Brainstorming is a way to let flow free ideas around a specific topic or problem. This technique is helpful, especially in group sessions, to increase solving skills and to bring out creative ideas quickly and efficiently. The time limit stimulates the mind to try to achieve the goals,  generating more ideas than when there is no time limit because the mind works under pressure. Also, the brainstorming session helps to respond to new stimuli, when someone suggests something different, it can  suddenly take the mind in another direction, giving new pathways to explore. It is also important in order to achieve possible solutions, to consider bridging ideas that offer a different way of thinking about a problem or situation,  enabling students to consider alternatives rather than the normal ones. During the brainstorming session the teacher will have the role of facilitator ensuring everybody  is involved in the session, creating a warm supportive environment, encouraging full participation in the session without criticism and judgment. It is important also that teachers emphasise the importance of listening to expressed ideas and encourage the students to ‘think outside the box.’

The following paragraph will explain how to carry out a brainstorming technique:

  1. Define topic or problem for the discussion. It is extremely important this is clear if it is to  generate a variety of ideas
  2. Set a time limit (around 25 minutes)
  3. During the brainstorming session, the participants express   their ideas freely.. The teacher writes them down – usually on a white board or flip-chart for all to see. It is important during the session that everything need to be recorded
  4. At the end of the brainstorming session, the results will be evaluated. This can be done quickly by a show of hands to rank the ideas. When examining the responses  look for any  that are repeated or similar, grouping similar concepts together and eliminating responses that definitely do not fit.
  5. At this point you have  narrowed down the list ready to discuss the remaining responses as a group and to recognise bridging ideas.

Cooperative learning

Cooperative learning is any learning activity in which students of adverse backgrounds work together in groups toward a specific goal. IWorking in  small groups allows students to work closely together, maximizing their own and each other’s learning.  This contrasts with competitive and individualistic (students work by themselves to accomplish learning goals unrelated to those of the other students) learning. 

The benefits of cooperative learning are, for example:

  • Motivation to help one another learn
  • Practice meaningful conversations and interactions
  • Translate “teacher language” to “kid talk”
  • See situations and problems from different perspectives
  • Increased on-task time
  • Build friendships and relationships
  • Enhance communication and interaction skills.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping means literally “maps out” your ideas. It is used to generate as many ideas as possible in relation to a specific topic. The difference between mind mapping and other methodologies can be found in the way ideas are recorded. Mind maps stimulate more associative thinking since thoughts are not simply listed but noted down in a more organic pattern. To carry out mind mapping it is important that the key topic is  written down in the centre of a piece of paper. The aim is to stimulate ideas relating to the main topic ,drawing lines from the centre and between the ideas using colours, images and symbols to visualise one’s thoughts. The advantage of mind maps is that they make ideas easier to memorise as opposed to creating a list. Research has shown that using the mind mapping technique involves the use of both halves of the human brain. Thus, many refer to mind mapping as a more holistic way of thinking than other creative thinking techniques (Stankodic, Basic, Papic, Aleksic, 2011).

Mind mapping diagram

Introducing more unconventional learning materials

Introducing more unconventional learning materials can help students think outside the box and engage more deeply with the lesson. Podcasts or design interactive lessons are a useful tool for the internet or social media. Teacher resources that can be used during the lesson to foster creativity. Another suggestion is to create a warm and open-minded atmosphere within the classroom,  incorporating the use of visual art and humour within the storytelling thereby creating a flexible and supportive environment.

Podcast logo

Plan cross-interaction during the lessons

This approach promotes open-mindedness and creative thinking, giving students the opportunity to interact with peers of other countries. It is possible in projects fostering an iEarn approach (see the interactive resources above) or creating links across different schools in the world. The aim being to encourage the students to

be comfortable and interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds. In doing so,  students will acquire skills in international communication, be more sensitive to others’ cultural values and norms. Cross-cultural interaction leads to rethinking popular stereotypes or misinformation to avoid overgeneralization and prejudgment. To develop this type of lessons the teacher can register, or request more information to the iEARN Coordinator in your country.

Multi-cultural learning and educate toward multiple perspectives

Learn about others cultures directly from international resources (video, autobiographies, blog, etc.) or inviting people of different countries to speak directly to students to give their contribution on specific topics. This can be helpful also for the students to see that the teacher values and embraces  the stories, reactions, ideas of other countries.  This approach allows the students to appreciate seeing events through the eyes of others, even when they do not agree with other people’s point of view.

Image of young monks reading

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Coordinator – Centro per lo Sviluppo Creativo Danilo Dolci – Italy