Balanced Writing Instruction: Why Include a Combination of Writing Modes?

Balanced Writing Instruction:  Why include a combination of writing modes?  What does each mode have to offer?  Link to video of interactive writing.
Hello!  
Thinking tonight about how important it is to have a balanced approach to writing instruction in terms of the modes of writing we employ with students.  As with reading, varied writing modes (modeled writing, shared writing, interactive writing, and independent writing) provide different benefits for students. I wouldn’t want to short-change any of them because I don’t want to short-change the ways I can support my students’ writing development. 

During modeled writing, teachers are the writers. They do all the work. They think aloud, talking about what they are doing as they compose in front of the class. Over time, as students listen and watch, they learn the strategies writers use while composing. Be sure to model the steps you take as you model across different genres.  Don't worry if you're not a professional writer, or you're not sure of the "best way to model."  There is no "best way."  If you can write at a level slightly higher than your students, you can push their writing development.  It's okay to get stuck, make mistakes, rethink and retry, after all, writers in the real world do this all the time. 


Be sure to model writing frequently. Students learn the ins and outs of the writing process as they see and hear the thinking and writing develop right in front of them in real time as you, a fellow-writer, value, struggle, problem-solve, and persevere. Don't worry about finishing every piece you start--model what it is your students need based on what their writing shows.  One last hint:  When you finish modeling, ask students to describe what they saw you do.  This helps them reprocess what they observed, naming strategies, craft moves and elements while reinforcing their value.   (For much more on modeled writing, see my book Quick Start to Writing Workshop Success.) 

During shared writing, the teacher and students negotiate together what will be written, talking out their content, giving it a try on paper, making changes as they go. The teacher is the one who does the physical writing. This way, students can focus all their attention on content without worrying about spelling or mechanics (unless the teacher poses a question or prompts such discussion). In contrast, during interactive writing, the teacher and students do the physical writing. The content is still negotiated jointly, but as students “share the pen,” they grapple with spelling and mechanics, thus working on their phonological awareness and phonics skills. (Since interactive writing promotes growth in these areas and does so within the meaningful act of writing, it is a staple in my kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms.) In both shared and interactive writing, students have more responsibility for the writing than they do with modeled writing, but scaffolding and support are always available since the teacher is actively involved. In essence, these are forms of guided practice. (Another one of my books has detailed information on interactive writing: Using Name Walls to Teach Reading and Writing. Also, I’ve posted a video clip demonstration of interactive writing in kindergarten on my Facebook page “Literacy Matters." This clip emphasizes the use of Word Walls to record on a chart, but you’ll get the general idea of what ‘sharing the pen’ is all about.)

Obviously, students need opportunities to ‘try out’ all they are learning independently, so having time in the day for Writing Workshop or independent writing is critical. Students will approximate the use of the strategies they’ve seen modeled and have tried during guided experiences. Though the teacher may be available to provide some support, it’s important that students grapple with the act of composing on their own or with some assistance from peers. Teachers look closely at what their students are producing to help them determine next steps in their instruction


Even our youngest, most emergent writers must have daily independent writing time. If they are not given this time, how will their skills develop? They might begin by drawing and labeling or scribbling down letters, but the more teachers model and involve them in shared and interactive writing, the more they will grow. Naturally, the instruction they receive in phonological awareness, phonics, spelling, and vocabulary will also push their development as writers, but only if they are given daily opportunities to apply it!


Remember to include modeled and shared writing regularly with older students. They need the inside peek into a writer’s head and to cooperatively grapple with composing text just as much as their younger cohorts.  

#happywriting to all and to all a good night! As always, I'd love to hear from you!  Post a comment to add to the conversation.
Much thanks,


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