This large or small group activity encourages children to focus on a topic and contribute to the free flow of ideas. The teacher may begin by posing a question or a problem, or by introducing a topic. Students then express possible answers, relevant words and ideas. Contributions are accepted without criticism or judgement. Initially, some students may be reluctant to speak out in a group setting, but brainstorming is an open sharing activity which encourages all children to participate. By expressing ideas and listening to what others say, students adjust their previous knowledge or understanding, accommodate new information and increase their levels of awareness.
Teachers should emphasize active listening during these sessions. Students should be encouraged to listen carefully and politely to what their classmates contribute, tell the speakers or the teacher when they cannot hear others clearly and think of different suggestions or responses to share.
Ways to brainstorm with primary children
List of Ideas. The most basic form of brainstorming is to make a list, writing ideas on a tablet or whiteboard. Keep this list handy throughout the rest of the lesson to help spark ideas during the writing stage and extended activities. Brainstorm to create a list of topic ideas, or brainstorm to make a list of things your child can write about her chosen topic.
Story Web. Draw a simple story web with a circle in the middle and five or six lines extending out from the circle to resemble a spider web. In the center of the circle, write the topic. On each of the lines, list the information that supports the topic. Click here to see an example of a story web variation.
Story Idea Card File. This tool helps you and your child brainstorm for topics. Using index cards, glue a small magazine or catalog picture to one side and write the topic on the opposite side. Store cards in a small file box labeled “Story Ideas.” Start by making about 10 cards.
During the brainstorming session, take out the index cards. Look at the cards together and read their labels. Ask your student to choose four cards (topics) she might like to write about. If she wants to write about a topic that isn’t in the box, help her make a new index card by gluing a picture on the front and writing the label on the back. Finally, encourage your child to choose one card as the topic for her next story.
Graphic Organizer. Graphic organizers come in many varieties. When your child is writing a story, it will help her to stay on task if you create a simple graphic organizer to list ideas for the introduction, body, and closing of her story. Label the graphic organizer as follows, leaving spaces for writing as you brainstorm together: