By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:
- explain a brainstorming session.
- brainstorm on a given topic.
- get ideas to write on using brainstorming.
When we write, we state what we think or feel about the topic. We will state and discuss specific ideas that we have about the topic. We need to be sure of the ideas we wish to discuss before we begin to write. This will involve thinking carefully about our topic. Next, it is important to write down the ideas we wish to discuss on the topic. This will ensure that when we begin to write, we have the ideas we are going to discuss readily available to us. This is what is often termed planning your essay.
Planning the essay
What is a plan?
According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, a plan is “something you have decided to do.” That is the meaning of the word as a noun.
When you plan something what do you do?
The same dictionary says when you plan, then you, “think carefully about something you want to do, and decide how and when you will do it.” That is what “plan” means as a verb.
This means that when we have to write an essay, we have to:
- think carefully about the topic,
- decide how to write about the topic, and maybe c. Decide when to do the writing.
What should we plan about the essay?
When we write an essay, we record what we think and feel about a particular subject or topic. Planning your essay, in simple language, therefore, means trying to find the ideas you will write about in your essay. In other words, anytime you have to write on a topic, ask yourself one question:
What ideas about this topic am I going to discuss?
Why should you plan your essays?
Planning your essays helps you to:
- Organise your ideas; for example you need to think about your topic first and then write about it.
- Decide what should go into each part. Remember that an essay is composed. So, planning your essay helps you to be certain about what to put into the introduction. Of course, this, in turn, will determine what goes into the body, and consequently what goes into the conclusion.
- Beside which idea (or point) you need to talk about first, which should follow the first one, and so on.
- ensure that you write on just the issues you planned to write on. If you are writing from a plan, you will have put down a number of ideas (or points) that you hope to explain. You will not write on other ideas which may not be relevant to the ideas you have planned to develop.
Strategies for planning your essay
Now, let us talk about one of the strategies that you can use when you plan your essays.
There are a number of things you can do when you plan your essay. One of the strategies you can use when you are trying to get the ideas you want to write on is called brainstorming.
Brainstorming is one of the techniques we can use when we plan our essays. Remember that planning here means trying to get ideas to write on when you have a topic. For example, if someone asks you to tell him or her about yourself, you must first decide what you will tell the person about „you‟. You will necessarily ask yourself the question:
“What am I going to tell this person about me?”
There may be a lot of things that you can tell the person about yourself. Let us pause for a few seconds and write down some answers to the question:
“What do I want to tell this person about me?”
Perhaps, your answers included the following:
1. my name
2. my physical appearance
3. my siblings
4. my hobbies
5. things I dislike
How did you get these answers?
You simply thought about yourself as you asked yourself the question: What am I going to tell him about me? This is what brainstorming is about.
The Process of Brainstorming
Here are two steps that you take when you brainstorm:
First, you think about the topic. Your brain will give you ideas of what you know already about the topic.
Two, as your brain gives you what you know already about the topic, you must quickly write them down. Do not write them down as sentences. Write them down as single words, such as, name, or parents. You may also write them down as short phrases, such as my name, or physical appearance. Writing them down briefly helps you to put down your ideas quickly.
What do you think about as you brainstorm?
If you are going to have the most important ideas to put down in your plan, you need to think about a number of things. One important thing that you need to think about is termed your audience. Your audience is simply the person or persons who will read your essay. Ask yourself the question:
Whom am I writing this essay for?
Imagine that you have just met a new student in school and he or she asks you to tell him or her about you. What are some of the things you will tell him or her?
Let us pause for a few seconds to put down some of the things you will like to tell this new student.
Here are some of the things you may have written down.
1. My name
2. Where I stay
3. My class
4. A game I like
5. What I do over weekends
Now, imagine also that your teacher asks you to tell him or her about you. What are some of the things you will be saying about you?
Let us pause for a few seconds for you to put down some of the things you will like to tell your teacher.
Here are some of the things you may have written down.
1. My name
2. My parents
3. Where I stay
4. My class
5. My favourite subject
6. The subject I find difficult
Certainly, what you will be telling your friend will be different in a number of ways from the things you will be telling your teacher. For example, when you tell your friend about you, you will be saying things that are likely to make the two of you laugh, won’t you?
On the other hand, when you tell your teacher about you, you will be saying things that will show that you are hard-working, respectful, thoughtful, and so on.
Of course, there are some pieces of information, such as your name that you will tell both your teacher and your new friend.
Thinking about your audience enables you to collect the most relevant ideas that you will use in talking about the topic.
If you read questions on writing carefully, you will find that the topic gives you the audience to address. We will talk more about audience later. But then, remember that it is important that when you plan your essay, you should think about the person or persons you are writing for.
Another strategy to plan your essays, that is, to get ideas to write on, is called clustering. When you do clustering, you still need to think about the topic as you did when you did the brainstorming. The difference between brainstorming and clustering is in the organization of the plan on paper.
When you do clustering, first pick a clean sheet of paper; you can use a page of your jotter. Write the topic in the middle of the sheet of paper and circle it. As you think about the topic, draw a line from the circled topic out to a point where you write down the idea as it comes to your mind. Here is an example of a plan using clustering:
You have noticed that in both the brainstorming and clustering, I think about the topic. Then I write down the ideas that occur to me on the topic on the piece of paper.
Re–ordering your ideas
Another thing you must try to do as you plan your essay is to decide which idea to write on first, which second, third, and so on. Let us look at the ideas on the cluster plan again.
Let us pause for you to write down which idea you think is the one you want to write about first. After this one, which one will follow, and then which will be the next. It is important to be able to order your ideas in this way. Somethings are more important to you than others, thus, when you write, it is important to order your ideas to reflect the importance or relevance to the topic.
Reading on your topic
We have just learnt two ways to get ideas to write on. These ideas come from our own minds. If you wish to write very well on a topic, you will need other ideas. You will need to get ideas from other places. You must read to find out more about the topics you write on.
We shall learn more about finding information from other sources to help us write very well in another lesson.
In this lesson, we have learnt that:
1. it is important to plan our essays before we begin to write them.
2. planning the essay means getting ideas on the topic to write about.
3. one technique of getting ideas to write on is called brainstorming.
4. when we brainstorm, we think about the topic.
5. when we brainstorm, we write down quickly the ideas that come to our minds.
6. when we plan our essay, we are sure that we will write on only the ideas we need to write on.
7. when we plan our essay, we can sequence our ideas in a logical way.
Brainstorm on the following topics:
1. My best friend
2. My favourite place at home
3. An interesting story that I have heard
Prosper Kwesi Agordjor, M.Phil.
John Tetteh Agor, Ph.D.
Modestus Fosu, Ph.D.
William Foli Garr, (Rev.) M.Phil.