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Teaching Strategies | English Language Arts | Phonics | February 28, 2024

Quick-Writes: A Fast and Easy Way to Write Across the Curriculum

Quick-writes are used in classrooms across the country to provide frequent, informal writing opportunities for students. This article offers an in-depth exploration of quick-writes and their benefits for student writing and informal assessment. Discover effective prompts and methods for using quick-writes across the curriculum.

What Are Quick-Writes?

Quick-writes are a versatile and effective way to create frequent writing opportunities for students in any class. Specifically, students are instructed to write informally, in response to a text reading. These text readings can be from any class, from any area of the curriculum. Students are encouraged to respond to the text, without planning and preparation, without proofreading and editing. Quick-writes are meant to be responsive, rather than formal writing. In a quick-writes activity, the student need not craft under the pressure of usual academic writing expectations, but instead, is free to write about some aspect of the reading they have done. This practice gives students the chance to re-tell what they have read, to describe it, and to analyze and synthesize ideas they have encountered in their readings. Teachers are able to promote frequent in-class writing, but also to assess student comprehension when quick-writes are used effectively.

Using Quick-Writes Effectively in the Classroom

Writing. Every teacher will acknowledge its importance in education. As I visit schools across the country, teachers often share the challenge of teaching writing across the curriculum—especially in mathematics, science, social studies, the arts, and other content areas—and often lament the quality of writing that students are producing.

An excellent way to increase the amount of writing that students do in the classroom is through quick-writes. Because quick-writes can be done on any topic, consider the questions that you ask your students on a daily basis. Any of the questions you ask could potentially become a quick-write and can increase the writing that students craft throughout the day. Here are a few ideas that support using quick-writes and a few ideas for writing prompts.


Quick-writes build fluency in writing and over time improve the quality of written text. Through low stakes writing practice, students get used to getting words on paper. You can also use these quick-writes as an assessment tool. Depending on the type of question asked, you can determine students’ background knowledge and experiences, level of understanding of a topic about to be taught, being taught, or previously taught.


Quick-writes can be done at any time throughout the instructional period. Two terrific times to conduct quick-writes are at the beginning of class and at the end of class. For example, as students are walking in, or during a transition from one subject to another, have a prompt posted somewhere, or briefly explain the prompt to students. Consider developing a routine so that students know what is expected of them. At the end of a class, quick-writes are beneficial as an exit slip to wrap up what has been taught or to preview what is to come.


Any question can potentially be a quick-write. Questions that ask students about their prior experiences or questions that get students thinking about their personal opinions can be helpful. Additionally, questions that help students review or recall content are very beneficial. Increasingly, research is focusing on the power of frequent, low-stakes quizzing as a way to help solidify concepts, create deeper understanding, and develop longer term retention of concepts and skills.

Sample Quick-Write Starters

  • Write about a time when/where…(you felt, you or someone you know experienced, etc.)
  • What do you think will happen…
  • How might you have reacted…
  • What were three important aspects of…
  • Define (insert vocabulary word) in your own words.
  • Summarize three (or two, etc.) main takeaways from…
  • Explain ______ (a topic, event, process, etc.) to someone who has never heard about it.


As mentioned earlier, students should become familiar with the expectations of a quick-write. Expectations should include writing their names and potentially the date on the top of their paper. Teachers should give the expectation for how much writing is expected to be completed. One way to set an expectation is to have students write non-stop for a set amount of time. Begin with short timeframes, such as 45 seconds or a minute and a half, for example, depending on the grade and skill level of the students. For younger students or reluctant writers, starting with a quick-sketch can also be beneficial, then have the students label the sketch, add phrases, and eventually add sentences. Starting with quick-sketches can prepare the students for the quick-writes routine in later years.

TCM_AnalyzeTextActivity-650x520-2-1Grading Quick-Writes

Quick-writes should not be high stakes; students should receive credit for meeting the writing expectation and for writing on topic. The easiest way to not be overburdened by the additional papers to correct is to just do a quick skim of each student’s work. Look for trends in terms of understanding or lack thereof. You may also see specific skills that need to be addressed in terms of spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Rather than marking and correcting these on the quick-write, use this information to teach students these skills during other lessons.

As students begin writing on a daily or near daily basis, their ease and fluency in writing will improve. This does not take away the need for additional, explicit writing instruction, but informal writing such as quick-write activities certainly can be used by students throughout the day to show what they are thinking about and learning in the content areas. Quick-write topics give students the chance to interact with their readings, to engage in connections and ideas, and to verbalize and share ideas that they have discovered and understood. Quick-write activities allow students to write more often and keep an informal assessment of their knowledge and discovery.



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Erick Herrmann, Educational Consultant

Erick Herrmann is an educational consultant with Teacher Created Materials. He has taught at the high school level as a Spanish teacher and Title VII coordinator, elementary literacy and ESL teacher, and served as a Teacher on Special Assignment. He is deeply committed to high quality instruction for all students, and enjoys sharing effective, engaging instructional strategies that teachers can immediately use in their classrooms.

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