I do this writing process no more than once a week with small groups. We usually write on a particular theme that we have been studying or experiencing, etc. This assignment was done as a culminating activity of our unit on trees and wood. We brainstormed about what we know about trees, and I wrote them down on a small white board.
Then I had a student dictate a sentence to me, while the other few begin their illustrations. I scribbled what they said down on a piece of scratch paper, because they sometimes forget. Then I wrote a line for each word as I said the sentence with the child. The student wrote the sentence to the best of his/her ability on the lines.
From the sample above, I got a lot of information about what the student understands about writing. He understands concepts of print and that words are made up beginning, middle, and ending sounds. He knows the letters ow say /ow/. He does not completely understand capitalization rules. I go over the sentence with the child, discussing editing, and I write the sentence correctly. We read it together. Then I draw the lines again, and the student copies it.
This method helps the students feel at ease about writing, because they aren't afraid to make mistakes. They don't mind being corrected, because it's not negative red markings. They listen to the constructive criticism, and they often praise themselves for getting parts right. They love writing the sentence correctly afterward, and I always hang the work in the hall to show it off. :)
Also shown above:
1. Labeling of tree parts
2. First, next, last of an oak tree's life