Most teachers refer to them as quickwrites; I call them thoughtwrites. I want my students to write what they think, and we focus on thinking a lot. Yes, I want them to respond and write quickly–as Penny Kittle says “to outrun the censor in the head,” but too often my students sit with a blazing look of defiant terror when I introduce the idea of simply putting their thoughts on paper. I figure that if I can focus on the thinking when we are just getting started, I can get them hooked on thinking for the duration.

So, what does a thoughtwrite look like? It’s simply something like a news article, a poem, or a youtube video that will get thoughts churning and requires a response.

I always set my students up first. “Hey, we’re going to look at something that I think you’ll find interesting/make you mad/want to argue. After we read it (or watch it) I want you to write everything you think.” Inevitably, some kid will question:  “What if I don’t think anything?”  And while I know this is possible, I doubt it’s probable, so I rattle off a few leads:

What does this remind you of? a friend? a parent? a movie? a character in a book? Can you connect this text to anything else you’ve read? you’ve seen? you’ve heard? Who would you recommend read or watch or hear this? Why? Why? WHY?

My team and I started saving links to funny, bizarre, fascinating, silly, thought-provoking clips on youtube. There are thousands to choose from that will get students thinking about events and incidents that are important to them. Once they begin responding to texts, we can help them capture ideas that they might want to explore in full-blown writing assignments. Here’s two of our favorites. Please share any you think will get kids thinking.

Jessica’s Daily Affirmation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg

Visual Metaphor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlXsUvLgPsQ

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