As I began to think about writing with young children, the most important aspect of teaching little ones how to write, and ways to empower young writers, my thoughts kept leading me back to interactive writing. When I looked back on all of the instructional strategies I used to grow my students as writers, I believe that interactive writing has been the single most effective method of support I offered to them. Through the interactive process I was able to model print conventions, form and message, and writer's craft.
Interactive writing offers a powerful model for writing that allows children to participate with support in the act of the writing process. You are the guide and the student is your apprentice. Together (sharing the pen) you are able to negotiate the meaning and structure of the written message with your students.
My top 5 suggestions or tips for using interactive writing with your students:
1) Do it everyday and not just during writing time. Use interactive writing across the curriculum.
2) Vary the ways you use interactive writing. Make lists, write captions, write sentences, label pictures and objects, create graphic organizers, and fill in the blanks of pre-written text. Interactive writing can be used for many different purposes such as creating stories, writing directions for informational pieces, and responding to literature.
3) Continue to use interactive writing in the spring even as your students grow stronger in their writing. Interactive writing offers a strong model for students to follow. As their writing skills and abilities improve, change the focus of your lessons to meet their needs.
4) Support the interactive writing process through conversation. Meaningful discussion is a key component in the process. Engage students in conversations about what you are writing about, discuss the purpose for writing, and talk about how to write what they want to say. Make connections between what you are writing, your self, and other texts. Point out interesting features in words and texts that you want your students to learn to use. Thinking aloud is very important. This helps students begin to understand how to think through writing on their own.
5) Learn all you can learn about interactive writing. Read about it, watch others do it, ask questions about it, and practice doing it over and over again in your own classroom. For a step-by-step guide on how to get started with interactive writing, the materials you need for it, and how to implement it throughout the year check out the book Interactive Writing by McCarrier, Pinnell & Fountas.
Interactive writing teaches children that what they say can be written down, that what you write can be read, and ways to connect their own writing to the books they are reading. Through the interactive writing process children are able to learn how to form letters accurately, how to make their writing more readable with print conventions, and how to group their ideas and add details in order to make their writing easier to understand.
If you are not already using interactive writing in your classroom, I suggest you learn more about it and try it out. If you are already using it, learn more about it and find other ways you can further develop it with the students in your classroom.