Recall Brainstorm

This is a quick activity that allows students to both consolidate prior learning and connect current & prior content using a word association format. Students may work as small groups, pairs, or individually as they work to recall information about a concept, a text, or a learning experience and associate it with other content.


  1. The teacher writes on the board a phrase or a topic (i.e. traveling, restaurants, technology).

  2. Working in small groups, students brainstorm all words and phrases, names, adjectives, locations, etc. that they associate with the phrase supplied by the teacher. 

  3. As each new word is added, the students repeat the same process described in the previous step. This process continues until the teacher designates that the activity is ended. This is usually about 5 - 8 minutes.

  4. Students post their response papers on the classroom walls.

  5. (Optional) Students then circulate with a pad of small stickies and a colored pen or pencil to read their classmates’ work.

  6. The teacher uses students’ work to guide the class in summarizing and synthesizing the information presented.

Helpful Tips

  1. It might be good to model this strategy at least 2 times so that students understand the procedure and the expectations.

  2. It may be best to have students brainstorm individually first, then perform a think-pair-share with one partner (and possibly a think-pair-share-again with a second pair of classmates) instead of directly going to the small group grouping. This way, each individual student is responsible for participating in the activity and going through the process of recalling information in their own brains, and can't just rely on group members to do the work. 

  3. This is a great strategy to help students remember how much they already know (in terms of both language and content knowledge) about a topic before engaging in language production tasks (interpersonal and/or presentational). 

  4. The teacher can summarize and synthesize the content from the recall/brainstorming into a word wall for all students to use as a resource in the future. 

  5. Students may add any words/expressions that they know (not just specific words previously studied in class) when responding to each new word/expression that is introduced.

  6. This activity can be conducted before a learning experience / at the beginning of the unit as a springboard for new learning, during a unit as brainstorming prior to a language production task, or at the end of a unit as a summary and synthesis of learning.






  1. Chart paper, poster paper or large sticky notes

  2. (Optional) Different colored markers, either per group or per student in each group