While free writing has varied definitions depending on the person using the word, the general definition is an unstructured writing time to help with brainstorming, overcoming writer's block, or practicing creativity and the craft of writing. In my classroom, I use free writing for all three purposes. Students use the free writing time to type or handwrite constantly for a specific period of time (depending on the class's comfort level with free writing). The idea is that they don't have to fear the "red pen" coming to correct their writing, so they don't get held up in revising as they work. Their pencil or typing fingers should be moving the whole time.
Sometimes students already have an idea for writing and use the time to develop that idea. Sometimes students have a specific prompt that they are supposed to follow. One or my favorite ways to do free writing is to have students respond to an image, set of images, or video.
STUDENT VOICE AND CHOICE
Where does this allow for student voice and choice? How "free" is free writing in actuality? Obviously students who are choosing their own writing topics are exhibiting their voice in the classroom, especially if they are then able to develop that free writing into a class assessment. Some students struggle with total freedom ("I don't know what to write about.") and benefit from having a prompt or selection of prompts from which to choose.
We tried this recently in my class with a prompt from writingprompts.tumblr.com, using the following image:
Here's what the students said about their experience:
Free Writing Tips and Rationale
- The Writer's Block by KickThePJ
- The Bulletproof Guide to Free Writing (And 10 Tips for Getting Started) from PositiveWriter.com
- College Essay Tips | Freewriting, Topic Selection, and the First Draft by College Essay Advisors
Writing Prompts and Free Writing Practice
- Nonstopskrivning exercise from Aarhus University's Study Metro
- Writing prompts from writingprompts.tumblr.com
- Visual Writing Prompts from visual-prompts.tumblr.com
- Unusual Picture Prompts from Chalk Talk