What Is It?
Brainstorming is a learning strategy that encourages students to contribute to the free flow of ideas in small or large groups using a structured process.
Why use it?
- To help students to recall what they know about a topic, interest area or event and to generate many and varied words, ideas and/or phrases related to it.
- To support students in making connections between prior knowledge and new ideas.
- To provide opportunities for students to learn to respect the ideas and thoughts of others.
- To provide opportunities for students to take risks while sharing their own ideas.
- To provide opportunities for students to expand their own knowledge, through sharing with others.
Tips for success
- Emphasize and model active listening during brainstorming sessions so that students can clearly hear each other’s responses.
- Create a supportive environment in which students are comfortable in taking risks to share their ideas.
- Model appropriate positive responses such as “thank you ‘name’ for your idea” when evaluative or critical comments are made.
- Provide ample opportunities for students to practice brainstorming in small groups, large groups or whole class settings.
How do I use it?
- Before using this strategy, introduce its purpose to the students and model expected behaviours.
- Make sure that the question/problem is open-ended and that students are clear about the purpose of the brainstorming.
- Guide students through a brainstorming session to familiarize them with the rules of brainstorming (e.g., have students brainstorm the planning of a birthday party).
- Insure everyone understands that all ideas are worth sharing, that coming up with many different ideas is desirable, and that all contributions are accepted without criticism or judgement when brainstorming.
- Have a facilitator and a recorder for the brainstorming session; this can be the same person (for younger students the educator can fill this role).
- Have the recorder write down or illustrate each person’s ideas in front of the group as the ideas are shared. Organizing tools such as T-charts and idea webs can be used to support the recording and organizing of ideas.
- Encourage everyone to contribute (see Group Talk for ideas on how to structure this process).
- Encourage students to add onto ideas that other classmates provide (i.e., ‘piggy-back’ on an idea).
- Set a time limit for the brainstorming session.
- After the brainstorming session is over, have students reflect on the session (e.g., how well did the group follow the “norms” of brainstorming? How can the ideas generated be organized/grouped? Review ideas to determine feasibility and relevance).
- Group Talk is a similar strategy where students take turns contributing ideas, information, and reflections.
- Add words and/or phrases from a brainstorming session to the class word wall.
- Use voice-to-text software to record ideas when students are working in small groups or when there are problems with written output.