Are you looking for ways to help your students improve their writing skills? Here are 10 reasons why you should start implementing daily quick write prompts!
The Writing Deficit
Several years ago, I can remember starting out each big writing unit with goads of enthusiasm and excitement. I’d search out powerful mentor texts and prepare clear and concise anchor lessons, sure that my students were going to knock my socks off with their writing. But the illusion always faded quickly when, 20 minutes into the unit, I’d have some students who were done and other students who were frustratedly tapping their chewed-up pencils on a blank piece of paper.
Wait, What? Did you miss that whole lesson?
I’d start to sweat and maybe furrow my eyebrows a little, but then quickly brush it off, smile, and dig a little deeper to inspire my students.
If I had to guess, I would say it took less than a week for the glamour to fade off entirely, leaving me hunched over my computer, tugging on my hair, wondering how in the world I was going to:
- Get my reluctant writers to produce anything,
- Get my “I’m done!” writers to stretch their writing into something substantial,
- Get my “10 pages and I’m still going!” students to rein it in.
When I attended a literacy conference in the spring of 2018, the problem became abundantly clear: we weren’t writing nearly enough. Throwing three, maybe four, big writing tasks at my students each year with little-to-no practice in between was like expecting them to run a marathon without training.
They were underprepared, overwhelmed, and unmotivated.
I’m betting this sounds familiar.
So how did I get to a place where I felt like my students were writing regularly and subtly improving their skills? By training to be writers each day using quick write prompts!
Grab a free 30-day variety pack of my best-selling quick-write prompts, and let’s dive in.
10 Reasons Why You Should Use Quick Write Prompts Every Day…
Reason #1: Low Pressure
Practicing writing daily reduces the intimidation of the task and makes it more approachable. Because quick writes are ungraded and the fear of failure has been removed, students are more likely to write. There is no consequence for making mistakes and taking risks.
Reason #2: You Can Do Anything For 5 Minutes
Quick writes are such short spurts of writing that they are interpreted as being “easy” to students. Students have a much more positive attitude toward writing when they get small tastes of it daily versus one huge helping. Telling a reluctant writer that they only have to write for five minutes is an awful lot easier than telling them they have to write for 30. The short-minute sprints also build writing fluency and tolerance, which translates well to those the longer pieces!
Reason #3: Freedom to Find Your Voice
While I like to kick-start each quick write session with an invitation to write via a mentor text, prompt, or question, I also permit students to let their writing lead the way. I use prompts that are relevant and engaging – too good not to try – but I’m not going to turn down the student who has an idea they can’t wait to explore. The daily time spent in their quick write journals is protected time for students to find their voice and discover who they are as a writer.
Reason #4: Ideas Abound
When using quick write prompts, you remove the dreaded, “I don’t know what to write about…” words from your classroom. Remind students that they should write anything that comes to mind, but to start right away – before their brains have time to overthink and freeze. The goal is to get their pencils moving and keep them moving the entire time. So for your most reluctant students, you might have them start by copying down the mentor text, question, or statement.
Reason #5: An Invitation To Try…
Occasionally, I’ll use a quick write prompt to call out a craft move an author uses and uses well.
For example, I might first ask students what they notice about the following passage from Bystander by James Preller:
“Eric pulled the acoustic guitar close to his belly, leaned back on his bed, and strummed. He wasn’t practicing anything in particular, just running through some songs. It was his way of checking out. He closed the bedroom door, disappeared into himself, and tried not to think. The guitar was his shield, the hard outer shell he needed, like the exoskeleton of some soft-bellied bug.”
We’ll spend 2-3 minutes discussing what we notice about his writing. They might point out things like the figurative language used to compare Eric to bug and what that reveals about him. They might notice things like how the author listed things in threes. I might call out how well he develops his character indirectly. Then I’ll send students into their notebooks and invite them to try out one of the craft moves in their writing today.
I love this aspect of quick writes because it gives everyone in the room exposure to a variety of craft moves and continues the conversation about what writers do. We don’t have to dust off these skills later when we need them for a bigger writing assignment!
Reason #6: Promote Creativity
Quick writes aren’t bound by the traditional external parameters of academic writing, meaning rubrics and conveying the main idea and staying on topic and all the other stuff we pressure kids to do when writing… Use your daily quick writes to encourage students to have fun, to play with language, and to explore possibilities.
Reason #7: Building Volume
Imagine how much stronger your writers will be when they approach your first, second, or third writing unit with a notebook full of writing under their belt! Your students have been training daily by this point and are warmed up and ready for the marathon.
Reason #8: A Daily Dose of Confidence
Writing every day is similar to exercising every day. In the beginning, we are unsure about the task. We are intimidated and unsure of where to start. We are filled with self-doubt.
But little by little, we dip our toes in new things, and eventually, we don’t even realize that we’re regularly jumping in.
By doing the hard task – writing – every day, students will slowly build confidence and realize hey, I am a writer!
Reason #9: Sharing a Job Well Done
Middle school students love to chat. They aren’t embarrassed to share their writing (most of the time), in fact, they are constantly on the prowl for an audience. Most of the time, I’ll conclude our quick write session by having students pair up and share a piece of their writing or by having students share their writing out loud with the class. I always put a time limit on sharing because otherwise, we’d spend the whole period sharing! Sharing also becomes a bit of a motivator for many reluctant writers. They can’t wait to pair up with their friend and share something, so they’ll write.
Reason #10: From a Seed to a Story
Last but certainly not least, students will plant an entire garden of seeds that may flourish into a beautiful story. So when it’s time for your first big writing unit, send students to the place that’s brimming with possibilities: their notebooks. Encourage them to pick a seed they want to nourish or an idea they want to further explore. By looking at where they’ve been as a writer, they’ll push forward with more confidence and ideas than ever before.
Make a Difference One Quick Write at a Time
So there you have it. Finding magic in daily quick writes helped me take smaller, more frequent steps to help my students find themselves as writers and improve their craft. We increased our writing volume, built a robust toolbox of strategies, found confidence, and discovered our voices.
A Free Set of Quick Write Prompts To Get You Started
I’ve put together a mash-up of my favorite quick write prompts to get you started. Subscribe to my newsletter, and you can download them for free! Don’t worry, I don’t spam.
If you like what you find in my free download, you can save planning time and purchase additional quick writes below.
Have you tried quick writes in your classroom? I’d love to hear about your experience and/or any questions you might have. Drop a line and share your thoughts, or continue the conversation and find me on FB or IG!