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What Is It?
As in writing aloud, using the shared writing strategy enables teachers to make the writing process concrete and visible to students. In shared writing, the teacher and students compose text together, with both contributing their thoughts and ideas to the process, while the teacher acts as scribe, writing the text as it is composed.
Similar to writing aloud, shared writing can cover a wide variety of forms, purposes, and genres. The text can serve a specific purpose governed by what is going on currently in the classroom, or the teacher and students can brainstorm and negotiate these decisions together. Some possible topics and forms include a narrative describing a recent event in the class, a retelling of a favorite story, process writing describing how a project unfolded and what was learned, a summary of or reflection on a book read as a class, a list of types of entries that could go into a writer's notebook, and so forth. Compositions can be short and completed in one session, or they can be longer and extend over several sessions.
The purpose of shared writing is to model the thought process involved in writing and allow students to engage in and focus on the process. The teacher, acting as scribe, frees students from that aspect of the writing process so that they can focus exclusively on the thinking involved in writing. Shared writing is also a powerful method for direct teaching of key skills and concepts needed in the writing process.
Why Is It Important?
Regie Routman (1994) lists several benefits of utilizing the shared writing strategy with students. Some of these include the recognition that shared writing:
Reinforces and supports reading as well as writing
Makes it possible for all students to participate
Encourages close examination of texts, words, and options of authors
Demonstrates the conventions of writing-spelling, punctuation, and grammar
Focuses on composing and leaves transcribing to the teacher
Shared writing, along with writing aloud, is a step in the process of moving students toward independent writing. It is another level in the scaffold that gives students support as they learn the mechanics, conventions, and processes of writing. The strategy allows students to gain competence and confidence in their writing skills while it allows the teacher to demonstrate the usually internal thinking process that takes place as writers write.
When Should It Be Used?
Shared writing is a useful tool at any grade level and can be used throughout the school year with the whole class or with smaller groups who may need a little more support. It will be used more often at early grade levels and early in the year when developing writers are in more need of support and modeling. Don Graves (1994) discusses these and other demonstrations related to the writing process and states that students need this kind of instruction not once but at least once a week in short, focused lessons.