Sunday, March 29, 2015

ELL Strategy: Wordstorming

This strategy allows students to brainstorm words related to a topic, generate questions, and set a purpose for reading. It also provides opportunities for activating and building background knowledge. Additionally, teachers can use this activity to asses students’ content knowledge before reading- if students can successfully predict a large number of topic-related words, the teacher will know that the students have a knowledge base for the topic.  After students brainstorm a list of words they think are related to the topic, they are then asked to  predict what the article is about and generate a series of questions they think the article will answer.

First, choose a short text related to the topic you are studying. Read through the article and select three to five letters of the alphabet that start key words or concepts found in the article. These letters should appear frequently throughout the text and should allow you do get an idea of the students’ knowledge about the topic.

Provide students with a Wordstorming organizer and ask them to work in small groups. Read the title of the article to students and show them any pictures. They should list as many words as they can think of that begin with the specified letters and are related to the content of the article. Allow students about five minutes to wordstorm.

Give students the opportunity to share their predictions and list them on a class version of the Wordstorming organizer. Record predictions as well. Read the article together, and the revisit the words, questions, and predictions students made.

Strategy adapted from Janet Allen's More Tools for Teaching Content Literacy. Photo by Laurah J.


  1. Janet Allen is great! She has a plethora of excellent vocabulary strategies for ELLs. I only recently discovered her work in the course of writing a book review about "Tools for Teaching Academic Language." I highly recommend that book, too. Thanks for calling attention to her work!

    1. Susan,
      She came and spoke to our ESOL teachers, so that is how I was introduced to her work. We have her flipbooks for Tools for Content Literacy and More Tools for Content Literacy and have distributed them to every single one of our elementary ESOL teachers! I love her ideas!

      Laurah J.