Sharing the Pen: Choosing a Topic from Everyday Experiences
Choosing a Topic for the Shared Pen Lesson
I like to think of choosing a topic for sharing the pen, as talking about an experience that our class has had together. Anything that you do in the classroom with your students can be written about and used. Some examples are:
- In the beginning of the school year you may have a newcomer to the classroom. Write about how that happened. This will also help the new student to feel welcome.
- Labeling the classroom using interactive dialog and writing that denotes different items of interest.
- Create a list of "The School Supplies We Use" or "Specials We Go To" or "People in our Classroom" posters with the students.
- Write about classroom procedures. For example, list the steps to starting a Reading and Writing Workshop. These make great posters for the whole school year, because they also remind students of procedures to follow in the classroom, and often just take the teacher a reread to reinforce the routine.
- Another one of my favorite topics for sharing the pen is to post a chart on the classroom door that reads, "Classroom News", or "Kindergarten is Fun," because interactive writing involves constructing text about everyday happenings in the classroom, students write a sentence (or more at the end of the year or for higher grades) about the classroom happenings. This could be as simple as, "We have gym today." It could also be just descriptive words. This is a great weekly project for small group instruction. Split the class into rotating groups to update the door. Simply ask the students, "What have we been doing in the classroom?" Students with learning disabilities may especially benefit from the individualized writing time. As with any interactive writing piece, make sure the students illustrate.
- Share the pen with students about a book they are reading in shared reading, a recipe or even how to solve a math problem.
A Learning 'Experience'
Sharing the pen can be integrated into any content area. I live in a region where we have severe ice storms in early fall. The students can be unexpectedly off school as a result due to power outages and downed trees. When we come back to school we spend time talking about such storms, and do a large interactive writing piece which makes a beautiful mural in the hallway. One such year when they were particularly bad the storm became known as "The October Storm", which could be used as the title of our display.
We also integrated this into our science unit about trees and collected some broken branches to enhance our work. This was a social and scientific documentation of our experiences.