The Draw, Talk, Write and Share (DTWS) Observation Protocol

Draw, Talk, Write and Share

Draw, Talk, Write and Share (DTWS) is a pedagogical approach resulting from research conducted by Noella over a 15 year time period (Mackenzie, 2011, 2014; Mackenzie & Veresov, 2013). DTWS is also a powerful observation process, allowing educators in preschool and early years classrooms to find out what children ‘know and can do’ (Mackenzie, 2011). Used for this purpose, it becomes a formative assessment task.

The following may be helpful: Mackenzie, N.M. (2022). Finding out what they know and can do with DTWS. Practical Literacy: the early and primary years, 27(1)

DTWS Observation Protocol

The DTWS Observation Protocol takes DTWS and uses it to allow an observer to understand what a young child knows and can do in terms of text creation from an early age. This observation process values three modes of expression: Drawing, Talking and Early Writing. DTWS allows an observer to note a child’s current methods of self-expression – oral and drawing as well as their early engagement with writing in a conventional sense.

  • The protocol has been adapted from one developed and applied for research purposes by the author and is appropriate for use with children from ages 3-6 years.
  • The process can take between 5 and 25 minutes depending upon the age, interest and previous drawing and writing experiences of the children.

This process values young learners multiple and developing modes of expression (drawing, talking and writing) and understands that young children can create more complex texts using multiple modes than using only one. This can be seen when children are adding random letters or symbols, labels, or simple short phrases or sentences (perhaps using invented text) but can draw quite complex pictures and can talk at length about their ideas.

A downloadable PDF of the Mackenzie DTWS Observation Protocol

Want to read about DTWS as a pedagogical approach?

Read the blog post Draw, Talk, Write (and Share). There are others that may also be of interest.


Mackenzie, N.M. (2022) Multimodal text creation from day 1 with Draw, Talk, Write, Share. The California Reader (TCR) 55(1), 9-14.

Want to read about the research leading to DTWS?

Mackenzie, N.M. (2011). From drawing to writing: What happens when you shift teaching priorities in the first six months of school? Australian Journal of Language & Literacy, 34(3), 322-340.

Mackenzie, N.M., & Veresov, N.(2013). How drawing can support writing acquisition: text construction in early writing from a Vygotskian perspective. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 38(4), 22-29.

Mackenzie, N.M. (2014). Teaching early writers: Teachers’ responses to a young child’s writing sample. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 37(3), 182-191.

Mackenzie DTWS Observation Protocol

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