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Interactive writing in Preschool - you can do it!

Recently, I spent some time with some amazing PreK teachers talking all things literacy. One of the biggest challenges they shared with me was around writing. For many PreK teachers, the thought of having their students 'write' seems daunting and we talked through how this might look, even with very young children.

The reasons to start interactive writing in preschool abound. Interactive writing allows your students to see themselves as writers. It invites them into the writing process. It's engaging and FUN. It's a community experience.

Interactive writing, by its very nature is highly scaffolded. The level of scaffolding can be adjusted to meet the needs of your learners, but for most preschool children, we're going to be starting with the highest level of scaffolding.

Here are my tips to start using this highly empowering tool with your students:

  1. Teacher Led - many teachers feel like students need to be doing all of the writing when we invite them up. NOT SO! Interactive writing means we write together. In fact, the teacher will be doing most of the writing. For most preschool interactive writing, the children will only be writing a single letter. I'd start with inviting no more than three to four children up per session, each writing a single letter. You can see, the teacher is going to be writing most of the text.

  2. Keep is short - when starting, keep it short. Like really short. Maybe a single sentence. Keep that sentence short! No more than four or five words to start. This way you can count the words with children - put a finger up for each word. Now we're talking about concepts about print - words, letters - oh and we're counting too! Once you're students are used to the routine and have some practice, write slightly longer sentences. Next, move to two sentences. Build up slowly - this isn't a race! You can also invite children to help you create charts and labels for the classroom.

  3. Hand over hand - if your students aren't writing letters yet, invite them up anyway! Using hand over hand, you can guide them and they'll feel supported and confident. I typically start with the first letter in a child's name. Once they know this, move on to other letters in their name. If we're writing the sentence 'I like peanut butter' I'm going to invite up Lily, Paul, and Brian to write the L, P, and B. If there are no students whose names start with those letters, I'll look for other letters in their names.

  4. What are the other children doing? - When you invite individual students up you need the other children to be engaged. First, start by setting expectations. Let them know, "We all have to help Lily with writing this sound - let's make sure we help her!" This reinforces the community aspect of interactive writing. I always give the class a 'job' to do. With preschool aged children, it's typically writing the letter in the air with their finger. This gives them some gross motor movement and also allows me to informally assess their grasp of writing the letter. You can also provide whiteboards and markers, or paper and pencils on clipboards and ask them to write the letters. This takes more time so I don't always do it.

  5. Celebrate! - I always say my number one job as a writing teacher is being a cheerleader. Celebrate every effort. Celebrate every piece. Once you've worked together to write 'I like peanut butter' let the children draw and color the paper during snack or choice time. Put it up. Make it a bulletin board. Snap a photo on your phone and share with families.

In this poster, children were invited to write the first letter for each shape with a few children wanting to write more than the first letter.

I hope these tips will encourage you to try interactive writing with your preschoolers. My best advice is to dive in, try it and be gentle with yourself. When you finish a session, think about what worked and what might need tweaking for next time. Your students will love the interaction and begin asking to do more writing together. You may even start to see hints of this work transferring to any independent drawing and writing they do. Inviting children into the writing process is an important way to get them to think of themselves as writers.

What questions do you have? Leave a comment and let me know!

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