Literacy Partners

Going Beyond the Morning Message With Interactive Writing

As I share articles here on various topics, one thing remains top of mind about the life of an educator that we don’t talk about often enough.

It’s about showing up.

As an educator, showing up each day for your kids is a daily commitment. This looks different for everyone, but it can sometimes mean pushing things aside and summoning your inner strength to be your best self.

No matter what you may be going through at any point in your career as an educator, know that I see you — and know how hard it can be at times, and at the same time, can be equally as rewarding.

Being an educator, you need to put on your best face each day and keep up that momentum and energy for your other relationships — your family, your kids, and anyone else in your circle. 

Importantly, you need to remember yourself and your own needs. Putting all of this together, it can feel like a big task to keep it together — and this is on a regular day without any additional stress going on. 

Even in challenging times, if the simplest thing you do is read our articles, I hope it can still spark something in you or inspire you to try something new. 

Here we’re going to return to some basics, specifically with interactive writing to help give you some solid ground for which to include during your day in the classroom.

Here are some helpful tools for interactive writing. 

When I reflect on myself as a teacher, I didn’t do interactive writing well. I didn’t do it enough or use it in different ways to support my kids with conventions, spelling, spacing, and grammar. 

And I know now that it’s a truly powerful method to use to work on these things. Now would be a great time to do more of it, as it’s truly supportive in helping young writers become more independent in these areas.

Let’s start with the basics. What is Interactive Writing?  

According to Fountas and Pinnell, authors of Interactive Writing: How Language and Literacy Come Together, Interactive writing is a dynamic, collaborative literacy event in which children actively compose together, considering appropriate words, phrases, organization of text, and layout. At points selected by the teacher for instructional value, children take over or “share the pen” with the teacher.

Interactive writing is a teaching method where the students and teacher work together to create a text. 

It can be great to support kids with learning a new genre, responding to a read-aloud, creating a math survey, or sharing new information in science or social studies. 

This is different from shared writing, where the teacher holds the pen the entire time. In interactive writing, kids can participate in the composition and share the pen.

In the many years I’ve been teaching, I’ve noticed that the most common interactive writing use is creating a morning message. And while there’s nothing particularly wrong with that, there are many other ways you could use interactive writing to make it more fun for you and the kids!

Here are four tips for making interactive writing fun and effective:

1. Keep it short!
Just 10-15 minutes is plenty of time. Remember, it should feel fun. Decide how kids will engage in the session — will they…

  • Write in the air with their fingers?
  • Write on a partner’s back?
  • Write on a wipe board with a dry erase marker?

2. Create systems for setting up

Once you’ve decided how to immerse the kids in the session, prepare your system. If you’re using dry erase pens and boards, you’ll need to get these out to kids quickly so that you don’t lose momentum.

For example: In a Kindergarten class I worked in years ago, Ms. Diaz’s system included bins at the end of each row of kids seated at the rug. Inside the bin at the end of the row were five plastic bags. Each plastic bag had a board, a dry erase pen, and a sock eraser. It took the kids less than a minute to get these into their laps and ready to start the session.

3. Plan a focus for the class
You can plan your focus based on the majority’s word or spelling work needs. If your class needs work on short vowels, have kids share the pen on the words in the text that have short vowels. If they need work on ending punctuation — have them come up to decide which ending punctuation is most appropriate.

To help to move things along in the session, you’ll add any letters or words that are either too easy or too challenging for your class.

4. Show students how it helps them in their independent writing
In many classrooms where I’ve observed this and even reflected on it in my own primary classroom, I often held the interactive writing session and then moved on to the next subject. Keep in mind that interactive writing aims to support kids in doing this work more independently, so try giving a quick link at the end.

Here’s something to try during the writing workshop when it’s independent writing time: “Writers, today when we were creating this sign during interactive writing, we were working on listening carefully to the beginning sounds in each word and writing them down. How many of you will try to do that today when we have writing time?”



How To Differentiate Your Interactive Writing Session
Call on kids who are more advanced in sophisticated topics. For example, if I were teaching Kindergarten but had a child who was an advanced reader, I might call them up to spell or write some of the longer, more complex words.You may also call on beginning writers to come up and do the simpler work or the work that’s review for the rest of the class. For example, If I were a first grade teacher who had a student stringing letters together and not yet putting spaces between words, I might call that child up to hold a space between each word. In doing this, I’d be helping them to practice that skill which will hopefully help them when they’re working independently.

Keep in mind …
Interactive writing could be great to use in small groups with kids who are still working on conventions, grammar, or spelling. This could be for English Language Learners, small groups with 2-4 kids, or students needing small group instruction in primary grades. If you’ve only ever done it as a morning message with letters missing, I invite you to try something new. Here are some examples:

  • Writing a reading response with your class
  • Creating a letter to the principal inviting them to your writing celebration
  • Creating a survey in math
  • Writing some new facts you learned about force and motion during science
  • Making a sign with your kids for a bulletin board where you’ll display their work 

The possibilities are endless!

Here are some additional resources to help you on your interactive writing journey:

And, if you enjoyed this information about interactive writing, and if you’d like some other helpful content about support in challenging times, you may want to read these:

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