Quick Writes are an integral part of my classroom practice and they should be a part of yours too!

There's nothing better than a quick write to measure a student's writing proficiency.

Planned and edited essays do not measure a student's true writing proficiency because they are structured, planned, edited, and polished.

Quick writes, by their very nature, are not edited, have zero planning time, and what gets written down on the page truly shows what a student can do in the written language.

Below is how I set my students up for success with quick writes and why it's one of my most valuable assessment tools!


I introduce quick writes first week of school for all levels except level 1.

For level 1, I wait until at least the 10th week or even a bit longer. I want to make sure they have enough text input before I start them writing to maximize their initial success and lessen their frustration.

Start students writing at 10 minutes and decrease time by 30 seconds each time class average hits 100 or more words. For example, if class average is 94 words, time does not decrease. If average is 103, time goes down by 30 seconds.

Keep track of word count, but not for grade. Many teachers use word count as a basis for the grade, but I think this is a mistake. Some students can write a lot of words, but they don't make any sense while others write only a few words and they are using complex sentences. So I do keep track of word count on a spreadsheet so that I can monitor any individual student's progress or the overall progress of the class, but I use a rubric to assess any level of proficiency.

I use a special paper that I created to make it easy for students to keep track of the number of words that they write. You'll want to make copies of quick-write paper. (https://imim.us/qwpaper)

Students write one word per line. Any proper nouns must fit on only ONE line. All other words are one word per line. This makes it quite easy to count the words.

Set Expectations

Goal is to write 100 words in time given.

Don't stop writing until time is up.

Don't stop to edit.

Write best language you can.

Write only one word per dashed line.

  • Goal is to write 100 words in time given.
  • Don't stop writing until time is up.
  • Don't stop to edit.
  • Write best language you can.
  • Write only one word per dashed line.

Write About...

Teachers always get stuck on what to have students write about.

Just because it's a quick write, doesn't make it different than any other type of writing. Think of things that you've had students write about before.

Here are some things that I like to have my students write about:

  • student’s choice (more telling than you think)
  • use a specific set of vocabulary
  • random topic
  • use a particular grammatical structure
  • what happened before a story you did in class?
  • write a new ending to a story you did in class
  • what do you think will happen next in the story/novel/reading?

Those are just a few ideas, but you get the idea. They can pretty much write about just about anything.

Keep Score

You'll want to keep track of each student's word count and post the class averages on the board to promote healthy competition.

Whenever the class average is 100 words or more, drop the time by 30 seconds with the goal of reaching a 100-word average in 5 minutes by the end of the school year.

NEVER use word count as a basis for an academic grade! Some students will write a lot of words that aren't very good. And other students will write fewer words that are incredible.

You'll want to always base the grade on a comprehensive, proficiency-based rubric.


Each week, I randomly select one class set of quick writes to read and assess.

I never tell students in advance which ones will be graded. If I tell them in advance, they will only try on the ones they know will be graded. I want them to try on each quick write, so them knowing that each one has the potential to give them a quiz grade, keeps them motivated to try every time.

I assess all quick writes using a rubric (imim.us/rubrics). I base the grade on two things: how understandable it is to a native speaker and how complex the overall writing is.

If it's not understandable, it's a D or an F. An F usually means there is little to no attempt. A D shows there is some attempt, but is not comprehensible.

If it is understandable, it's at least a C. A C quick write is characterized by being understandable, but being full of short, choppy sentences.

A B quick write is understandable with mostly medium sentences, often with and's, but's, or or's.

An A quick write is understandable with mostly longer sentences, often with because's, since's, or therefore's.

Whether you use my rubric or create your own, make sure that it is a rubric that is designed around proficiency and not specifically on accurate grammar usage. Remember these students are beginners and correct grammar usage comes with time and exposure to language and can vary from student to student.


It's important that you assign quick writes weekly without fail once you start them.

Consistent practice will build confidence in writing and allow for maximum growth due to this confidence.

Often, when I miss a quick write, students' ability regresses a few weeks and it takes a few more weeks to catch back up.

Doing quick writes alone will not increase progress. In between quick writes, there should be plenty of opportunity to read as reading builds up the writing muscle. Students should be reading independently (silent reading) as well as part of the class as a whole (extended readings and novels). Reading should be a mainstay of your comprehension-based program!

Let me know what you think about quick writes and how you use them in the comments below! I'd love to hear what you have to say.