Brainstorming Strategies – Teaching Writing Skills

In the first stage of the composing process, students must generate vocabulary and ideas on the topic of the activity or lesson. This is not only a writing skills strategy; it is what is called building schema: mental pictures of concepts -the terms we need to be able to think, talk about and write on a subject.

In our native language, we consciously and subconsciously accumulate a huge storage bank of topics which have gone into long-term memory and bring them to use subconsciously when we communicate.

When we try to function in a second language, we also need these ‘banks’ of concepts to be able to produce our second language with any degree of fluency.

Brainstorming Techniques – Teaching Writing Skills

We need to first show or model for our students with different techniques. On the board we can elicit ideas from them and draw mind-maps, word- webs, lists or other types of graphic organizers according to their level and what we want them to produce.

“Freewriting” for intermediate levels can be an excellent technique for building fluency and confidence in writing. We set a time limit, give them meaningful question prompts and tell them to just write on the topic, focus on the questions, but write anything that comes to mind.

There are no wrong answers, they do not need to look up words and should just write without stopping. Model this on the board, show them it will be messy, they will make mistakes, but it doesn’t matter.

They have to think about the topic, get ideas, generate vocabulary and find a focus for the next stage of writing. Get them to give you a topic and model the process.

For Any Level Begin with a HAIKU – Teaching Writing Skills

Take a simple picture or cartoon, write categories or questions on the board and elicit any terms they could use in their writing to do with: colour, taste, texture, temperature.

It could be two different types of food; for example, a carrot and ice cream. You could also show a picture of fast food they all know such as KFC and ask them to call out or write down any words that come to mind.

Teaching Writing Skills with a Haiku

A haiku has a pattern of :

5 syllables

7 syllables

5 syllables

Now show or review with them how to count syllables:   chi cken = 2      nug gets = 2

They must stick to the syllable pattern and they cannot use KFC in the haiku. It is through reading the haiku that we know they are talking about KFC.

After helping them with syllable counting and checking their work, publish their work by doing a gallery walk and trying to guess what each student’s haiku is about.


coleslaw beans and fries

crispy drumstick spicy wings

finger licking good

Related reading:

Teaching Writing: Peer Editing

Teaching Writing Skills: How Did You Learn to Write?

Writing Skills – Exam Preparation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *