Brainstorming involves students working together to generate ideas quickly without stopping to judge their worth.  In brainstorming, students in pairs or groups freely exchange ideas and lists in response to an open-ended question, statement, problem, or other prompt.  Students try to generate as many ideas as possible, often building on a comment or idea from another participant.  This supports creativity and leads to expanded possibilities. The process activates students’ relevant prior knowledge, allows them to benefit from the knowledge and experience of others, and creates an anticipatory mental set for new learning (Buehl, 2001; Dreher, 2000).


 Teaching Process

1.   Begin by posing a question, problem, or other prompt to students. For example, “How many ways can you…” “What would happen if…?” Frame the prompt in such a way as to generate ideas and input from as many students as possible.  Make sure students understand the prompt being addressed and the purpose and background of the brainstorming activity. 


Brainstorm Prompt for a Geography Lesson on New Orleans

        We have been learning about how the unique geography of the New Orleans area contributed to the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina.  With a partner, think of all the possible things that could be done to compensate for the area’s geography that might help prevent another similar disaster.  Be creative and remember that no idea is too far-fetched.  Work quickly; you have five minutes.


2.   Ask students to work with a partner or in designated groups to brainstorm responses to the prompt.  State to the students in the very beginning that all ideas are welcome, including those that might be considered out of the ordinary.  These often stimulate the best contributions from the group. 

3.   After a set period of time, invite students to share their brainstormed ideas.  Ideas should be listed on the board, overhead, or flipchart and should be in view of all students.  Either designate a group spokesperson or encourage all students to call out ideas while you write them down.  Avoid being judgmental about ideas as they are shared.

4.   Once an initial list is established, tell students to build on the suggested ideas and to connect ideas that are seemingly unrelated.  Focus on quantity.

5.   Frequently, after an initial burst of ideas, there will be a time of silence.  Allow the group to be silent for a moment.  Most of the time, additional ideas will begin flowing and this will generate the eventual solution to the question.

6.   Connect the brainstormed ideas with the content and information to be learned in the upcoming lesson.  This can be accomplished by making statements, such as “We now have all these interesting ideas; let’s see what the author says about…” or “Now let’s compare your brainstormed solutions to the problem with the process recommended on page…”



Buehl, D. (2001). Classroom strategies for interactive learning. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Dreher, M.J. (2000). Fostering reading for learning. In L. Baker, M.J. Dreher, & J. Guthrie (Eds.), Engaging young readers: Promoting achievement and motivation (94-118).  New York: Guilford Press.



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