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September Snapshot – Using One-Pagers for Brainstorming Narratives


I have used one-pagers before in the context of literature courses, asking students to respond to a book or a reading. But, during the first week of classes, when my first year writing students began thinking about their literacy narratives, I decided to try out something new (for me, at least): to use the one-pager as a brainstorming tool.

Why use a one-pager? 

  • Students are creating narratives, so allowing a visual representation in the brainstorming process can help them think about important details.
  • They don’t need to write complete sentences. The prompts I gave them asked more about the general aspects of their stories: Who are the characters? What visuals stand out? What are some of the keywords in your narrative? Are there quotes or ideas that could become dialogue? Etc.
  • Students don’t have to be artists. They just need to convey their ideas in short textual or visual representations.

What did I ask them to do?

  1. I first explained what a one-pager is and why we were using it for further brainstorming. On the previous class meeting, students had produced a list of potential topics for their literacy narrative. On this class meeting, they narrowed it down to the one they would develop.
  2. I used one of the templates from Spark Creativity
  3. Before starting their own, I showed students examples of one-pagers from my previous students. I explained that these were a little different because they were responses to a book rather than ideas about their own writing.
  4. I projected on the screen the following list of elements to include in their one-pager:

■A border with key words about your narrative. It can also be a quote you remember.

■Tone. What tone will you take? How will you achieve it?

■An image or set of images that relate to your narrative. Think about what you are including and why. Write about them.

■Key events in your narrative. You can list them, sketch them, or both.

■Characters in your narrative. Who plays a part? How are they part of your story?

■Lines- think about dialogue (this can be “made up”)


What happened?

While including the main components, students created a variety of one-pagers. And each one addressed the individual needs of each writer. One student, for instance, brainstormed ideas learning to use a computer when they were little. In their one-pager, they sketched a keyboard that, instead of letters, was covered in what looked like chicken feet. As the student explained, thinking about their first time trying to use a computer, this is what the keyboard looked like– just indiscernible and confusing characters.

The verdict: The one-pagers worked! My students were able to brainstorm in textual and visual ways, with some structure yet also freedom. Next time, I will consider allow more time in class for this so that their one-pagers can be even more detailed.

How have you used one-pagers with students? What are some brainstorming strategies your students have enjoyed?