Quick Write

Writing has long been recognized as a powerful tool for learning (Rivard, 1994). While traditional writing focuses on students’ abilities to express ideas with correct language usage, the “Quick Write” is an instructional approach that activates students’ knowledge and presents new material. It can be used in a broader range of disciplines (Fisher & Frey, 2008). 

A quick write is a “brief written response to a question or probe” that requires students to rapidly explain or comment on an assigned topic (Green, Smith & Brown, 2007; Nunan, 2003). Quick Write can be used at the beginning, middle, or end of the class (Mason, Benedek-Wood & Valasa, 2009). Instructors may give a prompt or pose a question and give students several minutes to form a written response, either as a review or synthesis of learned materials or as preparation for new content. If placed at the end of class, Quick Writes may involve students writing about what they learned, what problems they encountered, what they liked or disliked about the lesson, and whether they understood the concepts (Literacy & Learning, n.d.).

Also called Write Now (Riller, Zambo, Cleland & Ryan, 1996), a Quick Write is often followed by students sharing their writing orally (Cleland, Rillero & Zambo, 2003). It can serve as a basis for more collaborative learning activities, such as student-led discussions (University Writing Council, 2011), or Pair-and-Shares (Guillaume et al., 2007). Some “off-shoots” have been developed, including “One-Minute Paper”, or admit/exit slips (Brozo & Simpson, 2003). 

Quick Writes are a nimble instructional tool applied across classrooms and subjects, ranging from economics (Crowe & Youga, 1986) to psychology (Butler, Phillmann & Smart, 2001) to nursing and child development (Ward, 2013). Although more extensively used and studied in elementary and secondary education, it has been proved as an easily implemented and adaptable strategy that can be integrated across classrooms and contents (Readance, Moore & Rickelman, 2001; Mason, Benedek-Wood & Valasa, 2009).

Quick Writes present a more acceptable way to use writing as an instructional tool. Research has long supported writing as an instrument to facilitate learning (Deshler, Palincsar, Biancarosa & Nair, 2007) as it enhances conceptual understanding (Abell, 1992) by asking students to “pay closer attention to details, organize data more logically, and structure the arguments in a more coherent way” (Kober, 1993, p. 45). In reality, however, students have reported dread or hatred for writing because they have yet to develop confidence and competence as college writers (Ward, 2013). Quick Writes differs from traditional writing as students can let their thoughts flow freely without focusing on correctness and revision (Tompkins, 1994). It presents writing as a non-threatening and informal opportunity for students to express their thoughts (Fisher & Frey, 2008).

 Because of these benefits, a Quick Write can serve as an opening of a class for students to connect previous knowledge to new learning (Cleland, Rillero & Zambo, 2003). It can also be used to promote reflection and recall of learned concepts, summary of content, and expression of thoughts before oral presentation to others (Mason, Benedek-Wood & Valasa, 2009; University Writing Council, 2011). It provides a timesaving form of writing practice for students to become clear and fluent thinkers and writers (Ward, 2013).

As a result, Quick Write can be used to promote critical thinking (Tierney & Shanahan, 1991) and communication skills (Kober, 1993). It has also been found to especially benefit low-achieving students (Mason, Benedek-Wood & Valasa, 2009) because teachers can detect gaps in student understanding for remediation (Green, Smith & Brown, 2007).

 This benefit links to another popular usage of Quick Writes as an assessment tool. In science classes in particular, Quick Write has become an instrument of formative assessment to obtain information for instructional modification and to gauge improvement in student understanding (Bass, 2003). As students are given more flexibility in their response, the frustration that accompanies traditional tests can also be eliminated (Green, Smith & Brown, 2007). 

 Written by Danxi Shen, Ed.M., Harvard Graduate School of Education



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Brozo, W.G., & Simpson, M.L. (2003). Writing as a tool for active learning. In Readers, teachers, learners: Expanding literacy across the content areas (4th ed.; pp. 253-302). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

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Literacy & Learning. Literacy Strategies: the Quick Write. Literacy & Learning: Reading in the Content Areas. http://www.litandlearn.lpb.org/strategies/strat_quick.pdf

Mason, L. H., Benedek‐Wood, E., & Valasa, L. (2009). Teaching Low‐Achieving Students to Self‐Regulate Persuasive Quick Write Responses. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(4), 303-312.

Nunan, D. 2003. Practical English Language Teaching. New York: McGraw Hill.

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Rillero, P., Zambo, R., Cleland, J., & Ryan, J. (1996). Write from the start: Writing to learn science. Science Scope, 19, 30-32.

Rivard, L. O. P. (1994). A review of writing to learn in science: Implications for practice and research. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31(9), 969-983.

Tompkins, Gail E. (1994). Teaching Writing: Balancing Process and Product. 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan College Publishing Company, Inc.

University Writing Council, UPEI. (2011). The Quickwrite: A Brief Introduction. http://www.upei.ca/uwc/wac/strategies/quickwrite.html

Ward, T. (2013). Six Ways to Use Quick Writes to Promote Learning. On Course Workshops. http://oncourseworkshop.com/life-long-learning/six-ways-use-quick-writes-promote-learning/

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