Brainstorming Solutions (Free Handouts)

New(ish) teacher Kelli was wondering this week how to help her middle schoolers slow down and gather their thoughts before writing. Our email conversation led me to build this free set of tools that’ll hopefully help all English teachers.

Click here for the four brainstorming organizers with completed samples/models including bubble cluster, spider diagram, formal outline, and columns. The download includes not only blank handouts for you to use with your students, but also the four completed organizers that I used in the video that you could use as models. All of the pages can be printed as handouts or projected for use on a white board.

Want more help with writing instruction, including high-interest lessons and exemplar student sample essays? Check out my materials for the following:
• Personal narrative writing
Argument writing
• Blog-based approach to research writing

Teach on, everyone!

8 thoughts on “Brainstorming Solutions (Free Handouts)

  1. First, I need to tell you: Great mug! 🙂
    Thank you for spelling out how to use each graphic organizer. Even though I am a veteran teacher, I appreciate the refresher and will tweak my approach to prewriting. Your video can even work as a great think aloud to show students. I wonder how many of them actually were taught metacognitive strategies like the process of brainstorming.

  2. Thanks, Michelle! You know I’m dying for Season 2 to find Will. (Stranger Things, for those out of the loop.) As for metacognition, I think we do sometimes expect kids to know how to do things that come so naturally to us and it’s good to break down the skills for them. The same holds for peer editing – without modeling, that’s just a mess in my classroom. Thanks for watching and commenting! Love that. 🙂

  3. hi! do you let your students use these brainstorming handouts for crazy essay week or in-class essays? if not, what do you use these for? thanks!

  4. Oh, yes, Kelsi, my kids are welcome to use any of the four options no matter what type of essay they’re writing. They just scratch ’em out and get going. Thanks for watching!

  5. On the arugmentative ones, do you have the students do research to find specific facts before writing on the organizer, or do they have to get your approval on the type of detail before starting the researching process? For example, in your fantasy football one, would a student doing that write down that workers waste a lot of time at work playing it, get your approval on the topic/detail, and then find a more specific fact through research, or are the processes of thinking of ideas/researching to find support more closely connected?

  6. Hey Julie,
    Great question! You could successfully do this either way, depending on your kids. In my world, students have to show me their research before getting the “green light” on the organizer round and being allowed to start writing their first drafts. When we work on argument writing, I suggest that students choose an interesting topic (I have a list of ideas but also welcome their unique topics) and do some preliminary research in support of their stance. If they can’t find any support, then they’ll need to switch topics, which happens occasionally. The details of their data/facts will be organized before they show me their work. Hope this helps! 🙂

  7. Hi, Laura

    I would love for some insight on how to teach writing to extremely low level/at risk students. Because they are high school students, they need to feel treated like adults, even though their writing is closer to a fifth grade level.

  8. Duly noted, Mary! I’ll try to fold more practical writing advice for your kids into some upcoming videos. I’m on it!
    🙂 Laura

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