Guided Writing

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It is very common for young children or children with learning or developmental disabilities to have trouble organizing their thoughts in order to put them into well written sentences or paragraphs. Students with writing difficulties may try to avoid writing assignments or get frustrated with writing. This can lead to a lack of progression in skills.

This article discusses the concept of a research based writing strategy called “Guided Writing.” While “Guided Writing” lessons are usually done with a small group of children in the classroom, parents can also utilize these strategies at home to help improve their child’s writing skills.

So what is “Guided Writing?”

“Guided Writing” is a method in which the adult guides the child through every step of the writing process, asking the student questions along the way, and providing the answers when necessary. The teacher or adult ensures the child is following capitalization, punctuation, and spelling rules, and that they are creating complete sentences with relevant details. This guidance provides the building blocks for becoming an efficient independent writer.

During a “Guided Writing” lesson, it is important to keep the writer motivated by acknowledging her small successes along the way. With enough success, she is likely to gain some internal motivation and start taking bigger risks. Praise your writer with comments such as “Nice work using a period” or “I like the detail in your sentence.” Give specific praise about what the child did rather than more abstract praise like “Good job.” Specific praise lets the child know exactly what is expected, which she can internalize and keep in mind for her next writing assignment.

So how is “Guided Writing” implemented?

Here I will illustrate a one example, but I want you to try to think of different ways that you can apply “Guided Writing” with your children.

Step 1- Ask the child to give you some piece of information, like what she did in school that day or what she did over the weekend. Encourage the child to provide specific details about the event.  An answer with good details for writing would be something like, “I went to the beach with my mom this weekend. We went swimming and I had a great time.” You may need to ask the child several questions to get the needed details for the writing assignment. Other children verbally provide these kinds of details without much guidance. It all depends on the child.

Step 2- After you get the details from the child, ask them to say out loud what their first sentence will be, utilizing the details they just gave. Children learning to write or struggling with writing, should verbalize their thoughts out loud before putting them on paper. If the child leaves out important details or words when verbalizing the sentence (i.e. I went swimming with my mom), encourage her to talk about what happened first, in her first sentence (i.e. I went to the beach with my mom this weekend). Have her practice saying the first sentence aloud and writing it down.  If other children are in the group you can have them say their sentences aloud to each other so they can all hear what a first sentence should sound like.

Step 3-When the child starts writing the first sentence down, ask her questions about capitalization and punctuation such as “Should you start with a capital letter?” “What should go out the end of your sentence?” If she needs help, tell her the rules (i.e., “The first letter of a sentence should be capitalized.”, “You need to end your sentence with a period.”).  Also, help the child sound out the words if she is having trouble spelling.

*See my article, “Getting Your Kids Ready to Read” for tips on teaching phoneme segmentation (breaking up a word into its individual parts) which is necessary for sounding out.

After the child completes the first sentence, complete all the same steps for the second sentence. Ask the child to think of what the next sentence would be. Have her say it out loud. Encourage the child to connect the second sentence to the first by adding more detail.  For example, “We went swimming and I had a great time!” Then follow the same steps for the second sentence as you did for the first. Work on capitalization, spelling, and punctuation by first asking the child what to do, and then telling her if she does not know.

There are two recommended books, which are located at the Wise Marketplace: in the “Books” section. These are both useful books if you want more detailed information and instructions about “Guided Writing.” The first book is Guiding Readers and Writers, Grades 3 through 6.


The second book is Writing Assessment and Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities:

writing learning

You also might like Fun Spelling Practice and Word Play Puzzlers, for grades 1 through 6, with a creative writing component, at


For more suggestions to help your child with writing, visit the E-Learning center and Wise Market of Wise Education and Behavior.

Any questions? Contact us.

Stop by our forum to discuss concerns or give advice regarding childhood learning and behavior.

For more tips on learning and behavior visit the Learning/Behavior Strategies section of Wise Education and Behavior. We share new tips on learning or behavior every week. Check out our articles on behavior, reading, math, writing, general learning, and educational products.

Thank you for reading.


One thought on “Guided Writing

  1. Pingback: Writing Help: Using a Graphic Organizer for Fiction | Wise Education and Behavior

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