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Guiding Writers: Engaging Scaffolds and “Cool Tools” for Results!

By Lori Oczkus
 | May 27, 2024

kids_workingDoes this scenario sound familiar to you? After teaching a writing lesson students begin their individual drafts and at least five to seven students expertly avoid writing by sharpening pencils, asking to go to the restroom, coughing, doodling, looking around the room, or digging around in their desks. You circulate to confer with each of the lost writers and they chime in to ask, “What are we supposed to do?” or they admit, “I don’t know what to write.

Teachers everywhere express concerns about teaching students to write.

Common problems with writing include the following:

  • dull, lifeless pieces that don’t include details
  • a lack of ideas on where to start
  • student voice missing from their pieces
  • no formal writing programs, just writing embedded within the reading program (which often is simply not enough)

Guided Writing: The missing middle piece

What can you do to improve student writing while also motivating students to write?

Guided writing is an evidence-based gradual release approach where students engage with strong mentor texts and brief teacher modeling. Then students work in teams to compose a quick group piece using a structured template before moving on to their own writing. By providing strong skillful scaffolding, teachers can support their students every step of the way from their fledgling drafts at the idea stage to the full-blown published phase of writing.

Guided writing strengthens writing instruction, improves literacy, and keeps students engaged—and it's easy and fun to implement “cool tools" that students love, including varied sized writing papers such as giant posters, sticky notes, or colorful sentence strips; different colored markers and pens; drama; gestures and acting; and foldable paper organizers.

Join Lori Oczkus on June 4 as she presents our next ILA Webinar: Guiding Writers: Engaging Scaffolds for Powerful Results. You'll learn how to engage and support your elementary students through every phase of the writing process while fostering an environment of equity, independence, and success.

An on-demand video recording will be available to all registrants after the event. Qualifies for 1 Clock Hour. Register now!

Imagine these classroom examples:

  • After reading informational texts about spiders, first graders each compose one line on a sticky note for a team poem about tarantulas. Teams illustrate and display their poems.
  • Third graders write on sentence strips and share one reason their “superhero” is the best.  They then collaborate in teams of four to craft persuasive paragraphs. Students present their creations to the class.
  • Fifth grade students read several articles about the Titanic. They compose sentences on strips for team paragraphs about the Titanic. Students secure strips onto large colorful papers and combine them for a giant-sized class report.Strip Paragraph

For more information about guided writing, including steps for creating successful guided writing lessons and five go-to sample lessons, check out 
Teaching Guided Writing: Scaffolding for Success.

Interactive starter lesson for any grade level


This quick and engaging routine is popular with students and teachers alike. Use any literature or informational texts you already teach as the mentor text. Students respond to the text by quickly composing a group summary or poem.

Strip Poem or Paragraph

Fiction. Choose one favorite or pivotal event and write a sentence.

Informational Text.
Write about favorite or important facts.


Teacher Modeling

1. Model how to choose a favorite or important fact from an informational text or a favorite or pivotal event from fiction.

2. Write your example in your own words on a sentence strip.

Student Collaborative Writing

1. Students each write their response to the reading on a strip of paper.

2. Students work in teams to share and order their strips into a logical group summary or poem.

3. Teams assemble and glue their strips on a larger paper.

4. The class participates in a “gallery tour” as they walk to read the final products.


Lori Oczkus is a literacy coach, author, and popular speaker across the United States and internationally.  Lori is the author of many books and resources including
Teaching Guided Writing: Scaffolding for Success  and the best-selling Reciprocal Teaching At Work 3rd Ed. Foreword by John Hattie.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed in blog posts on this website are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of ILA. We have taken reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in blog posts but do not warrant the accuracy or completeness of such information.

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