The goal of brainstorming is quantity over quality. Students tend to stop brainstorming after they have come up with the most obvious things, but the harder they keep digging, the more likely they are to come up with some more interesting things. Students need to come up with a big list, so that revisions, corrections, sorting etc can occur.


BEFORE STARTING A NEW TOPIC - Brainstorming is a useful tool for tapping into prior knowledge.
IN THE MIDDLE OF A CLASS - it can be used much like a writing break: Take one minute and list every important idea or concept that you can remember.
AS A CONCLUDING ACTIVITY - have the students return to their original list, revising incorrect items and adding new ones.

PUTTING THE WRITING TO WORK (taken from Content Area Writing - Harvey Daniels, Steven Zemelman, Nancy Steineke)

  • what inaccuracies do you notice in your original lists?
  • on a scale of 1 - 10, how much more do you know about this subject now than when you began?
  • what's one important item you would add to the list now that was completely overlooked earlier?
  • of all the items listed, which three are the most important based on what you know now?