Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Using Quick Writes to Foster Writing Fluency

Writing of just about any type helps students to express their emotions and assists with retaining content. Learning is reinforced and solidified when students write about their thinking and learning.  Using Quick Writes in the classroom is one such strategy to get kids writing and thinking.

What Are Quick Writes?

Quick Writes is a literacy strategy that can be used in any content area with just about any grade level.  It can be used to develop writing fluency, to reflect on learning, and to assess student thinking.

Quick Writes are...
  • short bursts of writing (anywhere from 2-10 minutes)
  • non-threatening- directed toward a specific task
  • can be a journal entry, an "Exit Ticket", a list of questions, drawing and writing, a list or sentences of what the student learned, or completion of part of a graphic organizer, such as a K-W-L chart.
  • can be used before, during, and after learning
  • can be used to assess schema and activate background knowledge
  • can be used in all content areas
  • can be incorporated throughout the lesson.
  • can be used as an informal, formative assessment
  • writing that is not taken through the entire writing process
  • writing that is focused on content and ideas, not mechanics

I have used Quick Writes with students as young as kindergarten through eighth grade.  With primary students, I often have them do a Quick Write and a "Quick Draw".  For example, in science, I could use this structured Quick Write after a study or a reading on ocean animals:

From my June Writing Prompts packet

Students could start with the drawing and then progress to the list. My purpose for using this would be to assess what my students have learned about our study of ocean animals or to assess the students' understanding of key details from a nonfiction text.  As with any strategy, I would model how to complete a Quick Write and offer many opportunities for shared writing.

Usually the Quick Write is very structured and is "framed writing" with a specific target.  I could have students simply write a list of questions they have at the end of a lesson, to define a vocabulary word ( key concept), complete  any column of a K-W-L chart, or I could ask them a specific question such as "What causes erosion?".

My students kept their Quick Writes (Q.W.) in their content folders or notebooks.  For the above question on erosion, they would complete the Q.W. in their science folder or notebook.  Or, they could complete the writing on a sticky note, index card, or a handout I give them that has the question written and has lines for responding.  We label these with a Q.W. and glue loose papers into the folder or notebook.

Why Use Quick Writes?

  • To help students to make personal connections
  • To develop writing fluency
  • To provide a reading purpose
  • To have students reflect on key concepts
  • To assess student knowledge
  • To stimulate student thinking
  • To help build confidence in the writer
  • To provide opportunities for students to capture "seeds" of ideas for more extended writing pieces

Quick Writes are flexible, versatile, and varied.  When I first use them, I start with a question or an open-ended writing prompt/stimulus and model for students the expected behaviors. That is, I show them what a writer looks like and what they are thinking (by using a Think Aloud) when completing a Q.W.  I usually start with journal prompts that are kept in our writer's notebook.

The goal is simple:  to develop writing fluency.  How much can I write in five minutes?  How quickly can I get my ideas from my brain to the paper?  Do I have to draw first and then write?  Am I stuck on ideas?  Do I have a hard time getting my ideas down on paper?  Little writers need to be reminded that their ideas are what is important and not mechanics.  They do not have time to agonize over spelling and sentence structure.  I tell my littles, that I am much more interested in what is in their "smart brains".

The next goal is to use the Quick Writes for student reflection and assessment.  Reflection could be having students reflect on themselves as a learner by making a list of the parts of the lesson that were difficult.  I could give students an Exit Ticket and jot down questions they still have.  Or, I could stop midway through the math lesson and have students write and draw the definition of a quadrilateral during math class.

For me, using journals is the easiest and most fun way to introduce Quick Writes.  I use journals as morning work.  It's what students do first at the very beginning of the day or class.  When I taught Language Arts to students that came to me for their L.A. block, it was the first thing they did.  Each morning was a good exercise in writing independently, writing quickly, thinking quickly and creatively, and in getting one's brain warmed up.  In a self-contained classroom, you may use a warm-up before each content class.  That most likely is a Quick Write!

Speaking of journals, I just completed my June Writing Prompts and have the set posted in my store.

These monthly writing packets are what I use for Quick Writes and for journal writing.  For me, the difference between the two is that journal writing is more about the writing process (even if it's only a draft/sloppy copy) and is more detailed, and therefore, a little more involved time-wise. 

I have a wide variety of prompts for the month of June that you can use as a Quick Write.  Here's another example of one you could use in science class after learning about ocean animals.  Or, you could use it for Language Arts after reading a text about such animals.  Or, you could have students complete it as a fun way to get them thinking and giving them practice on writing their ideas quickly- developing their writing stamina.

If you are interested, you can see the complete packet by clicking here.

Using Quick Writes throughout my day just comes naturally to me and is actually a tool that I use as a learner.  Writing what I am learning and writing about my learning helps me understand and retain information more efficiently and at a deeper level.  

 How do you use Quick Writes in your teaching?  Do you use them across the content areas?  Please share your ideas in the comments section!

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