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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles:
Teach Early Childhood Literacy

Using Shared Writing to Teach Writing Skills
Miriam Bissu

Shared Writing is a technique that allows the teacher to model good writing for his/her students. The teacher begins the writing workshop by gathering the students around an easel and starts a discussion about a shared experience--a topic they all are studying or know about. The teacher elicits information and leads a discussion. The children discuss the topic and share their ideas while the teacher records them on chart paper in story or paragraph form. As the teacher writes he/she verbalizes the skills he/she wants the children to practice during the writing session that follows. 

The following skills can become the focus of the shared writing lesson:

  • stretch out words to approximate conventional spelling
  • use a Word Wall or other references for conventional spelling
  • recall variant spellings
  • recall and follow rules of capitalization
  • use quotation marks correctly
  • follow rules for punctuation
  • indent for a new paragraph
  • write from left to right
  • write legibly


  • Invite a student up to the easel to put a period at the end of a sentence.
  • Use a red marker for the period at the end of the sentence.
  • Use different color markers for different paragraphs.
  • Have students participate actively by dictating spelling to you.

A colleague of mine at P.S. 40 in Manhattan shared this great idea to get to know your students during the first few weeks of school. It involves using an artifact bag to stimulate conversation and start a shared writing experience. It's also a great way to get your students to write well on their own.

One small attractive shopping bag 
One additional bag (in case a child forgets to bring it)
Chart paper
Easel or chart stand

Time allocation: 20-30 minutes

I bring in two small, attractive, commercially made shopping bags. I call them artifact bags and explain to my students what an artifact is. In one of the bags I place an object that tells about me, usually about my cats, my heritage, or my family. I elicit from the children what this artifact tells about me. I supplement where necessary and then ask the children what they have learned about me from my artifact. I record their responses in sentences on chart paper and this becomes my shared writing lesson. As I'm writing I ask them to stretch out words, put a period at the end of the sentence, and use capitalization at the beginning of the sentence and for names. Then we re-read it, have a student illustrate it, and hang it on a clothesline or display area in the classroom. Within a month or so we have pieces about each child which I then make into a book. These pieces can be re-read during independent reading time or put on the computer and duplicated for all of the students to re-read and illustrate. 

At the end of the lesson I invite two children to take home one of the artifact bags and find something at home that fits in the bag that tells about them. I find that labeling the bags with instructions to the parents helps get some really good artifacts to talk about and informs the parents of what is happening in the classroom. 

An important outcome of this activity is that the children can begin to learn about each other, make connections, and begin to form friendships. They also can use these pieces as a springboard to writing about themselves, their families and friends, and their experiences in an interesting way.


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