By breaking the writing process up into manageable tasks, your students will be more successful.

The most effective way to start teaching writing is by having students do a lot of prewriting. I’ve compiled a list of prewriting activities with accompanying explanations and examples to give you a starting point.

What is prewriting?

Let’s start with a quick definition of prewriting:

Prewriting is a stage of the writing process where the author does some initial work to come up with ideas and think about the topic before starting to write the actual paper. This may involve brainstorming, looking at the writing prompt, coming up with ideas, and organizing them.

This is an opportunity for writers to explore their thoughts about a topic more deeply, and to come up with original and insightful ideas.

Why is it important to the writing process?

Prewriting activities are often not given enough time or credit, but they are very useful!

Prewriting allows students to explore, test, and generate ideas. The app gives students tools to help them organize and develop their writing.

Have you noticed this?

Many students choose their initial idea and stick with it.

People are often resistant to looking at other ideas. They are set with that first one! We want our students to think critically and creatively, not just accept the first idea that comes to mind.

Try this:

When you are planning your writing tasks, try using more prewriting strategies. This will help you to better organize your thoughts and come up with a plan for your writing.

Require your students to do a couple of different prewriting activities before they start drafting.

I find when I’m writing and I get the ideas and organization ready to go, the paper essentially writes itself. That can happen when you’ve done prewriting properly.

We want students to discover something through writing, and prewriting can help with that. They can discover what they want to write about by trying out several activities.

How to use prewriting strategies effectively

Always model what you want students to do.

For example, if students are writing narratives, you should also write a narrative. Show them how you would brainstorm or cluster.

Additionally, show students how you can “throw away” an idea. When people explore a topic deeply, they usually come up with more creative ideas. It’s a great idea to get into the habit of , “throwing away your first two ideas.”

Help them find discovery in their prewriting.

Writing is a form of discovery. We discover our emotions, memories, and values when we write.

You should share what you discover as you model your own prewriting graphic organizer. It certainly doesn’t have to be monumental or personal.

Do more than you think is necessary.

Your students will likely have ideas for what they want to write about as soon as you provide the prompt. However, don’t skip the prewriting! Help your students by having them organize their thoughts, come up with details, and fill in gaps.

What are some of the best prewriting strategies?


When we brainstorm, we try to generate as many ideas as possible, without worrying about whether they’re good ideas or not. Brainstorming is a familiar prewriting activity in which people try to generate as many ideas as possible without worrying about whether they are good ideas. A brain dump is just a bunch of ideas about a topic that are written down.

To use it, the writer writes down all the ideas that come to her mind when she thinks about the topic. Get your ideas down without trying to edit or speculate on them.

Then what?

The writer will see ideas that fit well together after brainstorming. He may find himself more interested in one idea than the others. Pay attention to these things.

After brainstorming, students may want to do a clustering prewriting activity.


What it is: Clustering is gathering ideas and thoughts into categories.

How to use it: Look at the prompt and determine some big categories that might fall under the topic.

After they have written three or four ideas, they can choose one to write about in more detail. To paraphrase, students can brainstorm ideas by writing them in circles, then choosing one idea to write about in more detail. It’s helpful to label the clusters with colors.

This technique is used to help students come up with ideas or organize their thoughts after they have already done some brainstorming or freewriting. Creating categories will allow them to pull ideas more easily.

After the students have been clustered, they may be ready to start organizing their ideas. A simple outline is ideal for this.

Free writing

Free writing is a good way to get your ideas down on paper. It can be about anything and you can do it for any amount of time.

You can use freewriting as a way for your students to explore a prompt or topic. This method can help students to diving in and getting started.

Tell your students to set a timer for 5-7 minutes and to start writing continuously. They should worry about spelling, grammar, and organization.

Then what?

Once students have completed their freewriting, they may want to do a looping activity.


Looping is the perfect strategy to use after students have done freewriting. This technique involves choosing an idea from your freewriting to explore in greater depth.

To use this technique, go back to your freewriting and choose a word, sentence, or phrase that interests you or that you think might make a good topic. Write the word, sentence, or phrase at the top of a new page and set the timer. Once the timer goes off, have students write about the topic.

Then what? Once students have looped, they may want to move on to clustering or outlining.


A listing is just a simple list of ideas. This activity is great for students who don’t know what to write about.

To use this method, put the topic or key word from the prompt at the top of the page. This will help you to focus on that topic and come up with ideas related to it. This allows you to remain focused on the task at hand.

Students should be allowed to create as many different lists as they like.

If you want your students to write about a time when they learned something, give them a list of topics to help them narrow their focus. For example, they may come up with a list titled “school,” “family,” or “sports.”

Then what? Once students have a list, they have choices! The next step is for students to choose an item from the list that they are interested in. Use it for freewriting, brainstorming, or even clustering.