Resource 3: Brainstorming
Teacher resource to support teaching approaches
What is brainstorming?
Brainstorming is a group activity that generates as many ideas as possible on a specific issue or problem then decides which ideas offer the best solution. It involves creative thinking by the group to generate new ideas to address the issue or problem they are faced with. Brainstorming helps pupils to:
- understand a new topic
- generate different ways to solve a problem
- be excited by a new concept or idea
- feel involved in a group activity that reaches agreement.
Brainstorming is particularly useful for helping students to make connections between ideas. In science, for example, it can help them to appreciate the links between the ideas they are learning in class and scientific theories.
As a teacher, a brainstorm at the start of a topic will give you a good idea about the extent and depth of knowledge already held by the class. It will not tell you about individuals’ understanding, but it will provide a wealth of collective ideas that you can refer back to as the topic progresses.
How to set up a brainstorming session
Before starting a session, you need to identify a clear issue or problem. This can range from a simple word like ‘energy’ and what it means to the group, or something like ‘How can we develop our school environment?’ To set up a good brainstorm, it is essential to have a word, question or problem that the group is likely to respond to. The teacher can gather the class round the board and run the session, or, in very large classes, divide the class into groups. The questions can be different for different groups. Groups themselves should be as varied as possible in terms of gender and ability.
There needs to be a large sheet of paper that all can see in a group of between six and eight pupils. The ideas of the group need to be recorded as the session progresses so that everyone knows what has been said and can build on or add to earlier ideas. Every idea must be written down, however unusual.
Before the session begins, the following rules are made clear:
- Everyone in the group must be involved.
- No one dismisses anyone else’s ideas or suggestions.
- Unusual and innovative ideas are welcomed.
- Lots of different ideas are needed.
- Everyone needs to work quickly; brainstorming is a fast and furious activity.
Running the session
The teacher’s role initially is to encourage discussion, involvement and the recording of ideas. When pupils begin to struggle for ideas, or time is up, get the group (or groups) to select their best three ideas and say why they have chosen these.
- summarise for the class what they have done well
- ask them what they found useful about their activity. What did they discover in the brainstorming that they didn’t realise before?