Tag Archives: PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing developed by Nina Davis

PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing – 5 & 6 Year Olds in the initial weeks of their first year of formal education. Why students need to ‘think aloud’?

Think Aloud is a strategy that scaffolds students’ interactions with print. I’ve been using this strategy in literacy sessions – Interactive, Shared, Guided and Modelled. When modelling my journal, I’m making my thinking process very explicit. Articulating the strategies I’m using, resources that are helping me, and constantly articulating the ‘read back & check and change’ process.

This has definitely increased my students’ use of these strategies. During Student Led Interactive Writing, I roam for part of the session listening to conversations, and prompting when necessary. It’s wonderful to see these very young children sharing their thinking strategies aloud with their group. Today I noticed a number of children prompting not telling , and when this happens the learning truly becomes collaborative.

I model editing when I write, and I think by doing this I’m giving my beginning writers the message that it’s good practice to cross out, change and check. I’ve noticed this starting to happen. I’ve included a number of photos from today’s Interactive Writing learning experience.

Our Language Experience whole class negotiated sentence is: I went to the playground. At this stage of the year, all groups do the same sentence. There are excellent attempts at writing  ‘playground’. The children  had to draw upon everything they knew to attempt this word.

Cheers Nina


Filed under Uncategorized

PrepD Student Led Interative Writing: Week 10- Term 2 Collaborative ‘Thinker’s Writing’:Tiddalick the Frog. Week 18 of my student’s first year of formal education in Australia

Background: I’ve been focusing on looking at a text deeply, rereading a text to my students many times, and addressing something different each time. We’ve been looking at narratives, starting from reading… and leading into writing their own. This week we’ve continued looking at the main idea in terms of the big concept, and the message or author’s intent. Why was the story written? What compelled the writer to tell this story, and what can we learn from, and about ourselves from the story?

We’ve unpacked the story into the beginning, middle, end and problem. We’ve also been discussing the story ‘beyond the text’, and teaching the children the term ‘going deep’. Today we looked at Tiddalick and how he felt, and why he did what he did. My students came up with some really enlightening ideas in support of Tiddalick and against.

A few weeks ago I read a Mem Fox book to my students. I read it seven times before my student’s actually identified the big concept and overarching idea. Spending time rereading one text is very valuable. Looking at the language used by the author also helps build the rich vocabulary that children need to read and write. I’ve also focussed recently on adjectives or ‘coloring in words’ and ‘going deep’ into a text enables these sorts of discussions.

This week, I had two teachers spend part of a morning with me and my students. My children wrote a retell about Tiddalick using the PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing strategy. It was one of those mornings when there were lots of interruptions and it wasn’t until during our share session and looking closely at their writing, that I thought, there’s a lot to celebrate here! It’s nearly the end of their first semester of formal education and these students are just at the beginning. I can’t wait to see what they’ll be doing at the end of the year.

When looking at these writing samples, I can see many teaching points i.e sh and th, continued focus on upper case, lower case, sentence structure and simple punctuation. It’s also important to add that this is ‘thinker’s writing’… it’s not safe writing like journal writing. These students have to work collaboratively to form their text, and then prompt and support each other to write.

The by-product of collaborative grouping is developing the children’s ability to work cooperatively with others… and yes, there can be disagreements, but unless children are put into these situations they will not develop the skills to negotiate, compromise and make good choices  in order to get the job done.

Cheers Nina


Filed under Uncategorized

PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing – Differentiation – Preps (First year of formal education in Australia) – Language Experience: 5 days in and we’re composing! Student Led – Of course!

I said in my last post that I’d display a couple of photos of how I’ve set up our learning spaces in the classroom.  Space is tight, but it works.

This area is where we work on our reading and writing skills. Everything I need or the children need is in this space. They are learning quickly that where I sit, they sit in front of me. This allows the children to refocus for new learning experiences. It also gives them the opportunity to move and stretch. My space is limited, but I’ve been able to create these specific learning areas. I highly recommend teachers to try and organise different learnings spaces for the children. There is also a computer hub.   

This is our Big Book, oral language and numeracy area.  The white board is fantastic. The rest of the classroom has tables in groups. There aren’t many displays up as yet because we have only been back at school for a short time.

Our first Student Led Interactive Writing Session.

As a group the children have a collective knowledge of letters, we’ve looked at sentences, know they tell us something, have a capital letter, full stop and can be read.  They capably wrote their names in a colored texta down the side (removed from photo)  of their large poster sheet. We had talked about our experiences at school and as a group we came up with some class sentences for every group to ‘have a go’ at writing. Each child writes a word in the order of their names. Our sentences were, ‘I am at school’ and ‘I am in PD.’  I could hear them discussing the words, stretching them out, looking at the letter chart, working out how to write them and then ‘having a go’. 

The photo above shows the work of one group of students that I watched compose and write the two sentences. Their attempt at writing  ‘school’ is amazing. It will be wonderful watching their journey this year.

I’m using this strategy weekly, as I believe that this strategy combined with explicit teaching accelerates writing development. These children want to be writers!

I haven’t written many posts recently because I’ve been so busy setting up the grade, getting to know children and assessing.

Cheers Nina


Filed under Uncategorized

Responding to a comment: What does a typical day or writing block of writing instruction look like? Great question Angela! I can only hope my answer is great. Hmm! Here ’tis’…

Angela Stockman is a coach in New York and has left a comment on my post about Student Led Interactive Writing. I’ve included a copy of Angela’s comment below because it has a number of questions. I also thought a comment box just wouldn’t give this comment justice. You can visit Angela’s site by following this link and I strongly recommend that you do.

I find explaining what I do difficult because ‘I know what I know and do what I do’ naturally. It’s that ‘unconsciously skilled’ verses ‘consciously skilled’ biting back again. Once again I need to reflect in order to write and write in order to reflect… and I would have to say that is one of the reasons I blog. It makes me define my practice, thus moving me from ‘unconsciously skilled’ to ‘consciously skilled’. In order to share what I do, I need to operate in the later.

Angela’s Comment:

‘It is so inspiring to hear an experienced primary teacher speak to the fact that students CAN and DO teach their peers, reflect on their learning, and define their own needs. What does a typical day or block of writing instruction look like for you structurally Nina? I am fascinated by this!

I facilitate a writing community of teachers and young people. We are hopeful that over time, many of the kids in our program will evolve into great teachers of writing, and we work to identify those kids and support them by providing them with great teaching strategies and opportunities now. I’m wondering if your approach might help us!’


Four years ago I was teaching a Year 3 / 4 (8 – 10 year old students in Australia) and at the time we were preparing for our government testing. I was talking to my students and they asked me what a good piece of writing was in my opinion. What a great question and one they were entitled to ask. We had been looking at writing genres in-depth but somewhere along the way my teaching missed the mark.

For my students to improve their writing skills they needed to know what a good piece of writing ‘looks like’ when written, ‘sounds like’, and ‘feels like’ when read.  To do this I used the deconstruction model introduced to me by Lane Clark. I proceeded to gather what I believed were good examples of writing for each genre. At the time I used material taken from CARS & STARS a reading comprehension program I was using. The children then worked in groups and used the ‘jigsaw’ thinking tool to record their findings. Sharing our findings as a class was powerful and meant we had to negotiate writing criteria for good pieces of writing. This was a great start, but just not enough.

I remember showing my students the Victorian Essential Learning Standards Moderation Guide. The document wasn’t suitable in its form due to its language, so I decided change parts of it for my students to use. This made the document ‘user friendly’ for the students. As a whole grade, we went through the document which included writing samples – this visual component was essential for the children. I noted at the time that the engagement level of my students skyrocketed because I think they felt that I was letting them in on ‘secret teacher’s business’.

Very bravely, they decided to look at their own writing and see where their writing measured up against the standards. To my surprise their personal and honest self assessment and conversations about their own writing was ‘bang on’. There are teachers who struggle with writing moderation, but these children did not. It also gave each student direction. I remember having a chat with each student, discussing their progress and given their new understanding, what they felt they needed to do to move their writing on.

Experience tells me that learning is positive for all children, no matter what their standard, if they can see their learning moving forward. It’s that ‘success builds success’ theory in action. Children feel empowered when they understand and have some control of their individual journey, making a commitment to self improvement/reflection and knowing what they need to do to improve. It’s no different for me; I like to know what is expected of me and how to move my teaching and learning forward.

I’ve always let children have a say about what our class should be like. We’re a team and all team members have a responsibility to each other and themselves. I have also allowed children to lead and question their learning, so it seemed natural for me to build on this… and the fact that I’m teaching 4-6 year olds didn’t alter my teaching philosophy. Hence, I try to make learning experiences student led when possible. I’ve been developing the PD Student Led Interactive Writing strategy for two years. This strategy is embedded in my teaching and I believe using this strategy enables children to develop a real understanding of the writing process. I also believe this strategy combined with the Early Years strategies will lead to long term gains, not short term. Please ‘track back’ through my blog as I have written many posts about this strategy.

So, what does a typical day or block of writing instruction look like structurally?

Writing everyday is crucial. I try to follow a program that becomes familiar to the children; however, nothing is set in concrete, so my program can be changed to respond to the children’s learning needs, our inquiry or their interest. Different genres  are introduced to support our planned inquiry. As many of my students are beginning writers, teaching genres tends to be left until later in the year. My program is Language Experience and Play Based Experience based. I won’t explain these in this post as explaining these approaches needs a dedicated post. However, if you put Language Experience in my search box you can read other posts I have written and view a  slide show for a presentation I gave.  If I gave this presentation again, my slide show would change. I am constantly learning, improving and refining my practice.


Oral Language– Build it daily:

I move children to different areas of the room for each activity. Movement is important for young children. I find it helps children to focus. I use these activities throughout the week to build oral language. Children with poor oral language find the going tough. Oral is crucial and underpins all that I do!

Oral Language Activities: Start every day – 10 Minutes – I  give my little strategies ‘made up’ names so that the children become familiar with the expected task.

The Chat Room:  Speaking and Listening – News, Show & Explain – Question & Statements

Give me Another Word & Then Another:  e.g. Go-start, begin etc… See how many words of similar meaning they can give for a word. Beginning of the year – Prep 1/2 – build to 10 words by the end of the year.

Talk About You Time: News

Big Pictures / Big Ideas:  Discussion

Daily Big Book Fun Time: Concepts of Print

Retell it!

What do we know about sentences, words, letters & punctuation?

Alphabet Knowledge – phonics / blends etc.

Disco Writing: Bee Gees – Staying Alive (Words changed to ‘Stay on the Line’ and ‘yes’ their is the dance. Sensory Activities, Letter Formation

Shared Experiences Recap: school life – incursions/excursions etc.

Build me a Sentence: Sentence Board, Magnetic Letters / Words, Mini White Boards  

Our Language Experience Little & Big Books made using Student Led Interactive Writing Text

Wonderings : Questions students would like answered is incorporated daily and used to direct focus content.



10 Minute Writing Focus (teacher choice and/or a ‘Wondering’)

Modeled Writing Strategy (Whole Class) Revisit concepts, skills

Independent Journal Writing

Sharing and reflecting on our learning – 10 Minutes


10 Minute Writing Focus (teacher Choice and/or ‘A Wondering’ explained)

Using thinking tools and recording thoughts/discussion to assist our writing

Shared Writing Strategy – Responding to literature / Analyzing – understanding different types of writing

Sharing and  reflecting on our learning – 10 Minutes

Wonderings: Children brainstorm things they’d like to know and learn about related to writing.


10 Minute Writing Focus (teacher Choice and/or ‘A Wondering’ explained – related to genre)

Using thinking tools and recording thoughts/discussion to assist our writing

Independent Writing – Narratives, Letters, Reports, Recounts, Cartoons, Opinion etc…

 Sharing and reflecting on our learning – 10 Minutes


10 Minute Writing Focus (teacher Choice and/or ‘A Wondering’ explained – related to genre)

PD Student Led Interactive Writing – related to a shared experience (This is when I often take a ‘needs based’ group not ability group for Teacher Led Interactive Writing)

Sharing our reflecting on our learning – 10 Minutes

Wonderings: Children brainstorm things they’d like to know and learn about related to writing.


10 Minute Writing Focus (teacher Choice and/or ‘A Wondering’ explained – related to genre)

We Love to Write Workshop – free choice

Sharing our reflecting on our learning – 10 Minutes

I try to take a small group each day which is teacher led and rove and support children when not taking a group. Teacher Led Interactive Writing and Guided Writing are strategies I favor when working with small groups.

We also write at other times of the day to support our inquiry and for pleasure. The key for developing great writers is to build oral language. It’s hard to write if you don’t have a strong vocabulary to draw on. I call my teaching approach to literacy ‘The Interwoven Approach’. I weave all areas of language e.g. phonics, sentence structure, letter formation / recognition into my daily program and focus on a particular need.  I try to always link new knowledge to known concepts and understandings, so what is being taught is meaningful and in context.

There are numerous other things I do, but what I have described are the main strategies I consistently incorporate. As the year moves on, students are asked to lead / teach our writing focus and share time. Now if 4-6 year olds can confidently do this imagine what the capabilities of older students are.

To answer Angela’s second question- I believe that if a teacher just embedded Interactive Writing – PD Student Led & Teacher Led into their program, their children’s writing would FLY! Big statement, but I think I can ‘back it’.

Cheers Nina

P.S It’s hot in Melbourne – Its 1am and still in the 30’s. I tempted, no, going for a quick night swim – nice! 

To Angela: Once again thank you for your comment and I hope this makes sense. What do I need to make clearer?


Filed under Uncategorized

Differentiated Teaching – Knowledge Scaffolding – The PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing Approach developed by Nina Davis – Would Dr John Munro support this strategy?

I have just finished reading an opinion piece, ‘Which children really benefit from streaming?’ written by Dr John Munro.  Reading this article has motivated me to write this post. Dr John Munro is an Associate Professor at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne – Australia. His article was published in ‘Shine’ – Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria, Australia – December 2009: Issue 11.

It’s reaffirming for me as a teacher to read articles based on sound research which support my practice. My teaching practice is one where children are encouraged to understand, monitor and share responsibility for their learning, and I do this with 4-6 year olds. Assessment ‘for learning’ and ‘as learning’ drives my teaching. My planning carefully embeds scaffolding strategies that build upon student knowledge. I believe this teaching approach differentiates teaching and learning in my classroom. Dr Munro’s findings support the PD Student Led Interactive Writing Approach that I have been developing for the past two years and have been recording and reflecting upon in this blog.

I have taken the following excerpts from Dr. Munro’s article that made me go ‘aha’…

‘When teachers use knowledge scaffolding procedures effectively, diversity can be catered for without the need to divide students into groups for learning.

‘Some teachers believe it is easier to teach a group that is homogeneous in its ‘ability’. They usually link ability with achievement; the ability grouping is based on past outcomes.

‘They miss the point that achievement is the result of learning (and teaching), not the means by which learning occurs.

‘When teachers use knowledge – scaffolding procedures effectively in their classroom, this diversity can be catered for without the need to divide students into groups or streams.’

‘Knowledge scaffolding is about establishing what students know at the beginning of the topic, and guiding them to enhance this by scaffolding and directing their learning and thinking activity.’

Dr Munro does concede that there will be times where like ability grouping will be needed, but our aim is to develop independent learners. I agree! 

Cheers Nina

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing Approach developed by Nina Davis

I’ve had an email from a group of teachers wanting to know more about Interactive Writing. They’ve read about the strategy and have read my posts. Apparently, they have noted through extensive reading that my approach is unique. Yes, I have developed Interactive Writing into a Student Led Collaborative Approach that I use weekly as part of my Language Experience / Play Experience Approach to teaching literacy and numeracy.

Through ‘morphing’ this strategy, developing and embedding it into my classroom practice during the past two years, I have changed what is an excellent teacher led strategy, not used enough, into a powerful teaching strategy that I believe is the best strategy for teaching writing.

What makes my way powerful?

The key is that students are working collaboratively, sharing their learning, prompting each other and using skills and language generally used solely by teachers. Each student is engaged in the activity with each student committed to contributing with the support of their peers if needed. Groups can be structured to support children or to extend groups of children. The teacher can run a teacher led group at the same time, which I do regularly.

Each child is identified by a color and all are given the opportunity to lead a group. Teaching leadership skills concurrently is essential. The children are given poster sized sheets to write on and textas. I use Student Led Interactive Writing to assess and plan my weekly writing foci. It’s interesting to note that my student’s independent writing improves rapidly. I’m looking for the transfer of my teaching into my student’s Independent and Interactive Writing.  Modelled Writing and Shared Writing are also planned into a weekly program from week one.

By the middle of the year my students are able to identify their learning needs and will suggest the foci for writing sessions. That is powerful! Some children, and they are 5 or 6 years old, will teach the writing focus or make suggestions for me to use. Groups share their writing with the class, with little books made using their Interactive Writing texts used for reading. This strategy extends highly able students, develops students working at the standard expected and supports less able students. I believe it accelerates the writing ability of all students.

One teacher I work with had a child who refused to write for many weeks. Even though this is uncommon it is seen from time to time. The introduction of this strategy gave the child the support needed and confidence to start writing.

Please read my previous posts in this blog. I have written about this strategy many times and have provided numerous pictures and descriptions of my student’s writing development. I’d also recommend reading my posts on general Independent Writing development as I have provided many examples of student writing in these posts as well. I think once you’ve seen the development of my student’s writing you’ll be as excited as I am about this approach and keen to develop this approach in your own classroom.  I’m calling it the PD Student Led Interactive Writing Approach to recognise my student’s committment and success. They have a passion for writing and have taken exercise books home for the holidays to keep a journal. Many of my parents tell me that their children write at home because they love it. Now that is special! I can only hope that their enthusiasm continues as they grow.

Please let me know how you’re using this approach in your classroom.

Cheers Nina


Filed under Uncategorized

From 5 to 6 Years old – Dear Santa… A child’s last piece of writing for the 2009 school year.

I have many children producing this standard of writing. This student has not checked this draft and will be using our class checklist to make changes over the next few days. The child wrote this in 40 minutes and I was impressed by the content… just so much to say. Oral language development within a Language Experience classroom is the key, combined with the Early Year’s teaching strategies. For international readers, this student will finish their first year of formal schooling this Friday and is 6 years old. I haven’t posted for a while due to reports etc…  Hope you enjoy this letter to Santa!

Cheers Nina

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

PrepD Interactive Writing – A great strategy when teacher led but a POWERFUL strategy when student led! My Adaptation…

Anyone who reads my blog, by now has realised that this is one of my favourite teaching strategies. I’ve ‘morphed’ this strategy from teacher led to student led. This allows me to rove, listen to student conversations and watch for the transfer of explicitly taught concepts of print. I am able to assess each writer’s phonemic understanding, knowledge of punctuation and known vocabulary. I can also take a teacher led group according to the learning needs of my students. Groups are randomly formed some weeks or tailored for various other teaching needs. This strategy allows me to cater for the learning needs of all. It allows for extension for some writers and scaffolds needy students.

Initially children brainstorm a class sentence to be written by each group about a shared experience. As the children’s written English knowledge develops groups begin to write longer texts, brainstormed by themselves and of increasing length. The photo’s below display the development through the year. Unfortunately, my early samples were deleted by mistake. Early interactive writing samples displayed initial sounds, some final sounds and some known sight words. I start with teacher led Interactive Writing and introduce student led once children have been at school for about 4 weeks. It’s amazing how quickly they learn once they know what a sentence is, what a word is and how words are made.

You will not find student led Interactive Writing in books because it is an adaptation to the initial strategy. I must also note that Interactive Writing is a teaching and learning strategy. My student’s journal writing is where they practice and show case their skills  as young writers. For anyone reading this post from outside Australia we have only 2 weeks left of our school year. My children will start Year 1 in late January, 2010.

Cheers Nina

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Using Interactive Writing as a Scaffolding Strategy.

Interactive Writing student led is a time I use to roam, listen to conversations and question understandings. Today I was able to question individuals and groups about the strategies they were using to compose their text. Their feedback was enlightening and I was surprised by how well they articulated what they were doing, their strategies for spelling words, their collective knowledge of punctuation and composition. I’m always looking for the transfer of explicit teaching. I love that the first sample has includes questions written and answered by the children.  It also shows an attempt by a student to write carbon dioxide ( spelt cuben-diyokside by the student) and take a look at ‘sensational’. The children have to compose the text, work in groups, prompt but not answer and accept each others attempts. Tomorrow each group will review their writing and make corrections after completing an editing checklist. They will then read and share their writing with the grade. All texts will be typed for the children to read and illustrate.

Cheers Nina The names of the students are written down the side. The children write in the order of their name and use their own specific color. This allows me to track an individual’s development. This is the only time I allow the children to write in texta – and they love it!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Prep (5&6 Year Olds) writing- What a journey!

Student Led Interactive Writing and small group Teacher Led Interactive Writing are the best scaffolding strategies for writing in my opinion. However, I can evidence this by the development of my Prep student’s (5&6 Year Olds in Australia) writing this year. These strategies are intrinsic to the Language Experience Approach. If you type Interactive Writing into the search box in this blog, you’ll be able to see the many posts I’ve written about this strategy this year.

 ‘Interactive writing involves the teacher and small groups of students jointly composing a large print text on a subject of interest to the students and sharing responsibility for the recording at various points in the writing. Teachers quickly record the words that students know how to write, and engage students in problem solving and recording the words that provide challenges and opportunities for new learning. This eases the transition to independent writing by: • making explicit how written language works • constructing words using orthographic and phonological knowledge • producing a text that can be read again.’ Sofweb

Taking this strategy to the next level – student led has also had an enormous impact, as the students have complete responsibility for the composition and organization of their text. They know how to prompt and use strategies normally used by the teacher. Handing over the responsibility always has its concerns; however, working in groups where cooperation is essential is important for young children. I have included pictures of today’s journal writing. I can see the transfer of  explicit teaching, which is something I’m  always on the look out for. Today in our focus discussion prior to writing, it struck me just how much these children now know. The children also guide our focus choice, and today one child asked if they could have the ‘apostrophe of ownership’ explained again. Wow!







 I have included only one page from each of these children. Some children wrote four pages of organised text while most wrote one or two pages. Editing has become  a natural part of the writing process and to the support the children they have a writing checklist that they use each time they write. This checklist was formed by the children after extensively looking at good writing samples.

I have included many samples here. These samples display the skill range in my grade and have been randomly chosen.

Cheers Nina ( Still writing reports)


Filed under Uncategorized