Friday, March 3, 2017

In the Classroom: An Idea Jar for Nonfiction Reports

We all know that students do their best writing when they select their own topics. They’re more invested in the whole process, from research to revision.

But we also know that choosing a topic from the wide world of possibilities is intimidating, even paralyzing, for some children. How can we support them?

During school visits, I tell students about the idea board in my office. Here’s a video of my lovely nieces describing how I use it.

I’ve suggested that young writers keep their own list of possible future ideas on the last page or inside cover of their writer’s notebooks. But what if even that is a struggle, or what if they just plain old forget to do it?

Recently, I read a blog post about keeping a New Year’s Resolution jar. It’s for people who have trouble coming up with ways to try to improve their lives when January rolls around.

I started thinking about all the ways a jar of ideas could be useful. And it occurred to me that it might really help kids who have trouble coming up with report topics

Think about your classroom. Some students are idea-generating machines. They can help their struggling classmates by focusing on the one idea that speaks to them most vehemently, and adding the others to the Report Idea Jar.

You can add ideas too. It’s a way to anonymously provide guidance rather than dictate a topic. And because you aren't usurping your students' power to choose, they'll be able to take ownership of the project and the process.

Why not give it a try?


  1. Love this idea, Melissa. Will definitely try this is my K classroom. Shared ideas seem very supportive.

  2. Please let me know how it goes, Christie. I hope it helps.

  3. OOOOOH, the possibilities!
    A wonder jar!
    A jar of ideas for flash drafts - maybe the idea drawn will become the next class masterpiece!
    Love thinking about both students and teachers contributing ideas to the jar!!!

  4. Love your ideas, Fran. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great idea. Could create jars for topics, subjects, special projects...mystery and direction at the same time!

  6. "mystery and direction at the same time" I like that way of thinking, Carrie.