Language Arts Canadian Lead Primary School

The Simple View of Writing

“Teach to each of the multiple levels of language within each of the four language systems (by ear, mouth, eye, and hand). Each language system has multiple units at which language can be analyzed, learned, and used: subword, word, and multi-word syntax, and text.”

Virginia Berninger (2020), from a presentation entitled Thoughts on Simple and Not So Simple Views of Writing

Just as in the Simple View of Reading, the Simple View of Writing states that there are two critical, separate aspects of fluent writing. They are:




Transcription definition

“The process and physical acts of representing sounds to written symbols, including spelling and handwriting skills”

(McCutchen, 2000)

Transcription skills:

  • Handwriting
  • Keyboarding
  • Spelling

Ideation definition:

“The generation and organization of ideas”

(Juel et al. 1986)

Ideation skills:

  • Idea generation
  • Word choice
  • Content
  • Text structure
  • Genre

To this model, Berninger and Amtmann have added attention, memory and self-regulation.

If we were to break writing down into its separate components, the two critical aspects can be placed on a model much like Scarborough’s Reading Rope, where one side ideally becomes increasingly automatic (transcription) and the other becomes increasingly strategic (ideation).

When students struggle with both, this is a strong indicator of dysgraphia.

When students struggle with both, this is a strong indicator of dysgraphia or oral and written language learning disability (OWL LD).

When children struggle with only transcription, this can indicate dyslexia. We will return to these conditions in Module six.

In Language Arts, being able to identify what a child struggles with leads to targeted, effective intervention. Knowing a child’s working memory and attentional capacity alongside their transcription and text generation ability, helps predict response to intervention.

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