Nudging Students to Think of Ideas

There are mornings when I ask my daughters what they want to do, and they really have no idea. “I don’t know,” is the answer I hear—over and over. Without any suggestions, many of us struggle to plan our day. Sometimes, suggestions are just what we need to come up with some ideas: an outdoor adventure, some sort of athletic endeavor, a shopping excursion– any of those ideas has the potential to mobilize my family masses.

Writing, regardless of the genre, can lead to similar struggles. So often we think of struggling writers and their issues with conventions and/or spelling. We may even think to address structure, development, and productivity, Those all matter– but before writers can even begin to struggle with any of those issues, writers have to think about topics, ideas, and subjects. Therefore some of my favorite pages in my chartbook are the ones that involve generating ideas across the three different genres.

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Of the three genres, I find that students–especially students who struggle with writing–have the most trouble thinking of narrative topics. Therefore, this chart is really helpful. While I have other charts I’ve made that are similar to this one, I really like the interaction that happens between me and the students when I use this page because we can write on the sticky notes right then and there. I just have to remember to keep replacing the notes because students really do use them. Once they have their ideas written down, those notes can go right onto a piece of paper. Sometimes I staple it so that it can’t fall off.

My charts for information and opinion writing are similar; there are just some subtle differences. Mostly, these tools help to remind students that they really do know about a lot of different subjects, and they really do have opinions about many different topics. Sometimes, we all just need the jump start.

The fact that these charts have an interactive element is a key part of their usefulness because they end of being not only an idea-generating tool, but also an accountability tool. The sticky notes allow me to say, “Get that down, right here, right now!” A lot of times that’s what these students need in order to get going.

Truth: A lot of the times, it’s what I need, too!

10 thoughts on “Nudging Students to Think of Ideas

  1. Love your interactive pages! I’ve noticed the struggle with narrative and wondered if “the feeling or ordinariness of life” slows so many students down. “That’s not important enough.” type belief. Still on the wondering list, but this will push them to write something! THANKS!


  2. Thanks, Melanie! I’ve got one more week before the students arrive and I’m going to take the time to make at least one chart so it’s visible when they come in. I know I teach high school, but I want my students to see how much we value reading and writing and collaboration from the get go!

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  3. Every time I read your ideas, I think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” They seem so simple and practical. Thanks for sharing these today as I get my students started with Slice of Life writing.

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