Power Up Writing Speed With Power Writes

Need students to write faster? I feel ya. My students have 40-minutes on their first writing test and 90-minutes on a second one. This timed writing test runs from start to finish on a written response to a given prompt that students have not seen. I'll forego my arguments against this type of writing except to say that THIS IS NOT HOW WRITERS WRITE IN THE REAL WORLD!! Shew...I feel better just getting that out. Regardless of my objections, this is how my 8th-grade students are tested for On Demand Writing in Kentucky, and I have to do all I can to get them ready for it.

One of the things that I must do is get them to write quickly. If you are a middle school teacher, you know all too well how difficult this seemingly simple task is. Students at all grade levels, not just middle schoolers, work at the speed of a snail. Even student writers who are very speedy have difficulty thinking and writing with the time limit they are given. 

My strategy to turn slow-as-molasses students into speed writers? POWER WRITES! A power write is a timed copy & write exercise that students complete on at least a weekly basis. What are they copying? A strong informational text or passage that resembles a possible nonfiction passage that might appear on either the writing passage-based test or the reading test. Students basically copy as much as they can of a passage onto the power write grid sheet in five minutes. Yes, this is a copy & write exercise. No, students aren't thinking and composing on their own here. 

This is an exercise meant to strengthen students' writing hands & increase attention to text. RESULTS = IMPROVED WRITING SPEED & ACCURACY. 

I recommend students practice power writing at least once per week all through the school year up to testing. You will be amazed at how much your students' writing speed and accuracy improves. 

PW Passage: Any strong nonfiction text or passage. I use passages that contain frequently used vocabulary and/or spelling demons for my students.
PW FREEBIE Grid Sheet: Link to 5-Column Grid Sheet (will force make a copy) (5 columns work best, but can be changed)

1. Every student gets a copy of the PW passage & a grid sheet (I copy grid sheets 2-sided so students only pick up a new one every other PW day; I make one class set of the PW Passage. Since no one is writing on it, multiple classes can reuse it)

2. Set a timer for 5 minutes that can be displayed on screen so that students can see the timer.

3. Go! Students write as many words in the grids as they can in 5 minutes. RULES: one word per grid box. Punctuation marks follow the previous word. You can change this rule to suit your needs or preferences. Some punctuation marks are awkward when they follow the word in front of them. Your choice!

4. Once 5 minutes is up, students trade with a partner to mark any error boxes. ERRORS = misspellings, punctuation omitted or incorrectly placed, skipped words, any words that can not be read. A highlighter swiped across any error boxes works best! Write the number of errors on the grid somewhere. Now, let's move on to calculating their PW NUMBER. 

a. Take the number of grid columns multiplied by the number of fully complete rows (last row with all boxes filled with words).
b. Take this number and now add any extra grid boxes filled in underneath last complete row (ex: last full row might be line 14 but on line 15 the student got 2 words filled in so +2 here)
c. Take this new number and subtract the number of error boxes marked. 
e. If students have data charts, they can use a bar graph to chart each PW and track their progress. I use a digital data sheet for student to log their PWs each week. That doc will be up soon on my new TPT Store with more Power Write Passages! One additional step I do...I use a Google Form for students to enter their PW number each Friday. POW! Google collects & calculates the data for me. In just a few minutes, I know how many students met the goal, the average PW number, and the average number of errors made. #easydataset
A Google Form template is now available in my TPT store!

Goal 1 for PW is to regularly achieve ZERO errors on weekly PW. Once that is met, students can focus more on speed. I set my students' first speed goal at 100 words per 5 minutes. 
JUST FYI: The record for PW is 198 words in 5 minutes, 0 errors! See if your students can beat this by the end of the year.

I use POWER WRITES as my Friday bell work. I also use this as an opportunity to pump students up to get ready for it by playing a motivational song while they are picking up their papers and getting ready for their 5 minute POWER WRITE. I choose songs like the theme to Rocky and the theme track for some superhero movies. It really motivates my students to do their very best and I have seen some incredible progress in speed & accuracy with this strategy. I do not give student PWs a grade, but you could give daily points for completion. I do not make-up PW for absent students. If you are doing these weekly throughout the year, no need to do make-ups.

You will be surprised how much students will look forward to the weekly PW. They can't wait to see if they beat last week's number and if they can beat each other! Give it a try and let me know how it goes or drop me any questions you may have! 


Mrs. B


Rum Tan said…
That's great. Write a composition is a very good task and completing it in a mentioned time frame is more good then that. You have shred a great advice for students to writing a composition with a speed. One of my friend's son is prepare for PSLE English Composition Writing. And I was looking for that here but you post gave a great advice. Thanks

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