Exclusion Brainstorming

Comprehension, Vocabulary and Content Areas

Grades 3-8 and English Language Learners (ELL)


This strategy is a prereading activity that helps familiarize students with vocabulary in the text. This strategy also helps students to make connections to their background knowledge.


The teacher will create a word list to help students preview the text. Then students will identify words on the list that they think are not related to the topic they will be reading about. Then the students will read the text and review their word list and make connections to the text.
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Instructional Steps

1. Create a Word List: The teacher will preview the conten-area or non-fiction text and make a word list of key vocabulary. The teacher will also add a few words that don't fit into the topic of the book. Then the teacher will display the list on a Smartboard, whiteboard or another device for the students to see.

2. Look over the word list: Have the students work together in partners or small groups to decide which words relate to the topc of the text and which words do not relate to the topic of the text. Then have the students circle the words they don't think are related to the topic. Additionally, you could have students make a t-chart and place the words that do fit on one side and the words that don't fit the topic on another. (Modification for ELL students) The teacher could help the students to understand the vocabulary words and the pictures. This could help students to understand the vocabulary words and help them to identify which words fit within the category.

3. Read the text: Students will read the text and notice the words in the exclusion brainstorming activity.

4. Review the List: Hve students review their word list and make connections to the reading. Then have them put check marks next to the related words and cross out the unrelated words on their word list.

Benefits for Teachers

This strategy can help teachers informally assess their students background knowledge and understanding of vocabulary words. Thus, teachers can see how much their students understand about the topic, which can help them to modify or scaffold their lesson accordingly.

Benefits for Students

This strategy helps students to brainstorm and make predictions about a topic. Then the students review and revise their predictions. This helps students to look back at their predictions and make connections to the text. The students are also using their background knowledge when they are looking at the vocabulary words. This helps the students to make connections to the vocabulary words to promote a deeper understanding of the content and the story.

How to Use This Strategy

This strategy is a whole-class activity that helps the students to connect vocabulary to their background knowledge. Students are able to listen to the teacher and their classmates talk about the vocabulary words and this can benefit their comprehension of the text. Usually, this strategy is used for content-area and nonfiction texts, However, I feel that this strategy can be modified to fit other texts as well. For example, a teacher could use this strategy to help a student preview or predict the events in a fiction story. The teacher could have pictures with the vocabuary words and have the students discuss which words would be in the story and which ones would not. This is a good modification to help ELL students to make connections between the pictures and the vocabulary words to help them to understand the story.
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Another modification a teacher could make is to have students create a t-chart like the one in the picture above. The teacher could have the students circle the words they don't think are elated to the topic in the word bank. Then after the students have read the text they could go back and check their answer and then put each word in the include or exclude columns. Also, the teacher could have the students provide evidence by citing the page number or paragraph where they found the word.

Social Studies Exclusion Brainstorming

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A teacher could also use sticky notes as a modification for exclusion brainstorming. The teacher could write all the words on sticky notes and put them on the board. The teacher could have multiple sets of sticky notes for the different groups to work with. Then the teacher could have the groups paste the sticky notes on the exclude or include part of a t-chart. Then the students could read the story and create a separate t-chart with the correct answers. Thus, the two t-charts could show a student how their predictions changed and what they learned throughout the book. Also, the students would see the words they got wrong and which can help them to understand why those words were not included in the topic.

CCSS ELA Standards

Reading: Informational Text and Language

  • Students draw on information from background knolwedge and multiple print and digital sources.
  • Students determine the meaning of academic vocabulary in grade-appropriate texts.
Students integrate knowledge and vocabulary as they participate in exclusion brainstorming activities.


KFCS: ELL and Migrant. (2015). ELL Presentation: SIOP Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocal. In Exclusion Brainstorming. Retrieved from


Laurah J. (2015, August 27). Strategy of the Week: Exclusion Brainstorming. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://esolodyssey.learningwithlaurahj.org/2015/08/strategy-of-week-exclusion-brainstorming.html

Magers, C. (2013, January 27). Wilson's Creek Staff Blog: Exclusion Brainstorming. Retrieved from http://wilsonscreekdreamteam.blogspot.com/2013/01/exclusion-brainstorming.html

Tompkins, G.E. (2004). 50 literacy strategies: Step by step. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Merill/Prentice Hall