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Props/Prep: Yes
Time: 20-30 min
Audience: Any
Physical: No

Brainstorming is a great way to allow students to voice their opinions or ideas in a safe environment. Brainstorming techniques can include the use of sticky notes, 3 x 5 cards, flip chart paper, or white boards. Brainstorming is meant to stretch the learner by exposing them to many other students' ideas. Repetition between students' ideas is affirming, as is unique contributions. You can't go wrong, unless put downs or judgement statements are made. Make 'rules of the game' such as no 'put downs', no negative statements, discuss ideas not people, and listen! This technique helps students present their ideas anonymously without judgement, and may foster much creativity among group members.

Time requirements: Varies depending on brainstorming content – should limit to approx. 20 minutes

Materials needed: Sticky notes, 3 x 5 cards, flip chart paper, or the white board and markers.

Brainstorming Procedure:

  • When beginning a new topic, you might begin by saying "Tell me everything you know about...", or "What do you think are the 3 most important.....". Have students document ideas – 1 per sticky note or 3 x 5 card, or in categories on paper or the board.
  • Let all students produce their ideas and place them before debriefing.
  • You may decide to put the students' comments into categories, or you might ask students to suggest categories and comment on the accuracy and relative importance of the array of facts, impressions, and interpretations. The main rules of brainstorming are to acknowledge every offering by writing it down and save any critiquing until after the idea generation time is over.
  • Once ideas are presented and categorized, you can then prioritize them, delete some, etc... depending on what your goals are for the session.
  • To really promote innovative thinking, start your brainstorming session by asking for the craziest, most ridiculous ideas. This will add levity and fun to the exercise.

Function in the class: This is a great way to start a class. It allows learners to express themselves and engage in the content for the day. It also gives the teacher an idea of what students already know and where there are gaps in understanding of content to be covered. It may also function to create common beliefs amongst a group of students who are very diverse.