Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

Lonely Writing?

John Donne once said, ‘No man is an island’. We are never really alone. We have friends, family and people to keep us busy. We have smartphones, computers and television to entertain us. It is rare that we would go a day without talking or interacting with someone else.

When writing, you are also not alone. This may be hard to imagine. Many people see writing as a personal event, and one that they do not want to share. To these people, they plan alone, write alone and then give their paper to their teacher, hoping for the best. The entire project, start to finish, is done alone.

But how successful are these writers? Can you really be an island when writing? Well, not really. Writing should be a shared activity. You can work with other writers to help plan your paper, develop ideas, research, revise, proofread and even submit your work. In this lesson, we’ll discuss why interactive writing is important and then give some suggestions on how you can practice interactive writing.

What is Interactive Writing?

Interactive writing is a cooperative event in which a teacher and students jointly compose and write a text. What does this mean? In interactive writing, the teacher and students would decide what to write about and work together to write a paper. It can be done one-on-one or even in small groups.

The goal of interactive writing is for students to become better writers by seeing good writing modeled to them. For example, if a teacher practices interactive writing during the prewriting stage, the student can learn how to brainstorm, make a list and then decide on a topic. If interactive writing happens during the drafting stage, students may become more comfortable with the essay structure, writing a thesis or adding more details to the paper.

Interactive writing can help a writer grow in confidence. Many times, new writers can be intimidated by the writing process. However, through interactive writing, students can grow with others and learn from sharing the writing process with them.

How does interactive writing work? Interactive writing can take many different forms. Let’s look at one scenario. Ruth sits in a college composition classroom. Her instructor tells the class that the first essay is a narrative. Together, the class lists some potential topics on the board. This is the first step of interactive writing – brainstorming. Together, they decide on a focused topic and begin to plan the requirements of the paper. Then the students begin to write at their desks to get started. The instructor walks around the room, stopping at each student’s desk, reading each paper, commenting and writing with the students. Finally, the class divides into smaller groups, and the students read their drafts to each other. Through each of these steps, the class and the instructor work together.

Interactive Activities

Now that we have discussed why interactive writing is important, let’s look at a few different examples. Remember that interactive writing can be done both individually – between teacher and student – and in a group setting.

If you are working individually with a student, there are a few different activities you can try.

First, encourage them to read literature. This may sound a bit strange, but reading is directly related to writing. It can help a student learn new words, learn how to use more details and see how different patterns can be used successfully. When they finish reading, encourage them to take time to ask questions about the material, such as how did the writing make me feel, or what did I learn from reading this? These questions will help students to begin the writing process.

Second, encourage your students to visit a writing center. When they write, remember that they should share with others. While this may sound intimidating in a larger classroom, a writing center is a great place to practice in one-on-one sessions with others. In a writing center, a student can work with a writing tutor, read the paper together and decide on areas that need more focus. The tutor will ask questions about their writing, which may lead them to make changes or to rethink some of the details. In this setting, they can still work collaboratively with someone else, but the group is much smaller.

Finally, encourage them to work with the instructor. A large part of collaborative writing is the teacher. Have them schedule a writing conference, which is just a meeting where you and the student share writing. Much like the visit to the writing center, the instructor will ask questions, make suggestions and together, both of you can rewrite some of the material.

In a group setting, there are many different ways to practice interactive writing.

One of the most common ways to work with others is peer review. During peer review, students exchange papers and reply to each other. Peer review is a valuable experience for both the writer and the reader. As a writer, you are able to receive feedback and suggestions while you are still drafting. As a reader, you can see what others in your class are writing about and what new or different writing techniques others may be using.

In addition to peer review, there are many more creative ways to use interactive writing in a classroom.

Try the think-pair-share approach. In this activity, the teacher will give the class a question to think about. Once the students individually brainstorm an answer to the question, they will then work in pairs. Together, they can share answers to the question, and then decide on a group answer and write this together. Finally, they will share their findings with the whole class. In this example, students are writing collaboratively with other students, but also the entire class during the sharing stage.

Another fun activity to try is a jigsaw group. In a jigsaw group, the students divide equal portions of an assignment and then piece each piece together like a puzzle. Like the other activities, they would brainstorm in the group, write individually and then rejoin the group to see how the writings will work together. They collaborate with each other to write a unified paper that answers the question that was presented to them.

In any group interactive activity, the goal is to take individual writing and develop a stronger piece with someone else. Together, the partners can learn from each other by seeing different writing processes, organizations and practices.

Lesson Summary

Although we normally think of writing as an individual process, it really should be a shared experience. By working with others, you can learn more about your writing process and make improvements to your style.

Interactive writing is a cooperative event in which students and teachers jointly compose and write a text. In interactive writing, students can work individually with the teacher or in a group setting with their peers. The goal of interactive writing is to become a better writer by seeing good writing modeled. Interactive writing can also help confidence grow. Rather than being intimidated by the writing process, students can work together to learn about writing and grow together.

There are several different activities that can be done individually or in a group setting. Individually, students can read literature, visit a writing center or schedule a writing conference with their teachers. In a group setting, students can participate in peer review, or try activities like think-pair-share or a jigsaw group, where students separately create an assignment and then write together. In all of these activities, the goal is to take students’ individual writing and make it stronger by working with others and learning new writing processes and styles.

Remember in writing that ‘no man is an island’. You do not want to write alone! Challenge yourself, and grow as a writer by sharing and collaborating with others.

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