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Major Projects
Writing from the start: The writing readiness skills in early writing development for L1 and L2 Chinese speaking kindergarten children

Writing from the start: The writing readiness skills in early writing development for L1 and L2 Chinese speaking kindergarten children

  • Project Leader
  • Dr ZHOU, Yanling (Department of Early Childhood Education) 
  • Description
  • This project examines the role of writing readiness skills in the early development of Chinese character writing. Despite a pedagogical shift towards digital literacy for very young children, handwriting with paper and pencil have significantly more impact on the brain development of young children than typing or writing on tablet computers. 
  • Scheme
  • General Research Fund 
  • Year
  • 2018/2019 

This project examines the role of writing readiness skills in the early development of Chinese character writing. Despite a pedagogical shift towards digital literacy for very young children, handwriting with paper and pencil have significantly more impact on the brain development of young children than typing or writing on tablet computers. For alphabetic languages, handwriting skills - seen as part of embodied cognition - also predict later academic performance, including reading and mathematics achievement (Cameron et al., 2016). Chinese, as an orthographically complex language, makes comparatively high cognitive demands on writing acquisition. This creates a tremendous challenge for second language (L2) Chinese learners in particular. Our research over the past 5 years has demonstrated how L2 children recruit different sets of skills from their peers of L1 at primary school in terms of Chinese early literacy acquisition. Worryingly, they also perform consistently more weakly than their peers on almost all Chinese literacy related skills, even though they receive the same kind and amount of language and literacy instructions as those peers at school. (Zhou, 2012; Zhou, McBride, & Chung, in preparation). This difference persists even through middle school and results in disadvantages in terms of university choices and job opportunities. In Hong Kong, children - including L2 Chinese speaking children (e.g. ethnic minority children) - typically learn to read and write at 3 years of age in kindergartens. Children at this age show accelerating growth in visual and visual-motor skills, which are significant correlates for Chinese early reading acquisition. Yet little is known about how these skills develop differently for the two populations and how they are related to Chinese character writing. The proposed study aims 1) to identify the developmental progress of writing readiness skills such as basic visual and visual-motor skills in relation to Chinese early writing skills. 2) to compare the developmental trajectories of these skills in L1 and L2 Chinese-speaking children. 3) to determine the impact of writing readiness skills on subsequent Chinese character writing for the two populations. 4) to identify intervention strategies for Chinese early writing acquisition. The project will generate recommendations for parents, teachers and policy makers concerning pedagogical design to develop L1 and L2 Chinese-speaking children’s early writing at kindergarten level in Hong Kong. This project will identify solutions in helping L2 children acquire Chinese literacy in the early years that would help save a significant amount of resources in their subsequent school years.

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