Looking for quick, everyday writing practice for students? Try parachute writing!

Organization, cleanliness and structure never came naturally to me. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of the most unorganized people you’ll ever meet. My to-do list is rarely complete; I have a desktop that is a patchwork of incompatible files and downloads; my desk is cluttered with books, sticky notes and note cards; and don’t even get me started on my closet. Maybe my penchant for clutter, chaos, and disarray is why I have such a love for writing and teaching.

The writing is messy

You see, real, honest, authentic writing is messy. The real writing is that early morning look, fresh out of bed, not the “I’m ready for my close-up” pretending that’s how I look at 5:00, post-worthy version Instagram. No. Real, authentic writing doesn’t just emerge polished and ready to publish. Instead, it often requires practice and work. To quote Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias, “It takes effort to look like that!” and the writing is no different. It is a unique, complicated and non-linear process. Recursive and dynamic. The writing process is an organized chaos. Falling fragments. Disassembled and reassembled sentence puzzles. Words omitted. Added words. There’s no a good way to write. And that’s why I love it.

And that is why students need to write often and for various purposes: they need practice. Authentic writing is seldom formulated, carefully contained and framed. It can’t be reduced to a clever acronym where students fill in the blanks and answer, and it’s certainly not something we can rush to complete. Because real writing looks messy, it requires deliberate planning and purpose, strategic thinking and decision-making, and careful attention and awareness of audience and purpose. Moreover, writing often and for a variety of purposes not only helps students become better writers, but also contributes to their development as readers.

The only The way students will improve in writing is by writing. Write engagements can be used in any class of content, at any time, and with any audience. Regardless of a student’s reading or writing skills or level, there is a type of writing they can do on a daily basis.

Parachute writings

I use the term Parachute Writings (PWs) to describe quick writing opportunities that can be easily deployed in the classroom. IPLs can be incorporated into just about any lesson and require limited prior preparation.

Just as parachutes prevent skydivers from crashing to the ground, PGs provide an element of safety for students. They are fast-paced, low-stakes, and flexible, giving students the opportunity to practice multiple writing skills for a variety of purposes and audiences in short periods of time.

Labs can be conducted with a partner or in a group, which provides another level of security. Think of real skydivers: before attempting a solo jump, they participate in tandem jumps as part of their learning and training. The writing is no different. Writing confidence building is often achieved through collaborative exercises and peer-to-peer engagements.

Practical work can be integrated into lessons at several times in your teaching on a frequent and daily basis; however, you should be aware of when writing must be deployed and where. Although versatile and flexible, there is a specific element of targeted implementation when using PW. When planning labs and adding them to lessons, it is helpful to consider the general objectives and goals of the lesson.

Here are some easy PWs that you could try in your own teaching.

  • Ditch drafts are great PWs that can be used at any point in a lesson. Ask students to stop what they are doing and write for about a minute (this can be in the form of a prompt or a question from the teacher or another writing task). ‘writing). Remind students that this writing will only be seen by them so that they are more likely to write honestly and freely. Once the students have finished their draft, ask them to crumble their papers and “drop” them in the trash on the way out. Because this PW is not peer-rated or read, it can be used not only to clarify or understand the content, but also for sensitive, non-academic questions.
  • Quick writes (QW) are some of the easiest PWs because they can take many forms with the click of a pen. In a flash, QWs can turn into a whole other writing engagement depending on the context and lesson goal. These quick bursts of writing are often shared with peers or later extended into more developed writing. Additionally, Quick-writes provide students with the opportunity to read and respond to a variety of texts using any number of activating questions or thought-provoking prompts.

    Easy QWs can involve a small snippet of text such as song lyrics, a short passage from a novel, or a poem. You can have students write down what the piece reminds them of, ask them to borrow a line of scripture, or choose words they like. You can also use images, video clips and objects for QWs. For example, one summer I used watermelon slices as QW descriptive writing for my students. QWs are great not only for everyday writing, but also for expansion opportunities. If students connect with a particular QW, they can choose to expand it to a more developed piece later.

  • Listen to this is a strategy that works extremely well with listening and speaking lessons, highly descriptive texts, or concepts that require students to visualize material. An easy way to incorporate this type of writing is in tandem with highly descriptive material. As the text is read aloud to students, they draw what they hear, creating a physical visual of the material. Once students have created this visual accompaniment to the text being read aloud, have them add words from the text onto sticky address labels or sticky notes and affix them to the drawing. It’s a great way to teach not only listening comprehension and visualization, but also textual proof.

Regardless of subject or grade level, providing students with multiple opportunities to write helps them become strong, confident writers. Try deploying one of these parachute writing activities into your lessons and watch your students soar.

Want to learn more about interesting and engaging ways to get students writing? Get a copy of Write Now and Write About: 37 Strategies for Authentic Everyday Writing in Every Content Area to learn more about easy-to-implement writing ideas for students.

Member of ILA Rebecca G.Harper is an Associate Professor of Literacy at the University of Augusta, Georgia. She is a guest speaker and keynote speaker for a variety of literacy conferences and facilitates literacy professional development sessions across the United States. His research interests include sociocultural theory, critical literacy, and content and disciplinary literacy. She resides in Aiken, SC, with her husband, Will, and children, Amelia, Macy Belle, and Vin. You can follow her on Twitter and on instagram.

Scott R. Banks