What are the components of writing ability

Writing research

“The term is generally used to refer to the ability to compose complex linguistic utterances or texts in such a way that they can in principle be read by others and oneself over time and space. [...] Writing competence is therefore an essential aspect of language competence in the medium of writing. ”This is made up of various linguistic sub-skills. “In order to describe sub-skills more precisely, one often orientates oneself on writing process models” (Krelle 2013, 326 f.).

Fully developed writing skills are understood to be the ability to abstractly write a text from the here and now, beyond the immediate writing time and place of writing and in accordance with a writing function, in principle for everyone to read (cf. Ossner 1995) and thus to realize various functions of the written form . Writing competence is discussed primarily in connection with the (partly disappointing) results from empirical studies, i.e. in relation to intervention options; Schäfer (2009), for example, discusses ways of recording "writing difficulties" in secondary school students. The more recent research emphasizes much more fundamentally that in addition to "Text knowledge"(Forms of writing, types of text) also"Writing awareness"is needed (cf. Berning 2011); in addition to reflecting on writing goals and the possibility / willingness to improve the text, above all a metacognitive component, namely the ability to (self) observe and thus control the entire process (cf. Berning 2011 , 12).


Writing competency models

Models of writing competence are based on the idea that different sub-competencies are necessary for this, which the writer gradually develops, expanded or integrated into an existing competence (cf. Münch 2006). It is undisputed that writing competence requires knowledge (e.g. about the writing medium, spelling, lexicon, topic, etc.) Different types of knowledge are differentiated (cf. Becker-Mrotzek / Schindler 2008):

  • Declarative knowledge (knowledge of facts, e.g. facts and terms)
  • Problem-solving knowledge (knowledge of problem-solving strategies)
  • Procedural knowledge (relief of the writing process through automation of writing operations)
  • Metacognitive knowledge (monitoring and control of self-directed learning processes)

Fix generally supports this division of knowledge types. He also understands writing competence "as the ability to

a) pragmatic knowledge,

b) knowledge of the content,

c) Text structure knowledge and

d) Language knowledge

to be used in a writing process in such a way that the product meets the requirements of a (self-determined or externally determined) writing function (e.g. instructing, explaining, entertaining) "(Fix 2008, p.33)

Writing skills thus includes the following sub-skills:

  • Planning competence (Text development: from own knowledge to differentiated use of external knowledge stores, e.g. Internet, lexicons)
  • Formulation competence (Development process of linguistic structures and forms of expression)
  • Revision skills (Revision actions, e.g. orthographic corrections)
  • Expressiveness (e.g. text type specificity, addressee reference)
  • Contextualization competence (Text understanding through contextualization)
  • Anticipatory competence (Development of self-related text perception to an expanded, generalized addressee reference)
  • Text design skills (Development tendencies from associative-sequential text design to schema- or text-type text order) (see Pohl 2014, 114 ff.).

There is a close relationship between writing and thinking in inventing and linking, in judging and reasoning, and in remembering.


Acquiring writing skills: the development perspective

Various studies - for example DESI - showed that the development of writing skills (language, vocabulary and syntax development) depends on writing interest, social factors, age and feedback from suitable readers. The first "literacy events" and insights into the symbolic system of writing are followed by diverse experiences with writing as action.
The gradual emergence of skills in narrative (narrative), declarative (showing) and argumentative (discussing) writing is known as the acquisition of textual skills. A longitudinal study by Augst et al. 2007 dealt with the development of 39 children from the 2nd to 4th grade. Great in terms of their ability to write texts within the scope of various communicative requirements. It was the task of these children to write one text each in five types of text. The evaluation took place in three steps:

  1. Classification of the text copies in step models
  2. Investigation of changes in linguistic features (e.g. text framing elements, grammar, text length)
  3. Investigation of changes in text-specific aspects

The central findings of the longitudinal study showed that writing skills specific to the type of text or linguistic characteristics could be determined from the start. Within the next development stage, text generation mechanisms selected for specific types of text could already be distinguished (e.g. specific choice of possible text modules; cf. August et al. 2007)

There are various development models for acquiring (sorts) of text competence (cf. in detail Feilke 2003 and, in summary, Wrobel 2010 and Becker-Mrotzek 2014).


Writing skills and social background

Writing competence, like language competence in general, does not develop independently of the social origin or class of the learner. According to a longitudinal study by Steinig / Betzel / Geider / Herbold (2009, 344), in the 30 years between 1972 and 2002 "the social gap between competent and less competent writers" has widened further, which is partly due to an increase in children with a migration background ( from 0% in 1972 to 25% in 2002 in the same schools). The study was criticized from a sociolinguistic point of view (cf. Strässle 2013), since the assignment to a class on the basis of a characteristic (parents' occupation) no longer does justice to the current social situation. The authors of the study (Steinig / Betzel / Geider / Herbold 2009, 350) and the criticism (Strässle 2013, 93) agree that the lower class and most immigrant children continue to be disadvantaged in the acquisition of written skills. The dismantling of instruction-based language teaching since the 1970s probably also contributes to this; The new (constructivist) paradigm was useful to middle-class children, but not to children from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.


Writing skills and media

The media question was asked relatively late in writing research. A distinction is now made between four different types of media:

  • Primary media (no technical aids required, e.g. facial expressions, gestures, language) (cf. Böhn / Seidler 2008, 8)
  • Secondary media (Writing and printing media, use of a technical aid on the part of the recipient to transmit the information, storage of the information over a long period of time, e.g. writing, printing, photography) (cf.
  • Tertiary media (electronic media, aids required by the recipient and sender, mass media, e.g. TV, radio, internet) (cf. Böhn / Seidler 2008, 18)
  • Quaternary media (Mixture between the first three media groups, similarity to mass media but also "quick change between individual and group language" (Dittmar 2009, 39), e.g. social networks: Facebook etc.)

It is about more than the computer / laptop as a 'better typewriter': The Internet with its "wikis", which enable cooperative writing, has become a new challenge (cf. Cummings 2009) and offers writing / text revision on specially designed learning platforms new opportunities to learn from texts and from one another (cf. e.g. Abraham / Bräuer 2005).


Intertwining with reading skills

Writing skills are directly linked to reading skills. The common functions of both competencies include:

  1. cognitive function: Generation of knowledge, relief of memory; Reading: understanding the text
  2. mental function: Writing thoughts and emotions into writing, communicating with oneself (psychologically relieving effect); Reading: entertainment, developing imagination, tolerance, empathy, questions of morality and identity
  3. social function: Communication (writing of knowledge-imparting, argumentative or instructive texts); Reading: Communication (non-fictional texts) (Philipp 2012, 29ff.)

The focus of the now well-known but not uncontroversial method “reading by writing” (Reichen 1970) is the joy of writing, the encouragement of creativity and independence of children and the resulting reading.