English Language Arts, Composition and Rhetoric
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Chapters
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Writing
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Brainstorming Exercise

    Brainstorming Exercise


    The purpose of this third informational Benchmark Assessment (Cold Write) is to determine what students know about informational writing. Students respond to a writing prompt, and you will score results as a measure of progress in subsequent assessments. Then students will brainstorm what they want to communicate in their self-portrait and begin to outline their self-portrait.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Familiarize yourself with the writing prompt and the scoring guide.
    • If you have students on an IEP or other accommodations, check to see whether they receive extended time or need an alternative test setting. Work with the professional supporting SWDs to make sure student needs are met.
    • Prepare activities for students who finish early.

    Informational Writing

    • Provide 3 minutes for students to complete a Quick Write.
    • Have students share what they already know about informational writing.
    • In the next task, students will take the assessment. Be prepared to do the following:
      • ✓ Answer any questions that are not of a substantive nature, providing no additional guidance about the prompt.
      • ✓ Do a quick thumbs-up/thumbs-down check to ensure that students understand the prompt and are ready to begin writing. Remind students that they will have only 20 minutes to write.
      • ✓ Tell students to begin working. When the allotted time has elapsed, tell students to stop working.
      • ✓ If students finish before time is up, direct them to other activities.


    Write a brief response to this question.

    • What do you know about informational writing?

    Open Notebook

    Share your knowledge with the class.

    Benchmark (Cold Write): Informational

    • Direct students to take the assessment. They will be responding to the following prompt:
    • The book 1984 depicts a totalitarian government that controls its population partly by entering the lives of its peoples. The government manipulates language, employs though police and uses the ever-present telescreen to patrol peoples’ actions.
    • Today it is common to be screened by cameras in banks and department stores. Businesses have easy access to our bank-account figures. In fact, some people would argue that our personal lives are being invaded as those depicted in 1984 are.
    • Choose one practice in our society that could be construed as an invasion of privacy. Describe that practice with enough details that someone can understand it and how it is an invasion of privacy.
    • Students have had opportunities to do informational writing throughout the year. Compare the information you gain from scoring this benchmark piece of writing with previous Cold Writes to see each student’s growth over time in the genre.
    • If students finish before time is up, direct them to other activities.

    Work Time

    Now you will write your informational piece. Remember that an informational piece is a text that gives facts and information about a topic. It can also be writing that explains something.

    You will have 20 minutes to write your informational piece.

    • Write a brief informational piece in response to the prompt.

    Self-Portrait Brainstorm

    • In this lesson, students will complete an outline of chapters and artifacts for their self-portrait. It’s important that students have a clear idea of what they want to communicate through their work.
    • Have a few students share their responses.
    • ELL: Monitor that ELLs do not avoid this activity by not volunteering and staying quiet. Make sure that ELLs feel encouraged to share even if their command of the language is weaker and their pace is slower.

    Work Time

    Complete a Quick Write.

    • Brainstorm as many things as you can about yourself that you want to be absolutely sure you communicate in your self-portrait.

    Open Notebook

    Artifacts Brainstorm

    • Have students share their responses. They will get ideas from their classmates and clarify their own ideas in the brainstorming session.

    Work Time

    Complete another brainstorm.

    • List the types of artifacts you could include in your self-portrait and the types of artifacts you have already started to collect.

    Open Notebook

    Share some of your responses with your classmates.

    Self-Portrait Outline

    • This outline is meant to help students get a real sense of how their self-portrait will take shape. Review it thoroughly, making sure students understand the kinds of artifacts they will be able to use.
    • Circulate as students work, providing support as necessary.

    Work Time

    Review the Self-Portrait Outline with your teacher. Make sure that you understand what each part is asking for and that you bring up any questions you have.

    • Use the Self-Portrait Brainstormer and the journal writing you have done so far to help you complete the Self-Portrait Outline. You will be able to adjust this outline later if you need to, but try to make it as thorough as possible now.

    Self-Portrait Outline Reflection

    • Hear responses from several students. Check to see if there are things you can clarify for the class about how a multimedia story works.
    • ELL: When writing the reflection, allow some additional time for students to discuss with a partner before writing to help them organize their thoughts. Allow students to discuss in their primary language if their partner speaks the same language.
    • SWD: The Quick Write is an important skill, but one that might overwhelm students who are struggling writers. If you think students need the additional support, consider side-by-side coaching and limit the number of sentences.


    Complete a Quick Write.

    • What became clearer as you created your Self-Portrait Outline?
    • What became more confusing?

    Open Notebook

    Self-Portrait Checklist

    • Part of the purpose of the checklist is to help students see where they are likely to run into difficulties and to help them strategize about how to overcome these obstacles.


    Now that you have created your Self-Portrait Outline, you can really get to work on collecting your artifacts.

    • Take some time to complete the Self-Portrait Checklist. You will be responsible for moving through this checklist on your own time, collecting artifacts and problem solving when you run into difficulty.