I spent a lot of time over the last few weeks analyzing how my students were using their writer’s notebooks. While they completed the HW I assigned in writing workshop, I wasn’t seeing a lot of enthusiasm for writing and they definitely weren’t carrying their notebooks with them outside of my classroom. After hearing about My Quick Writes: For INSIDE WRITING by Donald Graves and Penny Kittle, I decided to give quick writes a try in my classroom.
I began by introducing the idea to my students. I told them that I would be projecting some ideas for writing, but they did not have to use them. They could write about anything they wanted, as long as they wrote for ten minutes, without stopping! To my surprise, they were actually very excited. I think that a lot of my students struggle with what to write, as they have very little experience with writing workshop. They still have the feeling that writing must be about something big and important and that their lives are neither big nor important. The moment I gave them suggestions, I saw a light bulb go off in their heads.
That first day, we all wrote for 10 minutes, with the lights off (at their request). We then shared. The enthusiasm in the room grew by leaps and bounds as each child decided to share their writing. About half of the students took the ideas I gave them and used them as a starting place. The rest had their own ideas. Regardless of what they used to get started, their writing was great! I was so proud of them and they were just as proud of themselves.
The next day, they asked if we could do quick writes again. I agreed, and the results were just as enthusiastic. It seems that due to their lack of experience with a workshop setting, quick writes really help them feel comfortable with writing. Needless to say, I decided to take this idea and run with it!
I remembered that Stacey at Two Writing Teachers had mentioned giving one of her students some quick writes when they struggled with writing Slices of Life. After a quick search, I found her post and was inspired. Knowing that winter break was coming up and wanting to keep my students writing, I decided to assign a few notebook entries over break. As much as I hate assigning entries as “work”, I have to come to terms with the fact that I am teaching my students how to function in a workshop. I can not teach as if they have had years of experience with writing workshop! So, I typed up a quick packet. And using prompts from Graves and Kittles book and very other sources, I put together what I hope will inspire my 35 students to keep writing over break,
As most of my students will be celebrating with friends and family for the holidays, I figure that quick writes are simple enough to complete during the odd moment of downtime. While they groaned at first (homework? over break?), most were satisfied when I pointed out that I would not allow them to spend more than 10 minutes on any quick write! They are to complete at least four entries over break, and can use the suggestions/prompts as needed. I know that some students won’t need the prompts and ideas at all, while others will be very grateful for the guidance and inspiration they provide.
Come January 5th, I am very interested to see the results of this. It’s the first time I have assigned writing homework over an extended break like this and I am hopeful that it will be a success!