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.




what do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • I bought this game and plan to play it first day of school on Monday. I figured I should play around with it beforehand. I rolled these literally the first time. The dice don’t lie. #metaphordice #homeschoolhighschool #secularhomeschool
  • Question! Are all of these buttons the same as the 8 cycle choices on a washing machine? No one ever uses them?
  • Need
  • Front and center in my literature teaching notes. Eudora Welty because we need to remember there are no right or wrong answers to literature. My public school years of multiple choice quizzes marked right or wrong brainwashed me. Welty’s quote un-brainwashes me.
The literature compass because it’s easy to get overwhelmed by ALL THE THINGS the experts say we should teach with literature. “The Close Reading monster asks kids as young as elementary school to use the level of challenging analysis that my daughter faced as a college English major!” (Trees in the Forest pg 14)
I gleaned those four bullet points from the essay “How to Create Nonreaders” by Alfie Kohn. (Give it a google.) Those points spoke truth to me. That WAS what hooked my kids in. I need to remember them when facing the Close Reading monster that pervades our current pedagogy, especially as we start our junior and senior year where time is “running out.”
Steady on, Mom. Keep following your North Star.
#secularhomeschool #rootedinlanguage #homeschoolhighschool
  • I was hoping not to do these again this year. It began to feel more like a chore than fun for me. But my son still loves them, so here I am, gearing up for it. I bought this letter board thing, thinking it might put enough spin on it for me, but now I’m wondering if setting the letters will be a pain. 🤷🏻‍♀️ And now to start collecting literature lines for the year...
  • School supplies rolling it. #secularhomeschool #bravewriterlifestyle #metaphordice
  • Shakespeare planning! The Friendly Shakespeare has been one of my best school purchases, at least for me. We’re tackling three plays first semester. We’ll see how things go. Hamlet is first up! #secularhomeschool #homeschoolhighschool
  • I keep drinking out of this mug because SECULAR curriculum hunting! 🧐 I have spent all afternoon trying to find a quality rhetoric homeschool curriculum at the high school level that’s secular. I’m about to put some vodka in this mug. #secularhomeschool #homeschoolhighschool #secularhomeschooler

Follow Me!