Allowing your students to practice writing in small chunks of time will help them become better writers, and with these short writing topics for teens, your students won’t have to come up with a topic to write about on their own.
What Are Quick Writes?
Quick writes are writing prompts that are completed within a few minutes (usually 10 minutes or less) in class. They are low stakes and are designed to be engaging.
The Benefits of Using Quick Writes For High School Students:
There are lots of benefits of quick writes; here are just a few:
They are low stakes.
First, they allow your students to practice writing in a low-stakes way, and this is critical. To build better writers you have to allow students many opportunities to write. Most of these opportunities should be in informal ways.
They allow students to form their voice and style.
The most effective way I’ve found to guide students toward developing their own voice and writing style is to provide many low-stakes, informal writing opportunities. Students must be able to play around with language to develop their sense of style because it gives them an opportunity to take risk without being penalized.
They can build class community.
If you use engaging topics, students will actually enjoy writing! And typically, when students enjoy doing something, they want to share. With the writing topics I provide below, students get a chance to share their personal tastes, preferences, and parts of their life story that makes them who they are. So, take the opportunity to let volunteers share their responses and allow them to get to know each other and form connections with their classmates.
Quick Writes can allow students to work on craft.
The Language Arts Classroom highlights the power of focusing on only one area of writing when helping students through the writing process. You can use quick writes for this purpose as well. You can assign a quick write, but ask students to focus on using at least one compound sentence, or an opening adjective.
By telling them a specific area in which to focus, you’ll guide students toward thinking about the craft of their writing. When they know this assignment will not ultimately turn into an essay or be attached to a grade, they’ll have a certain freedom in the way they write.
Quick writes allow you to connect grammar and writing.
This is such a super way to integrate grammar and writing practice. So many studies show that you must integrate grammar into writing and literature for grammar concepts to stick. If you’d like to read more about that, check out my blog post: How to Teach Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, and Adverbs or this article from The Atlantic on the topic of The Wrong Way To Teach Grammar.
Often we think that the way to connect grammar and writing is by grading students’ writing based on their grammar conventions. And yes, that should happen. But this is a way to connect the two concepts without a grade, and that will allow for more learning to happen.
High school English teacher Blake Bockholt describes how he does this in the New York Time's Article: Sentences That Matter, Mentor, and Motivate.
Blockholt says, "To help my students transfer their new grammar skills into their writing I ask them to implement the skills into other writing assignments. For example, in their Article of the Week reflections (which I adapt from the Learning Network’s Lesson of the Day), students are required to use a recently taught grammar skill and highlight that sentence. I don’t usually grade students on their grammar, but I tell them their highlighted sentence better be correct."
This is the same way I use quick writes, by requiring students to write as freely as they'd like to, but they must carefully craft one sentence in the response and highlight that sentence.
How I Suggest Using Quick Writes In High School:
1.) Use them regularly.
I don't necessarily suggest that you short writing prompts and quick writes every single class period, but some teachers see vast improvement in student writing by using quick writes daily, like college instructor Tessa Ward who describes her experience in the article “6 Ways To Use Quick Writes To Promote Learning." She says that after using writing prompts daily that "within a few weeks, students who began the semester afraid of writing or unsure that they have anything to write about are writing a page or more."
There is a benefit to creating a routine with quick writes, whether it's every day or 2-3 times a week. Students become more comfortable with writing by having many opportunities to write.
2.) Connect quick writes to grammar concepts.
As I mentioned above, this is such a great opportunity to make grammar relevant, so whenever possible, tie it into a grammar concept you’ve taught, whether that has to do with parts of speech, phrases, or sentence variety.
10 Quick Write Topics You Can Use!
These are all quick writes I wrote that I connect to grammar concepts in my year-long curriculum for 9th and 10th graders, which you can read more about here: Learning Grammar With Mentor Sentences.
1. Who is one person, living or dead, you wish you could meet? Where would you meet up with them, and what's something you'd ask them? Include specific/proper nouns, and highlight all your proper nouns when you are done.
2. Describe your idea of a dream job. What would your responsibilities be, and what would your typical day be like? Focus on your vivid verbs and highlight these when you are finished writing.
3. If someone gave you $10,000 today, how would you spend it? Be detailed, and focus on using adjectives. Try to include at least one opening adjective. Highlight all your adjectives when you're done.
4. Think of a superhero you've seen in a movie or read about in a book, or create your own superhero. Imagine what his or her childhood might have been like, and describe it. Try to use at least one sentence with both a delayed adjective and a vivid verb. Highlight that sentence.
5. What is one grievance you have about your school or your education? Use at least one sentence with an adjective AND an adverb. Highlight this sentence.
6. Describe one book or movie that had an ending you hated. Why was it unsatisfying? Include adverbs in your description, and try to include at least one delayed adverb. Highlight all your adverbs when you are finished.
7. Who is the hardest working person you've ever known? You could know them personally or have read about them/follow them. Write about them. Include one appositive somewhere in your response and highlight that sentence.
8. Has a song or a movie ever deeply impacted your life? Describe the song or movie and how it affected you. Use one participle somewhere in your response and highlight that sentence.
9. Create a scene full of tension, intrigue, or anticipation. Try to describe the scene in only simple sentences.
10. If you had to be one, would you rather be a great artist, a great athlete, or a great chess player? Describe why you'd choose that one and what makes it more appealing than the others. Use at least two compound sentences in your response and underline those sentences.
The benefits of using quick writes in your classroom are well-researched and worth the effort, so I hope you are able to bring several of these writing topics for teens into your regular routine this year!
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