MAT Blog

Quickwrites add a twist to what your students did on their summer vacations!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Aug 28, 2012 5:33:00 AM

Marygrove MAT suggests the quickwrite strategy for returning students!A quickwrite is a popular literacy strategy that can be used to promote writing fluency, encourage thoughtful reflection, and is a way for teachers to gain a better understanding of student thinking. Students are expected to respond within two to 10 minutes to a prompt or question with a thoughtful reply that connects to prior knowledge and previous learning. There are many engaging ways to make this simple, effective strategy work in your classroom. 

Students can participate in quickwrites to:

  • Make personal connections to the learning.
  • Apply critical thinking skills.
  • Synthesize previously mastered concepts.
  • Gain a purpose for further reading.
  • Organize ideas for writing.
  • Develop new ideas.
  • Reflect on key concepts.

To implement the quickwrite strategy into your instruction:

  • Share with students the purpose of quickwrites in general and the specific goal of the current prompt.  Make sure you explain that this is an informal writing application. Students should simply be responding by writing whatever comes to their minds. It isn't an exercise in organization or grammar. The student's thoughts, ideas, and voice are the focus.
  • Give students a short amount of time (2-10 minutes, typically) to write uninterrupted. Monitor their work but don't interrupt their writing. As they proceed with the quickwrite don't address spelling, grammar, or other writing mechanics.
  • When their writing session is over give students an opportunity to share their piece. Although you could have students engage in large group sharing, structuring the sharing into partners or small groups is more time effective. Prompt them to share one specific thing from their writing instead of simply reading the piece aloud. 

This strategy has multiple applications across all content areas, and is especially beneficial at the beginning of the year to model reflection when you ask your students to recap their summer vacation. For years, students have been asked to write about their summer vacation as they return to school in the fall. Using the quickwrite strategy to extend this traditional activity can help students focus their thinking and gain experience with your writing expectations.  

Ideas for your students’ summer vacation quickwrite:

  • Write for six minutes about a specific place you visited this summer. It can be an out of town vacation spot, your favorite place to play, a local adventure location, or any other place you went this summer. Explain what you saw, what you heard, and what you smelled. Use vivid details to take the reader there.
  • Write for eight minutes about something new you learned this summer. Did you master a new skill, begin a new hobby, read a new book?  Think of one thing that you learned this summer and explain how you learned it and why it is important to you.
  • Write for five minutes about a new person you encountered this summer. You might know this person's name, you might not. You may have spent days with this person, perhaps just minutes. Choose a person that you met this summer and explain the circumstances of the encounter.  
  • Write for ten minutes to compose a letter to your future self about your summer vacation.  Choose your future self at a specific age or time. Maybe the end of this school year, the beginning of college, or perhaps at 50 years old. Tell yourself about the summer vacation that just ended. Think about what made your vacation unique: What was the best part? What did you learn? Who was important in your life? How did you feel about coming back to school?

What other quick writing strategies have you found to be successful with your students?  We’d love to hear from you.


Tags: quickwrites, writing strategies, summer vacation

Quickwrites are a Great Instruction and Assessment Tool.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Oct 27, 2011 12:28:00 PM

Marygrove MAT shows how teachers use quickwrites as a formative assessment. One of the best strategies for developing writing fluency and reading comprehension skills is the Quickwrite. Also called entry or exit slips, these formative assessments allow students to respond to a text question in an open format. Formative assessments are generally conducted throughout a unit to measure progress and evaluate student performance. Quickwrites are an excellent way for teachers to verify what a student is learning, and tailor their instruction accordingly.

One way to do this is called “the muddiest point,” where students write a quickwrite explaining what they don’t understand from that day’s lesson.

There are many ways to execute a quickwrite, but usually teachers provide an open-ended question on a slip of paper to each student. Some teachers prefer to write the question on the board in front of the class. The teacher then gives students a specific amount of time—anywhere from two to ten minutes– to respond in writing.  Some teachers provide a ticking timer with an alarm, as it helps students pace themselves. Make sure you emphasize to students that grammar and spelling are not important in this exercise.

When time’s up, all students must stop writing, even if it is mid-sentence. That’s because Quickwrites are generally used to gauge feedback about the amount of material a student can remember quickly, before, during or after reading.  

When the Quickwrite is complete, teachers can offer up an ideal response to the question posed, although, this is not always necessary. Providing an example does help students evaluate for themselves what they do and do not know about the text: an inherent benefit to this assessment tool– it can serve both teacher and student. 

Some of the best quickwrites occur when students are invested in the question. This is done by including a hook that students are interested in. For example, if you want students to think about the importance of dialogue in a story, set up the quickwrite so that they create dialogue about something they care about:  

Elementary students might dialogue about two people observing a parade. “Describe what you and your mother would say to each other while watching the Thanksgiving Day parade.”

Secondary students might dialogue about a friendship issue. “Write a discussion between two friends who disagree about going to a dance.”

A related tool to have on hand is Scholastic’s helpful book of Quickwrite examples for Grade Five and up that gets students writing. (Linda Rief, 100 Quickwrites. New York:  Scholastic, 2003).

Anxiety-prone students may have trouble writing under pressure at first, but will get used to the drill over time. You can allay stress by reminding students that these activities are not graded. In the beginning of the year, it helps to allow students to use their notes or textbooks.

Teachers who use this strategy frequently say it is a great way to do many things in a very short amount of time. Quickwrites allow students to practice writing and critical thinking skills as a low-stakes activity without the burden of grade anxiety.

The versatility of Quickwrites are many…teachers can use them for

  • Reading comprehension quizzes, across curriculum
  • Triggering prior knowledge for scaffolding
  • Warming up the reading and writing muscles
  • Promoting reflection about key concepts
  • Prompting class discussion   
  • Reinforcing vocabulary, across curriculum
  • Practicing reviewing and synthesizing material covered in class,

And much more!  Tell us how you use Quickwrites effectively with your students.

For more excellent ideas to boost comprehension in your classroom, grab our FREE Comprehension Guide, today!

Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B

Tags: quickwrites, formative assessments, evaluate student performance, reading comprehension, download, reading comprehension strategy, writing fluency, Marygrove MAT

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