Message Time Plus

Model Writing and Shared Reading in a First Grade Classroom - Juicy Temporal Words and Phrases

In this model writing and shared reading lesson, the teacher facilitates a lesson on how to be brave in their writing by using 'juicy' temporal words and phrases.

Model Writing and Shared Reading in a First Grade Classroom - Juicy Temporal Words and Phrases Directors Cut

View this version of the Temporal Words and Phrases lesson for additional "look fors" and tips.

Message Time Plus is a powerful instructional practice that combines modeled writing and shared reading to support the growth of young readers and writers. The purpose of Message Time Plus is to create an authentic reading and writing experience with embedded, frequent, and explicit opportunities for instruction in all of areas of literacy.

It is highly engaging and impactful because it is structured to support and scaffold both individual children and the whole group. It is also dynamic, including opportunities for children to interact within multiple modalities. Message Time Plus (MTP) connects to other balanced literacy practices in the literacy block through the primary literacy objective, identified language supports, and/or the content of the message, ensuring cohesion in instruction. Taught with your children gathered in close proximity, MTP is an experience that not only builds community, it builds readers, writers, and thinkers.

What is Message Time Plus…

Imagine gathering your children around you in the large group area while you share a piece of writing related to the life of the classroom.

The children read your writing as you compose it in front of them, building and strengthening their reading skills and fluency with your guidance. As individual children find letters and words they know, you have the opportunity to scaffold their learning. The whole class gets the chance to participate in an engaging mini-lesson by sharing their ideas with a partner, for example, or creating a chart with you. Multiple literacy skills are addressed from comprehension to phonics to vocabulary, all in less than 25 minutes!

Message Time Plus

Message Time Plus combines the practices of modeled writing and shared reading to support young readers and writers in a meaningful and authentic literacy experience. It incorporates the gradual release of responsibility method for teaching and learning – in other words, it provides modeled, guided, and independent practice. MTP has a high impact on children’s learning because it exposes children to all areas of literacy, provides differentiated instruction, uses data and assessments, and is engaging. It also connects to other balanced literacy practices in your literacy block through the primary literacy objective or the content of your writing, ensuring cohesion in your instruction.

Because you shape the goals and content of MTP, you are able to teach all areas of literacy in MTP. While there is one primary literacy objective, other skills are embedded. The content of your writing piece is planned to include high-frequency words and vocabulary words, and relates to the life of your classroom. You can write about a favorite read aloud or a recent science experiment.

MTP is easy to implement because it has a before, during, and after structure.

Before Writing

Build engagement and help prepare children to read and understand the piece you are going to write by offering them some specific supports.

High Frequency Words

Review the three to five high frequency words you are explicitly teaching and incorporating into your modeled writing pieces over the course of the week.


Preview or review the one to three academic vocabulary or Tier III words that you have embedded in your writing.

Think Aloud

Explain the decisions you made as a writer as you planned your piece. Explain what you want your children to learn and why it will help them as readers or writers. Ask them to think about or look for an element related to your learning goal as they read.

During Writing

Guide children to read your piece as you write in front of them.

Modeled Writing

Write your piece in front of the children with the appropriate pacing, handwriting, and conventions. Use strategies to help support children’s use of their cuing systems while writing.

Shared Reading

The children read along as you write. Assess and support their decoding, fluency, and comprehension skills as they do so. Have them re-read each sentence after it’s been written and the entire piece after it’s been written.

After Writing

Use your writing piece as a springboard for helping individual learners grow and for teaching your primary literacy objective to the whole class.


Scaffold individual children to teach them something they need to learn.


Engage the whole class in work that will help them meet the primary literacy objective.


Guide the children to reread the message one more time in order to build their fluency and allow them to put what they have learned, through scaffolding and the mini-lesson, back into an overall meaningful context.

The predictable structure allows children to feel comfortable to take risks and learn. Celebrating their efforts and promoting their literacy growth is a natural result of MTP.

Why Message Time Plus

Message Time Plus is a powerful instructional practice. In less than 25 minutes MTP allows you to explicitly teach and expose children to numerous skills and strategies. Taught with your children gathered in close proximity, MTP is an experience that not only builds community, it builds readers, writers, and thinkers. Here’s how:

  • MTP is Comprehensive - In 1990, the National Reading Panel reviewed over 100,000 reading studies on how children learned to read and concluded that the most important areas for instruction were phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Their recommendations provided the basis for the creation of elementary literacy standards nationwide. The purpose of MTP is to create an authentic reading and writing experience with embedded, frequent, and explicit opportunities for literacy instruction in all of these recommended areas.

  • MTP is Varied – One of the highlights of MTP is that you can vary the format and the content on a daily basis. If you are studying bugs, you can write about bugs for a week. If you are studying informational texts, you can write a table of contents one day, and a glossary entry the next. Exposing children to different forms of writing and connecting your writing to other curricular areas adds variety and keeps your children engaged.

  • MTP is Connected – Connecting your primary literacy objective or the content of your writing to another aspect of your curriculum helps children learn more easily and has a greater instructional impact. For example, if you are teaching your first graders about the magic “e” (as in mat/mate) in phonics, then using several magic “e” words in your writing allows your children to see and read these words in context and in another format.

  • MTP is Authentic – Because your writing reflects the life of the classroom and is intended for the needs and interests of the group of children in front of you, MTP is truly an authentic literacy experience. You are writing in front of the children to focus them on using their cuing systems in context and to assess and give immediate feedback. You create a safe learning zone for children to explore what they know and take risks while learning something new.

  • MTP is Part of a Balanced Literacy Block – Because MTP combines two balanced literacy practices – modeled writing and shared reading – including it in your literacy block allows you to feel confident that you are meeting the requirements of a comprehensive literacy block.

Modeled Writing and Shared Reading

Message Time Plus is an instructional practice that combines and enhances the balanced literacy elements of modeled writing and shared reading. By doing so, MTP allows you to expose children to multiple areas of literacy in an engaging and authentic way.

Modeled writing is a process in which you brainstorm, plan, and compose a piece of written text as your children watch and respond. It gives you an opportunity to explicitly talk about and model elements of the writing process. Children learn about both the thinking that a writer does and the decisions writers make. As educator and author Regie Routman states in Conversations, “It has always been our job to teach directly and explicitly in response to students’ needs—carefully demonstrating, specifically showing how, clearly explaining. Whatever we want our students to do well, we first have to show them how. …adding explicit demonstration to everything I teach has been the single most important factor in increasing students’ literacy.”

Shared reading is a process in which you and your children join together to read a piece of written text. Repeated readings of the same text support children’s developing reading skills and allows them to feel successful and confident as they read along with their classmates. According to Brenda Parkes in Using Shared Reading for Explicit and Implicit Instruction, shared reading has multiple benefits including allowing you to:

  • show enthusiasm for reading
  • model fluent reading
  • ensure the use of various skills and strategies for reading and comprehending
  • explore semantics (the meaning of words), syntax (the structure of the English language) and graphophonics (letter-sound relationships)
  • show how to read for different purposes

Supporting Fluency

“The fluent reader reads aloud with proper phrasing, intonation, and expression…On the basis of a detailed analysis of the available research…the National Reading Panel…concluded that guided repeated oral reading procedures…had a significant impact on word recognition, fluency and comprehension across a range of grade levels.” - Sharon Walpole & Michael C. McKenna - The Literacy Coach’s Handbook

Message Time Plus offers you the perfect opportunity to give your children “guided repeated reading” experiences. Lessons in fluency can be explicitly taught and repeated readings offer children practice strengthening their fluency skills. In MTP, children reread at a sentence level and reread the entire writing piece two times.

Rereading #1

After each sentence is written, guide the children to reread the sentence using a pointer or your finger as a guide. This rereading allows them to put the group of words into a meaningful sentence and read it smoothly, accurately, and with expression.

Tip: When most children in your class can track with their eyes (typically towards the middle to end of kindergarten) move from pointing at words during rereading to fluidly guiding the pointer (or finger) under the sentence.

Rereading #2

After the text is written, guide the children to read the entire piece. This rereading will allow the children to create meaning from the piece in its entirety. During this reading remember to fluidly guide the pointer (or your finger) under the sentence. Encourage children to attend to punctuation.

Rereading #3

After you have scaffolded individual children and completed the activity related to your objective, guide the children to read the entire piece one final time. This rereading will allow the children to understand the piece at an even deeper level, now that they have worked with many of the words and phrases in it. During this reading remember to fluidly guide the pointer (or your finger) under the sentence.

Tip: During every reread, use your voice to provide the right level of support for your children. When you notice that children are decoding with accuracy and reading fluently you might choose to lower the volume of your voice or not read along. However, when you notice that children are in need of your support, raise the volume of your voice to model the correct pronunciation of the word.

Reflect on Message Time Plus

Like any instructional practice, MTP will benefit from your reflection. Its effectiveness will increase when you take the time to think about your planning and implementation. Connect your reflection to the benefits of MTP to consider where you might grow your expertise.

Is your MTP comprehensive?

The power of MTP lies in its ability to embed several areas of literacy instruction into one instructional practice while focusing on one primary literacy objective. In one MTP lesson, you should be able to address all areas of literacy.

  • Is your primary literacy objective focused on one skill or strategy?
  • Do you vary this objective so you touch upon all areas of literacy over the course of a few weeks?
  • Do you explicitly strengthen children’s fluency skills by modeling and responding to their reading?
  • Do you respond to and support their use of the three cuing systems?
  • Do you incorporate Tier II and/or Tier III vocabulary?
  • Do you help them comprehend the message through conversation and discussion?

Is your MTP varied?

MTP is useful in the classroom because it can connect to so many other areas of your curriculum.

  • Do you connect the content of the message to other areas of your curriculum? To your read alouds? To science or social studies?
  • Do you vary the format of the message to mirror the books you are reading or the writing genres you are studying?

Is your MTP connected?

MTP is also useful because you can help children engage with familiar skills and concepts in new and authentic contexts.

  • Do you help children apply what they are learning in other areas of literacy (vocabulary, phonics, etc.) by reinforcing it during MTP through your primary literacy objective, scaffolding, or the content of your message?

Is your MTP authentic?

Because your writing reflects the life of the classroom and is intended for the needs and interests of the group of children in front of you, MTP is truly an authentic and engaging literacy experience.

  • Are you writing in front of the children and focusing them on using their cuing systems in context?
  • Are you assessing and giving immediate feedback?
  • Are you creating a safe learning zone for children to explore what they know and take risks while learning something new?
  • Are you using engagement strategies to help the children actively think and participate?

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know the areas in which to scaffold my children?

Message Time Plus offers a perfect opportunity to reinforce all the core components of literacy, including letter recognition, word recognition, vocabulary, phonemic awareness, phonics, and comprehension. Scaffolding decisions can emerge from a variety of sources. Look at your daily literacy objectives and your summative and formative assessment results. The scaffolding component of MTP is a great time to zero in on the teaching points you have explored in Guided Reading lessons or Reading Workshop conferences. As you gain proficiency with teaching MTP lessons, add recordkeeping to your MTP teaching procedure. Keep track of what the children identify in the message, so you will know how to move them to the next level. You will also want to keep track of skills that children are developing, as demonstrated by their writing, your running records, and your observations. This information will help you decide what will be optimal for children to work on when they come up to the MTP board.

How do I get all of my children to read along as I write the message?

The shared reading component of Message Time Plus supports building children’s sight word vocabularies and developing their reading fluency. To reap these benefits, it is very important for every child to read along. Since the children are predicting and confirming the individual words of the sentences as they are being written, they will have the confidence to read the message’s text. Tracking the text with a pointer encourages the children to read along. In most cases, it is sufficient to simply offer prompts such as, “Everyone read along,” or “I want to hear everyone’s voice,” or “Put on your super reader’s hat and read the message with me.” Highlight and acknowledge children who are actively reading along with comments such as, “Thank you, Jimmy, for reading along” or “I can hear Patty reading along.”

What do I do with the message after MTP?

Display the message on the board for the remainder of the school day. It contributes to the print-rich environment and offers a source of readable text for fledgling readers. When children are “reading the room” during Independent Work Time, the Message Time Plus message is a rich, meaningful, and connected reading opportunity. The children can use the message for support in spelling words conventionally when they are writing. Some teachers snap a picture of each day’s message, print it out, and put it in a Message Time Plus binder for the children to reread and revisit. You can also make a copy of your MTP message on a chart tablet and make it available to your children for rereading. When you are ready to write a new message the following day, erase the message and start the cycle again.

I know MTP is supposed to take less than 25 minutes but it goes longer in my class. How do I shorten it?

Keep your MTP lessons to 25 minutes or less to ensure that children will stay engaged in rigorous learning and that the lesson comfortably fits into your literacy block. If you find your lesson running more than 25 minutes, consider several possible factors that might be adding to its length. Is the lesson carefully planned and rehearsed, so that you are not groping for words or ideas during the lesson? Have you practiced the routines and procedures of MTP with your children, so that they know what is expected of them? Are you prepared, depending upon how the lesson unfolds, to choose without hesitation from among several different possible scaffolding scenarios for children at multiple levels of achievement? Is your message too long? Message Time Plus messages should be rich and meaningful, yet concise. The message length should be one to four sentences long, depending on your grade level and the time of year. Finally, select no more than three children to come up to the MTP board for scaffolding.

Can I use an excerpt from a book or a published poem for my message?

Message Time Plus messages are crafted by teachers to ensure that they contain all of the elements necessary to achieve the lesson’s primary objective. The message will be in the selected genre, and it will contain one to three Tier II or Tier III vocabulary words, words with the phonological elements that the class has been practicing, and sight words that the children are learning. It is almost impossible to find a published text that includes all of these desired elements and would take longer searching for a piece than it would to write an original one. Additionally, remember that MTP is modeled writing; you can’t model and explain your thinking around your writing choices (for example, topic, word choice, or content) if you haven’t written the piece yourself.

Comments (12)

  1. Children's Literacy Initiative (Staff)
    Children's Literacy Initiative (Staff)

    Denise, what a great question about classroom library activities. In the future, we will be including more content on this subject on this page because of your great question. For now, consider the classroom library a place that children can visit at various times of the day, including:

    1- When they first come in/during down time in the day- This is a great time for children to look at any book they'd like that interest them- these could include books their teacher read aloud and/or books in one of the categorized book bins (by theme, author, genre, etc.).Children should be given time to look at/read any book they want, even if it is not "just right" for them.

    2- When they choose their independent level books to read- They should be accessing the library to choose their books for independent reading each day. Some teachers have children shop for these books once or twice during the week. Others may have them choose each day.

    3- After they have read their just right book and/or finished an independent activity- Children can always come to library to enjoy books after they finished reading independently, or, after their independent activities. Some teachers include the classroom library as a rotation or choice during independent work time.

    During any of these times, children could engage in a variety of activities in the classroom library. They could partner read, they could retell stories in various ways, they could read into telephones, they could listen to books on tape/CD, they could respond to books through drawing or writing.

    Good luck deciding on when and how your classroom library will be utilized throughout the day! Thank you again for your thoughtful question. We will continue to think about this and add more information in the future.

  2. Denise Jackowicz 
    Denise Jackowicz 

    I am working on improving my classroom library but am confused as how the students will be using it throughout the day? As a center? After completing work? What is expected form the students? Do we need task cards? I can not find guidelines on your website, only what it should look like and consist of.

  3. Children's Literacy Initiative (Staff)
    Children's Literacy Initiative (Staff)

    Illustrations definitely help children think more deeply about their writing. They can elaborate in their illustrations and then carry over their thinking to their writing. It's one great strategy teachers rely on to get their children to write "more." During MTP instruction, teachers stick to doing all the illustrating and writing themselves to model the writing process. However, many teachers give their children copies of the message so they can re-read it again. Adding illustrations, details, etc. to that copy of the message sounds like a great extension/center activity. There are so many ways to work with the message!

  4. Dave Younkin 
    Dave Younkin 

    It's so great that you value using student attempts at a strategy to teach other children. With MTP, I'd stick to modeling all the writing yourself, as it gives you a chance to model, think aloud about your process, and explain what you are doing while the kids watch. I'd use the student examples of strong writing as a launch into a writing mini-lesson by sharing what you saw two writers doing the day before (or earlier today) and then modeling for the whole class how you, as a proficient writer, use the same strategy. So, the student example is a way to make the connection between what you've seen happening in the classroom to the lesson you are about to teach.

  5. Children's Literacy Initiative (Staff)
    Children's Literacy Initiative (Staff)

    This would make a great extension activity! When teaching MTP to the whole class, however, we recommend that the teacher composes and transcribes all the illustrations and words as the children watch and respond. This gives teachers an opportunity to explicitly talk about and model elements of the writing process. This chance to carefully demonstrate how a mature writer thinks and crafts a piece of writing is an invaluable experience for young readers and writers.