Strategy Guide

Guided Writing

K - 3
Strategy Guide Series
Teaching Writing

About this Strategy Guide

Young writers need to experience sustained and successful writing. Guided writing lessons are temporary, small-group lessons teaching those strategies that a group of students most need to practice with immediate guidance from you. Guided writing lessons can be taught after a whole-class lesson once other students are actively engaged in independent writing.

Research Basis

Writing is learned through apprenticeships, as teachers assist students during writing using guided practice. Many students need this expert guidance in a small-group context, particularly as they attempt to bridge the gap between the teacher's demonstration and modeling and their own independent writing.

Young and poor writers have a limited control over strategies for writing. These writers do, however, learn strategic behavior for writing when these strategies are taught to them in clear and supportive ways. When authentic and targeted modeling of the ways in which writers work is presented by teachers and co-constructed with students during collaborative, rich discussion, learners develop understanding of the purposes, intrinsic motivation, and techniques of writing. Several excellent frameworks for writing instruction accomplish these goals, including modeled, shared, interactive, guided or independent writing. During guided writing instruction, in particular, students are provided with opportunities to experience successful and independent writing within the context of strong teacher support.

Strategy in Practice

Guided writing is taught to small groups in briskly paced, 20-minute lessons. These groupings should be flexible, based on observation of students' current needs, and might be implemented following a whole-class writing lesson.

  • Engage students in a brief, shared experience. You might read a short but fascinating section of an informational text, for example, or conduct a brief experiment.
    • Engage students in a rich conversation during this experience, expanding their linguistic ability for this topic.

    • Have students explicitly rehearse the ways in which they may decide to write about this experience.

  • Teach one or two specific strategies for writing.

    • Remember to teach strategies for all levels of writing decisions, including composing, text and sentence structures, spelling, and punctuation.

    • Provide brief examples or cue cards of strategies in order to support students' immediate use.

    • Hold brief discussions with students about how they will integrate these strategies into their own writing during today's lesson.

  • Provide students with time (5-10 minutes) to write at the small-group table but individually and as independently as possible.

    • Provide immediate individual guidance and feed forward while students write, assisting individual students in anticipation of needed reminders or assistance). Monitor students while they write and "lean in" in order to prompt and guide their thinking.

    • Students should experience sustained attention to writing, producing a short but complete piece of writing.

  • Include a brief sharing activity in which each writer's immediate work is shared with an audience. This sharing will allow each writer to experience his/her newly written text as a whole.

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