Interactive Writing

Apr 9, 2009 by

Interactive writing is a technique that was developed by educators at The Ohio State University.  It involves a “sharing of the pen” between teacher and students.  The teacher guides the process but students are actively involved in constructing the text.  It is especially appropriate for emergent and early readers and writers and can be used for whole group or small group instruction. Unlike language-experience and shared writing, students are involved in the actual writing (transcription) of the text.  For this reason, interactive writing pieces are much shorter in length.

Skills that can be taught or reinforced through interactive writing:

  • Concepts about print
  • Phonemic awareness
  • Phonics
  • High frequency words
  • Letter identification and formation
  • Fluent reading
  • Story composition and organization
  • Materials needed:  Chart paper and marking pens

Helpful but optional materials:  correction tape, pointer, small white board and markers, word walls, letter and name charts, magnetic letters, magnadoodle.


1.  Decide on a topic with the children.  Any text can be the subject for an interactive writing lesson:  lists, news, charts, letters, stories, etc.  The topic should be one that the children know a lot about.

2.  Decide on the text, establishing one sentence or phrase at a time.  Have students repeat the text and put up one finger to represent each word.  Keep the text brief.
Interactive Writing

3.  Fold a piece of chart paper in half to create a practice space at the top of the paper and actual writing space at the bottom.
Interactive Writing

4.  Begin having students write the text one word at a time.  The amount of coaching and guidance will depend on the skills of the students.  Some techniques to guide students through the writing process include:  listening for sounds, referring to alphabet charts or word walls, stretching the words, using sounds boxes, using onsets and rimes (chunking). 
Interactive Writing

5.  Have students reread the text after each word is written.

6.  After the story is completed, reread it several times and then display it in the classroom.

7.  Optional:  Put the story in a learning center and have students use it as a learning center activity.  They could reread it several times, illustrate it, expand the story by writing one or more sentences, or reassemble the story after the teacher has cut it word by word.

Activities to engage the students on the rug:

  • Where is s/he going to write the first word?
  • Let’s all stretch _____.
  • What is another word that starts like _________?
  • What is a word that rhymes with ______? What other letter/s make/s that sound?
  • Let’s clap the parts in that word.
  • Make a ___ on the rug/your whiteboard.
  • Raise your hand if your name has a __.
  • Find that letter on your ABC chart.
  • What is the picture next to that letter on our ABC chart?
  • Write that word on the rug/whiteboard, saying it as you write it.
  • Will s/he use a lowercase or a capital?  Why?
  • How many sounds do you hear in that word?
  • Look around the room and point to another _____ (letter or sight word).
  • What kind of punctuation do we need?
  • What word are we going to write next?
  • What two words make up that contraction?
  • What other describing word could we use?

Ideas adapted from :
Interactive Writing and Beyond  BER Resource Handbook by Patricia Calabrese, 2001.
Using Interactive Writing to Strengthen Students’  Phonemic Awareness and Phonics Skills BER Instructional Video featuring Judy Lynch, 1998.

For more wonderful ideas on using interactive writing see the following resources:


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