Putting the power into Interactive writing

Interactive Writing is one of the most powerful teaching strategies for teaching children how to: Compose; Record; Edit; and publish.

But it can also provide the opportunity to teach concepts about print, sentence structure, spelling strategies, punctuation, and even handwriting – all in 10-15 minutes per day.

The goal of Interactive writing is to “teach children the writing skills, strategies, and conventions they need to become competent as independent writers” (McCarrier, Pinnell & Fountas, 2000).

Research findings to support Interactive Writing:

Students in the Interactive Writing Group outperformed students in the control group on Ideas, Organisation, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Spelling , Capitalisation, Punctuation, and Handwriting.

(Roth & Guinee, 2011)

LESS is MORE!  One sentence a day is enough! The power comes from the teaching you do within the one sentence each day.

Remember students give ideas – but the teacher shapes the sentence. Ideally the text is started on Monday and finished on Friday – although the example I am going to share was continued into a second week. I am going to share the process for one week in a year 1 class.


Black – Words written by the teacher

Blue – Words written by children

Red – High Frequency words taught to the children during the lesson (using the small white boards) and added to the word wall.

Gold – Words used for spelling instruction – phonology, morphology or analogy

Underlined – Words discussed in terms of meaning – what other words could we have used?

Title: Our class pets


Our class has a new fish tank and six, small goldfish.


  • The children were very excited about the arrival of the fish and fish tank. Many of the children had no experience of pets. The opportunity for discussion and to use this as an Interactive writing topic was obvious. Miss S decided to start with a simple sentence and allow the children to spend time observing the fish, talking about the fish, looking at the many books she borrowed from the library that had gold fish facts, information about caring for gold fish and also fiction about fish. Finding Nemo was featured.
  • Monday’s sentence was composed and repeated several times before Miss S wrote ‘Our class’ on their interactive board and introduced ‘has’ as a high frequency word – the children discussed that the letter ‘S” made a “ZZZ” sound like it does at the end of ‘was”. Children practiced ‘has’ on their whiteboards – Prompted by Miss S – ‘write, say, check your neighbour’s, erase’ – this was repeated and then Miss S added ‘has’ to the ‘word wall’.
  • The sentence was read again from the start and then a child added ‘a’. Miss S quickly wrote ‘new’ and the class re-read the sentence and remembered that the next word was ‘fish’. A child volunteered to write ‘fish’ – ‘fish’ was discussed as a word with 3 sounds – but 4 letters – other examples of words ending with ‘sh’ were volunteered and some quick oral rhyming showed children could transfer their knowledge of fish to ‘wish’ and ‘dish’.
  • Miss S wrote ‘tank’ and then a volunteer wrote ‘and six’. After reading the sentence together Miss S added a comma and ‘small’. Children were asked to provide other words for small: ‘tiny, little, teeny weeny’, were volunteered.
  • Children heard the sounds in the word ‘gold’ – writing on their whiteboards and then removed the ‘g’ and writing other words that rhymed with ‘old’ – fold, told, sold, bold.
  • Miss S asked all children to watch her as she wrote the letter ‘h’ and then they all practiced – starting at the top – they checked each other’s ‘h’ – Miss S helped a couple of students with the formation of the ‘h’ and checked that everyone was forming the letter correctly. Children erased the letter between each attempt.
  • ‘Fish’ was added by a volunteer and then the whole class read the sentence twice together before going to their desks to draw, talk and write.*

*Please note that Draw, talk, write and share is not part of Interactive Writing. It is a Personal (Independent) Writing strategy where children create their own texts – starting usually with a drawing. They may choose to draw and write about the same topic/experience as Interactive Writing but this is not always the case. It just so happens that in this classroom Miss S chooses to have the children follow Interactive Writing with personal writing time – and she uses the Draw, Talk, Write, Share Process.


We have to feed our goldfish a tiny bit of food every day.


  • Miss S asked for a volunteer to point and read Monday’s sentence – and then to point as the class read along. Discussion about what to write today led to Miss S settling on the sentence above. The sentence was repeated 3 times to assist students to remember the sentence for the day’s lesson.
  • ‘We’ was written by a volunteer and then Miss S showed the children the word ‘have’ and asked them to write it on their small whiteboards. They discussed how this word was a helpful word to know – and that you could hear the first 3 sounds but not the ‘e’ – you need to ‘remember the ‘e’ said a child. Miss S added ‘have’ to their word wall.
  • ‘Feed’ was discussed in terms of the ‘ee’ and other ways of writing that sound were discussed briefly with Miss S providing some quick examples – ‘ea’ in ‘read’, ‘e’ in ‘me’ and ‘we’, ‘y’ at the end of ‘baby’.
  • Miss S led the children to read from the start of the sentence – she added ‘our’ and volunteers wrote ‘gold’, ‘fish’ and ‘a’.
  • ‘Tiny’ was written by Miss S and reference made to ‘tiny’ being another word for ‘small’.
  • ‘Bit’ was written on the children’s white boards after Miss S prompted that it had 3 sounds and 3 letters. They then discussed how ‘it’ was in ‘bit’ and wrote some other words that rhymed with ‘it’ on their boards (fit, sit, hit) while a volunteer added ‘bit to their sentence’.
  • After a quick re-read from the start of the sentence Miss S write ‘of’ on the board and asked children to copy ‘of’ – they then discussed the sound that the ‘f’ made in this word. Another child volunteered that ‘off’ had two ‘f’s. A volunteer added ‘of’ and Miss S added ‘food every day’.
  • Miss S asked all children to watch as she wrote the letter ‘f’ and then all children wrote ‘f’ on their white board – with emphasis on starting at the top.
  • Both Monday’s and Tuesday’s sentences were read – with a student pointing to the words. Miss S demonstrated how to read the sentences fluently and the students read again with her – before going to their desks to draw, talk and write.*See comment above


The fish tank needs to be cleaned every week.


  • After reading the previous sentences a short sentence was composed and the first 3 words written quickly by a volunteer student – who discussed how he could copy tank from Monday’s sentence.
  • Miss S linked ‘needs’ to ‘feed’ and a volunteer added ‘needs’ to the sentence.
  • ‘to’ and ‘be’ were quickly added and the sentence read again by the class in order to remember what came next.
  • Miss S wrote the word ‘clean’ on the board and then added ‘ed’. She explained that ‘clean’ was the ‘base word’ and ‘ed’ was the suffix. She also linked back to Monday’s sentence and their discussion of different ways of writing the ‘e’ sound – one of which was ‘ea’.
  • Miss S wrote ‘every’ – and a child spontaneously mentioned that the letter ‘y’ on the end of every made and ‘e’ sound.
  • A volunteer wrote ‘week’ and there was another quick conversation about the ‘e’ sound.
  • The 3 sentences were read fluently before the children went to their desks to draw, talk and write.


Today when we came into class we found that one of our goldfish had jumped out of the tank. and It was dead on the floor.


  • The lesson started as always with reading the previous sentences and discussing what was to be added today. The children had been buzzing with the drama of the dead fish so the topic was obvious and the sentence composed quite quickly. These children are familiar with the routines of Interactive Writing and were keen to volunteer to write the words that are in blue.
  • Miss S used ‘come’ to show the children how to write ‘came’ – this was done by all using their small white boards – starting with ‘come’ they all erased the ‘o’ and replaced it with and ‘a’ – went back to ‘come and then changed the ‘c’ to  ‘s’ to make ‘some’ and then the ‘o’ to an ‘a’ to make ‘same’. A volunteer added ‘came’ to the sentence (Miss S added ‘came’ to the word wall later in the day).
  • The next 10 words were written quite quickly by Miss S or volunteers as Miss S was keen to get to ‘had’. She asked the children to write ‘has’ on their white boards – helping a few children who had forgotten that the ‘zzz’ sound was made by the letter ‘s’. They then erased the ‘s’ and replaced it with a ‘d’ and practiced writing ‘had’. (Miss S added ‘had’ to the word wall later in the day).
  • ‘Jump’ was written on their boards and then the ‘ed’ was added – a short discussion about how ‘jump’ was the base word and ‘ed’ the suffix. They removed the ‘ed’ and practiced adding ‘s’ and ‘ing’ – using the terms ‘base word’ and ‘suffix’.
  • As Miss S has noticed a few children writing ‘s’ from the bottom up, there was some time given to revising the formation of the letter ‘s’ on the small white boards.
  • The remaining 10 words were written quite quickly although there was some discussion about ‘was’ and ‘has’ initiated by a student – she was interested in the fact that the letter ‘a’ made an ‘o’ sound in ‘was’ but an ‘a’ sound in ‘has’ – but both had an ‘s’ making a ‘zzzz’ sound. “Good noticing‘ said Miss S.
  • The 4 sentences were read fluently and there was discussion that today’s sentence was a very long sentence. One child said it could be two sentences so Miss S asked this child to show them how it could be two sentences. The student indicated that a full stop could go after ‘tank’. The children then decided that you could start the new sentence with ‘The fish’ or ‘It’. They opted for ‘It’ and Miss S made the necessary changes.
  • They then read the entire text again before the children went to their desks to draw, talk and write *See comment above.


We buried the dead fish in the school garden.


  • After the usual start to the lesson the talk moved quickly to how they had buried the dead fish and Friday’s sentence was composed.
  • The first 8 words were written by volunteers or Miss S without too much discussion
  • When they came to ‘garden’ Miss S asked the children to clap the syllables (Gar/den) and to then have a go at writing the word on their white boards – listening for the sounds they could hear. Many of the children were able to work out this word although some left out the ‘e’ until they clapped the word again and Miss S emphasised the ‘en’.
  • Miss S revised the formation of the letters ‘h’, ‘f’ and ‘s’ and the children wrote each of these letters on their white boards. Because the lesson had moved so quickly they also practised the new high frequency words they had learned this week – ‘of, has, had, have and came’ on their little white boards.
  • The week’s text was read fluently before the children went to their desks to draw, talk and write *See comment above.

The next week the children decided to build on the previous week’s text. I have included it here with the words identified in terms of the key but without the detailed process. I think you will be able to work it out.


Last week one of our fish jumped out of the tank so we had to put a cover on the tank.


Miss S got us a new fish because one of our fish died.


Our new fish is black and has pretty fins and tail.


The black fish was being chased by the other gold fish so Miss S bought the new fish a friend. and nNow we have seven fish.


The principal came to visit our class today and we showed her how we feed the fish and clean the tank.

Interactive Writing is a simple but powerful strategy involving writing and reading and allowing for explicit instruction within the context of co-constructed, meaningful text.  There are places you can go to read more – see below:

Further Reading

Mackenzie, N. M. (2015). Interactive Writing: a powerful teaching strategy. Practical Literacy: The Early & Primary Years, 20(3), 36. *

McCarrier, A., Pinnell, G. S., & Fountas, I. C. (2000). Interactive writing: How language and literacy come together, K-2. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann.

Nicolazzo, M., & Mackenzie, N. M. (2018). Teaching writing strategies. In N. M. Mackenzie & J. Scull (Eds.), Understanding and supporting young writers from birth to 8 (pp. 189-212). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Roth, K., & Dabrowski, J. (2014). Extending interactive writing into grades 2-5. The Reading Teacher, 68(1), 33-44.*

Roth, K., & Guinee, K. (2011). Ten minutes a day: the impact of interactive writing instruction on first graders’ independent writing. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 11(3), 331-361.*

*Contact me if you are unable to access any of these articles.

Published by nmackenz

My name is Noella Mackenzie and I am an Associate Professor (Adjunct) at Charles Sturt University, Albury-Wodonga Campus in NSW, Australia and a Senior Fellow of the Australian Literacy Educators' of Australia. I also work as an independent education consultant. I am also a daughter, sister, wife, mother and grandmother who loves to read, garden and travel. While my career has always been in education, there have been four distinct phases. The first phase was that of classroom teacher – teaching children from 5-12 years of age in a number of primary schools. The second phase of my career saw me working as a specialist professional development provider working with teachers in early intervention and special education. The third phase had me working as an academic at Charles Sturt University. That role involved me teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students, researching and continuing my work with teachers and parents of young children. The fourth phase sees me working as an independent education consultant, supporting school systems and schools with professional learning input for teachers. I am passionate about teaching and in particular early literacy development. I am proudly the product of public education. I grew up on a farm and went to the local primary and high schools where I was fortunate to have some fabulous teachers. My Diploma of Education (Early Childhood) was earned at the Riverina College of Advanced Education in Wagga Wagga NSW. My Bachelor of Education, Master of Education and Doctor of Education qualifications were all earned at LaTrobe University in Melbourne, Vic and were spread out over a number of years as I studied part time and worked full time. I completed my doctorate in 2004 and started work at CSU in the same year.

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