A 1 3 10 Free Write is a twist on a traditional timed write, when students must write for a specific amount of time (either as a free write or on a specific topic).
I learned this idea from Betsy Paskvan, a Japanese and English teacher in Anchorage, AK. A substitute teacher in Betsy’s English class suggested it to her, and I think it is brilliant! Instead of a traditional Timed Write, which for many of us means 10 minutes of writing (sometimes with a topic; often without), he suggested that the students try out this scaffolded Timed Write.
FIRST, have students write for one minute. After one minute, they must STOP writing and count up their words. Students should record the word count next to their work.
SECOND, have students write for three minutes. First, they must copy what they wrote the first time (they could fix mistakes if they catch them, but should not spend lots of time thinking about editing), and then continue on and write more. In this way, the three-minute writing is a longer version of the one-minute writing. Have them do another word count at the end of three minutes and record it in the margins.
THIRD, have students write for ten minutes. First, they should copy what they wrote during the three minutes (again, fixing mistakes but not necessarily editing), and then continue on and write more. In this way, the ten-minute writing piece is a longer version of the three-minute writing. Have them do a final word count at the end of the ten minutes and record it in the margins.
The idea behind this is that students often have trouble transferring what they want to say from their brains to the paper. By writing in steps and repeating what they have previously written, they are ‘priming’ themselves, and you should find that students will write more than 3x the original word count in the second step, and more than 10x the original word count in the final step.
The whole process takes about 20 minutes, but it will be encouraging for your students to see just how much they can write!
Students can write on normal, lined paper, but I prefer to use this form that includes counted word lines and rubrics. There are numbered lines for students to write each word on so that you don’t waste class time counting, and the embedded, ACTFL-aligned rubrics make grading a breeze.