The Basics of Interactive Writing

Interactive writing is a great way to teach, model, and share an authentic writing task with a k-2 classroom community. Through interactive writing, students learn how print works and become problem solvers. The teacher is able to model and teach the students something that they can try during the interactive writing process or when they go off to write on their own. Some other benefits of interactive writing are:

  • students are able to practice the daily phonics lesson
  • the teacher is able to model letter formation
  • students increase their letter name and sound knowledge
  • students are able to practice and expand their high-frequency word vocabulary

If you are interested in learning more about interactive writing read on!

What materials do I need for interactive writing?

It is very important to have all of your writing materials at hand in order to keep the lesson moving along. You will need:

  • a large area for your students to sit and have a clear view of the easel and any writing resources (name chart, word wall, etc.)
  • an easel
  • markers ( I prefer black)
  • chart paper (I suggest white/no lines for K-1, and white/lined for 1-2)
  • white correction tape to cover mistakes
  • a whiteboard or Magnadoodle to model letter formation and high-frequency words
  • highlighting tape
  • wiki sticks

How do I do interactive writing?

Interactive writing typically takes 15-20 minutes. It is important to keep your lesson moving along to prevent your students from becoming antsy.

Step 1: Plan your lesson by thinking about what your students can do and where you would like to take them next. You may even want to think about which students you might have do different tasks during the writing.

Step 2: Share with the students the purpose for writing. Try to make connections to previous learning. Guide your students in the co-creation of a message in response to a shared experience such as:

  • a field trip
  • an assembly
  • a classroom visitor
  • a classroom problem
  • a learning experience (math, science, social studies, etc.)
  • a read aloud

Having students engaged in creating the message and keeping the message purposeful helps with increasing student engagement during the lesson.

*Before moving to step 3 I want to make a note about the importance of using a medium that can be displayed in the classroom. If you use your whiteboard or an electronic board of some sort and get rid of the message after the lesson your students will miss out on a valuable resource for future writing.

Step 3: Call on students to come up to the easel to “share the pen” and write parts of the message. The students do not write every single part of the message. That would take too long! The teacher should write anything that is too easy or too hard. It is VERY important that the teacher models for students how to say words slowly and then hold them accountable for saying words slowly and articulating the sounds for themselves. Otherwise, during independent writing time, you will have a class of students who will wait for you to say words slowly for them rather than trying the task on their own.

This is the step where the teaching and modeling take place. The teacher bases his/her teaching decisions on what his/her students can do. It helps to take notes about what you notice when your students go back to work independently on their own writing pieces. For example, after a few days of conferencing, you might notice that most students are at least writing the initial sound of each word and then plan to show students how to hear more sounds throughout the word as the next step.

Remember to explicitly teach students how to use resources in the room rather than just referring to those resources. Some helpful resources are:

  • First & last name chart
  • Alphabet linking chart
  • Word wall

Interactive writing provides an authentic situation in which you may want to add words to the word wall. “We have been writing the word ‘like’ in many of our messages. Let’s add that word to the word wall so that we will always know how to write ‘like’ in our stories.”

Step 4: Have students continuously re-read the message as it is being written. This helps students to recall what word will come next, provides extra reading practice, and helps to make the text memorable for future re-reading. While writing the message keep the following mantra in your head, “Process over product. Process over product. Process over product!” Remember to model and praise the process of problem-solving not having a finished, error-free product.

Provide closure to the lesson by leaving your class with a generative thought. “We learned that if we want to write more sounds in words we have to say words very slowly.”

Step 5: Display the writing in the room for re-reading and for students to use as a resource for their future writing pieces. You may even want to take pictures of interactive writing pieces to make a book to keep in the classroom library.

My favorite interactive writing resources:

Interactive Writing:  How Language and Literacy Come Together, K-2 by Andrea McCarrier, Irene Fountas, and Gay Su Pinnell

Teaching for Comprehension and Fluency:  Thinking, and Writing About Reading, K-8 by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell

The Fountas and Pinnel Literacy Continuum, Expanded Edition by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell


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