What Is Interactive Writing?

Years of study have gone into interactive writing (IW), yet many instructors may not be aware of its potential to improve students’ writing and reading abilities. I’ve included tips for utilizing IW to teach fundamental concepts like print, phonemic awareness, and phonics. Furthermore—and probably even more significantly—I’ll share what professional teachers do to make the practice effective.

Interactive writing: What is it?

The most common interactive writing (IW) format is the morning message, which is familiar to many. For instance:

Utilizing the children’s ideas, interactive writing produces legible works. Interactive writing is direct, relevant, and instantaneous. The interaction is intended to demonstrate how language and print interact. Despite how straightforward it may seem, the discussion that results in the negotiated text aids students in grasping complex linguistic ideas.

Children are introduced to the writing process through interactive writing, which emphasizes the value of writing in conveying ideas. All instructors can do to direct the experience based on the identified strengths and requirements during reading teaching, which is what makes it so effective as a writing and reading activity.

Consider, for instance, a small reading group of pupils who are struggling to decode unfamiliar words. They could be trying to pronounce words letter by letter, which can be difficult considering how irregular the English language is. The teacher rapidly notes these remarks after noticing this. After reading the material, the teacher asks the students a question about the main character, and then they collaborate to use IW to come up with a statement in response to the reading.

The instructor recalls the fruitless word-solving she observed while she and the pupils recorded the sentence. The instructor utilizes specific examples during the writing process to demonstrate to the students how to hear and capture bigger, more practical pieces of information. The instructor also shows the class how they may use this strategy in their reading. Making these links gives kids new options when they are reading-related problem-solving. Additionally, every sort of co-created IW literature turns into a source of reading that kids may independently revisit and reread.

A Boon to begin the School Year 

IW is an excellent back-to-school habit that fosters a feeling of community in the classroom. Whatever the genre and format being chosen, the subsequent interaction with students offers several possibilities to enhance language development, including vocabulary and background information. My book Interactive Writing: Developing Readers Through Writing contains many more tips if you’re interested in learning to use IW (Benchmark Education, 2020). Let’s concentrate on the 3Ms of successfully managing it for the moment.

The 3Ms 

IW is not for those who lack courage. In fact, following an IW workout, I frequently feel as though I’ve run a marathon. Therefore, the effectiveness of this literacy exercise depends heavily on planning. There are several possibilities to tailor training for specific learners, and my mind is always racing to come up with the finest in-the-moment instructional choices.

But here’s what I want you to understand: Unless my brain is “freed up” to concentrate on instruction, it cannot operate at breakneck speed. Yes, responsive teaching appears spontaneous, but it has a plan.

“Responsive teaching appears to be spontaneous, but it is structured on a strategy,”

Model Routines:  Combating Traffic

The strategy starts with routines and processes that have been adequately defined. I have the kids practice approaching and participating on the IW chart at the start of the year. Although it may seem negligible, I am likely to have time management concerns if a child needs 15 minutes to approach me and contribute a letter or a word to the text we are making.  Rethinking the location of IW in the classroom might be helpful; frequently, the traffic flow to and from the IW text requires simplification. To establish the tone for the activity and foster a sense of community, it is ideal to set up a carpeted area in front of the chart.

Although students can participate from their desks or team tables, I recommend having a dedicated space, even if this means moving a table back a few feet at the beginning of an IW session, to provide room for everyone to sit comfortably and view the chart. As you organize the classroom arrangement, remember that “creating a favorable environment for interactive writing implies making space” since the area where the students will write has to be accessible (p. 47).

Time Management: Beware of Wiggles

The use of time while planning is crucial. I pay special attention to the children’s body language when doing IW. Are they becoming restless and agitated? An IW session could last ten to fifteen minutes at the beginning of the year. The duration of IW classes may grow to 25 to 30 minutes as the kids’ endurance improves. No matter how long the IW session lasts, I always pay attention to the whole class, even while one child is on the chart. For instance, we may write the date in a brief morning message. The first word in the phrase is “Today,” and I have the kids clap each letter before purposely asking one of them to add the first component to the chart. I work with the others to develop phonological awareness as the child moves toward the chart.

Phonological awareness is a fundamental ability that IW gives many natural opportunities to develop. I quickly pronounce the individual components of numerous complex words while hesitating between each one (out side; play ground; jelly – fish). The pupils combine the two parts of the word as they speak it after each. Naturally, I am also monitoring the child’s progress on the chart and offering assistance as required throughout this time. Although “sharing the pen” is the classic approach to making interactive writing interactive, there are numerous more ways to do it.

Manage Resources: Prepare the participation pack.

Using what I refer to as Participation Packs is another way to make IW engaging for all kids. These tools enable the youngster at the chart to work with the pupils on the floor. Students on the floor may start writing the word “to” at the same time as the student at the chart. I frequently instruct students to write the word “to” as many times as possible before their classmate sits down. I must confess that handling the resources was a little intimidating when I first started utilizing the Participation Packs. But eventually, after much trial and error and joint planning, I came up with a practical system. Each student receives a Participation Pack at the start of an IW session, wherein I keep the packs in a container. The following are ideas for participation packs: 

  • 8 x 11 whiteboards 
  • Plastic Solo plates (works like a whiteboard).
  • Chalkboards and different colors of chalk.
  • Miniature Magna doodles.
  • Clipboards
  • Boogie boards

Work with your grade level team to create a list of recurring items for the Participation Packs. Then, everyone may look up and buy one of the supplies on the list to distribute among the group. The Participation Packs’ monthly material swaps keep the kids interested in using the supplies.

For IW, having a structure and strategy helps with all management-related tasks. A framework that offers a design for teachers and students alike can be introduced at the beginning of the school year to promote teaching and learning. The attention of IW may be centered on the reciprocal interactions between writing and reading thanks to a defined framework, which also makes crucial instructional decisions possible.

Choose your Reaction!