School-Based Intervention Idea from


Planning: Brainstorm to Break the ‘Idea’ Logjam  (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, n.d./ 28 December 2006)

Brainstorming is a time-tested method that can help students to generate motivating topics for writing assignments and uncover new ideas to expand and improve their compositions.

Here are four brainstorming strategies to teach to students: FREEWRITING: The student sets a time limit (e.g., 15 minutes) or length limit (e.g., one hand-written page) and spontaneously writes until the limit is reached. The writer does not judge the writing but simply writes as rapidly as possible, capturing any thought that comes to mind on the topic. Later, the student reviews the freewriting to pick out any ideas, terms, or phrasing that might be incorporated into the writing assignment. LISTING: The student selects a topic based on an idea or key term related to the writing assignment. The writer then rapidly brainstorms a list of any items that might possibly relate to the topic. Finally, the writer reviews the list to select items that might be useful in the assigned composition or trigger additional writing ideas. SIMILES: The student selects a series of key terms or concepts linked to the writing assignment. The student brainstorms, using the framework of a simile: ” _1_ is like _2_.” The student plugs a key term into the first blank and then generates as many similes as possible (e.g., “A SHIP is like a CITY ON THE SEA.”). REFERENCES: The student jots down key ideas or terms from the writing assignment. He or she then browses through various reference works (dictionaries, encyclopedias, specialized reference works on specific subjects) looking randomly for entries that trigger useful ideas. (Writers might try a variation of this strategy by typing assignment-related search terms into GOOGLE or another online search engine.)


The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (n.d.). Brainstorming. Retrieved December 28, 2006, from

Copyright ©2017 Jim Wright