Interactive Writing: Don’t Close the Door

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Interactive Writing? Yeah, I wasn’t a believer. I will admit this openly; I had kind of fought against it and did not see it working in my classroom until many years ago.

What is

interactive writing

Interactive writing is essentially when the teacher models reading and writing strategies while sharing the pen with students as they create the text together.

I remember trying it when I first began teaching. I think my mistake was trying to do too much with too many purposes in mind. Since it didn’t go well I assumed it was the idea but really it was me. I read books about how to use it and I think I was overwhelmed, so I just stopped. This is when I closed the door on the idea of using interactive writing in my classroom. That was a mistake.

The books went in a cupboard and I went on doing whatever I was doing back then. I thought I would never look back and no one was making me look back so I saw that as permission. When I began taking a literacy class about five years into my teaching career it never came up. When I took a writing class and learned more about how to model writing for students, it never came up. Again, I saw this as permission, but it sort of lingered in the back of my mind. I should have listened to that little voice and tried again.

I realized I had it all wrong when I read the book, Talking Drawing, and Writing by Giacobbe and Horn. Yes, the book I have been keeping at my bedside, hip side, and desk side since reading it back in 2011! Since it is a good idea to have kids label pictures in their drawings as a means of beginning to show print carries a message, one of their suggestions was to use interactive writing to label your classroom, write rules, or other information for the classroom. I had always liked labeling my classroom with lots of print but always did it for the students. Then one day I using interactive writing to label a cabinet. What a perfect word, one of my students picked it, and it could not have gone better. We then began to label one item in the room each day while I demonstrated how this reinforced our understanding of labeling our pictures in our drawing and writing notebook!

When I sat in a session this past June with Martha Horn she talked about interactive writing and took the labeling idea to a new level for me. She suggested writing an entire sentence for a classroom label. Instead of just labeling “cabinet” you would interactively write, “This is a cabinet,” or the phrase “The cabinet.” I think this is a great way to expose students to a full sentence, more letter sounds and high frequency words all in one minilesson.

In a few weeks I will feature an interview with Martha Horn, the co-author of Talking, Drawing, Writing. What questions would you ask about interactive writing or the writing workshop? Leave your questions in the comment section.