Teaching an interactive writing lesson is a versatile way to differentiate and review past literacy skills. This method differs from modeled or shared writing in that the students write on the paper with the teacher. Since the students do the writing, they will take ownership of the text and as a result, they will both gain more practice and learn new skills under direct supervision.
How is interactive writing different?
There are three main differences when it comes to writing with your class.
The teacher is writing on the paper. This is where a new skill is taught. Most of the time when I model writing, I do a think-aloud to show my student’s how I decide what to write.
With the student’s input, the teacher writes on the paper. At the beginning of the year, I ask for my student’s ideas to make class rules. I haven’t taught them writing expectations yet, and I want to make our class rules quickly so I write the whole chart.
Both the teacher and the students write. The best part is that you choose the skill that the students need the most practice on at the time. For example, if you notice your students need more help with consonant blends, you plan text with several blends. Also, you choose the students who need the most direct assistance to write.
How do I plan an interactive writing lesson?
At first, interactive writing stories can feel forced, but with time and practice, they become very natural for teachers and students. The key word is PRACTICE. Teaching the set up for interactive writing activities is just as important as the writing itself. Before you do your very first lesson, teach your students about the materials you’ll use, and what your expectations are.
Some things to consider:
- Which skill will you focus on? Choose at MOST two skills, but it’s best to just choose one.
- What will the writing be? List making? A narrative? A letter? Think about the writing genres you’ve taught them and plan which one you will choose ahead of time.
- Where are they writing? Is it at an easel? On your Elmo projector? You can vary your locations, but set expectations at each writing space.
- What materials will you use? I’m SUPER picky about my chart markers. They have to be Sharpie Flip Chart markers. They come in different colors, they last a really long time, and they have a pointed end instead of a chisel end. But you do you, and use your faves.
- Most importantly, what will the other students be doing when it isn’t their turn. I give my students mini dry erase boards and they practice the same skill. But creative alternatives are writing in the air with your finger, signing the word if you’ve taught them the sign language alphabet, etc.
What does interactive writing look like in my first grade classroom?
My first interactive writing lessons were pretty bad. I somehow got it in my head that my first graders should be writing full sentences. That wasn’t a fun day. Now, my students write the beginning of the word, and I fill in the rest of the word until they are ready to write full words or sentences. You never want to have invented spelling in interactive writing stories, so you absolutely can fill in the rest of a word or a sentence with a skill that hasn’t been taught. As the school year progresses, your students will be capable of writing much more.
Interactive Writing Expectations:
I tell them “Friends, now that you are first graders, you learn to write great things! On our chart, we have interactive writing lessons! Interactive means that you are doing the writing WITH me! Since only one student at a time comes up to our chart to write, the rest of my class will be using these small white boards to practice their writing with us!”
I’m picky about how I want my students to use a white board. I teach them exactly how I want them to get their boards and markers, how I want them to test their markers, without drawing pictures, where I want them to put them when they’re not using them and so forth.
I also have a huge pet peeve about my kiddos playing with their materials. There’s nothing that grates on my nerves like twenty-four markers whacking the white boards. So we have one whole lesson about how to “test” their markers by writing their names, and putting their tools on the floor and put their hands in their laps when I say, “Markers down”. I never allow them to even draw a picture on the marker board. And we practice. And practice. And practice. I thank them for correct behavior like I’m accepting an Oscar award. And I give the kiddos who forget a step the “teacher look”. Occasionally, I have to take a white board away from a student who draws a cute flower after being asked not to, but that’s rare after the first time.
Once they can:
- Pick up their markers
- Write what I’ve asked them to
- Put their tools down
- Look back at me
Then we’re ready to write!
Practice the sentence first. Once we know what we are going to write, we say the whole sentence. Then we whisper the sentence. We count the words in the sentence. I point to the chart where the words will go while I say the sentence aloud.
What tools do I need?
I make it fun! I use a black marker for my part of the writing, but I let them choose which color marker they want to use. If I’m focusing on punctuation, I give them stickers to mark the end of sentences.
On the chart paper, I draw a line across the middle. The top is a space for practice to form letters or spell words. At the beginning of the year, the top can be used for letter formation because they need direct instruction forming their letters. Often, I write the letter with a pencil and they trace with a marker. Interactive reading strategies is more than what they write, it’s how they write.
I call the students who I know need the most practice to the chart first. I also tell them “Sometimes you will get the chance to write on the chart, and sometimes you won’t. But everyone can write on their white boards!” I am very careful to mix in students who don’t need as much help, so they have the opportunity. These are the kiddos that you can challenge right away with whole words or phrases.
While you’re writing the sentence, stop and reread it as you go, asking the kiddos what the next word is. This is where we would use a pointer. Your kiddos can also take this task on. Another management strategy is using a student who is having a hard time with the length of a lesson is to give them the job of “pointer” or have them use their finger to space the words apart.
What are some interactive writing examples?
- What did you do this weekend?
- What did you see at recess?
- What would you buy from the candy shop?
- Narrative about a class pet (I have a “bookworm”… a giant stuffed caterpillar named Charlie. He’s in a lot of our stories)
- Personal narrative about a student of the week
- How to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- How to walk down the hallway
- How to peel a banana
This is my favorite. I choose an interactive read aloud book that we have been studying, and the kiddos come up with a sentence they’d like to say about it. For example, we read “The Recess Queen”, and our sentence was “Katie and Jean are new friends.”
- Life cycle of a pumpkin
- Biography of a historical figure
- Summary of a non-fiction book
Social Emotional Learning
- How did a character feel?
- How to solve a problem with a friend
I have more information on the social emotional competencies that might lend to an interactive writing lesson on feelings and emotional learning here.
Finally, post your interactive writing up everywhere. It’s not going to be a Pinterest worthy anchor chart, but it’s going to be valuable for your students to see their work is important enough to display!
Please comment how this helps you. I hope that your kiddos love interactive writing!
Happy writing, teacher friends!