I created a wiki as a store for collecting big ideas and guiding questions. I completely forgot about it until I recently began brainstorming ideas for new Humanities projects and needed to consider some essential ideas I'd want my students to explore. It was exactly what I needed and I was glad to have already done some preliminary work on building the collection.
Since it's a wiki, feel free to join and contribute. There are plenty of big ideas, so far, but not all have been expanded on.
At the start of the year, I have students fold a piece of paper into six squares and choose from a list of categories to put into each of the boxes. The categories are: happiest moments, saddest moments, most embarrassing, scariest, proudest, angriest, most regretful, etc.
They then list memories that fall under those categories- at least four to a box, and then afterwards, a star is placed next to the one memory in each box they would most like to write about.
In groups, writers share the lists and their peers help them decide on a second memory from each box that they would like them to write about (keeping the audience in mind). Those are starred, too.
For each day after, students begin the class by taking time to do a "zero draft" (no-risk) using one of the ideas from their list. Students share their zero drafts to elicit questions and comments written on stickies (we call them "writer's gold") which are placed on the draft for later use, should it be a piece the student chooses to take through the entire process.
Tech note: The last time I did this, students posted to our class blog. Peers responded online, oftentimes requesting the writer choose a topic from the list they were especially curious about. The only thing I felt made it worth doing online was the larger audience (thus more feedback) for each of the writers.