Collecting Ideas and Vocabulary Using Alphaboxes Charts

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Feb. 7, 2021, 4:27 p.m.

Do your students have trouble determining a topic for writing or deciding what details they want to share related to a topic they are writing about? Years ago, I learned about Alphaboxes from Linda Hoyt. An Alphaboxes chart is quick, brainstorming activity that warms up the brain in a non-threatening, let's-ease-into-this kind of way.

I usually start by modeling how to begin thinking using a topic students know a lot about, such as themselves. I model by creating an "ABC's of Me" chart. I either show them one I've already completed, or I Model-Write in front of the class. I want them to see that you can start anywhere and every box does not need to be used.

After brainstorming, I model ways to use the chart to gather ideas and decide on topics and messages. For example, I give them a chance to ask me questions about something they see on the chart. After all, inquiring minds want to know! I explain that whatever my audience is asking about will likely be a good topic or detail to include in my writing.

I also show them that on those days when you don't know what to write about, you can look for topics on your "ABC's of Me" chart.

I love this strategy because reluctant writers see it as something they can do. After just five minutes, they have a word bank they can use to begin drafting. As they think of additional ideas, they can always add them to the chart.

You can extend the use of Alphaboxes into all content areas. For each unit of study in science, social studies, math, art, or music, have students collect academic language on a chart for the unit. Then have students use the chart during review.

Online, you can create an Alphaboxes slide that can be shared with students. I've made a slide template that you can copy and use with your students.

If you prefer a printable document, click here.

For more writing ideas, join Randi Anderson and Kelly Harmon on January 30th at 10:00 Central Time for Writing with the STARS. Click here for more information on the live session.