In my book Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds in Elementary Classrooms I share sparks for some of our youngest writers with the idea that we meet them wherever they are in their writing development. For some that may be at a drawing or a label stage of early writing. For others it may be at a word or phrase level. Too often writing is often seen as legitimate and “real” when it conveyed at a sentence level. But if we limit our definition of writing to that advanced stage we are in danger of missing out on some powerful messages being conveyed and limiting the exploration of thought that can happen with the smallest of pencil strokes.
In my district there are two first grade teachers who have made daily quick writes a routine with their students. The “Sparks” they offer may be pictures and images, a single word, or a question to stimulate their thinking. To make it easy and accessible for all students they have used labels to print the verbal (written) sparks so that students don’t feel the need to copy over those words before diving into their own writing responses.
These short quick writes are not just about transcribing responses onto a notebook page, they are opportunities to activate thinking, and sometimes emotions, as students contemplate what they know or what they believe. Yes, they are getting practice with encoding letter sound correspondences, but they are also playing with encoding as the process of actively relating new information to knowledge that is already in memory as they respond to each spark.
Here’s what these teachers had to say about quick writes with their first graders:
“Since starting Quick Writes in the classroom this year, I notice my students can start writing right away knowing they only have 5 minutes to write. Most of them started with pictures first and now they are writing words. I see their confidence growing in their writing… they are no longer saying, “I don’t know what to write about,” they just write. As the teacher, I am learning a lot about my students in just 5 minutes of writing daily.” –Maureen Cooper
“I think Quick Writes are having a very positive impact on my students’ ability to write joyfully and without the worry of someone critiquing their writing. I’ve seen their creativity emerge during this time as they are able to respond to a prompt in any way they choose. I have also noticed that ALL of my students (every single one) are excited to share their quick writes with each other when writing time is over and they all have the confidence to share their writing in front of the whole class. Quick Writes have really helped even my most reluctant writers find their voice and share it with others.” -Kate Parker
I believe Quick Writes are a perfect way to empower writers of all ages, and I encourage teachers not to wait until they are “writers” before starting. When we redefine what writing is to encompass all marks that convey meaning, we can see all of our students as writers and we can ignite a writing passion early in their school careers. If you use Quick Writes with your emergent writers I’d love to hear from you. Let’s spark joy, thinking, and creativity with more bursts of low-stakes writing for all students.
One More Off My TBR Stack
The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras
WOW! I loved this medieval adventure for so many reasons. Diane Magras (Maine author) has given us a heroine we all need to cheer for-12 year old Drest is the youngest child of the Mad Wolf of the North, and when he and her 5 brothers are captured by invading knights and taken away to be hanged, she is the only one who can save them. She brings along a wounded enemy knight with her, who she plans to exchange for one of her brothers. But she encounters much danger along the way and is spurred on by the voices of her brothers in her head when she most needs their advice and encouragement. Drest also learns some hard ‘truths’ about her warband family that she wrestles with as she tries to make them proud, but also do what she feels is right in her heart. Her quest will keep readers riveted and they’ll be happy to know a sequel awaits them. I listened to the audio book narrated by the incredible Joshua Manning and it was fantastic! His Scottish voices brought each character to life so vividly. If you love a good adventure, do NOT miss this 2019-20 MSBA nominee! (Oh, and I equally love the sequel The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter!)