Sunday, 26 February 2017

Shared Writing for Early Writers

I teach a group of Senior Kindergarten and Grade 1 students. When it comes to writing, my students mainly struggle with:
- sound segmentation ("sounding it out")
- encoding (assigning letters to the sounds they hear)
- writing full ideas (complete sentences)
- writing more than one sentence on a topic.

They were writing one sentence - often incomplete, and usually repetitive and simple ("I love Mom. I love Dad.").

So, enter shared writing! Usually used with upper grades with focuses on ideas, grammar, and higher-level skills, my SK/1 focus is on our needs (which were common "next steps" on our 1st Term report cards).

We do it every morning before our Daily 5 choice time (we have Gym in-between on some days - but we have to work around those schedules, right?). The reasoning behind this is so they have constant reminders to use the segmentation skills and phonics knowledge when writing independently. The oral language piece is very important too - and ties into an inquiry our Student Support Teacher is doing concerning the importance and development of oral language and conversation skills. My students crave it and ask for it; it's become part of our routine.
We use the "Let's Talk About It!" picture boards. They've been collecting dust in our teacher workroom. You could easily use pieces of art, newspaper pictures, or pictures from Google Images. Students choose a picture at the beginning of our day to be used during our shared writing session.

We start by looking at the picture. Students talk with a partner or small groups. This is excellent for building oral communication skills, gathering and building ideas, and Learning Skills (especially "Collaboration"). 

As you can see, talking with their groups can get quite animated!
After, we share our ideas as a class. I do this organically - no hands. They instinctually take turns - politely interrupt and add and ask questions. If you prefer, you can collect and share ideas with traditional raising hands and taking turns as appointed by the teacher. This is an excellent time to also accept, analyse, and choose between conflicting ideas. For example, some students thought the tiger was growling - until one student said it was yawning. They looked at its body language (and it was laying under a tree) and decided it was yawning.

Students decided the tiger was yawning - not growling.
I take the pen (well, smelly marker!). I do the writing during shared writing for a variety of reasons - including time management. I need to maintain our learning focuses: sound segmentation, encoding, and writing more than one sentence on a topic.

"Where do we begin? What's a good idea or sentence to introduce what's happening here?" I remind students to stay away from vague pronouns such as it. "What if our reader couldn't see the picture? Would they know what it is?"

Then, word by word, we segment. Students tell me which letter to write down. Some students might know it's on our word wall and run to get the word (this happened when we needed "bear") and some might already know the spelling of a sight word ("out" and "to" are common ones in our writing). It's important to note that PROPER SPELLING DOESN'T MATTER! These are beginning writers - and many SK/1 students are at the Short Vowel Stage in Words Their Way, so it's unfair to expect them to know long vowel patterns, r-controlled vowels, and dipthongs.

Why are words spelled wrong? Because students are applying the code they know. Therefore, this is developmentally-appropriate. It doesn't discourage them by correcting and "teaching" all the nuances of the English language and its spellings.

I constantly reread what I've written to see where I am in the sentence and to make sure everything is on the same topic. Students tell me which ideas to write next.

Here's our first Shared Writing with this focus. It's quite simple - but includes a few inferences. The sentences are very simple.

Here is our most recent shared writing. Within a month, students have added details (names), made more inferences, and explored a variety of punctuation (quotations) and grammar rules.
I've definitely noticed a big impact on my students' independent writing!

Grade 1 writing - with some help segmenting. The student encoded independently.
Students can write about whatever they want. To save them from wasting time thinking of an idea, we have an "idea box" - a brightly-coloured box on our shelf next to their journals. In it are cut-outs from a variety of magazines (travel, outdoors, home, wedding, teaching, construction union, parenting, fashion, etc.). I am conscious of including diversities - such as special needs found in sections of educational supplies catalogues, people of colour, religious and cultural clothing and regalia, et cetera.

It's no longer junk mail! Cut pictures from magazines to add to your "idea box" to inspire student writing!

Read about how I keep track of my assessments (like the one provided above) in my binder at

1 comment:

  1. Read my follow-up post at!