When you brainstorm with your 9- to 12-year-old kids, it doesn’t have to be a boring, black-and-white process. After all, brainstorming is about unleashing creativity.
In your early days of homeschooling, you probably encouraged your small children to share their thoughts openly, without fear of criticism. Brainstorming in the upper elementary years should be no different!
Unlike the editing stage of writing, brainstorming is a creative—not critical—process. When a businessman coined the term “brainstorming” over seventy years ago, he wanted to describe a process of coming up with lots of ideas, no matter how silly or wild they seemed. More ideas are always good, he thought, because ideas spark more ideas!
In 4th through 7th grade, children become more comfortable with words every day. As they start to understand the building blocks of sentences, paragraphs, and essays, they also take notes and make rough drafts.
When you help them feel confident in their abilities to brainstorm, you’ll head off this major stumbling block to writing before it ever becomes a problem.
Children are naturally drawn to color. From math manipulatives to poetry, use of color helps memory and inspires creativity. Today, let’s explore three ways to creatively brainstorm with kids using loads of color!
Brainstorm with Kids using Colorful Flash Cards
Perhaps you’ve instructed your son to write a how-to paragraph, such as “How to Make Pancakes.” The writing process should begin with a brainstorming session so he can build a list of steps. Why not spark creativity by using brightly colored flashcards instead of white paper?
- Spread the multicolored cards over the writing workspace.
- Ask your child to start writing down different steps of the pancake-making process, one step for each card. Encourage him to write down a step as soon as he thinks of it, whether not he happens to write it in order.
- When most of the cards are filled, he can rearrange them on the tabletop until he has built a two-dimensional tower of flashcards, from the first floor (“step one”) to the roof (“final step”).
Remember, this step of the writing process is about ideas and, eventually, organization. While your child should write down plenty of words, there’s no pressure to write complete sentences.
Brainstorm with Kids Using Colorful Dry Erase Markers
When you ask your daughter to write a descriptive paragraph, she needs a flexible yet structured way to write down her early thoughts and ideas. That’s why I like brainstorming with mindmaps (or “idea clouds”). Why not let her color-code her ideas with a whiteboard and dry erase markers?
- With a black marker, draw a bubble in the center of the white board, and write the main topic inside (such as “My Bedroom”).
- Then draw several lines, like spokes on a wheel, from the main circle to secondary circles. Let your child help you choose subtopics to write inside each new circle (such as “furniture,” “toys,” and “pictures on the wall”).
- Now, set your daughter free to brainstorm with new lines and circles! Let her use her favorite colored markers for different parts of speech, perhaps a red marker for nouns and a blue marker for adjectives. This will reinforce lessons on parts of speech, while allowing her to create a colorful map of her thoughts.
Here’s another idea that helps kids practice with parts of speech. Invite them to create 10 brightly colored, lapbook-style grammar guides using Fold-N-Go Grammar! Each grammar guide teaches a different part of speech. Depending on the level you choose, the short activities will help upper-elementary students practice with nouns, verbs, adjectives, synonyms/antonyms, dialogue, and more. The best part? Your kids will be able to apply what they’ve learned to their writing!
Brainstorm with Kids Using Colorful Highlighters
In upper-elementary years, children are often challenged to prepare a written response to a book they’ve read. The assignment may be a specific character study or simply a summary of the book. Start with inexpensive paperbacks (perhaps from a used bookstore). After reading the book, the kids can begin the brainstorming process with colorful highlighters.
Decide on different colors for three or four main topics or themes.
- For a summary, topics might be the main character’s childhood, adventures, family, and profession.
- For a character study, themes might include childhood struggles, significant events, and obstacles they overcame.
Before students write their first draft, have them go through the book and highlight key phrases with the appropriate color. (For added visual impact, encourage them to use colored sticky notes to mark highlighted pages so they can easily find the pages later.)
This makes it easy for children to outline the summary with all sorts of informative details from the book, instead of relying on memory.
WriteShop Junior Books E and F teach upper-elementary children how to write book summaries and how to respond to literature. Each lesson includes a graphic organizer to help them plan their summary or book report.
As your kids get older, they probably won’t need more than a pen and paper to plan writing assignments. Graphic organizers (or a few sheets of lined or blank paper for free-listing, mind-mapping, and re-listing) should do the trick! But while they’re young and bursting with energy, brainstorm with kids by letting them express their ideas in color.