Areas of Expertise


Adolescent Literacy

Reading Strategies

Strategy: Brainstorming

Johns, J., VanLeirsburg, P., & Davis, S. (1994). Improving reading: A handbook of strategies. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.


Brainstorming can be used as an effective method to activate prior knowledge—what students already know about a topic. Brainstorming also helps set a purpose for reading that is more motivating than more traditional introductions. Not only does this strategy help students understand what they know about a topic, it also enables them to connect their prior knowledge to that of the rest of the group. Comprehension is much more difficult if prior knowledge is not activated before reading a passage.


  1. A topic for brainstorming that relates to the text is selected by the teacher.
  2. Students can work in small groups or as a whole class.
  3. It must be explained to the students that in Brainstorming all ideas are accepted.
  4. The teacher then presents the graphic organizer that will be used for the project. This can be a list, web, or flowchart. (Refer to information on Graphic Organizers).
  5. As students share their ideas, the responses are listed on the chalkboard or graphic organizer.
  6. The text is then read and a discussion ensues.


The following example has been suggested by Tamara Jetton.

If teaching a mathematics lesson on finding the sine, cosine, and tangent of an angle, the teacher asks the students to brainstorm what they know about triangles.

Example list:

Angles are measured in degrees
Area=1/2 base times height
Right triangles have 90-degree angles
All its angles add up to 180 degrees
Equilaterals have all angles and sides equal
Sides are also called legs
Hypotenuse is the side across from the 90-degree angles
Pythagorean Theorem
Named with letters of the angles
Right triangle
Right angle is a 90-degree angle

Students are then assigned the appropriate reading. The class then discusses the list of ideas to determine which are factual and which are not.


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