I am a big, big fan of writer's notebooks to help avoid this complaint but I understand that not everyone is similarly enamored. But I do love the idea on this post about coming up with a list of 100. In fact, I love it so much I am going to incorporate it into the trainings I do both for writer's notebooks and for creating blogs to use in the classroom.
I used to do something similar for my students when I wanted them to either think about what they already knew on a topic or what they had learned. We called it a "Three Minute Essay." Using an egg timer, students were to write continuously on an index card to answer the topic (i.e. What do you know about the American Revolution?) The only rules were that they had to continuously write, no stopping to think, for the full three minutes. Even if all they were writing was "I have no idea what I know about the American Revolution and I can't believe that I am continually writing that I have no idea what I know about the American Revolution." I found that the continual writing did help activate the students' memories and they did get some information down eventually. Spelling and grammar didn't count - it was all about getting the ideas out.
When using the list of 100, I will probably set a time limit for the brainstorming session and I am wondering if I will find the same trends:
1. First 30 entries or so: where you escape circular thinking
2. Next 40 entries: where patterns emerge
3. Last 30 entries: where the gems are
What list of 100 can you create with your students?