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.
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.