Independent Writing

Writing sample from student at The Grove Education Centre

Conventional literacy learners should be writing independently – or making the final steps towards writing independently.  To help them progress with their writing, we should model writing and activate any needed background knowledge before asking the students to write. Evidence shows that modelling good writing is the most successful way to help students to become better writers. We usually write in front of them.  As we do this, we might model “thinking out loud” or “using the word wall” or “sounding it out” or other features of writing.  For early conventional writers, we prioritise modelling “thinking out loud” as it teaches them to think like a writer.


A mini-lesson should happen at the beginning of each writing lesson.  This is where the teacher writes first and uses it as an opportunity to model writing, demonstrate what they are looking for in the students’ writing and (if needed) to activate some background knowledge before asking the students to write.

Evidence shows that modelling good writing helps students to become better writers. So – we write in front of them.  As we write we model one or more of the different writing skills that we are focusing on for their writing development.  So as we write we might “think out loud” about the topic and language we might use.  Or we might write demonstrating how to “use the word wall” or “sound it out”. Initially I often focus on “thinking out loud” as I generate ideas and language as this is a skill we need to model for many students.

Writing mini-lessons will vary depending on each student’s level.  We use the Writing with All Tools Continuum (WwATC) to assess and track a student’s writing level.  Once we know their writing level, we can plan our mini-lessons appropriately – and then once again we get to use the WwATC to help students move to the next level.

Transitional and Early Conventional writers (Writing with All Tools Continuum Groups E & F)

Students at this level usually need to focus on learning to write “one good sentence” where they independently generate the language, ideas, words, spelling, etc. 

The guidelines at this level are:

  1. Always begin with a mini-lesson, modelling writing yourself about a similar writing task to the students’. Use this as an opportunity to model different skills across time e.g. thinking of ideas, using word wall, sounding words out, writing more, etc. Make sure you remove your modelled writing so students can’t copy it.
  2. Give the student an appropriate writing stimulus e.g. photo, video. Ask the student to choose if appropriate.
  3. Ask the student to write. Students at this level are generally aiming to learn to write one good sentence. They should be using a keyboard most or all of the time, with handwriting optional depending on their motor skills.
  4. As students are writing, move around and conference with the students. For students who struggle with ideas and language, move to them first. Use AAC to support them in this area.
  5. If needed, provide scaffolds to help support them in the writing process e.g. lines for the words they are writing or recording the sentence onto a BIGmack switch.
  6. Continue to move around and support students with writing. If students do not know how to spell a word, encourage them to write down every sound they can hear or use the word wall. Do not correct spelling or work on capitals or end punctuation, etc. The only piece of form you would work on is spaces.
  7. Follow with a short conference about their writing, providing lots of positive feedback, particularly around the area focused on in the mini lesson, and (if needed) writing a “translation” on the back of their work or on a post-it note as appropriate.
  8. At this level, students should get frequent opportunities to share their writing with their peers. Not every student, every day – but by building in a daily opportunity to share writing, each student should be able to participate regularly in this activity.

A demonstration video for this level is available at below. Thanks to the student’s family and The Grove Education Centre.

Once a student is independently writing one simple sentence, then they need to learn that writing is about telling more, followed by learning that writing is about telling stories and then continuing to become a more complex writer.  Don’t forget to use the Writing with All Tools Continuum to help the student move to the next group.

Writing sample from student at The Grove Education Centre

Writing Tools

Students who are ready for conventional instruction should be using a QWERTY keyboard, unless they need an alternative keyboard for access reasons.

If you don’t always have access to a high tech QWERTY keyboard, you might want to keep a low tech version on hand as well. The Writing Tools page has some options to print.

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Story and illustrations from a student at Whyalla Special Education Centre