Teachers can keep students engaged by presenting literacy devices through Mentor Texts, and then using the Quick Writes tool to practise and experiment.
In Episode 72 of The Teacher’s Toolkit for Literacy, literacy expert Sharon Callen talked about the power of bringing Mentor Texts and Quick Writes together to help students stay motivated in their writing.
What are ‘Quick Writes’ for literacy learning?
“Quick Writes are a tool that help writers to get their ideas down and get their thinking down without overthinking,” Sharon said.
“Because once we start overthinking, we get stuck, we second guess ourselves and we cause a roadblock. So Quick Writes are really the release of saying, ‘do you know what? Let’s back ourselves with no element of risk here of making big mistakes’. And so in a short amount of time, and in an uninterrupted amount of time, we can just get those ideas down and trust ourselves because it’s an experiment.
“And the term ‘quick’ not only means that it might be a short amount of time that I’m working on this, but it means that, because I’ve got that short amount of time, I can actually have some breathing space to then look back at what I’ve done and to even have a bit of a reflection. So things like, ‘what’s working well here, this is going well, I’d change that bit, wow this isn’t going where I wanted it to go but now I know where I want it to go’.”
What are ‘Mentor Texts’ for literacy learning?
“A Mentor Text is a text that we read with a writer’s eye. So we are reading like a writer. We’re reading it to understand and to think about and to notice what the writer is doing in this piece. If we want to be a little bit more scientific, we can say they’re texts that demonstrate qualities of effective writers. But mentor texts really are texts that help us to see or help us to know that the author is in charge of connecting with the reader,” Sharon said.
How to combine Quick Writes and Mentor Texts
Sharon explained that using Mentor Texts and Quick Writes together will help students experiment with how they’re using their writing.
But before reaching the Quick Write part of the lesson, teachers first need to follow the three steps of enlarging the text, reading aloud, and noticing.
“So firstly I have the Mentor Text visible to students and I display it in large text. Secondly, I read the text aloud with fluency as students follow the text. Number three is notice, so students look back at the text and tell you want they notice about what the writer has done. And we might focus on how the writer has organised the text, created voice, or what they’ve done with word choice or sentence fluency,” Sharon said.
The fourth step is then for students to have a go at what they’ve noticed in the text through using Quick Writes.
“So when I say all the things they notice in the text that I’m bringing to them, I’m not bringing something so big that there’s 7,469 things to notice. We’re bringing a particular text because it’s small enough or short enough for students to be able to notice a number of key things,” Sharon said.
“Now, I intentionally use a Quick Write if I’ve been noticing students haven’t been using a particular thing in their writing. So the Quick Write lets them have a go at it, and have a go at it maybe once or twice or three times. So, after doing this in a Quick Write and having those experiments with it, they can go to their bigger piece that they’re working on and find where they can use this new learning.”
This tool is effective across all curriculums, regardless of a student’s individual journey.
“Whichever curriculum you are working from, there are experiences that we are to bring to our students at every year level. And I need to bring these to all of my students, no matter where they are in their writing development, because they have the right to have that brought to them as a device that they could be incorporating into their writing,” Sharon said.
“So let’s say we focus on a literary device like using similes, the Mentor Text that I bring could be one that’s rich in similes. And so not all students can necessarily name what that literary device is, but they can notice it and then we can name it. We can say this is what it is. So it is important to then bring this to a Quick Write.”
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