Standard Lesson

Empowered Fiction Writers: Generating and Organizing Ideas for Story Writing

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 45-minute sessions
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This three-part lesson introduces students to the use of speedwriting (also called free writing) as a prewriting technique. Learning the technique of speedwriting allows students to generate a foundation of ideas on which they can build a narrative structure. The goal is to fill up the blank page without worrying about grammar, spelling, or even coherence. Students then identify key ideas and phrases in their speedwriting, and use a graphic Story Organizer to develop the ideas into the main elements of a story (exposition, rising action, climax, conclusion).

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Speedwriting requires that all learners become actively engaged.

  • The purpose for setting a time limit on the task is twofold: to capture students' dwindling interest and to help students develop the ability to think quickly and spontaneously.

  • The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible without regard to accuracy or feasibility.


Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Computers with Internet access

  • Timers (optional)

  • Highlighters or colored pencils (optional)

  • Overhead projector (optional)



1. Familiarize yourself with the description and key concepts of speedwriting (free writing) and the specific suggestions offered by each of the Web resources.

2. Arrange access to computers for Session 1 and bookmark some or all of the Web resources on the computers.

3. Print (enlarge if possible) and post the four posters provided: Purpose of Speedwriting, Benefits of Speedwriting, Important Rules for Speedwriting, and Plot Plan.

4. Make a copy for each student of the Student Speedwriting Log, Story Organizer handout, Plot Plan handout, and Story Organization Rubric.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Understand the purpose and process of speedwriting

  • Review and understand the elements of story structure

  • Use a graphic organizer to organize ideas into a narrative structure

Session 1: Understanding and Engaging in Speedwriting

1. Provide a minilesson on speedwriting. Have students, individually or in pairs, review the Web resources to identify key concepts of speedwriting. Work together as a class to define speedwriting and identify the key concepts, using students' findings from the Web resources, the Purpose of Speedwriting poster, and the Benefits of Speedwriting poster. The following points should be included:

  • Definition: Nonstop, free-associational informal writing; writing to think that taps into your individual perspective, knowledge, memory, and intuition
  • Key Concepts:
a. Time your writing
b. Write continuously, even if all you are writing is "I do not know what to write"
c. Do not edit or revise your writing
2. Explain the rationale for using this technique (i.e., to activate thinking, to generate ideas, to build writing momentum).

3. Model the strategy of speedwriting to students in an abbreviated form by speedwriting for one minute on an overhead transparency (or chart paper). Use metacognition, a thinking-out-loud technique, to demonstrate the mental processes that are taking place (e.g., point out-but do not revise-disjointed thoughts, repeated words, spelling errors, and so on).

4. Explain to students that they are going to practice speedwriting. Have them generate topics as a group for this exercise, or assign topics related to a current theme of study.

5. Prior to beginning, review the objectives for the speedwriting technique and the rationale for using it:

  • Remind students to forget temporarily about grammar and commas and everything they have learned in school about formal writing.

  • If they get stumped, encourage students to write the same phrase over and over until they can either move on from it or start over with something new.

  • Explain that there are only three rules: (1) write as fast as you can, (2) don't think too much, and (3) don't stop or lift the pen from the paper until the time is up.
6. Begin with a one-minute speedwriting session. Use a timer if one is available (if not, simply use a wall clock). When the time is up, have students share their experiences. Discuss any barriers or difficulties they encountered during the exercise.

7. Have students speedwrite again, for a longer period of time. Consider a period of 5 to 10 minutes, based on your knowledge of students' strengths and abilities.

8. Ask students to reflect on the speedwriting strategy and how effective it was for them. Provide a few minutes for them to think silently.

9. (Optional) Have students use the Student Speedwriting Log to record the length of time they were able to spend writing continuously, their total number of words, and a brief reflection. Students can use the log after each speedwriting session, keeping an annotated record for their own reference.

Session 2: Excavating Gems From Speedwriting

1. Distribute the Plot Plan handout and review the basic parts of a narrative (story) using the appropriate vocabulary. Make sure that students connect the beginning with the exposition, the middle with the rising action and climax, and the end with the conclusion.

2. Using an example of student speedwriting from Session 1 (with the student's permission), model for students the process of identifying key ideas, well-stated phrases, and relevant vocabulary in a speedwriting piece. Use techniques of metacognition, explicitly sharing your strategies and thought processes out loud.

3. Have students work individually or in pairs to read over the speedwriting pieces they created in the previous session. Direct students to highlight or underline the important ideas, phrases, and vocabulary words in their speedwriting piece that they view as valuable.

Session 3: Organizing Ideas Generated from Speedwriting

1. Have students examine their annotated speedwriting pieces and review the parts of their writing that they selected. Distribute the Story Organizer handout and explain that it will be used to organize the ideas from their speedwriting. Direct students to write each chosen word, phrase, or idea into the appropriate space on the Story Organizer handout.

2. Distribute copies of the Story Organization Rubric and provide an opportunity for students to self assess and peer assess their Story Organizers in class. These student and peer assessments fulfill the role of formative assessment, enabling students to identify their strengths and areas of weakness before they receive a summative assessment or final grade.

3. Following the assessment, encourage students to add additional ideas to their story organizers. They may also use any new ideas generated by this process as new topics for speedwriting.


  • Computers are very good tools for speedwriting. One useful technique is to have students turn off (or dim) the monitor so they cannot see what they're writing (and cannot, therefore, worry about any mistakes they are making).
    • Turn off the monitor and follow the speedwriting procedure. Type for approximately 5 to 10 minutes.
    • Then turn the monitor back on to see what was written and extract the most relevant, interesting, or useful points.

    Note: Consider the typing skills of your students for this activity. If typing skill and speed is not sufficient, this extension activity may not be appropriate.

  • Try "looping" your speedwriting. Have students look back over an earlier speedwriting piece and find a sentence or phrase that stands out for them. Write it down and use it as the starting point for a new speedwriting exercise. Repeat the process.

    Student Assessment / Reflections

    • Have students track their own speedwriting development using the Student Speedwriting Log. The goal is to generate more words and ideas with more practice.

    • Use the Story Organization Rubric (used for formative assessment in Session 3) as a summative assessment to evaluate students’ work.

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