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Quick writes


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Students gain fluency in both writing and reflection when experiential educators pause periodically during instruction or experience and have them respond with brief written reflection. These brief writing experiences are called quick writes, minute writes, or rush writes. This article will teach you how to use them in order to help students develop both writing and program skills.

Theoretical Background

Linda Rief (2018) writes that quick writes engage students in simple writing experiences that teach them how to think like a writer, build confidence, find their voice, and promote fluency. On Course, a professional development organization for educators, says that quick writes can be used to assess student knowledge, encourage critical thinking, promote reflection and personal connection, and facilitate predictions, inferences, and hypotheses. Quick writes offer an easy and manageable writing experience that helps students find their voices and develop their confidence, as they discover they have important things to say.

Divya John (2019) writes that students often dislike writing in the classroom, in part because they are trying to correct themselves as they go. Peter Elbow (1998), an expert on teaching writing, says that students should spend some of their writing time on free writes, where they write without proofreading or correcting. Studies show that quick writes develop student writing skills, especially fluency, and improve their attitudes toward writing (John, 2019; Frances, 2014; Knapp, 2009; Penn & Lim, 2016).

Basics of Practice


Rief (2018) says that quick writes

  • Give students ideas and frames for their own writing, so they are not working in a void,
  • Help students build a volume of writing from which to draw ideas for more extensive and developed pieces,
  • Focus students' attention and stimulate their thinking at the beginning of a class,
  • Encourage writing about important ideas, chosen to make students think and feel as they learn,
  • Give students choices about what they write, how they write, and what works and does not work in a low-stakes situation,
  • Allow students to be freely creative, imaginative, and reflective in their thinking,
  • Introduce students to a variety of stylistic devices and craft moves they might try in their writing.

The best prompts are those that the educator designs to fit the current learning need. For example, if the class is studying stream meanders on a field study program, a quick write prompt might ask them to speculate on reasons that the Army Corps of Engineers straightened many river courses. Or a class that is studying psychology might describe how emotion and thought relate for them. This kind of quick write asks students to reflect more on course content or to tie material they’re studying to their own lives.

The best prompts are organic to the situation—designed to get students to respond spontaneously to what has just been taught or experienced. Generally, these brief writes are followed by further discussion.


  • When the activity reaches a point where personal reflection will help solidify learning, pause the activity and give the prompt. Afterward, briefly discuss student responses, in small groups or as a class. 
  • Design quick writes based on the physical, emotional, intellectual, or social state and needs of your students. This will link participant concerns (social life, career objectives, personal issues) with the material. 
  • Have students use their journal for quick writes. A journal might also be used for longer writing experiences (see Journaling).  Other formats might be used for quick writes, such as social media, chat software, or organizational software such as Slack.
  • Write with your students. If it's important, everyone does it—including leaders. If you read your writing, they will see that mistakes don't matter, that no piece of writing dashed off like this is perfect. Perfection at this isn't the point.
  • Allow students to say, “NO, I don't want to read what I wrote; it's private.” 

Teaching Materials and Resources 

Quick Links 


Elbow, P. (1998). Writing without teachers. Oxford University Press.

Frances, S. (2014). Increases in writing fluency through free-writing journals. Journal of the Faculty of Letters, 3, 63–73.

John, D. (2019). 'Free writing' versus 'writing fluency'. The Journal of Asia TEFL, 16(1), 1–447.

Knapp, L. (2009). Fluency first for novice writers. Essential Teacher, 6(1).

Penn, S., & Lim, H. (2016). The effects of freewriting exercises on adult Korean students’ English learning. The Journal of Asia TEFL, 13(4), 313–330.

Rief, L. (2018). The quickwrite handbook: 100 mentor texts to jumpstart your students’ thinking and writing. Heinemann.

Six ways to use quick writes to promote learning. On Course.

Further Reading

Curriculum Associates, Inc. (2004). The quick-write handbook for everyday writers.

Graves, D. and Kittle, P. (2005). My quick writes for inside writing. Heineman.

Rief, L. (2003). 100 quickwrites: Fast and effective freewriting exercises that build students' confidence, develop their fluency, and bring out the writer in every student. Teaching Resources.