Interactive Writing

Interactive Writing can be a great way to invite young writers to the writing process within a supportive experience.  This form of instruction is similar to shared writing but has one important difference. During interactive writing the teacher will share the pen with the student rather than scripting what the young writers are saying. Fountas and Pinnell believe, "... that it will benefit most children to be involved in a supported writing context within which the way the process goes together can be demonstrated. Interactive writing provides this opportunity in primary classrooms." Below you will find information, videos, and helpful links to learn more about providing this valuable writing instruction to our youngest writers in elementary school.

Happy Writing!

Alyssa Toomes

Interactive Writing How To's

adapted from Ch. 15 Word Matters; Fountas & Pinnell



Interactive writing is a teacher-guided group activity designed to teach children about the writing process and about how written language works.


Some actions of writing are easy to demonstrate to young children; others are nearly impossible and the children have to figure them out for themselves through much exploration with writing and writing instruments. Interactive writing is a supportive instructional format that provides students with an opportunity to practice phonological skills and process text to share with others.


Students are sitting on the rug close enough that they are able to come up quickly and easily to the easel. All children must be able to see the writing and have opportunities (over time) to hold the dark marker and write. Young children may only write 1 letter such as the beginning sound they hear or a special word part, they don’t have to write the entire word. Often the process is carried over several days, especially as you get further into the school year, illustrating for children how the writer comes back to something, thinks about it again, and then adds more text. Usually, for young children, one or two sentences is plenty of work for a session of interactive writing.

Types of Writing

A grocery list or list of things to do

A description of something children did or something they saw

The retelling of a favorite story

Labels for a mural or story map

A letter or note

A set of directions

A page of a book that the class is composing and writing together

A child’s own story

Content area writing

o such as a list of facts about animals

o people (firemen)

o places (home)

o titles for graphs

Complex text

Prompting During Interactive Writing

To teach for sound analysis:

  • Clap the parts you hear.
  • Listen for the parts.
  • Listen for the sounds you hear in the first part.
  • Say the word slowly. What do you hear first?
  • Listen for the consonant sound at the beginning, at the end, in the middle.
  • Listen for the vowel sound in the middle, at the beginning, at the end.
  • Listen for the ending
  • Say the word slowly. How many sounds do you hear?
  • Write the first wound you hear, the next sound, the last sound.
To teach for visual analysis:
  • Does it look right?
  • What would look right there?
  • It’s almost right. Add the ending.
  • You’re nearly right. Add a letter to make it look right.
  • It looks like (another word they know).
  • Think about how the word looks.
  • Think about another word like that.
  • Do you know a word like that? Do you know a word that starts (ends) like that?
  • It sounds like that, but it looks different.
  • There’s a silent letter next.
  • You need a vowel next.

Prompting After Interactive Writing

After interactive writing: a brief period (two minutes at the most) to revisit and reinforce

  • Which words did we write quickly without stopping to think about them?
  • What’s a word with two sounds (three, four, etc.)?
  • What word(s) has more letters than sounds?
  • Which words begin with consonants clusters? A vowel?
  • What words have one syllable? (two, more than two, etc.)?
  • Which words have silent letters?
  • Are there compound words, contractions, words with prefixes, endings, etc.?
  • What word has parts that can be removed?
  • What words sound exactly like they look?
  • Which words have a tricky (interesting, hard, new) pattern (spelling)?
  • What word is tricky (hard, new) for you to write? What will you want to remember about it?
  • What’s a new word you learned to write today?
  • What words could be spelled another way but sound the same?
  • What word has a special pattern (spelling) that shows what it means?

Ideas from Our Peers

Courtney said...

One thing I am doing this year that my first graders love is "Watch It Wednesday." We watch a two minute video clip that is just really amazing (think murmuration of starlings) and then do an interactive writing about it. That way all of my kids have shared knowledge about the topic and they are really eager to talk and write. We turn and talk to generate our sentence ideas and then the kids write in white paper books as we write on the chart paper together. I like having a record of their writing because I can follow up with a strategy group for kids who are not meeting the writing standards.

Mrs. Davis said...

I have two "must haves' during IW... a white board to model unknown letters/chunks/blends AND white tape to cover mistakes. Both help students feel confident b/c they know someone is there to help them, and if they make a mistake they can fix it! I am definitely going to try this IW project with them!

From the Experts

Interactive Writing is specifically focused on the early phases of writing, and has special relevance to prekindergarten, kindergarten, grade 1 and 2 teachers. In a clear, step-by-step format, the authors show how teachers can use interactive writing to teach a range of foundational literacy skills by sharing the pen with young writers:

  • letter learning
  • phonological and orthographic awareness
  • learning the nature of words
  • building a writing vocabulary
  • learning concepts about print
  • organizing and composing narrative and expository text.

Bonus Video!