How To Engage Students With Quick Writes

How To Engage Students With Quick Writes

Literacy experts Phil and Sharon Callen explain the framework behind Quick Writes – an effective tool for teachers to unlock students’ writing potential.

On Episode 39 of The Teacher’s Tool Kit for Literacy, the duo explored the power of a quick writing rehearsal process, allowing students to take risks, better craft their writing and simply ‘have a go’.

Sharon said this approach was derived from previous experiences where she struggled to bridge the ‘great chasm’ between modelling writing and students actually applying it.

So, with students becoming disengaged from their writing, Sharon found that ‘Quick Writes’ allowed the children to practise these skills, become more confident in their writing and activate these strategies in their extended writing.

“I really discovered that I wasn’t letting students have enough of a go at what we were trying to do. So by them just doing it in their big piece, they weren’t really getting to try it enough times and they were getting stuck,” she said.

“So the Quick Writes open up this huge door to practising and having a go in a short amount of time (one or two minutes) … peoplecan really use Quick Writes to elevate students’ opportunity to practise particular crafting strategies as whole crafting elements of writing or different elements of the writing process.”

Quick Writes are also useful in helping students overcome roadblocks.

“All of us can overthink what we’re going to write. Quick Writes actually let you free up your mind and it can let you have multiple goes at things,” Sharon said.

The 5 Key Elements Of Quick Writes

Sharon and Phil revealed there are five key elements to the quick writing framework, starting with ‘you’ve got this, keep writing’, which crucially builds confidence within students to trust their writing.

“This is part of really helping students to trust themselves and learn how to take risks as writers, because that’s what we have to do,” she said.

“I think that’s a really important piece for many of our learners. They have enough, no matter what. So I’m immediately putting my faith in them and giving them that message. ‘You’ve got this. Just keep writing. Don’t let your own mind trap you here into saying I haven’t got this. Just keep going’.

“So it’s breaking for many students that absolute roadblock of ‘I haven’t got this. I don’t know what to write’. So the Quick Write is building some habits, attitude and stamina.”

The next message to communicate to students is ‘anything you write is right’.

“So we can’t, as we’re writing something, go ‘oh that’s not all right’. We can think that, but we can’t think it to stop ourselves because as soon as we think that’s not right, then we’re going to get ourselves into a loss of flow. So we just can’t put that roadblock in our way again,” she said.

Sharon also elaborated on how students can sometimes feel constraints in the style or structure of writing they believe they need to show in their quick writing.

“I think structure is probably the thing that’s most defining at the moment where students are nervous about ‘have I got it right here’, because the feedback they’re getting about things is that maybe it has to look just like this or just like that. And I think there’s many constraints that we may not even be so aware of either sometimes of how students construct what is right and what isn’t right,” she said.

“So I think we want to just absolutely open that door and get rid of that idea that there may be constraints and let students know that writing is for so many things and it isn’t a constrained piece.”

quick writes for student writing

Thirdly, Sharon discussed how ‘your mind is a deep well of ideas; so is life’.

“We have such a deep well to draw on, and Quick Writes let us get out of that everyday language and lets us draw more on that deep well of language that we’ve got,” she said.

“But that deep well is grown and enriched and deepened by how much we read aloud and by how much we read. We can only write as well as the literature we’re surrounded by to support and strengthen our writers. We can notice wonderful vocabulary, interesting, exciting new vocabulary and words and phrases. And we can be collectors of those things.”

The next step, ‘Make sense or not, improve it later or not’ further builds on a writer’s confidence and ability to use other strategies.

“If I read back over it and I go ‘that’s not making sense’, well that’s ok. I could improve it or fix it or not. What I’m doing though is now I’m using a key strategy of my writing. I understand what it means for it to make sense. ‘What if I want to fix that? What do I do for it to make sense?’ So now I’m using all of these reader writer decision making processes,” Sharon explained.

“That then leads me into some self regulation … so I can take that on, but these Quick Writes aren’t about that. These are snippets and little practise pieces. These are trying out different things.”

Finally, the duo emphasised the importance of remembering that ‘every Quick Write is an amazing experiment’.

“In our Australian curriculum, we have got experimentation and adaption in the literature strand at every year level. This is actually what we want our writers to be doing. And this is what the Quick Write is enabling – experimentation. So we want to be able to experiment to find out how can this work?” Sharon said.

Find out more on Episode 39 of The Teacher’s Tool Kit for Literacy below or subscribe on Apple PodcastsSpotify or Google Podcasts.

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