I’ve been a Responsive Classroom devotee ever since the approach changed the way my classroom functioned. With Responsive Classroom, the social curriculum became as important as the academic curriculum. With Responsive Classroom, I changed my language so I could communicate with my students more effectively, genuinely, and respectfully. With Responsive Classroom, I had more time to teach (Imagine that!) since my classroom management was stronger as a result of my training.
Interactive Modeling: A Powerful Technique for Teaching Children by Margaret Berry Wilson is one I wish I had when I was in the classroom. Her book teaches teachers how to use interactive modeling to teach a variety of classroom routines, behaviors, and skills in an engaging way that shows students what to do while providing them with a safe space to practice. The interactive modeling technique is worthy of use in writing workshop. Hence, I chatted with Margaret about this technique and how her book can help teachers of writers run a better workshop for their students.
Stacey: Would you describe how interactive modeling differs from guided discovery?
Margaret: Interactive Modeling is like a closed-ended question, and guided discovery is more like an open-ended question. That is, teachers should use Interactive Modeling when they have one way they want students to do something. They might seek students’ input about what that one way should be, but if, in the end, they want all students doing a behavior, procedure, or skill the same way, Interactive Modeling is a great strategy for teaching that one way. For example, I would use Interactive Modeling to show children how to sharpen colored pencils because there is only one way I want them to do that.
On the other hand, Guided Discovery is better for using when students could approach a material in multiple ways, and teachers want to help explore those ways and help flesh out how they look and sound in action. Returning to the colored pencils, I would use Guided Discovery to explore with children how to creatively use those.
Stacey: Do you ever share the steps of interactive modeling with students or are they implied? Do students every catch-on to the way interactive modeling goes in the way they might catch on to the architecture of a minilesson?
NOTE TO READERS: To learn more about the seven steps click on the image to your right.
Margaret: I have not shared the steps of Interactive Modeling with students, but I have definitely had students who caught on to it and its rhythm!
Stacey: What kinds of writing routines or procedures might one teach using interactive modeling?
Margaret: Interactive Modeling can be helpful to show students how to keep track of their writing in their folders or 3-ring binders, how to sign up for a conference, how to make the transition from the mini-lesson to writing (including making sure they have the supplies they need) and how to transition from writing to reflection or sharing time. I’ve also seen teachers use Interactive Modeling really effectively to teach how to turn and talk to a partner either during the mini-lesson or the reflection time of writing workshop. Interactive Modeling provided a great way to teach my second graders how to literally cut and paste, and I know teachers who use it to show that same skill on the computer. In fact, one of the sample lessons in the book addresses the latter.
Stacey: Would you talk a bit about some skills you might teach young writers using interactive modeling?
Margaret: In terms of skills for younger students, I taught where to start and stop writing on the page, how to make spaces between words, and how to stretch out words to spell them. For older students, teachers could use Interactive Modeling to teach paragraph indentation, leaving white space for poetry, or how to make a web or use some other graphic organizer as part of a brainstorming session.
Stacey: How do you think teachers could use interactive modeling during the writing share time?
Margaret: Teachers could use Interactive Modeling to teach students how to turn and talk about a piece of writing with a partner, how to ask a question or make a comment to a writer, or how to share an excerpt of writing in a clear, expressive, and loud enough voice.
Stacey: Many times students forget routines over the winter recess. Would you discuss a few routines you think teachers might want to reteach when they return in January using interactive modeling?
Margaret: Here are some I think can be especially helpful to review –responding to signals for quiet, hallway and line routines, major transitions, clean-up routines, and conversational routines. I also think it’s helpful for teachers to take a minute and think about what routines and procedures are going well and which have been a little rocky, as that may vary from grade to grade and class to class. Anything that’s rocky should be revisited!
Stacey: In Chapter 5 you spent some time talking about test prep skills teachers can model through interactive modeling. Would you discuss a few writing-related test prep skills? How can kids benefit from interactive modeling within the test prep genre?
Margaret: From what I have seen of various commercial test prep programs and teachers doing it in classrooms, it typically ends up involving a great deal of teacher talk. I think Interactive Modeling can bring students more into the process of learning test prep and as a result could make it more meaningful and engaging for them.
In terms of writing-related test prep skills, teachers could use Interactive Modeling to show students how to note or highlight key words in the question or writing prompt to make sure they understand it before starting, how to brainstorm or map out what they are going to say before writing, and how to go back and re-read what they have written to make sure it makes sense. Interactive Modeling is also effective for showing students how to cross out words or phrases they want to change and replace them legibly.
Stacey: Can interactive modeling be used with students older than 6th grade? If so, what are some ways it can be adapted for middle and high school use?
Margaret: I know that Developmental Designs, the middle school counterpart to Responsive Classroom, uses Interactive Modeling for students up to 8th grade, and as Responsive Classroom presenters, we use it, in a modified form, for adults in our workshops. I think that for middle school students, it should be fairly similar to what I outlined in the book, but just with more sophisticated and appropriate language and perhaps a little more student input about how things could or should be done. For high school students and adults, I would probably skip having a student or two model, and just go straight from my modeling and the discussion of it to the “everybody do it” step.
Stacey: What are you working on now?
Margaret: I just finished a book Teasing, Tattling, Defiance and More: Positive Approaches to 10 Common Classroom Behaviors. It takes the Responsive Classroom approach and shows teachers how to use it to help teachers and students overcome common challenging classroom situations. And, I’m working on a book with my good friend and colleague, Lara Webb, about incorporating science into daily Morning Meetings. I also do Responsive Classroom consulting: a mix of workshops, coaching, and working with teachers in their classrooms. I recently ran a small online book study group based on Caltha Crowe’s new book, How to Bullyproof Your Classroom, and I’m helping to organize a larger-scale version of that for next year. I also try to write blog posts for the Responsive Classroom blog often, especially when I have been inspired by the amazing teachers and students I have the chance to meet!
Here are three interactive modeling scripts from Margaret’s book. Click on any of them to enlarge.
- This giveaway is for THREE copies Interactive Modeling: A Powerful Technique for Teaching Children by Margaret Berry Wilson. Many thanks to NEFC for sponsoring this giveaway.
- To enter for a chance to win a copy of Interactive Modeling each reader may leave one comment about this interview, classroom routines, or the teaching of new skills in the comments section of this post.
- All comments left on or before Friday, December 14th, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. EST will be entered into a random drawing using a random number generator on Saturday, December 15th. I will announce the winner’s name at the bottom of this post by Sunday, December 16th.
- Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, my contact at NEFC will ship the book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field.)
Comments are now closed. Thank you to everyone who left a comment.
I used a random number generator to pick three winners who will each receive a copy of Interactive Modeling. Betsy, Jackie, and Kelly’s comments were selected. Here’s what each of them wrote in their comments:
I too am a longtime subscriber to the Responsive Classroom newsletter. I liked Margaret’s script on listening and know many kindergarten students that would benefit from more explicit and direct instruction. There are so many things we forget that need to be taught and make assumptions that students already know. Thanks for sharing this great resource!
I read this article right before going to the classroom where I co-teach math. There are days when the students act as if they don’t know the appropriate behavior during transition time. So, I practiced what I had taken from the article and applied it to that situation. Now I know I really need that book!
This post was informative and helpful- as always with Two Writing Teachers. I will be looking into the Responsive Classroom blog. Thank you for sharing this new and useful resource.
I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).