Educational Resources Lets Talk Science Challenge participants

Brainstorming (SolStock, iStockphoto)


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).
Sample T-chart Source: Let’s Talk Science
Sample idea web Source: Let’s Talk Science


  • 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.

Related Skills