The Contribution of Word -, Sentence-, and Discourse-Level Abilities on Writing Performance: A 3-Year Longitudinal Study

Lénia Carvalhais, Teresa Limpo, Luísa Álvares Pereira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Writing is a foundational skill throughout school grades. This study analyzed the development of different levels of written language (word, sentence, and discourse) and explored the relationship between these levels and writing performance. About 95 Portuguese students from two cohorts—Grades 4–7 (n = 47) 6–9 (n = 48)—were asked to produce a descriptive text two times, with a 3-year interval. The produced texts were used to assess spelling, syntactic correctness and complexity, and descriptive discourse as well as text length and quality. The main results showed that there were improvements from Grades 4 to 7 and 6 to 9 in word- and sentence-level skills, along with increases in some dimensions of the descriptive discourse. Moreover, the older cohort performed better than the younger cohort in terms of spelling, syntactic complexity, and text quality, but not in terms of syntactic correctness, one dimension of the descriptive discourse, and text length. Regression analyses showed that writing performance was predicted by word and sentence levels in the younger cohort only, and by discourse-level variables in both cohorts. Overall, despite indicating a generalized growth in writing skills throughout schooling, this study also highlighted the areas that may need additional attention from teachers, mainly in terms of the descriptive features.
Original languageEnglish
Article number668139
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • Descriptive text
  • Grade level
  • Levels of language
  • Longitudinal study
  • Spelling
  • Syntactic complexity measures
  • Writing performance

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