I was in a classroom in my district yesterday and a teacher (Jessica Hoover) was using this great brainstorming sheet with her students.
They are working on writing to inform, so she started the lesson with a non-fiction book on porcupines. As they read through the book, she led them to make connections with other animals they had already learned about, pointed out features of non-fiction text, brought up new vocabulary, and ask lots of higher level questions.
After the story part of the lesson, students moved to their seats and Jessica moved to the Elmo to begin her model for brainstorming and writing. All together, the students and Jessica worked through the questions on the sheet. For times sake, Jessica spelled some of the longer more difficult words, but for as many words as possible, she had the students stretch the sounds with her and write what they heard.
After each word was written, the students made a simple sketch in the box that went with it to remind themselves of what they had written. This is a great strategy for your lower kids, but visual cues really benefit students at all ability levels.
All of this was done on one day. The following day will be when students take the information they brainstormed and write a sentence or sentences about what they learned about and draw a detailed picture to go with it. I really like this handout because it works well as a model for brainstorming and writing, it involves the kids in the modeling process (keeping everyone moving and actively engaged), and it gives them support for when they go back to write their own sentences. I also think the structure will help young students begin to think about questions they may want to ask when they research a topic.
Informational Draw and Write