I suggest that you try Quick Writes as a writing strategy with your students, at any grade level. I first used Quick Writes as a student teacher twelve years ago, before I even knew that’s what they are called. I got the idea from one of my professors, who asked us to reflect on a teaching strategy while he timed us for 90 seconds. While some of my classmates complained that that was a long time, I thought it was barely enough time to get started. I think that was the first time that I realized that people don’t love to write as much as I do.
And, that is why teachers should use Quick Writes. The strategy gives kids time to write about a subject or topic, reflect on their learning, list questions – basically anything you can think of that relates to your class or lesson – without feeling like they need to write a book as a response. Reluctant writers know that they only have to write for a given amount of time, and advanced writers know they have to be succinct and focused with their responses. While kids’ anxiety levels may rise a bit because of the timed nature of Quick Writes, they also level out a bit when students realize their writing does not have to be perfect and will not be graded.
That is not to say that you should not check or read students’ Quick Writes. Students need to know that you hold them accountable for their work, even timed Quick Writes, so you need to be prepared to have some sort of feedback attached to your Quick Writes. I always walked around the room with the timer in my hand, observing and encouraging, so kids were used to my peeking over their shoulders. When time was up, I would draw a smiley face or a star on those that had good insights, explanations, etc. Sometimes, I would have students read their Quick Write responses to one another. They often commented that they liked hearing so many different ideas, and they got a kick out of trying to read their writing because they felt rushed the first couple of times using the strategy. Those laughs made class even better!
One of my rules for Quick Writes was that the students had to be writing for the entire time. There is a great deal of evidence that shows students’ brains work better when their hands are writing, and the thinking stops when their hands stop writing. So, I modeled continuous writing for my students, including the act of repeating the last letter they had written until a new thought came to them. If I noticed kids taking advantage of that, I would do a one-on-one Quick Write session with them; we never had the problem again.
One other advantage of Quick Writes is they help build writing stamina in students. As students catch on to the strategy, you should add chunks of seconds until you build up to a few minutes per Quick Write. The kids may just be amazed by how much writing they can produce by the end of the school year.