Predictable Chart Writing: Group Writing for All

Recently I have been talking a lot to teachers about doing group writing in their classroom. As teachers implement a balanced literacy program in their classrooms, it is important that writing happens daily – and that writing happens for real reasons.  Writing is one of the most complex tasks that we ask students to do.  They need to think of an idea.  Then they need to come up with the language and words to write about the idea. Once they’ve done that, they need to think how to spell those words and then how they are going to write or select the letters that make up those words.  So much to do and so many things to co-ordinate for emergent and early writers.

Predictable Chart Writing (Cunningham, 1979) is one way that a teacher can focus on the language selection component of writing, allowing students to develop skills in that area. It is particularly suitable for students who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) as it helps them to understand a lot about early writing, sentence structure and language selection in writing. It also allows all writers to be very successful – helping to build their self-confidence and image of themselves as a writer.

Predictable Chart Writing is done as a group, rather than as individuals, and is traditionally done over 5 days.  It was initially developed by Dr Cunningham as a technique for helping all children, irrespective of their language skills, to be successful in the writing process. In the predictable chart process, the teacher provides a model sentence or sentence starter, to which the students contribute one or two (or more) words.  Each student makes the sentence as complex or as simple as they can.

In the example above, the class of secondary aged students has been doing a unit on “Food for Life”. Their guided reading text for the week has been “Introduction to Nutrition” by Kula868 downloaded from Tar Heel Reader.  The guided reading purpose was “read to learn a food group that can be eaten daily” – and their teacher has then extended this across into writing. Creating a book from a template in Clicker 6, she used a sentence frame “I can eat ______ every day.” Coming up with the language to complete this sentence is a complex task for some of her students.  They need to remember which food groups can be eaten every day (lean meats, bread and grains, dairy products, fruits and vegetables) and then they need to think of a food that is in one of those groups.

By Friday, the class wrote the following story.

Food I can eat every day by Class 5
I can eat carrots every day. (Jane)
I can eat rice every day. (Michael)
I can eat apples every day. (Sarah)
I can eat bananas every day. (Joe)
I can eat bread every day. (Abda)
Yum, yum, yum!

The teacher created the book in Clicker 6 on the interactive whiteboard. She added a page as each student contributed their item, using pictures from the Crick picture library provided with Clicker 6.  As she did this, she also created a great resource for self-selected reading as part of this process.  Her class, who are mostly emergent readers and writers, are very proud of their completed book and feel like they are successful writers.  They love choosing the book in their self-selected reading block and can read this book quite independently.  Two of her students use AAC – but of course you cannot tell which ones from the product of this great lesson! (And, if you are interested, click here to download the finished book in Clicker 6.)

If you are working with emergent or early writers please give Predictable Chart Writing a go. It is suitable for all students. It is a fabulous multi-level activity that each students completes at their own level – and it is lots of fun!

If you are interested in learning more you can access a great resource on using Predictable Chart Writing from the Centre for Literacy and Disability Studies.

And there are lots and lots more if you just Google “Predictable Chart Writing”.

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Comments (15)

    • Reply

      Thanks Robin! I feel like I’ve been very remiss on the blog front recently – I have to make a June resolution (if there is such a thing) to do better!

  1. Reply

    Fabulous post, Jane! We’ve had so much fun with predictable chart writing. One thing I really love about it is that the predictable routine helps us adults get comfortable with it quickly and that allows us to turn our attention to the language we are trying to model or elicit. Thanks so much for this post!

    • Reply

      It IS lots of fun. And also great when people are just learning to do aided language stimulation as they can practice pathways to relevant vocabulary ahead of time 🙂

  2. nicole


    Hi Jane we have a 5 year old girl who is very intelligent but writes in mirror image. Any thoughts?

    • Reply

      Hi Nicole, I don’t – sorry. Perhaps speak to an Occupational Therapist about it. Jane

  3. Reply

    I love reading your posts. I try to keep up with everything, and it’s nice to know there are a few sources that will help me do that. Thanks!

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  7. LW


    Hi Jane. I just wanted to let you know that the links you have on this page are all dead. I was able to find the CLDS page by searching on their site. It looks like the other blogs no longer exist.

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