Writing Groups: Independent Writing & Partner Writing

If you haven't had the chance to read about how I am using small groups in writing this year, be sure to read the overview HERE.

I wanted to talk about each of the individual sections to help give you a better idea of how to start implementing these in your classroom. The first two groups I introduced to my class were Independent Writing and Partner Writing.

Independent Writing

I started with this first because it's the most familiar. I consists of students writing on their own for the entire time. We talk about keeping their pencils moving, not their mouths ;)

The activities that students complete in Independent Writing consist of:

  • finishing work started in Teacher Time~ Independent Writing always follows Teacher Time, so it's an easy way for kids to pick up where we left off together and keep writing
  • writing about anything that interests them~ some students just love writing, so they are welcome to free-write once their Teacher Time work is done
  • looking at their Writer's Notebook cover and/or the List of Things I Love~ read more about that HERE
  • getting ideas from our Writing Ideas Bin

Our Writing Ideas Bin is full of great resources to help kids generate ideas!

Inside you will find:
  • Full-page printouts of some of the most creative writing ideas e-v-e-r! Have you heard of Luke Neff's Tumblr site completely dedicated to prompts? It's called http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/ and, while several are way too hard for my kids, there are some that blow.their.minds! I was excited to read he has a TpT Store now, and has also aligned many of his prompts to CCSS. Check him out HERE. I just print out his prompts and put them in a document sleeve, then attach them all with binder rings. That way, I can add to them as he comes out with more :)
We discussed as a class a nice amount of time to spend either choosing or planning their piece (using planners, graphic organizers, webs, etc.). They came up with two minutes, which is obviously relative, since there's no way I can time them, nor would I want to. It does give me some leeway, though, if I see a student at the Writing Ideas Bin forever. I can simply hold up two fingers and they will oh-so-gently be reminded to choose and get to work ;)

Partner Writing

This was a big risk for me this year, because I have never instituted regular partner writing ever in my teaching. I was deeply impressed with the community-building that was coming out of Read With Someone, so I took a chance and *wow* I am glad I did!

I had to structure it so it wouldn't be a free-for-all, or a partnership where one student wrote and the other just sat there for 20 minutes. I came up with three options:
  • Sharing any piece in their Writer's Notebook and getting feedback
  • Shared Writing
  • Partner Writing
Shared Writing is when both students are working on the same story. They both need to be writing it in their own Writer's Notebooks, so at the end of the writing time, there is an identical story in both. This has been a wonderful lesson in collaboration and also teamwork, as they ask each other how to spell a word, come up with characters' names, and work to create something new from each others' ideas.

Partner Writing is similar, but different. In this activity, kids are both writing and are working together, but their pieces are different. How different is completely up to them. I have had students work on the same story idea, but write it from differing perspectives. I have also had kids write about two different ideas but check in with each other when they need help spelling something or want input on how a part of their story should go.

Although I was most nervous about this one, the kids didn't fail to impress and came up with some very unique ideas! Plus, it was a wonderful experience to truly collaborate in writing, which is something that was new to all of us :)

Kids go to Partner Writing in the same groups as the rest of their Writing Groups, so they can continue to build on their partner pieces week after week, or choose to meet with new partners every time. 

I hope this introduction to Independent and Partner Writing helped give you some ideas for your own classroom writing program. We started with building stamina in these two groups before I introduced the Spelling Practice and Teacher Time, but it didn't take long for students to get the hang of it-- not just because the layout was similar to how we ran other subjects, but because the choices were fun and the time was shorter than in years past. 

Let me know if you have any questions and I will be going more in-depth with Teacher Time, Spelling Practice, and Handwriting next! 

If you're interested in picking up my Chevron Writing Groups Signs, they are available in my TpT Store HERE.
Have a wonderful afternoon!


  1. This is really interesting to read and I am thinking about how to use this approach in my UK classroom. Luckily it is half term so I have time to have a think about it!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Kelly! I hope these posts can give you some great ideas :) I always love trying new things mid-year, since you know the kids and the management piece is already in place-- good luck!

  2. I love the idea of using these like writing stations to ensure students get quality teacher time and peer time!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Nicole! I always seemed to ignore peer writing as a "just for fun" activity, but I have been so impressed with the creative (and wacky) ideas they have explored together, I'm glad it's a more regular part of our day :) Have a great week!!

  3. Wow, this all sounds incredible Stephanie! I am really interested by the Partner Writing idea...I'm coming back to read this again and mull it all over very soon--thanks!!!