3 Ways to Incorporate Quick Writes into the ELA Classroom

3 ways to incorporate quick writes into your classroom


by Tracee Orman

We all know that the more students write, the better writers they become. The struggle we as English teachers find is reading and grading ALL these writing assignments! This time of year is especially hard to balance it all and still have a life.

One of the best tips I’ve ever received from a colleague was during my fourth year of teaching. I was complaining about not having enough time to grade my students’ essays thoroughly and adequately–I felt like I was failing them as a teacher. She responded, “You know you don’t have to mark every little thing when you grade the essays, right?” Umm, no, I did not know that. I had always assumed that when I assigned essays I should be looking for EVERYTHING. Having a background in journalism and copy-editing probably contributed to this, but somewhere in my training to be an English teacher, I missed that memo.

With this newfound knowledge, I began to experiment with how I could provide better feedback to my students while simultaneously cutting my grading time. I started using “quick writes” (short writing assignments) with more focused objectives. I cut back to assigning just three full essays per year (one narrative, one expository, and one argumentative) and concentrated most of my writing instruction on the shorter samples. I used prompts and gave my students less time to respond in writing (hence, the “quick” part). In doing so, the students responded with shorter (but more focused) writing samples.

Here are some ways you can incorporate quick writes into your curriculum:

1. USE  JOURNAL PROMPTS  ON A REGULAR BASIS. Require students to respond in complete sentences (you may even want to require a minimum number of sentences such as three to five). Then, choose ONE thing you wish to grade the prompts on, such as proper punctuation, capitalization, or something very specific like one of the language standards for your grade level. For example, using the Common Core Language standards for grades 9-10, I may choose standard L.9-10.2A and only grade their response on how effectively they used a semicolon. Make sure to tell students ahead of time that you will be grading it based on that criteria. Using this technique, you could practice all of your language standards several times throughout the year.

2. USE TIMED WRITING ASSESSMENTS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR. Depending on your students’ grade level, you can offer quick 5, 10, or 15 minute response times (older students will need less time). You can use any prompt (journal or quote prompts are great for narrative and expository writing; debate and argument prompts work well for persuasive and argument writing). I typically just give a completion grade for these: full credit for completing or zero for not completing at all. However, if you choose to grade these, you DO NOT have to mark every little thing. Choose one, two, or maybe three different areas you wish to assess. The point is to get students writing more often but alleviate YOUR grading load. 

3. USE BELL RINGERS AND EXIT SLIPS PERIODICALLY. Bell ringers are short activities that take place at the beginning of class. Exit slips are activities that take place toward the end of the class. These can be related to the content you are currently teaching (such as a novel or short story) or not. You can simply prompt students at the beginning or end of class to respond in writing to the question “What is one thing you learned today/yesterday?” or “What is something you hope to learn more about today?” 

    Some additional activities you could use as bell ringers or exit slips include:

• Summarize a passage from the content

• Write definitions to vocabulary words in their own words

• Write a list of questions about the content or the lesson

Whether you are crunched for time or just overwhelmed with grading essays, quick writes are a great way to provide meaningful writing assessments without the heavy paper load. 

You can download FREE writing prompts HERE and HERE

Check out these additional resources for using quick writes:

Narrative Writing Picture Prompts by Presto Plans

Journal Writing Prompts by Tracee Orman

Thanks so much for reading!


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