Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the writing development of Hong Kong kindergarten students over 12 months. They attended 18 kindergartens territory-wide and were followed from June 2002 to June 2003 for the collection of three waves of teacher-rated data at six-month intervals.Design/methodology/approach: First, the construct validity of the translated and culturally adapted version of Morrow's (2012) checklist which assesses writing development was confirmed, considering that the students attended Hong Kong kindergartens who wrote in the Chinese language. The multilevel analysis, which employed corrected measures captured through Wolfe and Chiu's (1999a, 1999b) five-step Rasch scaling method for a common frame of reference, estimated the effects of the factors, namely, student age, gender, class level and schools.Findings: The children's progress over the second six months was also apparently much smaller than the first SIX months for this cohort. The dramatic slow-down in the second six-month period for both cohorts might be partly attributed to the peculiar arrangement of schooling at that time.Research limitations/implications: The recommendation from this study is that random sampling and student test scores on writing need to be taken for the identification of the general trend of young children's writing development in Hong Kong, as well as other Chinese communities alike.Originality/value: The profile of the student's emergent writing development at each six-month follow-up and over the 12 months was explored. Differences between the groups based on age, gender, class level and school in terms of student writing development on average were statistically significant. Copyright © 2019 Emerald Publishing Limited.