Jot Thoughts


In this activity students will jot down responses to a teacher prompt in a specified period of time. The purpose of this activity is to brainstorm ideas, share prior knowledge, or review content. This activity can work across content areas and grade levels.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Synthesizing
Building Background, Making Meaning

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Building Background
  • Launching Into New Content
  • Reflection
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline


Gather small scraps of paper or Post-it notes. Write prompts (questions or statements).

Activity Steps 
  1. Introduce Jot Thoughts.

    A way to introduce Jot Thoughts is to ask students the difference between jotting something down and writing something down. Are they the same or are they different?

  2. Model sample.

    The model can be related to the prompt or something outside of the content that is particularly engaging for students. For example, in a health class the prompt could be, “In 30 seconds, write down as many vegetables as you can think of on different Post-it notes.” After students write down their vegetables, in groups they analyze all of the different Post-it notes. They can identify any foods that are not vegetables. They can sort or group vegetables together in categories. Using Post-it notes or scraps of paper instead of creating a long list on paper is useful for students to create groups.

  3. Read prompt #1

    The teacher reads the prompt and sets the time limit. The time limit can vary depending on the prompt. If using Jot Thoughts for brainstorming, 30-60 seconds is appropriate. If using Jot Thoughts with a prompt that requires higher-level thinking, 2-3 minutes may be more appropriate.

  4. Jot down answers.

    This activity works best when students work in groups. They write their answers on Post-it notes and stick them to the desk or table.

  5. Analyze answers.

    Depending on the specific focus (brainstorm, prior knowledge, review) each group of students will analyze their Post-it notes. This could be with a general question like “Looking at all of your Post-it notes, what do you notice?” It could also be more specific, such as asking students to sort the notes into categories.

  6. Share out.

    Each group gets 30 seconds to share something with the whole class regarding what they noticed about their Post-it notes. Groups could share what they noticed about their Post-it notes, for example, any patterns or groupings, or a particularly interesting answer to the prompt.

  7. Repeat.

    Repeat this process with different teacher prompts. The number of prompts will vary depending on allotted time and specific content.

  8. Reflect.

    Students can reflect individually or as a group, orally or in writing. · Why do you think this activity has time limits? · What did you notice about working in groups during the analysis portion? · How does jotting notes help you better understand a topic? · When might you stop and jot?

Downloadable Resources 
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