"Teaching kids how to write is hard. That’s because writing is not so much as one skill as a bundle of skills that includes sequencing, spelling, rereading, and supporting big ideas with examples.”
~Ralph Fletcher and Joann Portalupi
Teaching children to write is a complex process. It is more than having letter-sound correspondence and strong phonemic awareness. Children need to have a strong oral language, be able to visualize, recall and sequence events, in addition to learning to apply more complex writing tasks. It’s no wonder that when we ask kids to write, they moan and complain, or simply just sit there looking at the paper in front of them.
One of my favorite quotes is from James Britton, “Writing floats on a sea of talk.” When we talk with children about their ideas or thinking we set them up for knowing what to write. If we want our students to become independent writers, then we have to scaffold instruction that incorporates plenty of opportunities to talk, think and write.
I would like to share three instructional strategies to scaffold writing instruction for children throughout the school year to help them become independent writers.
In modeled writing, the teacher actively constructs the content of the message through a think aloud, and writes that message using enlarged text and chart paper. This strategy reinforces letter sound correspondence, concepts of print, and proper letter formation. Modeled writing can be used when constructing a name chart (with pictures) to help students recognize their printed name.
Shared writing is writing in which the message itself is co-constructed by the teacher and students, as the teacher scribes the message on chart paper. Creating an anchor chart of classroom and/or playground rules is an easy way to incorporate this type of writing.
Interactive writing is similar to shared writing in that both the teacher and students construct the message, but the teacher then invites students to write a specific letter or letters, words, or even punctuation within the constructed message. It is a great way to reinforce letter-sound correspondence, as well help children develop phonemic awareness as they sound out the individual sounds in words.
These instructional practices will build the confidence of young writers as they develop an understanding of what writing is and looks like to get them ready for independent writing.