Finding Writing Through Quickwrites

Photo by Angelina Litvin

Our emphasis should be on the stories. The numbers give us a look through the window into our students’ strengths and weaknesses, too often as test takers, not in the context of their lives. It’s in their experiences, their efforts, and actual accomplishments as writers and readers that a much wider and deeper picture is revealed. I want to invite them into the house, not just take a peek through the window. — Linda Rief

Don Murray’s notion of writing to find writing is one that Linda Rief holds close in her work with students. “Quickwrites”, writing without planning for about 3 minutes, provides an opportunity to be surprised by what appears on paper. Through a handful of quickwrites each week, students build both confidence and competence with finding ideas and uncovering the stories they have to share. In her book Read, Write Teach: Choice and Challenge in the Reading-Writing Workshop, Linda talks about how quick writes can:

  • be a collection of a student’s ideas and saved for future reference.
  • remain undeveloped pieces.
  • create opportunities for the teacher to respond, ask questions, or nudge an idea.
  • be taken to peers and teachers for feedback on content.
  • become expanded pieces, redrafted or crafted into more polished pieces.

Whether revisiting these pieces together with students in individual writing conferences or reading and responding in notebooks every couple of weeks, Linda Rief has witnessed incredible growth in students and their writing by making quickwrites a consistent thread in her Language Arts classroom.

Linda Rief is the author of Read, Write, Teach: Choice and Challenge in the Reading-Writing Workshop, along with may other Heinemann titles. She is an eighth-grade teacher at Oyster RiverMiddle School in Durham, New Hampshire, and an instructor in the University of New Hampshire ’s Summer Literacy Institute. She is also a national and international consultant on issues of adolescent literacy. In 2000 she was the recipient of NCTE’s Edwin A. Hoey Award for Outstanding Middle School Educator in the English/Language Arts. Her classroom was featured in the series Making Meaning in Literature produced by Maryland Public Television for Annenberg/CPB.

Read a New York Times article that shows how Linda and Oyster River Middle School are responding to increased high-stakes testing pressures.

Follow Linda Rief on Twitter: @LindaMRief

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