The average score for third graders was 11.31 (Standard Deviation 4.61). Their stories were longer and expressed more interactions among the figures in the picture. Roles and names were also included. These stories were more imaginative and less stimulus bound than those of the first and second graders. Having the opportunity to examine hundreds of written language samples makes one aware of the great diversity among children in a single classroom and the exceedingly complex task of the teacher. It is evident from the large standard deviations that some first graders in November were writing very little, whereas others could write simple narratives. The youngest children and poorest readers sometimes wrote only the first letters of words. Better writers appeared to be using several strategies. In many respects, a careful analysis of writing could be useful when grouping children for instruction. However, as emphasized earlier, more than one sample is needed. Children might be asked to write a message, a list (grocery), and a simple thank-you note as well as stories or reports. For maximum productivity, they also should write about their own interests. When productivity is very low, we sometimes ask children to write sentences from dictation to determine how they represent spoken language in writing.

Comparison Study As stated previously, this study is part of a larger set of investigations on spelling and written language which include samples from learning-disabled adults, Chapter I children, hearing-impaired students, and normal children in Israel. Cross cultural studies may be helpful in noting general patterns of development as well as universal problems that might occur among dyslexics, irrespective of the orthography.

Procedures Because achievement levels varied in the developmental study, 20 children were selected from each grade level who had average intelligence, average reading scores for their grade level, and average ratings by classroom teachers. Their written stories were compared with those of learning-disabled children who were reading at the same grade level. This meant that chronological and grade ages of the poor readers varied and were above those of the average readers. Differences in productivity can be expected if subjects are compared by age rather than reading level. For example, in Myklebust's second volume on written language (1973) he reported that productivity of readingdisabled students never approached that of the normals. Comparisons by age are often helpful to show severity of the problems; however,

WmvrEr¢ Na~aTIVES


many investigators recommend comparisons by reading levels. In the future it may be interesting to compare written language of groups who have similar spelling achievement. All subjects had received comprehensive evaluations by a school or a clinic staff and met the criteria for learning disabilities. That is, they had normal hearing and vision, average mental ability, and a significant discrepancy between their potential and reading achievement. Their reading curriculum was similar to that of the normal children, but all were receiving supplemental help in resource or special education programs. The mean age for LD students reading at the first-grade level was 8 years 6 months, though four subjects were 10 years old and in the fourth grade. Mean age for the second grade-level readers was 9. Four subjects were older (11-12) and in the fifth grade. Those reading at the third-grade level ranged in age from 9 years to 14 years and 5 months and up to grade 8.

Productivity In order to compare the writing performance of normal and LD children who were reading at comparable grade levels, T-tests were done on all measures of The Picture Story Language Test. There were no significant differences in the number of words used by normal and learning-disabled poor readers at any grade level (see Table IV). While the figures suggest differences, the standard deviations are so large among both the average and poor readers that the findings are not significant. The fact that LD students sometimes wrote more than normals is probably a reflection of age differences. Older children had more ideas to convey but they made numerous errors.

Table IV Performance of Normal and Learning-Disabled Readers Number of Words Reading Levels Mean S.D. Grade 1 Normal 18.25 14.75 Learning Disabled 21.95 12.00 Grade 2 Normal 49.15 29.87 Learning Disabled 34.4 12.7 Grade 3 Normal 61.15 40.19 Learning Disabled 69.2 47.27

Range 4-55 4- 45 17-129 17-66 30-194 11-162



There were significant differences (.05 level) in number of sentences used by children reading at the first and second grade levels, but not at third grade (Table V). There were also significant differences in words per sentence (at .05 level) between first graders, but not between those reading at the second and third grade level (Table VI). Further inspection of the stories suggests that lack of difference in number of words per sentence may be due to vocabulary used by the two groups. Normal readers tended to use more superordinate words such as "people, toys, and furniture" whereas the LD children listed more basic object names (e.g., "boy, woman, chair, table"). Hence, sentences used by the poor readers were sometimes longer than the good readers. In addition, the poor, but older readers, tended to use more modifiers than young children reading at the same grade level. Syntax The most significant difference between the two groups was in the syntax quotients (.05 at all grade levels) (Table VII). As reported previously, 75 percent of the errors made by normal readers were due to faulty punctuation, whereas the poor readers made many more grammatical mistakes. Often their omissions and additions of words distorted the meaning (see Figure 1, 2 and 3). It is hypothesized that several errors were related to primary language problems, but others might have resulted from faulty monitoring (Johnson and Blalock 1987). More omissions of word endings occurred in the stories of poor readers than average readers. Both groups misspelled morphological endings, (i.e., " He is playin" or "plaen" or "plain"), but most normal children marked the plural or the verb tense, whereas many with

Table V Performance of Normal and Learning-Disabled Readers Number of Sentences Reading Levels Grade 1 Normal Learning Disabled Grade 2 Normal Learning Disabled Grade 3 Normal Learning Disabled *Significantat the .05 level




2.70 3.3

2.62 1.92

1-11 1-8

5.80 4.71

3.59 2.23

1-14 1- 11

6.85 7.55

3.69 4.83

3-17 2-20



Table VI Performance of Normal and Learning-Disabled Readers Words per Sentence Reading Levels




Grade 1 Normal Learning Disabled

7.25 6.36

2.32 2.06

4-12 4-12.5

Grade 2 Normal Learning Disabled

8.895 8.1

2.56 3.13

5-17 4-17

Grade 3 Normal Learning Disabled

8.895 9.2

1.93 3.29

6-13 5.5-18

*Significant at the .05 level learning disabilities omitted the inflected ending (e.g., He is play with toy). These findings are in keeping with those of Aaron and Phillips (1986) who found dyslexic college students omitted many suffixes. They cite studies of Gibson and Guinet (1971), Bock (1982) and Kean (1977) who hypothesize that the free morpheme and the suffix may be processed separately by different mechanisms. Other researchers including Vogel (1975; 1986), Carlisle, (1987) Rubin and Liberman (1983) also found syntax and morphological problems among dyslexics. Table VII Performance of Normal and Learning-Disabled Readers Reading Levels Grade 1 Normal Learning Disabled

Syntax Quotient Mean



92.85 87.0

4.15 8.89

82-100 • 70-100

Grade 2 Normal Learning Disabled

93.75 87.0

4.49 6.44

81-99 * 78-98

Grade 3 Normal Learning Disabled

96.10 90.2

3.11 5.13

89-100 * 81-98

*Significant at the .05 level



was thare was a Litte boy. He pays he is pllay wif pepl. He is wrik them. He likes to bilding He is play house in The family room. He has with a tal dols A goy is palying wiht hims tos. He like to paly. The boy has a dog, and a dog, and a grile and a Dad, and a dady and a mother. it is tos. The boy is wift toys in their room. The boy is plays a with man. H was playing doll with figurs. A boy was hav fun in his room. He has toys in the sheff. He hase a book is call words. Figure 1.

Syntactic errors of LD children reading at grade 1.

These findings suggest that instruction on morphological and syntactic accuracy is needed with poor readers at all grade levels. While functional writing and spontaneous expression of ideas is important, problems of syntactic accuracy should be addressed. Activities such as reading words and sentences with inflected endings, sentence completion, sentence building, and sentence combining may be helpful. Programs should be as systematic as those for decoding and spelling. Instruction in morphology could be combined with vocabulary development, word attack strategies, and spelling. In the early grades emphasis should be given to inflections for plurals and verb tenses so children become conscious of the fact that even though they say "dogz', the plural grapheme is s, not z; the word "buys" is not "bize" but derives from the word "buy". Many poor readers seem to rely primarily on phonology. Carlisle (1987) stressed the importance of morphophonemic knowledge in learning to spell. Level of Abstraction

The Abstract-Concrete scores of the two groups were significantly different at the first, second, and third grade levels. However, the direction of these differences varied (see Table VIII). Poor readers had higher A/C scores than normals at the first and third grade levels, whereas the opposite was found at the second grade level. These re-



He had dolls so he with them. His cabinet's He has losts of toy like to car. He owes wers a sport coot went he play. He play no his table. He has cabnit's foll of toy and book. It look like he is play heose. He taks good care for them to. He like to play with The toy's. Then he went to play withe his othe toys. and he lots of fun. a Kid is playing sum toys. He is playing toy peolp and tabls. He look like he is hfing fun. With he seting super with the toys he is geeting out. One day a boy name Sam was plany with his toy. He fond a flumy (few) of toys. A little boy is play dos. He has book and a big car on the shelf. He has a lot of book on the shelf. Figure 2.

Syntactic errors of LD children reading at grade 2.

sults may be related to age differences. Some LD readers had good abstract, imaginative ideas, perhaps because of their age and experience. Others, however, scored lower than normals and simply described specific objects. Those with good imagination and high A/C scores often wrote charming stories about what it was like to live in the "oldin daze" and play with "anteeks." One child thought his grandfather might have looked like the boy in the picture when he was young. Although many children tried to express imaginative ideas, few were able to convey their ideas accurately in writing.

Additional Observations Story Organization and Content In addition to the use of standardized procedures, we examined other aspects of these stories including organization, spelling and handwriting. Very few children in either group included a title. Most included a character, but the introduction of the person varied. First graders frequently began with "he", "the boy", or "a kid." One projected himself into the story. Older students, in contrast, usually spec-



There was mine extra toys on the chair next to him. He grab some people, some funture and one car. He had the people eat then go to the work a school. Then went to the lady who live in a shoe. 50 of The Kids are girl. One of the children reads a library full of book. The cat has brown eye. He look at the table and he sow a bis boy. It was hie play set he won't. His play set was runned and he cried but his parents bot hin a know on a batter one. He have a tabool. He did not had friend. He stade with him morn. I am happy that he as new fri end. His a good friend of my. He had black hair brown eye. He had ben at a privet school adn very made friends. ONe night he thought that he could no breath. They dress in nice cloths, hair cut, and a bath. They gave him some girl toy to see could tell the differts. He does not look lik he is hav fun. Figure 3.

Syntactic errors of LD children reading at grade 3.

ified, within the first sentence, w h o the character was and placed him in some time or space. Many felt there might be something "wrong with this child so he is being tested." Others projected ideas about family conflict or family togetherness. Causal relations were expressed more often among the normal children, although a few learning disabled conveyed such notions. For example, "the boy was naughty, therefore, he had to sit in a room by himself." Many children began their stories with traditional openings such as "Once upon a time" or "Once there was a bo~" but most did not yet have sufficient control to write a coherent theme. Thus, their stories resembled unfocused chains and associative ideas described by Applebee (1978).

Visual-spatial Factors and Legibility There were many instances of visual-spatial-motor difficulties among the poor readers (see Table IX). Problems of spacing and coordi-



Table VIII Performance of Normal and Learning-Disabled Readers Abstract/Concrete Reading Levels




Grade 1 Normal Learning Disabled

6.65 7.15

1.57 1.31

4-9 5-9

Grade 2 Normal Learning Disabled

9.00 8.0

2.18 1.3

7-16 5-11

Grade 3 Normal Learning Disabled

8.25 9.55

1.68 3.78

7-13 6-19

*Significantat the .05 level nation were obvious. This is in keeping with research on subtypes of poor readers which suggests some have visual-motor deficits. Moats (1983) said further studies of graphomotor development are needed to examine the role that transcription plays in spelling. Reversals and transpositions occurred more frequently in the LD students. Although research has minimized visual processing deficits (Vellutino 1977), problems do occur, particularly in the access and visualization of letters and words. Often, reversals and transpositions are less evident on highly structured reading and spelling tasks than in spontaneous writing.

Table IX Handwriting Ratings of Average and LD Readers Very Good




Grade 1 Normals LD Readers

8 0

6 13

6 5

0 2

Grade 2 Normals LD Readers

2 0

15 10

3 7

0 3

Grade 3 Normals LD Readers

1 0

14 12

5 6

0 2



Spelling The number of words spelled correctly in all stories was tabulated and, as expected, the learning-disabled poor readers made many more errors than the normals (see Table X and XI). We recognize the problems of assessing spelling from spontaneous texts because the same words are not used by all writers. However, if spelling is evaluated only from dictated spelling tests, the severity of the problems may not be manifested. Spelling from dictation is frequently better than spontaneous because the immediate, auditory input from the examiner allows the writer to concentrate on a single goal. Spontaneous writing, in contrast, requires reauditorization and other skills, as well as ideation. Nevertheless, there were also significant differences between the good and poor readers on the spelling subtest or the WRAT (Jastak and Jastak 1978). Thus, even though the students had comparable reading scores, their spelling scores were significantly different. While certain studies found children spell some words better than they read (Bryant and Bradley 1980), the poor readers in this study could decode more than they could spell. It is of interest to note the kinds of spelling errors. Older, better students tend to spell phonetically, but both normal and LD children made errors that seemed related to faulty visual memory, scanning, and/or monitoring. For instance, they misspelled "trian" for train, "chiar" for chair, or "gril" for girl, and "paly" for play. Word boundary errors were more prevalent among the poor readers. These occurred on units such as "once u p o n a time" (onceupon atime; onceup ona time) and others. There were a total of 11 such errors among the LD students reading at the first grade level but only five among the average readers. Three errors were made by second grade normals, but ten by LD children reading at a second grade level. None occurred among the average third grade readers, but there were five Table X Percentage of Words Spelled Correctly Grade 1 Normals 53% LD 70% Grade 2 Normals LD

78% 71%

Grade 3 Normals LD

92% 77%



Table XI Spelling Levels of Good and LD Readers Mean S.S. on WRAT* Grade 1 Normals LD Readers

97.85 69.1

Grade 2 Normals LD Readers

98 71.7

Grade 3 Normals LD Readers

93.45 78.4

*Note--Mean S.S. on WRAT = Mean Standard Scores on Wide Range Achievement Test instances among the LD students. While word boundary errors are not always viewed as spelling mistakes, they reflect children's knowledge of words as well as relationships between spoken and written language. In our studies of adults with learning disabilities (Johnson and Blalock 1987), we noted several word boundary errors, even among those with above average mental ability.

Implications for Future Research, Diagnosis, and Remediation It is recommended that multiple writing samples be collected to determine as much as possible about an individual's ability. Stories (or narratives) are but one form of writing. If we are to learn about children's use of other forms of discourse and linguistic flexibility, it is essential to examine their performance on tasks such as letter writing (to both familiar and unfamiliar people), message writing (e.g., taking phone messages), book reports, summaries, expository writing, and other complex forms. Within each type of discourse a diagnostician might look for (1) general understanding of the structure and format, (2) vocabulary usage and diversity, (3) syntax including morphology, (4) spelling, (5) cohes i o n - t h a t is, the use of linguistic ties that foster integration between sentences and ideas (Halliday and Hasan 1976), (6) visual-motor, spatial organization, letter formation, and legibility, and (7) ideation. The relationships between oral language, reading, and writing should be examined since writing problems rarely exist in isolation. Errors may reflect underlying problems in cognition, oral language, or



reading. In the future we plan to video and audiotape children while they write to ascertain whether there is a discrepancy between oral and written language. As stated earlier, many learning-disabled subjects in this study omitted plural and verb tense endings, but we do not know whether they also omitted them in their speech. We know from clinical cases that some write as they speak, but, in other instances, their oral language is adequate (Johnson and Myklebust 1967; Aaron and Phillips 1986). Often such problems are related to faulty encoding, monitoring, and attention. With regard to instruction, if children have low productivity scores, Bereiter (1980) says group discussions help to generate ideas, stimulate arguments, and understand other points of view. He contends that external dialogue should become internalized so writers can carry on their own personal dialogue (i.e., they should ask questions about what readers need to know). In certain instances, greater productivity can be achieved by asking children to draw pictures before they write. Obviously this procedure works best with individuals who have relatively good visual nonverbal and artistic skills. Nevertheless, if students can externalize their images to guide writing, they often produce more content. This is in contrast to the school practice of writing a story and then illustrating it. The reverse may be more effective. Occasionally, productivity is limited because children are afraid to write words they cannot spell. In these cases, written expression should be encouraged without concern for spelling initially. Students with low Abstract/Concrete scores often need guidance to make inferences about events from the past or into the future. They should be helped to use their background knowledge and experience to think beyond the present. This ability, however, is often impaired and is reminiscent of Goldstein's work on language disturbances (1948). He reported that brain-injured adults were deficient in the abstract attitude and less able to "perceive the merely possible." Thus, very literal people only describe what they see. Early training in inferencing might be helpful in guiding children to think about other contexts. Just as many need to be taught how to read between the lines, they may need to be taught how to look and think beyond the immediate context. In the area of spelling, clinicians should be aware of developmental patterns when examining errors. The research of Read (1986) is particularly useful when analyzing various types of consonant and vowel errors. If children spell better from dictation than spontaneously, efforts should be made to help them reauditorize and segment words while writing or to monitor spelling by saying each word slowly. Proofreading and monitoring should be emphasized. Many chil-



dren made errors that appeared to be "slips of the pen." They spelled words correctly in one or two instances but incorrectly in others. Such errors, according to Wing and Baddelly (1980), are also found in the writing of college students. Most of us have probably read material we wrote a day earlier and wondered how we happened to misspell a familiar word. Because of these slips we need strategies for proofing. We suggest that classroom teachers ask children to correct their own spelling. After writing, the children are given lists of correctly spelled words and asked to detect errors. This practice provides additional training in attention, visual scanning, perception, and memor3~ It also helps instill the importance of self correction. In summary, the findings from this project indicate that considerable attention should be given to syntax, morpholog~ and spelling accurac~ but not at the expense of communication, expression, or creativity. Like oral language development, the first emphasis should be on the functions of writing and the desire to communicate. Infants do not begin using perfect articulation or syntax. Similarly, young children do not begin writing with perfect spelling and sentence structure. The fact that they have ideas they want to share is most important. As they progress through school, writing lessons should have good balance between the expression of ideas and the subskills that are necessary to foster accurate communication. References Aaron, P. G. and Phillips, S. 1986. A decade of research with dyslexic college students: A summary of findings. Annals of Dyslexia 36:44-65. Applebee, A. N. 1978. The Child's Concept of Story. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Beers, J. and Henderson, E. 1980. Developmental and Cognitive Aspects of Learning to Spell. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Bereiter, C. 1980. Toward a developmental theory of writing. In 1. Gregg and R. Steinberg (eds.). Cognitive Processes in Writing. Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum. Bissex, G. L. 1980. Gnus at Wrk: A Child Learns to Write and Read. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Bock, K. J. 1982. Toward a cognitive psychology of syntax: Information processing contributions to sentence formation. Psychological Review 89(1):1-47. Bryant, P., and Bradley, M. 1980. Why children sometimes write words which they do not read. In U. Frith (ed.). Cognitive Processes in Spelling. New York: Academic Press. Carlisle, J. E 1987. The use of morphological knowledge in spelling derived forms by learning disabled and normal students. Annals of Dyslexia 37:90-108. Critchley, M. 1973. Some problems of the ex-dyslexic. Bulletin of the Orton Society 23:7-14. Frederiksen, C. and Dominic, J. (eds.). 1981. Writing: The nature, development and teaching of written communication (vol. 2). Hfllsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Frith, U. (ed.). 1980. Cognitive Processes in Spelling. New York: Academic Press. Gibson, E. J. and Guinet, L. 1971. Perception of inflections in brief visual presentations of words. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 10:182-189.



Gillingham, A. and Stillman, B. W. 1973. Remedial Training for Children with Specific Disability in Reading, Spelling, and Penmanship. Cambridge, MA: Educators Publishing Service, Inc. Goldstein, K. 1948. Language and Language Disturbances. New York: Grune and Stratton. Graves, D. H. 1985. All children can write. Learning Disabilities Focus 1(1):36-43. Gregg, L. and Steinberg, R. (eds.). 1980. Cognitive Processes in Writing. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. HaUida~ M. and Hasan, R. 1976. Cohesion in English. London: Longman. Hammill, D. and Larsen, D. 1981. Test of Written Language. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed. Jastak, J. F. and Jastak, S. 1978. The Wide Range Achievement Test. Wilmington DE: Jastak Associates, Inc. Johnson, D. and Blalock, J. W. (eds.). 1987. Adults with Learning Disabilities: Clinical Studies, (pp. 173-203). Orlando, FL: Grune and Stratton. Johnson, D. and Myklebust, H. 1967. Learning Disabilities: Educational Principles and Practices. New York: Grune and Stratton. Kean, M. L. 1977. The linguistic interpretation of aphasic syndromes. Agrammatism in Broca's aphasia, an example. Cognition 5:9-46. Liberman, I. Y., Rubin, H., Duques, S., and Carlisle, J. 1985. Linguistic abilities and spelling proficiency in kindergarteners and adult poor spellers. In D. B. Gray and J. E Kavanagh (eds.). Biobehavioral Measures of Dyslexia. Parkton, MD: York Press. Litowitz, B. 1981. Developmental issues in written language. Topics in Language Disorders 1:73-89. Moats, L. C. 1983. A comparison of the spelling errors of older dyslexicand second-grade normal children. Annals of Dyslexia 33:121-139. Morris, N. T. and Crump W. D. 1982. Syntactic and vocabulary development in the written language of learning disabled and non-learning disabled students at four age levels. Learning Disability Quarterly 5(2):163-172. Myklebust, H. 1965. Development and Disorders of Written Language (vol. 1). New York: Grune and Stratton. Mykelbust, H. 1973. Development and Disorders of Written Language (vol. 2). New York: Grune and Stratton. Nystrand, M. (ed.). 1982. What Writers Know: Language, process, and structure of written discourse. New York: Academic Press. Orton, S. T. 1937. Reading, Writing and Speech Problems in Children. New York: W. W. Norton. Rawson, M. 1968. Developmental Language Disability: Adult accomplishments of dyslexic boys. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. Read, C. 1986. Children's Creative Spelling. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Rubin, H. and Liberman, I. 1983. Exploring the oral and written language errors made by language disabled children. Annals of Dyslexia 33:111-120. Temple, C., Nathan, R., and Burris, N. 1982. The Beginnings of Writing. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Vellutino, F. 1977. Alternative conceptualizations of dyslexia: Evidence in support of a verbal-deficit hypothesis. Harvard Educational Review, 47:334-354. Vogel, S. A. 1975. Syntactic Abilities in Normal and Dyslexic Children. Baltimore: University Park Press. Vogel, S. 1986. Syntactic complexity in written expression of LD college writers. Annals of Dyslexia 35:137-157. Wing, S. and Baddelly, A. 1980. Memory and spelling. In U. Frith (ed.). Cognitive Processes in Spelling. New York: Academic Press.

Written narratives of normal and learning disabled children.

Writing samples of children in grades one through three were collected in two midwestern elementary schools using the Picture Story Language Test. Eac...
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