In fact, I did some shared writing as an example of one way we can scaffold data analysis the other day with a group of teachers, and even I was a bit bored. It made me think about ways in which we can make this shared writing experience more beneficial for our students. We know that students need to see writers think, what they think about, and examples of good writing. But we also know that shared writing can take a while and that it is hard for all our students to keep a strong focus throughout the session.
So I did some reading, talked to some colleagues, and came up with this list of 10 Tips for Shared Writing. The idea of these tips is not to necessarily do all ten all the time, but just to keep them in mind as we prepare for our shared writing sessions. This summer, I'm excited to talk with more teachers about their shared writing experiences, how they structure them, how effective they believe the sessions are, and how they help their students hone in on particular writing strategies.
Some short notes on the tips:
1. Less than five minutes. More than once a week. Five full minutes is about all we have to truly keep students attention on the board. You might have longer with an especially focused group of upper elementary students. This needs to be done more than once a week, science writing should happen at minimum twice a week for students to start to internalize the instruction.
2. Focus on no more than two strategies. Students need to be able to focus on just a couple strategies at a time. If it's claims and evidence focus on claims and evidence and let the commas take a back seat for the week.
3. Articulate the purpose of the writing. The purpose of the writing needs to be articulated and clear. Will they be sharing this piece with their class or community? Will it explain a phenomenon to a 1st grader?
4. Point out language structures. The idea is to integrate science and language instruction. So as we are explaining science content, we need to have our students pay attention to the language structures needed. This is especially important to English Learners, but again adhere to the limited number of instructional points made each session.
5. Identify key words, pull them from your word bank. Make sure your word bank is interactive - it's the topic of the next post. Pull words from the bank as you are modeling your writing. That way students know where they can get help and how to use the words.
6. Ask questions. Modeling your thinking as a writer is important but it is just as important for the experience to be interactive. Ask students questions to deepen their thinking around the topic and the writing.
7. Students are tracking as the teacher writes. We teach students to use their finger to follow along, but often we forget to teach students to track with their eyes as we read something aloud from the board. This will keep students focused (for a minute) and indirectly works on fluency.
8. Underline sentence starters. Sentence starters are a great way to scaffold students science writing. Be sure to underline them as you model so they know that they can use those same starters in their own writing.
9. Read aloud. Once you're done, read it aloud to the students. Model quick revision behavior if necessary ("Hmmm, does that sound right?") and ask students to track.
10. Require scaffolded independent writing after the shared writing session.The shared writing is not the final piece of writing, students need to immediately practice the shared writing strategies on their own. Be sure to schedule time for independent writing.