don graves · penny kittle · quick write · writing workshop

Rapid Writes

Penny Kittle and Don Graves’s Quick Writes Book attracted some of my kids inasmuch as I adapted some of the “Quick Writes” for my students to use as homework (if they needed an idea of something to write about). About two weeks ago, I decided to pull some of the Stories in Hand Sparks, from Jessica Sprague, for my kids to use in a Quick-Write-like session, which I called “Rapid Writes.” Essentially, I projected a bunch of Sparks onto the projector screen, encouraged (i.e., did not force the Sparks upon them) them to pick one, picked one myself, and then had the kids go off and write rapidly, about their Spark, for ten minutes. At the end of ten minutes, we’d share either in partners or as a full-class share.

I’ve done five of them so far and four of the five worked well. Want to know the time it didn’t work well? It was the time I didn’t write. When my students didn’t hear the click-clack-click-clack of my nails against my computer’s keyboard, they seemed less focused. When I write, I notice they write. If I’m trying to put together a work packet for a student instead of dropping everything to write for ten minutes, they don’t concentrate as much on writing in their own notebooks. Hence, I’ve realized I must drop everything I’m doing to write alongside them so that I always have something to share at the end of one of our Rapid Write Sessions.

Speaking of sharing, here’s a piece I wrote, RAPIDLY, the very first time I did this with my students. There are many errors… However, something extremely great resulted from this piece: new desk caddies. Now my entire desk area is neat and clean!


What needs cleaning in your home? Why?

Right now I think that my part of the study needs cleaning. It’s a mess. It’s a mess because I have so much going on with work, independent writing projects, research articles, and craft projects I’ve been working on. There’s so much going on in my life that I just don’t have time to organize by sorting papers and filing them away each and every day. I know I really should do this since I’d probably be able to find things much easier, but I kind of know where everything is amongst my mess, so why give up valuable time to clean it up. It’s not dirty, it’s just messy.

There’s a big stack of papers next to my computer’s monitor. Inside of that stack there are bills, pharmacy slips, business cards, and other types of mail. While I really need to go through this stack, since it just looks messy, I don’t feel like it. I mean, I know where everything is (kind of), so why go through it and put it away?

In all honesty, I should go through that stack of papers. It would probably help me better find the things I need – faster.

A few weeks ago I took the time to purge my filing drawer in my desk so that I could make space for some school files. I was proud of myself for doing this. I vowed that my new filing drawer would lead me to greater independence from messy stacks of paper. I was wrong.

In reality, I think that I need more storage space, perhaps another book case, to properly store all of the papers, books, and other ephemera that are hanging around my desk area & bookcase. However, we don’t have the space for another bookshelf because of all of my craft supplies. So really, I’m up against a no-win situation, aren’t I? What I need is more storage space, but there is just now way for me to get that kind of space because there isn’t enough room to put anything else in our office. Am I doomed to having a messy work space, at home, forever?

Many people think I’m extremely organized because of the systems I’ve implemented for myself. However, I think that I could be more organized if I just had more space for my stuff.

6 thoughts on “Rapid Writes

  1. The point you make about the kids focusing more on writing when you are modeling writing yourself reminds me of when I used to employ D.E.A.R. (drop everything and read) in my own 7th grade classroom years ago. If I tried to enforce SSR through D.E.A.R. but failed to model silent reading myself, kids were off task and I became more of an enforcer rather than a role model. We must model the practices and behaviors we want to see in our students. It’s not easy; as you mention, there are students out who we want to gather things for and a myriad of other paperwork things we could be doing, but the most important thing we must do is model for students good habits and practices.

    Thanks for sharing this post! I’m curious, though, do you have kids go back to these quick writes at all and try to develop them or polish them? One way I found was in using some creative writing strategies I learned from Mary Ellen Ledbetter and they’re posted on my wikispace. Kids like them too and LOVE to share their pieces aloud afterward. Please feel free to use them. Go to and the Writing Strategies and Assignments page.

    I have your blog on my blogroll and visit often.


  2. I so enjoy hearing of your teaching ideas. I also do Quick Writes on an almost daily basis. Usually it as my kids eat breakfast (provided) at their desks. This really is a nice way to begin the day and some share their writing. So far, no spilled milk on journals.
    I also have used some of Jessica’s Stories in Hand prompts for a memoir unit of study we are doing. I have two “categories” so far, Ancestors and Mothers & Fathers. I made them more kid appropriate and am amazed at the discussion we’ve had as we look at them. I also assign these as homework and we are creating quite a few short memoirs from which we can take through the publishing process. Such fun!


  3. After they finish their rapid writes, do you then move on to our unit of study of writing or what do they do with their remaining time of WW?


  4. There are several purposes. The main one is to get them to become more fluent writers. By writing more often, I think it will help kids write longer when they HAVE to (e.g., state tests) since they’ll have greater stamina. Another goal is to stay focused by writing long about one idea for a sustained period of time.


  5. Agreed, agreed! I have such a clutter problem when there’s not enough space. Maybe I’ll get motivated just like you.

    Thanks for also sharing about the pattern of writing with your students. I find this to be true as well, but so rarely do that which I know is best for the students.

    What are the benefits of the “rapid writes”? Sentence fluency? Voice? I’d be interested to hear if there are improvements or growth in certain areas for your writers.



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