Brainstorming is a problem solving technique that is not always easy for students. Many students feel they must come up with the correct answer, whereas brainstorming is a way of generating ideas to be examined later. It is a form of creativity that draws on the experiences and unique background of each student involved, which also requires students to feel comfortable enough to share their ideas. These are some tools and effective tips a teacher can use to make the brainstorming process easier for students. These brainstorming activities for students will help teachers and parents support their children and students as they revise for exams.
Revision is a tough skill to master and I have written many times on the secret to revision and when to start revision for GCSE’s, brainstorming is a great technique if used correctly. The following brainstorming activities for students will enable them to be active in their revision, it will also support teachers who are looking to develop independent learners.
Classroom Brainstorming Tools
There are several tools available to make it easier for students to participate in a brainstorming session. Pre-printed mindmaps, online mapping tools, and software such as Visio and PowerPoint provide a structure for students. Place the topic or concept in the middle and branch off of ideas as primary or secondary thoughts.
Just as effective is to use a free form style. Instead of adding a level of categorising offered by a mindmap, have students list ideas as they come on the board or a piece of paper. These ideas can be organised later.
Whether creating a mindmap or a list, remember the goal is to come up with ideas and worry about how usable they are later. Sometimes the most outrageous or unique idea is the most useful.
Brainstorming Teaching Tips
When teaching students to brainstorm it can be helpful to give them a time frame and an amount of ideas. For example, write down at least 10 things in the next minute, or compete for the most one to two word ideas in two minutes. Providing an amount and limiting time forces kids to start writing whatever comes to mind, not just what they think is the best answer, and opens their mind to the creative possibilities of brainstorming.
Another useful brainstorming technique is to use small groups instead of whole class brainstorming. Each group should have a dedicated recorder and all students in the group should be encouraged to participate by offering ideas. Small groups are more comfortable for quieter students, which will lead to more active participation by all class members.
A fun way to conclude each brainstorming session is to have students categorize the ideas, whether individually or in a group, and offer their best (or worst) idea to the class. Choose categories that encourage creativity, such as the most outrageous idea, dumbest idea, or silliest idea.
Brainstorming tips such as using small groups, encouraging quantity and investigating quality later, and demonstrating the importance of all ideas help students understand that brainstorming results in getting ideas out in the open, not finding the correct answer. Students should be provided a format, whether a free form list or a mindmap, a time and a quantity to help students who work better within a structure. The important outcome of this problem solving technique is for students to become comfortable sharing ideas, no matter how strange, so that all can benefit from the resulting creativity.