tagline
WETA

Boosting Student Effort Using Brainstorming Activities

By: Landmark Outreach Staff

The Landmark School Outreach Program's mission is to empower students with language-based learning disabilities by offering their teachers an exemplary program of applied research and professional development.

View all Landmark resources >

Educators can inspire student effort by making sure they are "ready to learn." In order to achieve this goal, we need to help students define a clear purpose for each activity, give specific directions, provide references (such as agendas or steps for a process), and offer cues to begin or transition to the next step. Furthermore, requiring students to brainstorm their ideas on paper (either individually or with a group), discuss thoughts with a partner, or create visuals to describe specific concepts enhances learning and spurs effort by providing options that meet different learning needs. As we plan learning activities, we can focus not only on the content, but also on how to teach it by incorporating oral, visual, and kinesthetic tasks within the context of individual and group work. These varied activities help students engage more, put forth more effort, and be more successful.

In addition, encouraging students to reflect on and share what types of activities most engage their attention and effort increases their self-awareness about their learning styles. Do they feel more empowered by hands-on work, oral discussions, or visual presentations? Timed versus open-ended tasks? Individual, partner, or group work? Encouraging students to be conscious of what they feel affects their effort and their success is an important step toward helping them work through difficult tasks. Communicating with students about their reflections also helps us plan tasks that better address their needs. Thisresourceoffers a variety of methods for brainstorming and a student self-assessment tool to help teacher maximize the output of effort during academic tasks.

Brainstorming and Effort

Brainstorming can enhance student effort by helping them be “ready to learn.” Brainstorming does not just apply to the writing process. Instead, it can be used to think through any process, come up with potential answers for a question, or determine multiple ways to go about a task. Furthermore, brainstorming can be done using many different methods. The following are some suggestions for getting students prepared to learn, mixing up activities, and approaching different tasks, all with the idea of creating situations in which students are able to display the effort they put into an assignment.

Ideas for Brainstorming Content

  • Writing: Brainstorming is the first step in the writing process as it helps students gather information and begin to formulate ideas. They can make lists, webs, or graphic organizers, or can share information and ideas aloud with a partner before writing them down. In each of these situations, students generate information, questions, and ideas related to their topic. Brainstorming enables students to progress more successfully through the next steps of the writing process.
  • Problem Solving: Brainstorming is also a good first step in the problem solving process. Before beginning a mathematical problem, students can brainstorm strategies or estimate solutions. Are there any formulas that might be helpful? Are there any similar problems it might relate to? Are there processes that can be referenced in notes or somewhere in the classroom? What type of answer are they looking for? Brainstorming answers to these questions before trying to solve the problem opens up their thinking, and increases their chances of success.
  • Experimenting: A major step in research is formulating a question or hypothesis. Prior to that, students can brainstorm what they know from their past research, learning, and experience. They can also generate multiple questions and hypotheses about various outcomes under various conditions. When they do select their hypothesis and perform the experiment, they will be better able to explain their choices. This process encourages ownership of their ideas and, therefore, enhances effort.

Types of Brainstorming Tasks

  • Written Format: Semantic maps, like word webs and Venn diagrams, help students generate ideas in a written format. At the same time, the visual component of these maps can help students see connections and not only generate connecting ideas, but also better organize these ideas.
  • Drawing pictures or concepts: Similarly, drawing pictures or icons of one’s ideas can be a way that better addresses some students’ strengths and allows them to demonstrate skills that accurately portray the effort put into the task. These sketches can be fairly simple – or more elaborate – depending on the assignment.
  • Orally with a partner: Students can sometimes get “stuck” when trying to brainstorm concepts. Thus, a way to mix up this task is to have them brainstorm with a partner. Students can talk through their ideas, ask each other questions, and even note how they might perceive their topic differently based on their own experiences.
  • Building on others’ ideas: One way to brainstorm in groups is to have each person take a sticky note pad and a marker and begin to jot down ideas. They can then tack them to a board or a wall. As each student says their idea out loud, others can expand that idea or use it as a jumping off point to launch a new set of ideas. This version of brainstorming thus addresses written, oral, and kinesthetic components.

How Does This Concept Connect To Landmark's Teaching Principles™?

Helping students brainstorm through written activities, pictures, oral discussions, and physically adding sticky notes to a board addresses this idea of a variety of multi-sensory approaches to the task. Furthermore, using these differing modalities allows a diverse group of students the opportunity to portray their effort in a manner in which they can be successful. For the full text of the Landmark Teaching Principles™, including "Use Multisensory Approaches,"click here.

Free Landmark Teaching Strategies

For more information on how to help students assess their effort levels, please see the attached strategy:

Landmark Outreach Staff (2017)