Both of these activities can be useful tools to generate ideas and discover opinions or attitudes on a subject, and can be used at any point during a class session to help students focus on the topic at hand and identify talking points for class discussion. Asking every student to write before a discussion has the added benefit of increasing the number of students who have thoughts to contribute.
Freewriting and Focused Freewriting
Freewriting is the practice of writing down whatever comes into your mind for a predetermined amount of time without stopping to think. The key to this activity is to keep writing, even when you feel stuck or at a loss for words. Focused Freewriting simply means freewriting with a specific topic or question in mind. For example, you might ask students to freewrite for 5 or 10 minutes at the beginning of class about a problem or question raised by the author of the assigned reading.