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ABC Brainstorming


This activity helps students to generate connections, ideas, and reactions related to key ideas of a text or a unit of study.  Students brainstorm a word or idea that begins with each letter of the alphabet and is related to a key topic or text. This activity is useful at the beginning of a book or a unit to activate background knowledge, and can be used at any point during a unit to encourage broader and richer thought about a topic.  It is also an effective review activity.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Synthesizing
Assessing Prior Knowledge, Building Background, Memory Development

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Launching Into New Content
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Numeracy
  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Academic Vocabulary
  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline


  • Select the general topic or text.
  • Prepare a template organized with the 26 letters of the alphabet, and a spot next to each letter where students can record ideas.    
  • If this is the first time using the activity, prepare a completed model ABC brainstorming template about a different topic.  Write the general topic at the top of the page, and then write a word, phrase, or sentence beginning with each letter related to the topic.
Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher provides a basic introduction to or review of the text or topic.

    When this activity is first introduced, display a model of a completed template about a different topic.

  2. Teacher distributes template, and students write the name of the topic, or the title of the book, at the top of the template.

    You can model this on a sample template to help guide students.

  3. Working alone or in small groups, students think of at least one word, sentence, or idea related to the text or topic that begins with each letter of the alphabet. They write them on the template.

    Encourage students to try to think of at least one idea for each letter, and to think of more than one for a letter if they are able to.

  4. Students get together in a larger group, and share what they brainstormed for each letter. Students compare and contrast their ideas.

    This stage can be completed as a whole class or in small groups.

  5. Alone or in groups, in conversation or in writing, students reflect on their learning process.
    Students respond to questions including:
    How is brainstorming different from other types of thought?  How can it help you to learn a topic or text?
    How does the structure of this activity help you to come up with ideas you might not otherwise think of?
    How might you use this activity independently?
    In what other context might this activity be useful?
Downloadable Resources 
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