Ready to Brainstorm? Activities for Literature

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.

Also, many of these brainstorming sessions can turn into a literary analysis paragraph.

Plus? You don’t need to make these literature activities any more than what they are: a time to discuss literature, a time to end confusion, and a time of relaxed conversations with students. Part of literature is enjoying it, and with these brainstorming ideas, you can cultivate a classroom where students appreciate and enjoy 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? Talking behind someone’s back? Dismissive looks? True engagement?) All of those small gestures have meaning. At the end of brainstorming, students should draw conclusions about characters.

One of my favorite ways to review characterization is to make several copies of graphic organizers, and allow student to choose which graphic organizer appeals to them. Doing so not only encourages student investment and ownership, but it also caters to different learning styles. At the end of the class period, allow students to display their graphic organizers and complete a gallery walk to see everyone’s expressions.

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.

Teaching literature with older students - engage them through connections and analysis. This is quick list of activities for literature with secondary students.

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 themes…

No one ever reads the same story twice. . . and that is because we all apply our life experiences to our reading. Students might glean similar themes, but they will all express those themes differently. The beauty of literature is that it holds different meanings for all people. Tell students that! As they brainstorm potential themes, encourage individual expression.

All components of a story shape and build themes, so brainstorm those concepts with students. Students might not realize the inner workings of a story, but once you reveal some of the secrets, they will be intrigued.

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.

I find that researching allusions connects students to the story who might not normally find a connection to literature. Sometimes, students who prefer nonfiction will become more engaged with literature if they explore factual information from allusions.

Brainstorm any literary term…

Allow students to choose what literary term stood out to them and ask them to free-write and color on note sheets. The activity will have greater meaning that way. Even if students’ brainstorm activities for literature don’t result in any profound discovery. . . that’s ok! 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.

When we study literature with a big brainstorm, activities for literature like these are easy to implement. Before a large test, students can brainstorm in groups and then present their findings to the class. If your class is struggling or not connecting to the literature, try one of these brainstorming methods.

Getting all the information in front of students can really turn around a class’ attitude about literature. What works for you? Add ideas that work for your classes when brainstorming about literature.

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