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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  • Willow’s current favorite game is The Gingerbread Man game. She runs, runs, runs fast as she can. I can’t catch her. Willow wins Gingerbread Man.
  • She’s still stinkin’ cute. I still don’t like dog kisses in the face. 🤷🏻‍♀️ #catperson
  • Frankenweenie family movie night! Everyone I love in the same room together for two hours - a feat with teenagers and a traveling husband! I made dorky movie food. They thought it was cute. That’s a perfect Friday night in my book.
  • Many thanks to my dog-mom friends who have talked me through the WTF did I do, we were crazy to think we could handle a dog moments. Willow is SO FREAKING ADORABLE. She’s already sleeping through the night and has learned “leave it.” But OMG, a puppy, you guys. Going to co-op is now an ordeal, constantly watching for potty break signs, the biting. Sigh.
  • Our guiding question as we work through Frankenstein. Am I the only one who can get analysis overwhelm from some teacher guides? A 100 page teacher guide to Frankenstein? Holy cow! It’s too much. Are we trying to cover ALL THE THINGS in one book? Sure, there are dozens of interesting aspects we could analyze with any book. But I need a limit.
Trying to cover allusion and feminism and patriarchy and the nature of humanity and rights of the living and cloning and the tenets of romanticism and gothic literature and the educational theories of Locke and Rousseau (seriously not making that up) through one book...good grief, it’s exhausting.
What’s a provocative or interesting idea in this story? We still find that question enough of a jumping off point.
  • Breakfast read aloud for our October spooky theme. And when I say breakfast read aloud, I mean it’s October 9th and it’s the first day I’ve gotten my teens to the breakfast table at the same time AND I remembered to get the book out. 🤷🏻‍♀️ It still counts. #secularhomeschool #bravewriterteens #homeschoolhighschool #bravewriterlifestyle
  • Mystery Line Monday! We’re starting our spooky literature month, so the lines in October will come from various spooky works. I may do more than one line a week this month since I have several spooky lines. We’ll see how much crazy baby puppy brings to our life.😜
I’m not highlighting any literary elements in this one. It’s the idea I find intriguing. Something I want my teens to think about as they go out in the wider world and encounter different leadership. Also, we’re starting this book this week.
  • Hi! My name is Willow. I like toy crabs, pine straw and mad dashes in the yard to avoid nap time.

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