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Brainstorming and Listing Exercise Student Instructions

Now that we've brainstormed and listed some possible topics for a Literacy Essay I might write based on my personal experiences, spend some time doing the same for possible topics for YOUR Literacy Essay.

First, brainstorm randomly about possible topics for the essay.

Then, pick two or three possible topics and list as many subtopics for these as you can think of.

After finishing your list, draw lines, make arrows, stars, whatever works for you, to indicate connections between different subtopics.

Then, cross out any topics you think won't generate enough information for a three-page paper.

Select two of the remaining topics and freewrite on each of them for five minutes.


Brainstorming is an informal way of generating topics to write about, or points to make about your topic. It can be done at any point along the writing process. You can brainstorm a whole paper or just a conclusion or an example. The important point about brainstorming is that there should be no pressure to be "brilliant." You should simply open your mind to whatever pops into it. Think of it as a kind of free association. When I say "literacy," what pops into your mind? Much of what you will come up with will not be useful, but that's okay. Part of brainstorming will involve a selection process.

Listing is a brainstorming technique many people find useful. It means doing just what its name suggests -- listing possible topics and then sublists of things you could say about each topic. A list could consist of the main topic of regional dialects and then sublists would be regional dialects you know or have experienced. Additional sublists might be particular words of each of those dialects, things you have noticed about those dialects (i.e. New Yorkers speak fast), what you think those dialects sound like, etc.