Modeling the development of written language
Richard K. Wagner
Cynthia S. Puranik
Laura Gehron Wilson
Patricia Thatcher Kantor
Published online: 9 October 2010
Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010
Abstract Alternative models of the structure of individual and developmental
differences of written composition and handwriting ﬂuency were tested using
conﬁrmatory factor analysis of writing samples provided by ﬁrst- and fourth-grade
students. For both groups, a ﬁve-factor model provided the best ﬁt to the data.
Four of the factors represented aspects of written composition: macro-organization
(use of top sentence and number and ordering of ideas), productivity (number and
diversity of words used), complexity (mean length of T-unit and syntactic density),
and spelling and punctuation. The ﬁfth factor represented handwriting ﬂuency.
Handwriting ﬂuency was correlated with written composition factors at both grades.
The magnitude of developmental differences between ﬁrst grade and fourth grade
expressed as effect sizes varied for variables representing the ﬁve constructs: large
effect sizes were found for productivity and handwriting ﬂuency variables; mod-
erate effect sizes were found for complexity and macro-organization variables; and
minimal effect sizes were found for spelling and punctuation variables.
Keywords Writing development Á Writing scoring Á Writing models
R. K. Wagner (&) Á B. Foorman Á E. Foster Á P. T. Kantor
Florida State University and Florida Center for Reading Research, Tallahassee, FL, USA
C. S. Puranik
University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
L. G. Wilson
George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Read Writ (2011) 24:203–220