First-Year Preceptorial

One-Minute Papers

One Minute Papers:  Quick, Easy, and Productive Writing Assignments

Skill in thinking is like musical and athletic skill.  It takes practice to improve—particularly practice that enables one to see what works and what doesn’t.  Much of our thinking goes on in our minds, where it is not exposed to review.  The very process of putting thoughts to paper forces clarification; seeing them on paper (or on the computer screen) facilitates our own evaluation, and receiving comments from peers or a teacher provides further help.                                        W. J. McKeachie, Teaching Tips, p. 132


Informal, write-to-learn, assignments facilitate students’ thinking.  They are not intended as polished pieces of writing, but can yield important learning outcomes. 

Variations of One-Minute Papers



  • To recall specific information
  • To show understanding of what was read
  • To apply abstract content to concrete situations
  • To compare or contrast content with personal experience
  • To organize thoughts, ideas, and information from the content
  • To judge and evaluate characters, actions, outcomes, etc., for personal reflection and understanding


At a specific point in a class, whether lecture or discussion, ask students to write a paragraph or sentence that

  • Identifies the most important point
  • Identifies the “muddiest” point
  • Identifies the questions that remain unanswered
  • Identifies the most interesting point
  • Summarizes the main points
  • Provides an example of the concept/s discussed
  • Describes the insight you have gained from this material
  • Describes the most important question this material has made you ask yourself

Response options

Read none

Collect and read all

Collect all and read a sampling

Ask students to read their own

Ask students to pair up and submit a team effort

Ask students to keep their writing to review trends or find ideas for later writing

Ask students to submit electronically