Writing as a Collaborative Process

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Writing instruction has several components, including collaborative practices like interactive and guided writing. This lesson zooms in on writing with students, or collaboratively, explaining what it is and what it looks like in a classroom.

Quality Writing Instruction

Jenny landed a new job as a literacy coach, helping teachers use best practices when teaching students to read and write. On her first day at school she noticed that several teachers weren't quite up to par on their writing instructional skills. She needed to plan some training to help these teachers out.

Jenny knew quality writing instruction had several components. Her school used a writer's workshop, an approach that allowed teachers to teach writing by exposing students to the writing process. In her observations, Jenny noticed many of the teachers were overlooking a key component used during instruction that helped students to understand new concepts - collaborative writing.

Writer's Workshop

Jenny set up an after school workshop to fine tune components of the writer's workshop. She wanted to make sure her teachers understood all aspects of the workshop before zooming in on collaborative writing, the part during instruction in which teachers write with students.

Jenny's writer's workshop followed a predictable flow. Let's take a look:


The workshop always begins with a teaching point or objective being instructed during a mini-lesson. This is the time at which teachers introduce new concepts and allow students to practice before they're expected to do it on their own.


After the mini-lesson, students write independently. The teacher can conference with a student individually, or conference with groups of students together. When conferencing with writing groups, instructors typically focus ion a specific skill on which all students in the group need work.


After writing time, students come back together to share their writing. During this part of workshop the teacher reviews the teaching point and sets the stage for new learning in the next lesson.

So, how does collaborative writing fit into this picture?

Collaborative Writing Instruction

Now that Jenny was sure teachers were all on the same page about writer's workshop, she was ready to get to the point - collaborative writing. She let the teachers know that during instructional time, either whole group in the mini-lesson or in writing groups, teachers could write collaboratively with students in order to help them better understand the teaching point.

Teachers can collaborate with students to improve writing skills.

For example, let's say Jenny is teaching a group of third graders about how to use a comma correctly. During the mini lesson, Jenny would first tell the students about proper comma usage, then write collaboratively to help guide students. There are two ways to use collaborative writing: interactive writing and guided writing.

Interactive Writing

Students aren't born knowing how to write. Teachers need to both tell and show them great skills and strategies writers use. During instruction time, they can use interactive writing as a tool to engage and teach students. Interactive writing is done collaboratively with students; together, teacher and student compose a text, modeling writing strategies or conventions.

Using the above example on commas, Jenny could use a piece of chart paper to record a text she co-creates with her students that shows how commas are used correctly. She provides the prompt, let's say a piece about what students did during gym class, and writes what the students say. Together they decide where commas go. She can even have a student come up and do the writing to allow him or her to practice.

Guided Writing

Guided writing is the practice of scaffolding and supporting students as they write. Unlike interactive writing, guided writing is done only by the student; the teacher acts as a guide to help improve text as students write. Guided writing can be done in small groups or with individual students.

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