Collaborative Essay Brainstorming Activities for Secondary ELA: 3 Essay Brainstorming Strategies

Collaborative Essay Brainstorming Strategies for Secondary Students

Begin your next essay with some collaborative essay brainstorming strategies that will get your students engaged, motivated, and ready to write.

Brainstorming is an important part of the writing process. Before I assign a formal essay to my students, I like to take them through some collaborative brainstorming strategies to help prepare them for the task. I particularly love collaborative brainstorming activities because they provide students with an opportunity to work together, discuss their thoughts, and explore new perspectives. An added bonus is that struggling and less proficient students will benefit from listening to their peers.

Here are some collaborative essay brainstorming strategies to use in the classroom

Essay Brainstorming: Poster Project

Group students into small groups of 3-5 students and supply each group with markers and a piece of large, tabloid-sized white paper. Assign each group a different topic for the essay, and have them create a poster that represents that topic. The poster should include words, phrases, and key points for each group’s assigned topic, as well as images and other visual representations. If applicable, encourage students to write quotes from the text on the poster.

After student groups complete their posters, have each group present their poster to the class. Display some of the posters on the walls as additional support. Throughout the essay writing process, students can refer back to these posters for additional ideas, guidance, and support.

Essay Brainstorming: Post-It Parade Collaborative Essay Brainstorming Strategies for Secondary Students

Place students in pairs or small groups. Provide each student pair or student group with 2-3 post-it notes for each main essay topic. It is especially beneficial if you give each student group different colors of post-it notes so that you can color code the ideas. Each essay topic will have its own designated color. If you are assigning a five-paragraph essay with three main points –each one serving as a body paragraph, provide each student pair or group with 6-9 post-it notes.  After discussing the essay topic with your students, ask each student group to write down an example, explanation, or quote on each post-it note that supports the topic. There is a lot of flexibility here to have students brainstorm different ideas with this activity.

After providing students with enough time to brainstorm in their pairs or groups, call on one person from each group to share their ideas aloud. After all of the groups share their responses, have students place their post-it notes on coordinating chart paper or on the whiteboard. Keep the post-it notes up on display for the entire essay writing process. This will provide your students with additional information that might be beneficial for the essay.

Essay Brainstorming: Gallery Walk

Collaborative Essay Brainstorming Strategies for Secondary StudentsDivide students into small groups and assign a designated color marker for each group. Prepare for the gallery walk by placing chart paper or poster board on the walls. You may also designate a large portion of your whiteboard for student answers if you have enough colors of dry erase markers. Each piece of chart paper or poster board will be a different essay topic. Provide student groups with time to brainstorm each topic, and then have students rotate around the room at each station/piece of chart paper. While students are in their designated stations, they should be using their designated color markers to write their ideas on the paper. Encourage student groups to always add new information to the paper; this task will increase in difficulty as you progress throughout the stations. Keep the visuals up on the walls during the essay writing process.

Essay Brainstorming: Brainstorming StationsCollaborative Essay Brainstorming Strategies for Secondary Students

Set-up essay brainstorming sessions throughout the room and divide your students equally into the number of stations you’ve created. Each station should be a different essay topic or task. Prepare each essay brainstorming station with a particular task and graphic organizer. For example, one station may require students to think of as many examples as they can to support a topic sentence, and another station might require students to read closely to find a supporting quote. Have each student rotate throughout the brainstorming stations. Students should spend equal time at each station. At the end of the class, come together and discuss what students learned and brainstorm.

Essay Writing Teaching Unit

Take your essay instruction to the next level with this essay writing teaching unit. With instruction that breaks down the essay writing process paragraph-by-paragraph, this unit will be your one-stop shop for all essay writing instruction!

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  • These are great ideas and I especially like your style of explaining each activity. Thanks so much!

  • Hi! I will have a substitute in my writing class for 3 weeks this October.
    I have 9 students, grades 8-10.

    How would you suggest I utilize these activities to create a 3-week writing project for substitutes to present to the class?

    I want to write up a simple 3-week lesson plan for my subs using your Collaboration Ideas!!

    Each class is 1-1/2 hours, 1x/week, totalling 4-1/2 hours class time, and about 5 hours of homework expected during that timeframe.

    Thank you so much! I'm panicking!
    Kristen Stocking

    • Hello. I apologize for just now seeing this. I think there isn't enough content here to cover three weeks of lessons, but this can easily take about three days if you stretch it out.


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