**Disclaimer–I am SO excited to share this post and have been thinking about the right way to write it for a LONG time! My kiddos worked SO hard on the writing in this story and are rockstars in my book. THANKS FOR READING!!**
If you have been here for a while then you know that this year is my first year in first grade in a LONG, LONG time! I got my start there more than a decade ago, then moved on to work with “big” kids for a while and am back to my roots. Much has changed, but I’m finding that many things have stayed the same–some things are just good teaching. Best practice. Good stuff for kids. Interactive writing is one of those things. I learned how to do it back then and am being reminded of it’s importance and power with kids today. Let me explain. 🙂
First of all a definition: interactive writing is a writing experience (often whole group) where teacher and students “share the pen” to create meaningful text together. The teacher, using what she knows about students and their current understandings about letters, sounds, words, etc., purposefully chooses kids to add certain parts to the composition, building on their knowledge and helping them make connections to new skills and concepts. This is not done haphazardly, and is best done with planning ahead of time–although I have had some amazing experiences with IW that happens “on the fly.” Ideally, the texts you compose together because touchstones for future learning; revising and revisiting are part of the process.
For most of this year I have been trying to “create” reasons for us to write together. Needless to say, this didn’t work very well. My purposes were fine, but were not really interesting to students, and so buy-in was hard. Some kids were with me, and some wanted to participate, but many checked out and spent our time rolling around on the rug or chatting with their friends. So the whole group setting for IW didn’t work best for my learners, either.
Then we began a food drive at our school to benefit Kirkcare. We’ve done this drive in previous years, and it always provides meaningful opportunities for learning. This year was no different. For more about what we did, check out this post, (along with the other ones linked in this paragraph) as the process was similar this year, even with little ones. 🙂
Well, as I was trying to think of meaningful ways to incorporate interactive writing into our day, it hit me–we could make a list of what we could bring for our Kirkcare drive. After telling them the story about how Riley filled up the box when we went shopping together, we worked together (for days and days and days!) to write a list of things we’d hope to see in a Kirkcare box if we were served by them. I was SO JAZZED by how much kids got into this work! I also mentioned how it would be really cool if we could share our ideas with other kids in the school. We talked to Mrs. Sisul and she agreed this was a great plan. So we got to work.
At first we did our writing together. But like I mentioned before, the whole group setting is hard for us. There is only 1 person with the pen at a time, and lots of down time for kids to become distracted. There are many ways around this, and what we found that worked for us is small groups. I started doing IW as a portion of all of my guided reading group lessons and it was like MAGIC!
In a small group–all of which have 3-5 kiddos in them–everyone gets a chance to write something, everyone can engage, everyone can practice sounds and chunks on the whiteboards, and I can see what everyone knows. I can easily anticipate mistakes they may make or misconceptions they might have, and incorporate these ideas into our conversations.
I should probably share all of the “before” pictures to help you really appreciate the stages that this document took, but instead I’ll just share the final product. After many, many days of work–honestly, we returned to this chart for at least a week, revising and editing our thinking–we had an amazingly helpful list to share with our Robinson friends. Check it out, won’t you? 🙂
Besides all of the work that they did putting it together, the real excitement for me has come in how USEFUL and MEANINGFUL it has become for us! There has not been a day since we’ve written this that we haven’t referenced it to remind us about a chunk or sound that we know (and when it was hanging up in the hall for the school, we had to reference in picture form on my phone!). Priceless, really. 🙂
Ok, and just so you can truly see all the thinking and learning that goes into a text like this (although I would really LOVE to share a video of the whole process), let me show you an image highlighting some of the skills and concepts that were addressed as we wrote this together. There is no way I could include everything, but you’ll get the idea.