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 begins by giving students a phrase or a topic (i.e. traveling, restaurants, technology) around which to brainstorm.

  2. The teacher sets a time limit.

  3. Students work individually to brainstorm all of the language (words, phrases, chunks, etc.) they can recall that is related to the topic supplied by the teacher.

  4. Once the time is called, students pair up and share their lists with a partner. Each partner is then able to supplement their own individual list with some additional language from their peer.

  5. After both partners have had a chance to share, the teacher calls on individual students to share one or more language chunks from their list. This gives the entire class another opportunity to supplement their own lists. Students have the chance to add even more language to their lists--either words that they have seen previously but did not think of or words/phrases that are new to them.

  6. [Optional] The teacher may choose to synthesize the classes brainstormed list into a resource (a handout, a word wall, etc.) able to be referenced by students in subsequent learning experiences.

Adaptation for Online/Distance Learning

  1. The teacher begins by giving students an image, phrase or a topic (i.e. traveling, restaurants, technology, etc.). Students are given a limited amount of time to brainstorm words and phrases that connect with the prompt.

  2. The teacher creates an individual Google Slide or Google Doc which allows students to work individually to record their ideas. Other apps or websites that allow the teacher to see student work in real-time can also be used. 

  3. The teacher then follows the process outlined above. Students pair or work in small breakout groups to compare lists adding new ideas to their original lists. 

  4. The students then return from the breakout rooms. The teacher calls on non-volunteers and then volunteers to add words to a common list. The common list can be posted on a class site or site allowing student to return to the collaborative list as they continue to work on the topic. 

Helpful Tips

  1. 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. 

  2. This strategy helps 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). 

  3. In addition to brainstorming language chunks, the teacher can also ask students to brainstorm content knowledge they have related to a subject in the target language. 

  4. 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. Paper or digital tool to brainstorm (one per student)

  2. (Optional) Chart paper, poster paper or large sticky notes and Different colored markers (either per group or per student in each group)