Brainstorming and Listing Exercise Teacher Instructions
Begin by "thinking out loud" or brainstorming about
possible experiences you have had that might work as topics for the writing assignment. If the topic is "literacy," you might ask questions such as, "What sorts of experiences have you had with language that taught
you something about the nature of language, or how language works?"
Write these possible topics on the board (or on an overhead).
A brainstorming session might produce topics such as regional
dialects you've heard or spoken; becoming part of a new community, i.e.
marrying into a family of sports fanatics; traveling to a foreign country; learning
how to communicate with your pet; learning the jargon of the composition
Then, select two or three of the topic ideas. Generate a list on the board or
overhead sheet of all the different subtopics you can think of that are
connected to those ideas. List out some of the common expressions of the
dialects you know, for example. Or do a comparison between dialects.
What was it that bothered you about being around all the sports talk?
After you've generated your lists, ask your students to help you find
possible connections between the subtopics. Perhaps you notice that the
two dialects are really similar in some way, i.e. that they both use jargon that
seems to reflect the ethnicity of the original settlers of the area. Or maybe,
the speed of speech in each region seems to match the pace of life there.
This part of the exercise should be messy, because you are still brainstorming,
recording random thoughts.
Then, ask your students which of the topics you've listed seems like it will
provide enough material for a three-page paper. Cross out those topics
they think won't work.
Then, have students generate their own lists using this same process. After they
have eliminated topics that won't give them enough material, have them pick
two of the best topics left and start freewriting. As they freewrite, one of the
topics will usually emerge as more interesting to them and more relevant to
the idea of literacy.