Some kids love to plunge right into a writing assignment and skip the prewriting stage of the writing process. It’s wonderful that they’re so enthusiastic and ready to write! But taking time for preliminary activities will curb frustration later in the process, especially when editing the flow of ideas.
Prewriting doesn’t have to be complicated or overly time-intensive. In fact, one of the best ways to prewrite is to brainstorm. Here are seven reasons to brainstorm as part of your homeschool writing lessons.
1. Brainstorming has been proven to work.
Educational research has shown time and time again that kids who use prewriting techniques like brainstorming perform better on assessments of writing. It works!
2. Brainstorming is never wrong.
When children brainstorm, they simply spill out all their ideas, not censoring themselves with thoughts of “This is dumb.” The point is to do a “brain dump” and let the ideas flow freely. You never know where one “dumb” idea may lead!
Spelling, grammar, and even handwriting shouldn’t factor into brainstorming. There’s no risk of getting the answer wrong because brainstorming is a record of all their thoughts on a topic.
3. Brainstorming is useful for all ages and abilities.
Use methods that fit the child.
- Both young children and teens need age-appropriate brainstorming tools.
- Reluctant writers usually require more brainstorming help than motivated writers.
- Many students respond well to questions and prompts that help them gain some direction before the writing begins.
- Kids of all ages benefit from guidance and discussion.
4. Brainstorming now gives you plenty to work with later.
Brainstorming is like grabbing an armful of craft supplies from the cabinet. First, you pull down yarn, glitter, glue, patterned papers, googly eyes, and craft sticks. You aren’t quite sure what you are going to make until your creation is nearly done. As you play with different crafty elements, you evaluate each one, sometimes deciding not to use it and other times heading back to the cabinet for more glitter or extra googly eyes!
The brainstorming process leads to an abundance of different ideas that students can then evaluate, organize, and write about. If your children like color, hand them three different highlighters or markers. Next, invite them to look for three big ideas and color code everything that fits into those categories accordingly. There may be some ideas that don’t fit into any category. That’s okay! Those ideas may work for an introduction or conclusion, or they may be omitted altogether.
5. Brainstorming helps you explore connections between ideas.
Consider brainstorming with sticky notes so children can easily make changes. As they determine which ideas will become main points and which ones would work better as supporting details, they can move, organize, remove, or replace the sticky notes. This is an especially genius tip if you have reluctant teens or a 9-year-old perfectionist!
6. Brainstorming can be tailored to the writing assignment.
There are so many creative and interesting ways to brainstorm and organize ideas!
Compare and Contrast
A Venn diagram is the perfect brainstorming tool for a compare-and-contrast writing assignment.
Narrative or Story
Try brainstorming using heuristic inquiry (who, what, when, where). Or, use a graphic organizer to sequence events or plan a beginning, middle, and end.
Essay or Report
A mind map (sometimes called a word map) is a great way to let ideas unfold.
Brainstorm for a descriptive writing assignment by asking questions that stimulate the senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.
- What does the object feel like? Is it heavy or light? Rough or smooth?
- What does the person look like? How would you describe her posture? Does she slump, slouch, or sprawl?
- What does the food taste like? Is it creamy or icy? Spicy or sweet?
- What sounds do you hear at the location? Thundering waterfalls? Twittering birds? Honking horns?
7. Brainstorming can be done orally or in writing.
If your child is pencil phobic, no worries. Brainstorming can be done verbally. Merely talking about a writing prompt can prime the creativity pump and get a child excited about a topic so that when the pencils do need to be applied to paper, the process is less intimidating. When you dialogue back and forth with your child about a writing prompt, asking probing questions, you provide a model of how to brainstorm and generate ideas. In time, your child will internalize this thinking process and do it solo.
For your next homeschool writing assignment, don’t skip the brainstorming! It’s a helpful — even fun — part of the writing process for both gifted and reluctant writers alike.