I'm really starting to see a big difference in my students since spending more time on their phonics and writing rather than all our time on reading. Not only are most writing independently now - but their reading is also bumping up!
Parents are also excited and on board. Recently, a parent of a Senior Kindergarten student in my class sent me this article: https://www.parent.co/sight-words-are-so-2016-new-study-finds-the-real-key-to-early-literacy/. It's worth a read and gives plenty of research about why invented writing using existing knowledge is a very important skill.
In my phonetic knowledge teaching quest, I also learned about Teach Your Monster to Read. It's a free program on the computer (also available as an app - which is sometimes available for free as a promotion) which explicitly teaches letters and their sounds. I really like that it goes back and reviews prior learning and also sprinkles in some sight words and application of reading and spelling. Students love the different games - which are all laid out in developmental order (consonants first, short vowels - all the way up to r-controlled vowels and dipthongs).
As for shared writing, some colleagues and I have started using pieces of art (visual art, dance, music, etc.) for students to view, discuss, and write about. It's cross-curricular! Grab the freebie observation checklist at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Student-Observation-Checklist-for-Shared-Writing-Ontario-Grade-1-Visual-Art-3151638.
To read my in-depth blog post about phonics and shared writing, go to: http://misslaidlaw.blogspot.ca/2017/02/shared-writing-for-early-writers.html.