Can you recall a time when you were learning to do something new and someone showed you how? Maybe they didn’t just simply show you how. Maybe they extended their hand out for you to hold and invited you into the learning. Perhaps this gave you the opportunity to rehearse the skills you needed to give it a try all by yourself. This just right level of support might have left you with a greater sense of comfort, confidence, and motivation.
Shared writing is often referred to as the “handholding stage” of early writing instruction. During shared writing the teacher holds the hands of young writers as they practice the strategies and skills that lead to independence. Teacher and students join together to compose writing. The teacher holds the pen and takes on the role of scribe. Throughout the shared writing experience, the teacher models thinking and writing, prompts and captures students’ ideas, and helps organize those ideas on paper to create a message. This collaborative message can emerge from children’s topics of interest, class discussions, read-alouds, field trips, etc. Consider the authentic purposes for writing that arise naturally in the classroom as opportunities to write together.
It can be exciting, yet overwhelming to think about all that your students will need to learn about the world of writing in your classroom this year. How will you even begin to teach children how to use elements of the writing process to compose text or to create messages on paper with clarity, meaning and purpose? The good news is that shared writing can be a starting point for teaching them how writing works. Shared writing supports the Writing Workshop. It is a great way to introduce and practice the structure of the workshop while building children's independence and stamina. Shared writing is that tried and true approach we can plan for all year to model, teach and support almost everything our developing writers AND readers will need.
Hopefully, as you reflect on your past learning experiences you will discover that at least once someone held your hand and made the learning process feel a bit more supported. It takes bravery to get ideas down on paper and to grow as a writer. Writing together through shared writing can empower young writers with the courage and skill they need to take the next steps on their own.