Every year there is at least one student in my class who dreads writing. When writing time comes, he's the kiddo who spends the whole period just staring at the paper. Over time I've incorporated several brainstorming strategies for reluctant writers that have really helped transform how kiddos like this feel about writing.
Why you need brainstorming strategies for reluctant writers
Despite having numerous reluctant writers each year, by the time we leave for summer the vast majority of my students are eager and excited to write.
I feel like there are two reasons for this. First, I spend a good amount of time working on idea generation and helping the kids keep their own record of ideas.
The second is that I build in unstructured writing time where they can write about whatever they want in whatever format they prefer (even comics or graphic novels for my artistically inclined friends).
Together these two things have made a huge difference in my students' enthusiasm for writing.
1. Use a graphic organizer to make the task approachable.
One of my favorites is the ‘heart chart”. This is a great visual tool, and it lets the kids really focus in on the people, places, and things they love. I like to use our heart charts as a jumping off point for memory recall.
Here's an example of my heart chart from this year. From there I can generate lots of great ideas by thinking about the special memories I have with each item in my chart.
Got this version of the heart chart as a freebie quite some time ago. Can't remember where…but if it is yours let me know so I can give you credit for this awesomeness!
2. Allow students to brainstorm visually through sketches and drawings.
This year we designed the title page of our writing journals to be images and “fancy words” (as my kids would say) that show all the things we love and are special to us. They aren't full-fledged ideas at this point…just a visual list we can use later to start breaking into how to get to ideas.
After showing them mine, my students were so eager to play with different lettering and images. I was totally impressed with how much thought went into their ideas. I was even more impressed when I saw a few of my really hesitant writers going back later to add ideas and use it to start writing.
Here's an image of my title page before I added color and more design.
Generate a brainstorm list.
Have your students number their papers from 1-10. For each number give them a different prompt and a number of ideas they need to generate. They should be able to answer the prompt in 2-3 words.
For example, you might have them write their 3 favorite places or things for numbers 1-3. Numbers 4-5 might be wishes they have, and so on.
This list gives them 10 things they are experts on that they can always refer to. I also love to use a timer with this strategy and tell them we are going to make the 10 item list in under 10 minutes…not sure why time works in my favor on this one, but they eat it up.
These three quick ideas are my favorite ones for getting students to really think about what they might decide to write about. Even the most reluctant writers LOVE the visual design idea generation.
What do you use to help those students who don't like to write start brainstorming?