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Handing the pencil over ... show the how but explain the why!

We all want the students in our class to become effective writers that craft meaningful texts. Developing writing skills happens gradually over a series of stages. It is imperative at those pivotal teaching moments within the learning sequence that the teacher releases control by choosing the appropriate writing approach.

Teaching writing requires a scaffolded approach with specific techniques and strategies. Approaches widely recognised as rigorous practices are:

* Modelled writing

* Shared writing

* Interactive Writing

* Guided Writing

* Independent writing

These writing approaches ensure that students 'take control of the pencil' and are guided through the stages of writing. Through modelled, shared, interactive, guided and independent writing students see that writing is essential for communication in the classroom domain.

The stages we move students through apply for all text forms, not just creative writing. The work of Vygotsky supports the use of these writing approaches through the To-With-By Model of Teacher/ Student Relationships (Mooney, 1990).



The teacher uses this framework to provide the appropriate level of scaffolding for every student to maximise engagement and success with the writing tasks (Tomlinson, 1999; Marzano, 2007). The graphic below (left) identifies where the writing approaches fit within the model.

Planning, planning, planning...

The complexity of the writing process and the wide range of concepts required to be taught necessitate exquisitely careful planning. The precious minutes that we can devote to writing everyday within our Balanced Literacy Program must be used to the maximum.

Plan for writing from quality literature wherever possible. Discuss authors like Margaret Wild as you read their books, highlight the extraordinary vocabulary used in Fox--what can we learn as writers from this excellent author?

Tips for success

* Consider the purpose for writing, the form and the audience and share this with the students

* Narrow it down and teach one or two things solidly and satisfyingly

* Focus on the successes--if you have planned what you want to achieve, share this with your students and allow them to assess their own progress, you empower them as writers and learners.

* Ensure that your room is set up to support all students to access materials as they need them, such as task boards, labelled tubs, individual writing notebooks/folders, range of writing implements, word walls and dictionaries.

* Keep it fun! Embrace being an author yourself so that the students you teach share this passion.


Annandale, K., Bindon, R., Broz, J., Dougan, J., Handley, K., Johnston, A., Lockett, L., Lynch, P. & Rourke, R. (2005). Writing Resource Book: First Steps Second Edition. Melbourne: Rigby Heinemann

Fountas, I & Pinnell, G (2001.) Guiding Readers and Writers. Portsmouth: Heinemann

Marzano, R. (2007). The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

McCarrier, A, Pinnell, G & Fountas, I. (2000). Interactive Writing. Portsmouth: Heinemann

Mooney, M. (1990). Reading to, with, and by children. New York; Owen Publishers.

Tomlinson, CA. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Robyn Frencham (B.Ed E/C) is a very experienced Early Childhood teacher. She has worked as an Early Literacy Officer supporting Kindergarten to year 2 teachers in developing and implementing quality literacy programs. She has also worked as a tutor for 3rd year pre-service teachers at the Australian Catholic University, was part of the team of ACT teachers who developed the BEE Spelling approach and is a First Steps Reading (Second Edition) facilitator. Robyn currently works as the Executive Teacher at Narrabundah Early Childhood School in Canberra.

Jantiena 3att (B.Ed E/C) has taught in a range of settings including childcare centres, preschools, P-2 Early Childhood Schools and primary schools. She has worked as an Early Literacy and Numeracy Officer in over 17 schools. Jantiena is a Literacy and Numeracy Field Officer at Macgregor Primary School in the ACT. She is also a First Steps Reading and Writing (Second Edition) facilitator and worked collaboratively with the Literacy and Numeracy Section in designing the BEE Spelling approach.
The Balanced Literacy Program

                Reading        Writing

                Modelled       Modelled
                Reading        Writing

 Language        Shared        Shared /      Speaking        Visual
Experience      Reading      Interactive        &           Literacy
                               Writing      Listening

                Guided         Guided
                Reading        Writing

              Independent    Independent
                Reading        Writing

        Approach      Purpose

To      Modelled      Demonstrate how the
                      writing process works
                      and that what has been
                      said can be written
                      down and then read.

        Shared        Jointly construct and
                      compose text with
                      teacher acting as a

With    Interactive   Jointly construct and
                      compose text by
                      sharing the pen.

        Guided        Provide scaffolded
                      support at points
                      determined by teacher
                      through mini-lessons
                      and conferencing.

By      Independent   Practise using writing
                      skills and strategies
                      for set purpose.


To      * Dynamic--5-10 minute
          instruction. Keep it
          short sharp and shiny
        * Clear think aloud
          statements focused on
          a problem solving approach
        * Single focus is modelled
        * Keep the pen in your hand--
          this is your explicit
          teaching time
        * Decisions in writing
          process are made by
        * Process not the product
          is the goal
        * Do it EVERY day

        * Session duration
          10-15 minutes
        * Clear purpose is set
          at the start of the
        * Single or limited focus
        * Decisions in writing
          process are made by
          teacher (but students
          provide input)
        * Teacher-managed blend
          of think aloud statements,
          student input and discussion
        * Keep the pen in your hand
        * Teacher provides targeted
          feedback to student input

With    * Session duration 10-15
        * Clear purpose is set at
          start of the session
        * Single or limited focus
        * Decisions in writing
          process are made by teacher
          (but students provide input)
        * Teacher-managed blend of
          think aloud statements,
          student input and discussion
        * Teacher provides targeted
          feedback to student input
        * Teacher asks students to take
          control of the pen at strategic
          points of the writing process
          based on student needs and

        * Frequent support and
          opportunities for teacher-
          student interaction
        * A single focus for each
        * Students working with their
          own pencil on their own text
        * Decisions in writing process
          are made by students
        * Teacher provides support at
          point of need
        * Degree of guidance depends on
          the student, the context and
          the type of task

By      * Teacher is available to support
          and challenge but support is
          not ongoing
        * Students have input on selection
          and refinement of writing (this
          happens over time)
        * Tasks should replicate the
          multiple demands of literacy
          events in real life.
        * Focus on individual
          expectations--what have
          you learnt with your
          writing today?
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Author:Batt, Jantiena; Frencham, Robyn
Publication:Practically Primary
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Oct 1, 2010
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