Brave Writer Teen Essay Guide Writing

Summer KISS Essay Series #2: Brainstorming

A recap

  • Why I’m creating a Teen Essay Writing Guide for my two high schoolers.
  • It’s based on the assumption you own and finished Brave Writer’s Help for High School curriculum. Lots of its pages are referenced throughout the guide. If you haven’t used H4HS, it likely won’t make sense.
  • This was my answer for what to do after Help for High School.
  • Here is post #1: topic selection


Brainstorming isn’t a painful stage to me. But brainstorming can be unproductive in my experience, at least without giving my teens some direction. I experimented with various brainstorming methods and included the ones that worked best for us.

Basically my approach is a closer examination of their chosen topic. It helps us see how interested they are in the topic, what’s motivating them to write on it, what they already know, and more.

This exercise collects bits and pieces of thoughts they can use to springboard into a freewrite. Spoiler alert! We freewrite before research. Wait, it’s not a spoiler since I’ve already written about it.

I linked in the pdf a few brainstorming graphic organizers (all free!) we’ve found helpful. The visual aspect of graphic organizers is helpful for some kids. Use them if they help. Skip them if they don’t.

Teen Essay Guide

Print out the pdf and put it behind notebook divider #2. (If we’re Type A soul sisters, you have a label maker and will print a “Brainstorm” label for the divider. Because that’s what we do.) I printed some of the graphic organizers my boys liked and tucked those behind the instruction page.

I also created a digital folder of these pages for my teens to put on their laptops. Then they have access to the hyperlinks if they need them or want to print additional copies of whatever is in that essay section.

Teacher Notes

No teacher notes for this one. Everything is same. The only exception is I noted to myself to MODEL, MODEL, MODEL for a new-ish essay writer. If they don’t really get how to brainstorm, model it on a topic you’re interested in. Then work together on a second topic they’re interested in. (Collaboration! One of my favorite teaching principles.) Repeat the model/collaborate cycle until you feel they can give it a go, then have them brainstorm on their chosen essay topic.

And that’s it for section #2. I’ll be back soon with section #3 where we tackle freewriting, a working thesis, and a rough (and I mean very rough) outline.




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  • Slowly turning over the revision process to my high schoolers. I found a color-coded highlighter analysis of their body paragraphs helped them see the holes in their paper before I point it out. Training wheels, baby!
I explain my three highlighter revision process on my blog. Look under the essay guide series, then the revision post. Blog link in my profile.
  • Mystery Line Monday! I’m cutting it close today, posting late. But! Instead of getting a puppy in late October, I found out today we’re getting one this Saturday. Yay! And eek! Must finish preparing, fast!
So, the quote. It’s a bit dark and I would normally save it for our spooky theme in October. But I’m a bit distracted and busy, and I do live the way this phrase feels on the tongue. Hello, alliteration! You are one of my favorites! Plus we’re reading Hamlet right now, so reinforcing the lines.
  • Who is this person buying puppy supplies? It’s me. Same person who used to say she’d be fine living her entire life without owning a dog. 🤷🏻‍♀️
  • Snip & Pin editing still works wonders with teens! My 16 year old is writing a compare/contrast essay on Ponyo and The Little Mermaid movies. Arranging through snip & pin helped him come up with paragraph topics and if he should group his ideas in a point-by-point paragraph or block format.
Now we’re ready to rewatch the movies for more “evidence” and then expand his commentary. But first I need to restock movie treats. 🍿🍫🍬
  • Mystery Line Monday! I picked this one simply for cultural reference. #mysterylinemonday
  • Finally making my fall bingo card from the Homeschool Alliance intuitive planning session. It comes with a bingo card download, but I’m a washi tape nerd and feel somewhat guilty about ALL the washi tape I own. I now feel justified owning a 3 year supply of fall leaf tape. ☺️
Of course, I refuse to do pumpkin anything before official fall, if not October 1st. Yes, I’m anal like that. 🤷🏻‍♀️ I can’t get in the mood when it’s still 95 degrees and I’m sweating in shorts. Can’t rush Mother Nature! But I did go ahead and plan it last week while I was laid up in bed.
I appreciate the inspiration from the #homeschoolalliance. Such an easy way to have a touchpoint for the #bravewriterlifestyle! For September, we’re digging deeper into connecting and collaborating with our kids, expanding on a talk @juliebravewriter gave at the #bravelearner conference. Can’t wait to dig into the nuances, rewards, and challenges of collaboration!
#bravewriterteens #secularhomeschool #homeschoolhighschool
  • Mystery Line Monday! This one is such a giveaway. But I don’t care! It’s my favorite quote for birthdays, and today is my son’s 19th birthday! #mysterylinemonday
  • Wally and I got our alumni magazine in today. The same day Payton said he wanted to go to Auburn. The same teenager who two days ago still said he didn’t want to go to college. It took seeing just one fisheries research lab to help him cast a new vision for his life. War damn eagle!

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