A Teacher’s Guide to Interactive Writing: A Book Review and a Giveaway

Estimated Reading Time: 2 1/2 minutes (499 words)

Target Audience: PreK-2 Classroom Teachers

Interactive writing is the missing link to engaging writing instruction that’s both effective and incredibly fun. Matt Halpern’s new book, A Teacher’s Guide to Interactive Writing, explores what it is, why it’s important, and how to get started.

"Interactive writing is a fluid, flexible, engaging teaching tool used to model reading and writing skills and strategies while sharing the pen with students."

On each brightly-colored page, Matt’s friendly voice guides you through interactive writing and inspires you with new ideas you’ll want to try right away. The exclamation point on this resource is the the inclusion of twenty videos, available as a digital resource, which feature Matt expertly applying the strategies outlined in the book.

In today’s post, I share five important insights about interactive writing from this new resource.

1. Teach ANY Skill: Interactive writing provides an opportunity to explicitly model and practice a myriad of skills that are important for young writers:

  • Handwriting
  • Finger spaces
  • Concepts about print
  • Punctuation
  • Using phonics skills to spell a word
  • Using resources in the classroom to spell a word
  • Idea generation
  • And MORE! Be responsive. Teach “whatever strategies and skills your students need” (Halpern, 2023).

2. Set Students Up To Take Risks: Interactive writing is the perfect time to prompt students to attempt something they haven’t tried independently yet. Through trial and error in a scaffolded environment, students have the opportunity to practice. Hopefully, they’ll carry that practice into their independent writing.

"When our students know they are cared for and safe, they are more willing to trust us with challenges presented, and make no mistake about it, writing can feel like quite a challenge to a beginner."

3. Differentiate and Scaffold: Teachers who are skilled at interactive writing know their students as writers and use that knowledge to tailor the lesson to both the group and individuals. This book contains several progressions for how teachers could scaffold different skills.

For example: Here’s how Matt differentiates adding spaces between words using a range of scaffolding, from high to low:

  • High: Teacher draws lines for words
  • Medium: Student uses finger after each word to create a space
  • Low: Student slides or jumps hand after each word.

4. Engage Every Kid: Matt explains how to skillfully involve every student in interactive writing (even if only one student is holding the official pen), through practices like:

  • 👆 Tracing their finger on the carpet
  • 💨 Writing in the air
  • 🎒 Writing on the back of the child in front of them
  • 📋 Writing on a whiteboard or clipboard
  • 💬 Orally segmenting a word as a group while the student with the pen writes

5. Opportunities Are Everywhere: In the final section, Matt shares how interactive writing looks, feels, sounds, and evolves over the course of a school year and provides visuals of pieces he’s created with students. Examples include:

  • 3D shapes chart
  • Encouraging classroom signs (Matt shared some about empathy and self-talk)
  • Library bin labels
  • Character chart based on a class read-aloud
  • Morning messages
  • Class routines and expectations
"Interactive writing provides the perfect canvas for student-created writing, tools, charts, and yes, even decorations."

The Bottom Line: Interactive writing helps teachers coach students through some of the trickiest writing skills in a scaffolded environment. Use A Teacher’s Guide to Interactive Writing to take your instruction to the next level.

Go Deeper: Look for my follow-up post on May 15th. I’ll share an interactive writing lesson from my Kindergarten classroom trying out Matt’s tips, and announce the winner of the giveaway!

To read more about interactive writing from Two Writing Teachers, check out:

Comment below for your chance to win A Teacher’s Guide to Interactive Writing, by Matt Halpern!

The cover of Matt Halpern's book.

You can win a copy of  A Teacher’s Guide to Interactive Writing by Matt Halpern, donated by Heinemann. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment about this post by Sunday, May 14 at 6:00 p.m. EDT. The winner will be randomly selected by Leah Koch and announced in a follow-up post on May 15th. You must have a U.S. mailing address and provide a valid e-mail address when you post your comment. If you win, Leah will email you for your mailing address. You must respond within five days, or a new winner will be chosen. Good luck!

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