I start every ELA class with a short writing prompt that students complete for bell work while I care for housekeeping items, such attendance, lunch orders, checking homework, skimming notes from parents, etc. (I have a few minutes to check in with students while they are actively engaged in a productive learning activity. It's a win-win!)
In my class, we call this a Quick Write. Quick Writes are a super-strategy used to develop writing fluency, build the habit of reflection into learning, and informally assess student thinking! Here's a few other reasons Quick Writes should be used in every class every day (a literacy teacher's dream!):
-Help students become fluent, organized, confident, skilled thinkers and writers!
-Activate prior knowledge
-Help students make personal connections
-Foster critical thinking
-Prepare students for discussion
-Increase background knowledge and broaden worldview (when shared)
-Reinforce vocabulary and language development
-Informally assess student knowledge about a given topic
-Increase engagement in Think-Pair-Share activities
-Help students brainstorm their thoughts
-I frequently tell my students that the most important ideas are often the most difficult to articulate. I Especially love Quick -Writes because they help students learn to articulate their thoughts in a safe environment, knowing the content of their writing is not going to be criticized! (See why I call this a Super-Strategy?!?)
Here's how I use Quick Writes:
- When students enter my classroom, the Writing Task Card of the day is displayed on a Whiteboard. Students go directly to their seats, open their writing journals, choose one of the prompts, and start writing. (I always have instrumental music playing in the background. The students think I'm just plain awesome -- or plain corny, depending on the music genre of the day -- they don't realize I'm just using the music to help them focus and concentrate!)
- I provide two to three prompts each day so students always have a choice, which is developmentally appropriate for tweens and teens and results in more pencils-to-the-paper and less "I can't think of anything to write!"
- Sometimes my students beg me to let them write about the other prompt, too, and inside my heart is doing flip-flops because real live students are actually begging to write! (This is the stuff this ELA teacher's dreams are made of!)
- If I finish my housekeeping chores with time on the clock to write, I write in my own journal. Students love it when I join them on a Quick Write!
- Students who do not have their writing journals are still responsible to complete their Quick Writes on a blank sheet of paper from a basket I keep in the back of the room. They are responsible to attach these papers to their journal at their convenience (meaning: they come to my room when it's convenient for me -- usually during their breakfast or lunch -- to tape, staple, or glue their Quick Write into their journal . . . or to rewrite it if it's mysteriously lost).
- Any of the prompts can be expanded, edited, revised, and turned in for an actual grade . . . a lifesaver on days when there is a substitute teacher in the class!
I have done Quick Writes with my students for years and I believe it is one of the most important activities on our agenda! I learn so much about my students that I would never know if I did not invite them to share their writing with the class. This helps me get to know students on a more personal level, builds rapport, and fosters a nurturing and caring classroom environment. I'm not exaggerating when I say Quick Writes frequently prompt my students to laugh together, cry together, and offer support to one another with hugs, fist-bumps, or high-fives.
I know that some of you are thinking you can't possibly come up with 2-3 high-interest prompts a day every day . . . the great news is, over 23 years of teaching, I've developed hundreds of interesting and engaging writing prompts that I'm compiling into resources in my TpT shop!
Here's one example:
Click here for a freebie from this set of writing prompts!
Stay tuned for one free set of writing prompts each month!