Fast Brainstorming Activities for High School

Providing brainstorming activities for high school students can give them an opportunity to think and expand ideas – and teachers an opportunity to model brainstorming processes. 

Ask any high school ELA teacher what her writing lesson plans address, and you’ll get similar responses:

strong sentences , convincing arguments, organization, grammatically correct, interesting, and on.

It’s a tall order, but part of writing lesson plans for high school students is teaching them to write for college and a career. Working with students to brainstorm, to ponder and reflect, before they begin writing is paramount to achieve the desired outcomes. Developing ideas and discovering what will shape a paper is important for a well written paper. Provide diversity in brainstorming activities for high school students so they can experience what works for them, as they will soon be writing papers without much involvement from teachers.

Here are easily adaptable brainstorming activities for student writing.

Try a few of these brainstorming activities with students before they begin writing. With brainstorming, nothing is wrong, and students can choose how they gather ideas! #WritingLessons #HighSchoolELA

1. Grab the sticky notes.

Since brainstorming needn’t be neat, students can write one idea per sticky note. Once students accumulate a fair amount, they can arrange them into different paragraphs. The visual can be reorganized as students form paragraphs.

After organizing, hand students different colored sticky notes. These can represent transitions between paragraphs. Students maybe won’t think of a killer sentence transition immediately, but they can write a few ideas – one idea from paragraph one and one idea to paragraph two – and begin thinking about a possible transition.

Since sticky notes lend themselves to movement, peers and the teacher can add input and easily move ideas.

2. Use graphic organizers.

Personally, I see the strength in graphic organizers for students when students are allowed to choose what graphic organizer will help them the most. Some students might like a web while others prefer listing. Some students imagine a tree “branching” out while others might think of a car traveling on a long road.

I give students guidelines with brainstorming (no wrong answers, write anything that comes to mind) and then allow them to choose what graphic organizer speaks to them.

3. Encourage collaboration.

Ask students to write their topic and name on paper. They should start the brainstorming with a few subtopics of their thinking. (This works especially well for argumentative brainstorming.) Then, pass papers to other students for them to add ideas. A benefit of multiple viewpoints? The opposing viewpoint ideas will be plentiful.

You can also complete a similar activity with posters. Hang posters (or divide your whiteboard) and label them with topics. Divide students among the sections and set a timer for two minutes. Have students write on that topic for two minutes and then switch to the next poster when the timer rings.

4. Highlighters: keep track of “wrong.”

First, nothing is wrong when you brainstorm. The action is simply a process of creating ideas. As you progress with students, hand out highlighters and ask students to consider what does not belong. Does a certain topic seem out of place? Is a topic the complete opposite of what they will not be arguing?

If so, those highlighted ideas can become a counterargument. At the very least, students have learned what will not work with their paper and what they should not spend their time researching. Knowing what you shouldn’t research or write about is valuable knowledge; point that out to students. Doing so will drive home the point that brainstorming has value.

High school students will soon be at college or a job… and responsible for producing written documents in some format. Fast brainstorming activities for high school students empowers them to create meaningful writing – organized writing. Brainstorming is vital to well written papers. Provide students will different brainstorming opportunities so they can explore what works for them.

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