In Linda Rief’s newest publication, The Quickwrite Handbook, 100 Mentor Texts to Jumpstart Your Students’ Thinking and Writing, she sends us a welcoming invitation to give quickwrites a bit of our attention that in turn can create a really big impact on our writers. She works with adolescents in her middle school classroom and has curated hundreds of samples that have been tried and true invitations for her students. The book is a sampling of this work meant to encourage us to begin using quickwrites within our routines and daily writing as well as begin curating our own tried and true collections of writing that will inspire the writers we work with each day.
A Peek Inside the Structure of the Book
Rief shares many grounded purposes for quickwrites. Not only does it allow students to embrace a timed writing experience it’s also low stakes. She also reminded me if I want students to be better at something I need to create opportunities for practice. I want my students to be better when responding to their reading when responding to thoughts in their head, and I want them to hold themselves to a level of clarity when writing for themselves, not just an audience. Quickwrites, because of their urgency, their low time commitment, but high energy power punch, give me an opportunity to encourage all of this to happen.
The book is comprised of four main sections sorted by what Rief considers the way adolescents view themselves.
- Seeing Inward
- Leaning Outward
- Beyond Self
- Looking Back
Each section contains pieces of writing that reflect the theme of the section with mentor texts for quickwrites, as well as longer pieces inspired by quickwrite work which she calls interludes.
The texts are not in a particular order, as a reader I found myself bouncing all around. I read as a writer, and I read like a teacher. What can my students grab onto and what can I grab onto. Rief offers so much here, and I would encourage you to read with both lenses. This book may not only spur a quiet writer living inside your students it could also inspire ideas waiting inside of you.
What Exactly is a Quickwrite?
How does this fit into your classroom?
As I began thinking about creating my own collection of quickwrite prompts a few ideas came to mind. I read a picture book every day to my students as part of the #classroombookaday challenge. Several books I read spark wonderful conversations, and although the purpose of #classroombookaday is to enjoy and discuss picture books, it often spreads further depending on the choices I make.
I also thought about all the poetry I read across the year and how these, often one-minute reads, would be perfect bits to use as a prompt for quickwrites in my classroom. I teach third graders, and as I thought further, I began to wonder if quickwrites were something all students could engage in regardless of age? It got me thinking that as a kindergarten teacher I might have used the ideas Rief suggests in her quickwrite routine as a conversation routine. In a kindergarten or first grade classroom, this might be as simple as a turn and talk with a question prompt to begin. With slightly older writers I might transition to a shared writing experience and sprinkle in occasional quickwrite routines for students to try. I think Rief’s samples are best for middle school students, but I found reading them as a teacher of younger students helped me to imagine the places prompts live. It further helped me consider what I could begin collecting for my students within the four sections she crafted recognizing that eight-year-olds also have a sense of self, begin to look outward, and have moments of accessibility to reflect. It reminded me that even my students have to start somewhere and a quickwrite might be a launch pad for writing beyond their initial thoughts or a unit of study.
My Test Run
I have done around three trials so far leading up to this post, and I look forward to crafting more. My first was a quickwrite to dive into the theme of The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig. I asked students what the author was trying to teach us with the story of Brian. My second run was with an article from a Time for Kids magazine called, Take a Stand, an opinion piece discussing the use of standing desks. I asked students to imagine their feelings if tomorrow they came in and we only had standing desks available. What were their first thoughts? My third trial was with a poem from Linda’s book found on page 164 titled Sometimes by Kate Messner. Because this is new to my students, I began with a lot of structure, even in my paper choice. My hope is to invite students to transition to regular lined paper or even their notebooks, but I decided a paper change might be the shift needed for my more reluctant writers as a means of feeling like the task was accessible. You will, of course, make the decision of what best meets the needs of your writers. Rief’s students do their quickwrites in their notebooks.
I hope you find yourself and this book in the same place soon. It is well worth taking the time just to read all the beautiful pieces that fill the pages of this book. There is so much to learn from the works of Rief’s students as well as the pieces she shares, and the work of other professional writers. I love a book that creates a scaffold for me as a teacher. To me, this book showed me a way to enter the land of quickwrites with some structure while also teaching me how to find and craft my own quickwrite prompts and strategies for my students. It made me think. It made me wonder. It made me better. This book may be intended for a middle school audience but there is much that can be learned from the ideas, suggestions, and reflections collected here by Linda Rief and I have merely scratched the surface of what this book can offer to teachers.
If I have piqued your interest, you can download a sample chapter here, and better yet you can comment below to be entered in a giveaway!
The winner was Jill Bless!
This giveaway is for a copy of Linda Rief’s newest publication, The Quickwrite Handbook, 100 Mentor Texts to Jumpstart Your Students’ Thinking and Writing. Many thanks to Heinemann Publishing for donating a copy for one reader. For a chance to win this copy, please leave a comment about this post by Friday, November 30th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Friday, December 7th. Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, my contact Heinemann Publishing will ship your book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.) If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – Quickwrite Handbook. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.
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