Interactive Writing

By: Keeli Gibson, Section C, 9/10/15

Interactive Writing?

Interactive writing is an interactive and instructional method where the teacher and the students work together to create and compose a text. While they work together to create this text, the students learn a vast amount about the writing process. In the classroom, the students would gather around the teacher and collaborate about the composition of the text and the actual writing of the text (sharing the pen technique).

Essential parts of an interactive writing lesson:

The essential parts of an interactive writing lesson include: experience, prewrite, compose, share the pen, review and extend. Starting with the first part of the lesson, experience, means that the piece of text that the class will be collaboratively writing is about an experience that they have had together. Next, in the prewrite stage, the teacher and students discuss and brainstorm the format and importance of the writing they will be doing. Moving on to the compose stage, the students and teacher will discuss and collaborate what they want to write. The teacher will help guide the students to using the proper items and follow the rules of writing. After composing, the teacher and students engage in sharing the pen. This means that they will each take turns with the pen (hence sharing it) to write the text they discussed out. They can either edit as they write or at the end, once it is all written. The second to last step, review, would be when the teacher reviews specific principles that were used in the text by allowing the students to find or point them out in the text. Finally, the extend part is when the class continues to use this text as a tool for learning in the future.

Interactive writing: grades 2-5 shifts

Interactive writing may be used for the primary grades for when they first start learning how to write and construct sentences but it can also be adapted to be used in grades 2-5. There were four key shifts from teaching primary grades to teaching grades 2-5 due to their writing knowledge.

  • Shift 1: Lesson is more fluid and dynamic- this means that with more matured writers, the lesson will move quicker and at more ease, thus creating more sentences at the end of the lesson.
  • Shift 2: Share the Pen part modified- the pace, discussion and medium are modified for the more fluent readers. The main idea of this is that not every little detail is pointed out to the extreme it was in primary grades. There may also be technology incorporated and the students would share the keyboard instead of a pen.
  • Shift 3: Lesson frequency decreases and length increases- students with a more mature understanding for writing will not have to have as many opportunities to practice it but instead longer lessons to deepen their learning.
  • Shift 4: Genre expands and becomes a central goal- particular aspects of the genre and the genre itself are explored more with students in upper elementary grades.

4 Principles of Interactive Writing for All Grades

  1. Value each step in the lesson: Each lesson includes multiple goals for the students and the teacher should focuses on specific important ideas throughout the lesson. Students should be gaining and learning new items in each part of the lesson.
  2. Balance the Planned and Unplanned Teaching Opportunities: The planned portion of the lesson is done before the writing occurs and is influenced by the students data of where they are in writing. The unplanned opportunities differ with each circumstance and classroom but good teachers will see these opportunities and maximize on them.
  3. Make Intentional Teaching Decisions as Writers Develop: The teacher needs to make sure to make teaching decisions for each individual child and their needs within the classroom.
  4. Make Explicit Links to Students' Own Work: Teachers need to make sure that students connect what they learn from the interactive lessons to their independent writing. Sometimes students connect the two independently but other times the teacher must help guide the student to connect the two.

Personal Reflection:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article because I believe this interactive and instructional method is highly effective, especially after reading about all the benefits. I have heard of the term and seen it in videos in prior blocks but I have never really learned much about it until now. I think this is a unique way to help students learn how to write, as well as use their brainstorming and collaboration skills.

This article was detailed and explicit in explaining the method so teachers knew exactly what it was, how to implement it in their classroom and why it is so important and effective to use. I would definitely use this method in my future classroom as much as I can to help build those necessary skills in a supporting classroom.

Overall, I believe this is something that every teacher should use in their classrooms and I would recommend it to anyone I know.

Discussion Questions:

  • Why is interactive writing beneficial to students, especially young ones?
  • How could interactive writing be used in grades 6 and higher? What shifts would have to be made?
  • How would you differentiate interactive writing instruction for students of higher and lower levels in the primary grades?

Additional Resources:

Interactive Writing


Roth, K., & Dabrowski, J. (2014). Extending Interactive Writing Into Grades 2-5. The Reading Teacher, 68 (1), 33-44.