The Interactive Writing Method March 12 2009

Why Interactive Writing?

Oftentimes, very young children may find writing terrifying. They see parents and older siblings writing and can be overcome by a fear of failing or not being capable of learning to write. Teaching literacy through interactive writing methods give them a chance to practice writing and reading skills in an environment where they feel safe.

Interactive writing is used in teaching the early phases of writing, primarily with students in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and grade levels 1 and 2. In the interactive writing method the teacher and student share the pen, writing to each to each other in letters, dialog journals or using a message board. Kids choose their own topics and how long the text will be.

Teacher-Student Interaction Promotes Fluency

The teacher responds without any criticism or correction of students’ spelling, grammar or writing style, instead helping the kids by providing them with better examples of writing in the responses, which helps kids improve through emulating the teacher.

The goal of the interactive writing method is to help kids learn to view literacy in a more meaningful way than simply a boring classroom activity. The focus will be on fluency, rather than on correct grammar or accurate spelling. Kids are encouraged writing to learn instead of learning to write and quickly begin to see themselves as writers.

Concepts in Interactive Writing

  • Learning upper and lower case letters
  • Becoming more aware of the nature of words
  • Increasing vocabulary
  • How to organize narrative text
  • The nature of correspondence
  • How to target writing to an audience

Interactive Writing Ideas and Strategies

  • Let your students have a chance to brainstorm together and decide on topics and which means of writing to use (i.e. letters, journals, message boards, etc.)
  • Instruct students that the way they word messages has an impact on how it is perceived
  • Encourage the interactive part of the exercises
  • Try to focus your responses on providing students with a better writing model versus offering criticism or corrections
  • Variations include group writing exercises and having kids read their own writing out loud to each other

Resources and Professional Books on Interactive Writing

The interactive writing methodology is well presented and explained in the following books:

Interactive Writing: How Language & Literacy Come Together, McCarrier, Pinnell, and Fountas, copyright 1999

Apprenticeship in Literacy, Linda J. Dorn, Cathy French, and Tammy Jones

Additional Online Resources

For more online information, lesson plans and classroom activities on Interactive Writing, follow these links:

About Interactive Writing - Download this .PDF excerpt by Stan Swartz, Ph.D., including background on the use of Interactive Writing in the classroom and sample lesson plans.

Interactive Writing Classroom Examples - Teachers' examples of Interactive Writing activities for the classroom.

Writing Process: Interactive Writing Overview - This Brighthub article by Laurie Patsalides provides a good overview on the Interactive Writing process.

Interactive Writing Classroom Activities - Ovid-Elsie Area Schools article on Interactive Writing steps and classroom activities.