Brainstorming Activities for Middle School

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Middle school students will practice multiple brainstorming techniques collaboratively. The activities offered here give students an opportunity to work together while learning how to conduct brainstorming exercises.

Brainstorming with Middle Schoolers

What happens when you tell your students to write an essay? Do you get a lot of blank stares? An open assignment like 'write about whatever you want to write about' is often incredibly challenging to students. While you don't want to restrict their creativity--and allowing students to creatively complete assignments is good--you can guide students to their own choices with brainstorming ideas.

The activities listed here are designed to help your middle school students practice multiple brainstorming techniques. The activities can lead to formal writing assignments but can also stand on their own as practice sessions.

Follow the Train of Thought

Train of thought is an abstract idea that you can use to guide your students through their thought processes.


  • Worksheets showing an outline of a train
    • The number of flatbed cars on the train should equal the number of students per group.


  • Divide your students into groups of 5-6.
  • Give each group a train worksheet.
  • Either write a general topic on the board for everyone or give each group their own general topic. These could be:
    • School days
    • The zoo
    • Around the neighborhood
  • The students should write their reflections on the train worksheet like this:
    • The first student should write a quick thought on the first car of the train, like:
      • School days are really long and boring.
    • Then, the first student passes the train to the next student. Only the second student should read the first student's thought.
    • After writing a response to the first student's comment in the second train car, the second student should fold over the worksheet so that the first comment is hidden. Then, the worksheet should be passed to the third student.
    • This pattern of folding the paper so that only the previous comment can be read and responded to should continue until all the cars are filled and/or all students in the group have responded.
  • When the train is full, instruct your students to unfold the paper and read the comments in order.
    • Where did the train take you?
    • Did it end in the same place it began?
  • Allow students to spend a few minutes talking about how and why their trains diverged from the initial comment.


  • Instruct each student to write a short essay incorporating the entire train of thought created by the group.

Giant Mind Map

Mind maps can be confusing when students first learn to use them. This fun activity will get your whole class involved in a giant mind map.


  • Whiteboard space
  • Sticky notes


  • Start with a brief discussion on mind maps and their uses.
  • Begin a mind map by writing a main topic on the board and circling it.
  • Now, divide your class into groups.
  • Ask each group to come up with a sub-topic related to the original topic.
  • Draw these sub-topics on the board.
  • Give each group a stack of sticky notes.
  • Instruct the students to write as many notes as they can think of for their sub-topic.
    • One thought per sticky note.
  • Allow your students free access to place their notes on the board around their sub-topic.
  • After a pre-arranged set of time, pause to review the whole mind map as a class.
  • Consider adding a few minutes more to allow students to write notes on any of the sub-topics.

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