I love free-writes and quick-writes and O’Connor’s quote sums up why. Students often struggle to express their ideas, often for a variety of reasons: they don’t care, they don’t want to take the time to think about it, or they just don’t know. When teachers give them these low-stakes and low-stress writing opportunities, they can take the time to explore their ideas (and maybe even care about them).
What’s the difference between a quick-write and a free-write?
A free-write is just that–free. Students are given an opportunity to explore their ideas without a prompt or any direction from the teacher. There are no rules, so they can be free to go wherever their thoughts lead them.
A quick-write is done in response to a prompt and can be used for creative and analytical writing. I use them often to get students to explore their ideas on the texts we read. If I just ask a question: Why do you think the author…? I will get my keeners with their arms in the air, while the others let them do their thinking for them. But, with a quick write, all of the students will explore the question and their responses to it. I rarely collect them, or require anyone to share unless s/he wants to. This makes for much less stress and a greater chance that the students will actually think about the question posed.
After a free- or quick-write, I get them to read through what they have written, looking for nuggets of wisdom. They can use a highlighter or just underline ideas that they think are important. If you want to extend the activity, they can do a quick-write on the idea they have highlighted. You can use this if you want them to really develop their ideas–it’s great for getting them ready to write an essay.
With both methods, it’s important to stress how the writing can be used as part of the learning process. Whether they are collecting ideas for a writing assignment, or trying to figure out a difficult text, free-writes and quick-writes are effective tools that the students can use at any time.
How do you use these writing tools in your classroom?