The Missouri Reader Vol. 42, Issue 2 | Page 44



Figure 1 - Ryan's Pic Collage

The Value of the Optimal Learning Model


Heather Johnson

Classroom CloseUP

The first couple years of teaching my class had a bad case of, “I can’t find anything I want to read.” Despite having bins of award winners, popular series, and some funny picture books, my humble library struggled to keep my students satisfied. My initial attempts to



Challenges of Quick Writes

Drawing and illustrating appeared to be the most challenging to implement as intended. All children define themselves as creative starting at an early age and carrying forward into elementary school. By the time students become seniors in high school, only 5% would consider themselves creative (Lehrer, 2012). Based on this concept of creativity, university-level students would find this strategy to be too difficult. One of the faculty shared, “I feel this could be frustrating for students, causing movement from the “challenge zone” and entering the “panic zone” of difficulty.” Another faculty member added, “I want to try using this strategy again sometime, I just really need to think about how to best prepare my students for the experience. I want them to use the strategy in a way that enhances their learning experience and by the looks of their final products, I missed the mark.” One faculty member who implemented the drawing and illustrating quick write encouraged students to draw images that made sense to them, along with a summary to support the visual representation. For the drawing and illustrating to be successful, one faculty member suggests, “Let students know that their representations can be meaningful to them and can include pictures or a graphic organizer to help them make sense of the content.” Although more challenging than other implemented strategies, faculty realized the importance of supporting creativity through various avenues and agreed that more planning would support increased participation and may decrease student frustration.

Benefits of Quick Writes

Although there were some challenges that came with implementing quick write strategies, all of the instructors found benefits to support the teacher candidates in adding new ideas to their teaching tool box regardless of content area or course focus. When reflecting on strategy use after the five weeks, all instructors shared a commonality. Each used the strategies to support teaching and learning and then related the strategy to use in an early childhood, elementary, or middle school classroom.

The writing around strategy was a benefit to the instructors though it was used differently. The faculty member for the communication arts course instructed teacher candidates to write three takeaways from the reading assignment from the previous week before passing their paper to their peers. “I appreciated this strategy because it allows the students in the course to consider others’ thinking along with learning from their peers. I also thought this was an effective activity because it held each student accountable to the reading assignment given the week before.”

A second faculty member chose to connect the write around strategy with the topic of ethical and legal rights and responsibilities for teachers as a way to process and apply knowledge from an educator’s perspective. The instructor was looking for higher order thinking through engagement in the activity and chose to create a Google document for students to interact and respond via online. In reflection over implementation of the strategy, the faculty member attributed success to the following aspects of the implementation. “When students are positioned in a shared document, they may perceive pressure to “perform”. Also, having students expressing their ideas may inspire ideas for others to grow. The digital format may have been beneficial because it allowed for editing, making it easier to organize thoughts compared to pencil/paper reflections.” Each of the faculty participating in the study found themselves considering additions and revisions to implementation for future teaching experiences, supporting the success of this strategy at the university level.

The faculty members found benefits of the write break strategy, as well. One faculty member stated this was beneficial because she was able to be flexible with the prompts given to guide the writing break. The instructor in the communication arts course wrote, “The writing break allowed for the students to reflect on the content and share with me what they learned. This allows me to check for understanding and the changes I need to make in my delivery of instruction.”

A second faculty member chose to implement writing break strategy four times during a lesson. The first implementation was used to introduce the topic of ethics and legal obligation. When reviewing student responses to the prompt, she found “students commonly used the word “moral” in describing ethics and the word “law” to describe legal. Descriptions are brief but do show an understanding of the difference between the two.” The instructor then provided a writing break focused on ethical use of social media as a classroom teacher. The prompt led to a whole-class discussion over the topic. The last two writing breaks reflected on teachers the student have had experiences with relating to ethical responsibilities and obligations. After the lesson, the instructor was able to review all written responses and reflect on the overall experience. “As a teacher, I liked the scheduled writing breaks because I incorporated them in my lesson where I would usually have a whole-class discussion. By allowing them time to organize and write their thoughts, it held everyone accountable for participating and I had students that do not usually speak up in class volunteer to share their thoughts. I will be using this quick write method in the future.”

In the communication arts course, the teacher candidates were directed to write on the back of their ABC brainstorm how they would use the ABC brainstorm, the

K-W-L chart, writing break, and write around in their classrooms. This was done to keep them focused on the types of quick writes they can also implement as educators.” When reflecting on the experience of using the write-around, one instructor shared, “Several students found the experience to be helpful as a safe way to share concerns with others.” One student said that they felt the feedback was easier to read than it would have been to hear. The faculty member in the communication arts course stated that the write around held them accountable to the reading material prior to coming to class. Additionally the communication arts faculty member stated, “This type of quick write, allows for collaborative partnerships in the classroom and allows the students to consider the thinking of others along with giving them opportunity to change their perspective.” The faculty members welcomed this strategy and TCs felt safe to share with one another without feeling judged.” By discussing the strategy with the university-level students, it became clear how students in their future classroom could also benefit from this strategy. Students were able to see the benefit of each strategy due to faculty members planning ability during class instruction. One example is shared here, “In the writing break, I also allowed them to share how they would apply what they read. This is important to me as an instructor because I can determine if they are transferring what they are learning and applying it to their future classrooms/career.”

Student Reflections on the Use of Quick Writes

Students in each of the course participated in five different quick writes implemented over a five week period. At the end of the implementation of the quick writes, students reflected on how they would use them in their future career as a classroom teacher. TCs were able to identify practical ways they would use the quick writes with the students in their future classrooms.

In the Communication Arts Integration course, the TCs identified several effective ways they would use some of the quick writes to support their instruction. When looking at the ABC brainstorm quick write, TCs shared how they could use it in their classrooms as a way of brainstorming different topics to write about along with using it to brainstorm descriptive words. A TC wrote,“ I could use this strategy to help students think of topics before beginning to write. Doing it by ABCs helps to create a variety in the ideas that students brainstorm.” A couple of the TCS stated they could use the brainstorm strategy as a means of formative assessment. A TC replied on her reflection that she could use this as a way to activate prior knowledge before introducing a topic. Another TC responded with something very similar, “This could be used as a form of assessment or a check-up….could be used at a beginning of paper to brainstorm all you know about a topic before you begin writing.” The TCs found the benefits of the quick writes and realized not only were the strategies engaging, but most importantly a reflection piece for them to make changes to their instruction.


These quick write strategies allow the teachers across the grade levels and content areas different ways to engage students while gathering formative assessment data in order to reflect and refine their teaching practices. These writing strategies allow classroom teachers to reinforce reading skills, such as summarizing and along with promoting reflection and personal connections. Exploring these quick write strategies allowed the teacher candidates the opportunity to decide which ones they are willing to implement with their students.

Quick writes engage the students in the content before, during, and after teacher led discussions. Additionally, the use of quick writes can be used to measure student learning and allows the instructor to reflect on their own teaching practices to meet the needs of the students in their classroom.