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Boost Creativity and Productivity with This Quick Write Guide

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Modified on September 28, 2023

Stephen King, one of the most prolific writers today, once said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: Read a lot and write a lot.” While this concept might seem simple, people face many challenges when it comes to reading and writing, such as time and writer’s block. This is where the concept of a quick write can help. A quick write is exactly what it sounds like: A short, designated amount of time set aside for someone to write down their thoughts or ideas from a given prompt. 

There are a number of different ways quick writes can be used, and the process for implementing them is fairly easy. In writing classes or workshops, quick writes are frequently used as a warm-up exercise to get students’ attention and focus on the task at hand. It presents the act of writing in a simple way that makes it more approachable for learners while still letting them practice important skills. 

Quick writes are a great form of writing practice to routinely include in the classroom because of the ease of implementation and the variety of skills they cover. Not only do quick writes help boost creativity and productivity, but they can also help develop critical thinking skills and help students connect more to what they are learning. Student writing is a foundational skill that can be better incorporated into routine classroom instruction through the use of simple quick writing prompts.

The Benefits of Quick Writing

There are a number of benefits of quick writing, and it should come as no surprise that writing—even if it is “quick”—can help anyone grow as a writer. As soon as a student learns to write, they can begin to benefit from the practice of quick writes. Quick writes have benefits beyond just thinking and writing in English lesson plans. These quick writes can be incorporated into any content area, and therefore can benefit student learning across the board. The benefits of quick writing can even extend beyond the classroom by developing skills that can be applied to a variety of real-life scenarios.

  1. Encouraging creativity: By allowing writers to generate text quickly and without strict guidelines or criticism, quick writes can promote creative thinking and generate new ideas. Help engage creativity by specifically using creative writing prompts.
  2. Improving focus and concentration: Quick writes require focus and concentration to generate text quickly, helping to improve these skills in smaller bursts that can translate into a foundation for more productive habits on longer activities. 
  3. Improving writing fluency: Quick writes encourage writers to generate text quickly, without worrying about grammar or structure at first. This can help writers overcome writer’s block and improve the natural flow of their writing. 
  4. Developing writing skills: With a little more structure and editing practice, quick writes can be used as a powerful tool to improve foundational writing skills such as grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, and more. 
  5. Reflecting on personal experiences: Sometimes quick writes can be used as a means of personal reflection, providing a way for students to process their feelings, make sense of their experiences, and make personal connections to what they are learning in class. 
  6. Building confidence: Because quick writes usually provide a short, low-stakes response, this is a great way for students to practice and improve their writing skills, as doing so can build confidence in young writers. 
  7. Offering differentiation: Quick writes can be a useful tool for differentiation in the classroom because they allow students to work at their own level in a safe space to practice their skills without strict formal assessment.

How to Do a Quick Write

The step-by-step process for how to do a quick write is actually quite simple. More comprehensive methods exist for teaching writing to reluctant writers, including intricate steps for brainstorming, writing, revising, editing, and proofreading. Quick writes are usually done without editing, but it may depend on the preference of the teacher and the context of the writing exercise to determine whether or not additional steps need to be added. Overall, the main focus of a quick write is to keep the process simple and approachable. Therefore, there are four main steps for how to do a quick write:

  1. Choose a time: First, you will need to choose a designated amount of time for the quick write. This may differ depending on the age of the students, the purpose of the assignment, or the desired outcome of the content. There are different definitions of the term “quick,” whether that looks like two to five minutes or five to 15 minutes. This will help designate a specific, known amount of time for writers to focus on writing quickly and without interruption.
  2. Set a timer: Setting a physical timer will help students focus and power through the writing. Sometimes a visual timer such as a countdown can motivate students to keep generating words and ideas. 
  3. Choose a topic: Selecting a topic or prompt to write about can be as simple or detailed as desired. A topic may be as simple as a single word or phrase for students to reflect on, or it could be more detailed, like a specific question or scenario that relates to something from the curriculum at hand. 
  4. Start writing: Once the topic is chosen and the timer is set, have students write as much and as quickly as possible. Encourage the writers not to worry about their grammar, spelling, or structure at first. In fact, you may want to encourage them not to focus too hard on their content either. The goal is to generate as much text as possible within the given time frame.

While not always necessary, a good follow-up for a quick write—or for any writing assignment—is to reflect on the writing. This reflection can look like whole class discussion, independent editing or analysis, or even a follow-up activity. By reflecting on one’s writing, the writer can begin to notice any ideas or themes that emerged and could potentially develop those ideas further in future writing. 

Because the steps are easy to incorporate and the benefits are valuable, the process of quick writes should be repeated. This process may be repeated several times in succession, using different prompts or topics to generate ideas to be compared. Or this process may be repeated over a longer period of time with more time between each quick write. Either way, repeating the process can not only produce more content, but it can also provide writers with the opportunity to develop their own writing skills more independently.

Quick Write Tips for Success

Here are a few tips to make quick writes more successful in writing instruction:

  • Keep it simple: Don’t try to do too much with quick writes. They should be painless for students and teachers alike. 
  • Explore different styles of writing: Quick writes can be used to explore all types of pieces of writing. Depending on the prompt, students can explore personal narratives, argumentative/opinion topics, or informative/explanatory writing.
  • Use a three-minute timer: Three minutes is a good amount of time to use for many quick writing activities. It is just enough time to get some ideas flowing without overwhelming students. Many researchers have discussed and debated the decreasing attention span of children and young adults, so don’t be afraid to start with a smaller amount of time on the clock and see what students produce during that time.  
  • Make it a formative assessment: Use quick writes as a way of formally assessing students. Writing is one of the best ways to gauge student understanding and identify areas that need improvement, as it can function as an effective assessment tool.

Quick Writes for Overcoming Writer’s Block

One of the biggest struggles when it comes to writing is the dreaded “writer’s block.” Every writer at every grade level can experience this hurdle, but there are always a few techniques that can help overcome writer’s block—one of these being quick writes. 

Many famous writers have offered their advice when it comes to writer’s block, and many well-known authors themselves even use the quick write method to overcome this problem. Whole books have been dedicated to the challenges of writing, such as Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. These two authors discuss the idea of setting aside an allocated amount of time each day to do some free writing as a way of becoming a better writer.

In the classroom, some ways to overcome writer’s block may involve using graphic organizers, reading sample texts, or something else that offers more structure for students. Sometimes giving too much freedom in free writing can be overwhelming, while providing more structure can actually enhance creative writing.

Incorporating Quick Writes into Your Writing Practice

While writing itself can be hard, incorporating quick writes in your writing practice is fairly easy. Explicit writing instruction should always accompany quick writing activities, and educators can strategically incorporate quick writes into their routine instruction to develop and assess writing skills.

  1. Use quick writes to start a day or unit: Writing can act as a great warm-up or bellringer activity for the beginning of a school day, as it can give students a chance to connect with the material they’ll be engaging with later. Or a quick write can be used as a diagnostic that allows teachers to assess a student’s knowledge or skill before beginning a new unit.
  2. Use quick writes to start a draft: Quick writes can help students create first drafts of a writing assignment to expand or edit later in a low-stakes environment. The idea of a formal writing assignment can create a mental block for students, whereas a quick write can allow them to brainstorm ideas and opinions that can act as a foundation for a later assessment.
  3. Use quick writes routinely: Creating a set school routine for writing can help students when it comes to expectations and consistency with their work. Many professional writers have a designated time and place each day to write, and classrooms can benefit from implementing writing routines as well.
  4. Use digital quick writes: Quick writes can be done with a pencil and paper or digitally. Many online education platforms, such as Step Up to Writing® and NoRedInk, have resources to help teachers implement quick writes into their lessons. Some of these resources include libraries of pre-made quick writing prompts to choose from and easy ways to provide students with feedback.

Remember, quick writes must go hand in hand with explicit writing instruction as well. Effective lessons will incorporate the direct instruction of skills and content, as well as the opportunity to practice those skills, in formal and informal ways.

As discussed with Natalie Wexler, education writer and author, in our EDVIEW360 podcast series, “Writing is the most difficult thing we ask students to do. If inexperienced writers are asked to write at length, they can easily become overwhelmed as they juggle everything from spelling to word choice to organizing their thoughts. And if students are asked to write only about personal experience or topics in a separate writing curriculum, writing won’t help them acquire the knowledge they need to succeed in school.” Therefore, we must create a space where inexperienced writers can gain the skills and experience necessary to be successful.

Final Thoughts

Quick writes are great for students and teachers alike. Quick writes provide students with a safe space to explore ideas and practice skills, and they provide teachers with an activity that is easy to implement and to assess. Voyager Sopris Learning® offers more writing programs that can help teachers develop students’ writing skills, such as our Step Up to Writing program that provides hundreds of writing strategies for students in grades K–12.