Speedwriting strategy actively engages students, writes Patricia L. Luse, formerly a fifth-grade teacher. In trying to motivate her students to volunteer information about a new topic one hot afternoon, Luse hit upon the idea of using speedwriting to get students to brainstorm. She has since found this to be a highly successful and versatile strategy for teaching social studies, science, health and math at the elementary level.
Luse says that her students respond to the challenge of “writing all they can in one minute” and try to increase the number of words they write in each successive exercise. For example, when introducing a new topic in social studies, Luse gave her students one minute to write all they know about the Boston Tea Party. (If they know nothing, they are instructed to write down what they want to know and why.)
As she says “You have one minute. Ready, set, go!” most students frantically begin writing. She asks them to count the number of words they have written and to put that number in the margin. They get a chance to try to increase the number of words they write on the next topic.
This simple challenge of trying to write more than they had previously written is the magic ingredient that motivates them. The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible without regard to accuracy. After the speedwriting, students break into small groups to compare and discuss their ideas. Discussion is used to focus on the quality and accuracy of the responses.
Coming back to the whole class, students volunteer ideas and Luse makes a list of the class’s ideas. Following these discussions, the class reads about the topic in the text and as a whole class checks their list of ideas, eliminating inaccuracies and generating a final list of main ideas and important details. Luse reports that speedwriting has proved to be very successful in engaging even her most reluctant elementary students.
“Speedwriting: A Teaching Strategy for Active Student Engagement,” The Reading Teacher, Volume 56, Number 1, September 2002, p. 2029.
Published in ERN October 2002 Volume 15 Number 7