People, Places, and Things: Ways of Brainstorming Ideas for Writing

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SWBAT brainstorm a list of ideas for writing a personal narrative using memories shared with people, places, or things in their life.

Big Idea

Students learn ways to collect ideas for writing personal narratives.


5 minutes

Sometimes writers have an idea that they know they want to write about and then they sit down and do that. But many times, writers are not sure what they want to write about so they have do something called brainstorming to collect ideas that they may later choose to write about.

In this lesson, I'm going to teach them three strategies that the students may use to collect ideas. 

Main Activity: People

15 minutes

I have a list on a board that shows the first strategy: thinking about a person that you've had many experiences with and then writing down the experiences you can write a story about.

I tell them that one way we can remember events to write about is by first thinking of important people in our lives that we have spent time with. It might be someone that we live with like our sibling or our parents. It might be people that we visit often like our neighbor or our grandparents. 

I give them an example that I've written about: my husband

I tell them that I've shared many experiences with him so I write his name down on a piece of paper. Underneath his name, I write a bulleted list of experiences I've had with him. 

- lemonade in vietnam

- fourth of july on top of gas works park hill


I explain that I could later choose any of those events to write about.

I ask them to try to practice that brainstorming strategy now. Think of a person and write their name down. Underneath their name, students should write down phases that represent the experiences they have had with that person.

As students are working on writing down ideas, I walk around and check in on students, especially those that seem to be having a hard time thinking of ideas.

Main Activity: Places

15 minutes

At this point, I explain to them that another strategy is to think about places they have been and experiences they have had at those places.

I know that many students are planning on attending the state fair so I use that as an example. I give students the example of going to the fair and all the many things that has happened there. I tell them to first I write down the name of the place and then list experiences I've had.

For example:

State Fair:

- selecting the pig that won at the pig race

- eating fried butter

- going on a roller coaster ride

I then explain that I could pick any of these to write about.

I ask them to try to practice that brainstorming strategy now. Think of a place and write the name down. Underneath the name, students should write down phases that represent the experiences they have had at that place.

Main Activity: Things

15 minutes

Finally, I give students one more strategy to try. I tell them that sometimes we can think about things in our life that is important and write down experiences we've had with that thing.

The example I give is:

teddy bear

- when I was sad because my friend moved away

- when my dog chewed off his ear

- when I lost it

I tell the students that not all stories are happy. Some of the best are ones with strong emotions that are not joyful or happy.

Finally, I ask students to try this last strategy in the same way they did the others. Thinking about things is a harder strategy to use but for some students, they can at least think of a few. I try to be ready to give examples such as:

- collected items: rocks, dolls, origami paper, action figures

- toys the play with a lot

- items they share with other people: bed, bikes, clothing

- items that were given to them by someone special or at a special event

Then I ask students to write about events related to the item.


5 minutes

Once students have tried all three strategies, I invite students to share with a partner or out loud in class. I encourage students to add or revise their list if they hear anything that inspires them.

I might also ask students to indicate with a thumbs up, which strategy was most helpful. This is a way for students to reflect on the process and identify which method they will use in the future when they are brainstorming for a different writing piece.