Celebrate Poetry with Quickwrites

Looking for an easy way to get students reading, writing, and thinking about poetry?  Give Quickwrites a try!


I was introduced to this concept through Linda Rief at an International Reading Association Conference.  She wrote the book on it.  It’s easy to adapt, though.

The idea:

Share a poem by projecting it/writing it on the board/passing out copies to all students.

Read it aloud.

Before anyone speaks, everyone (including you, the teacher!) writes for two or three minutes according to these options–

  • Use a particular (teacher chosen) line or phrase from the poem as a starting point and just write
  • Write about any experience this poem brings to mind for you
  • Borrow any line (student chosen) and go from there

Write in paragraph form or write a poem.

Stop the writing after two or three minutes and discuss—if anyone wants to; if not, move on with your lesson or with another poem.

That’s all there is to it.  Try it; you’ll be amazed at what you and your students can come up with and how it works with almost any poem.   The key is to limit the writing to two or three minutes.  Rief explains that this way it is incomplete—students will want the chance to come back and finish the writing.

How do I use it?

Fun Fridays—I chose three poems and do a series of Quickwrites on Fridays.  We do not share until all three Quickwrites are complete; I’d ask students to reread their three pieces, put a star next to the one (or just a line from one) they thought was worth sharing or revisiting.  Then, if anyone wanted to share we would listen.   The poems I chose for these exercises were usually very simple poems that did not require analysis or discussion, but if students did have questions about the poems, we discussed them at the end, too.  As a future bellwork or writing assignment, I would ask students to revisit their Quickwrites and choose one to revise/finish.

To introduce/explore a concept for another writing lesson.  For example, in a unit on descriptive writing, I used Eamon Green’s “One Morning.”  The sensory details and specific word choice provide excellent models for students.  My quickwrite options for this poem were:

  • Begin with “Looking for ______, I found….”
  • Choose another perspective mentioned in the poem (an animal or another person) and write from that point of view.
  • Write about any experience this poem brings to mind for you.
  • Borrow any line and let that line lead your writing.

To connect a poem to a larger unit.  This year I used “Wheels” and “Key to the Highway” in a week-long thematic unit on teens and driving.  Sometimes, I find it difficult to choose a starter line, but with a little tweaking, we can still do a related Quickwrite:

  • Write about a song you heard while in a car (“Keys to the Highway”) or a photograph of someone special to you (“Wheels”)
  • Write about any experience this poem brings to mind for you.
  • Borrow any phrase or line from the poem and use that as a starter.

After the Quickwrites with these poems, we did discuss and analyze them in more detail so that the students could make the connections to the other texts in the unit in a culminating writing assignment.  The connections they made through the Quickwrites enabled them to approach the poems with a deeper understanding than had we just started with analysis.  When we have these kinds of discussions, I use questions from my list of Poetry Questions available for free on TeachersPayTeachers to get the discussion started.  Usually, that’s all I have to do, student questions and ideas guide us to much deeper, text-based understandings.

Pinterest Slide

Where do I find the poems?

In addition to Linda Rief’s book of 100 poems with suggested writing prompts, browse the shelves of your media center around call number 811 and see what you can find.  The best poems for the Fun Friday activities often came from books of poetry for teens.  Class Dismissed—High School Poems by Mel Glenn, Slow Dance Heartbreak Blues by Arnold Adoff, and I am Wings: Poems about Love by Ralph Fletcher are some of my favorites in my media center.  These poems are easy to understand, but like most poetry, provide opportunities to dig deeper for meaning if you choose to explore them that way.  As my links above demonstrate, I also use the Poetry 180 poems.  Start with Rief’s sample and then you’ll have a feel for what a good Quickwrite prompt looks like and you’ll start to find them everywhere!

Have fun!


**April photograph courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net


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