Monday, March 5, 2018

When Lightning Strikes

I provide interactive videoconferences for schools all over the country.  My programs are listed and available to request on the web site for the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC).  I do a variety of programs; one of my favorites is teaching a class of students how to brainstorm.   

First I explain that in my session-and in brainstorming-there are no wrong answers.  I assure them that when they brainstorm for their own ideas it is quick, painless and best of all, no one will see their ideas or grade their brainstorming session.  It is only for them and will help THEM.  And I really mean it.  

Brainstorming is a prewriting skill that with minimal effort produces maximum results.

Once I explain how easy brainstorming is to do, I tell them why brainstorming helps.  It is simple:  the point of brainstorming is to come up with a unique angle for your research paper (or book or article in the case of writers.) 

In these sessions I model brainstorming and lead them along with me.  The way I teach brainstorming is to tell them to jot down things you know about the topic AND things you don’t know—in the form of questions.  You don’t have to know the answers to the questions.  Sometimes it is the questions from a brainstorming session that gives you the angle of your research paper.

The key is to just let thoughts about the topic develop naturally and let one thought go to the next.  The first few thoughts on any topics are usually about the basic things that everyone knows.   The “good stuff” and by that I mean unique ideas- are never those first few ideas.  The best ideas are the fifth or sixth or later ideas that you consider once you think a little longer about the topic. 

As my session continues, I get them to participate in on the spot brainstorming.  Soon they start giving suggestions.  I remind them there are no wrong answers or silly answers-it is all just loose thoughts.  No pressure. 

Once they get the hang of that, we move on.  We brainstorm again and this time I ask them to give me some ideas on possible angles for a research paper.  They can do it.

In less than an hour, many of these students seem to really grasp the benefits of brainstorming.   The feedback I get from teachers for the session make me think that for some of these students, they have a good grasp on a brainstorming as a useful tool in their prewriting toolbox. 

Carla Killough McClafferty


Carmela Martino said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, Carla. Sounds like a great class!

April Halprin Wayland said...

May I take your class, please?