Ready to Brainstorm? Activities for Literature

Ready to Brainstorm? Activities for Literature


Older students are accustomed to brainstorming for their own writing projects. But a regular-ol brainstorm, not connected to a writing assignment?

If your students like to brainstorm, activities for literature are easy to implement and can keep students (and teachers!) from getting in a rut. You can add these to any lesson plan to review or spice up a reading assignment. Plus, these ideas help students connect literary terms to literature.

Brainstorm characterization…

Since a brainstorm needn’t be neat, students can flip through the book, finding quotes from the character of study that indirectly characterizes him or her. Students should also look for other characters’ comments regarding the character as well as interactions between characters – eye rolling? dismissive looks? true engagement? All of those small gestures have meaning. At the end of brainstorming, students should draw conclusions about characters.

Brainstorm a symbol’s meaning…

Color, history, mythological connections – those components all tell about the symbol. Where is the symbol mentioned, and whom is it connected with? A clear example of this is the scarlet ibis in “The Scarlet Ibis.” The ibis is in a nonnative location, is red (like blood), and suffers – all like Doodle. All three of those descriptions about the ibis can be further explored in connection to Doodle. Ask students to explain what message a symbol gives us.

Brainstorm conflicts…

Encourage students to brainstorm circumstances surrounding conflicts. Is the root of a conflict a personality clash? an event that the audience doesn’t know about, but might know eventually? the result of a larger force? immaturity or misunderstanding? a hidden belief (that the character may not consciously admit)?

Stories must have conflicts and analyzing them allows students to understand the story better, and eventually the theme. Allow students to freely brainstorm ideas and feelings about the conflicts. This will lead to a greater understanding of the story as a whole.

Brainstorm allusions…

Ask students to write allusions and to research the reference. Why is the author including a particular allusion? Does it contrast a character or theme? Emphasize one? Does it enhance the reader’s understanding? Often, allusions are particular to the setting.

Literature and students - brainstorm to uncover the deeper messages.

Brainstorm any literary term…

Allow students to choose what literary term stood out to them. The activity will have greater meaning that way. Even if students’ brainstorm activities for literature don’t result in any profound discovery – who cares? They reviewed the story, took a risk, and realized what doesn’t work. But – more often than not – a brainstorming note later connects to anther part of the story, allowing students to experience true learning.

I have no brainstorming worksheets or graphic organizers for these ideas. Grab a stack of sticky notes or note cards. Ask students to write one idea per note. Assemble them when students finish. Have students take notes as they walk around the room. Ask them to compile the information and make copies of their notes – and then use that information to make a quiz. (A quiz the students designed? They’re pretty agreeable about this because they know what’s on the quiz!)

When we study literature with a big brainstorm – activities for literature like these are easy to implement – and change if one heads south! Before a large test, students can brainstorm in groups and then present their findings to the class.

What works for you? Add ideas that work for your classes when brainstorming about literature.

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