Brainstorming – Part Four by Hall Houston

In the final part of this series, I’m going to give you a few suggestions for making a brainstorming activity more memorable. When you have done brainstorming activities several times with your class, look over this list for some unusual variations.


  • Present the problem statement in a novel way. You can write it with the words in the wrong order, requiring students to put them back in order. Or you can write the problem statement with 1 or 2 letters missing from each word and ask a few students to fill in the blanks.
  • Write 3 problem statements on the board and ask students to vote for the one they want to work with.
  • Students can write their own problem statements or generate problem statements that are assigned to other groups.
  • Add a twist to the interaction patterns, such as asking each group to switch a student with another group, halfway through the activity. Or assign a student in each group to go around to all the other groups to get ideas from them.
  •  Use random input to help students to come up with a more diverse mix of solutions. Prepare a Powerpoint slideshow, with a wide range of images that don’t directly relate to your problem statement. Ask students to look at the images and free-associate solutions solutions suggested by the images. (You can also try a collection of objects, or sound effects.)
  • Play music to energize the class.
  • Make the brainstorming session competitive, by offering a prize to the group who generates the most ideas in 15 minutes.
  • Assign roles to group members. For example, one student can act as secretary (writes ideas down), one acts as leader (manages the brainstorming session), one acts as encourage   (encourages everyone to contribute more) and one is the presenter (presents best ideas to the class).
  • Students can begin the brainstorming session in Chinese, then brainstorm in English after a time limit.
  • Each group can create an eye-catching poster to summarize their best ideas.
  • Groups can get the class to vote on their ideas. Once the class has chosen the best idea for each group, the class can have a final vote on the best solution of all.
  • To extend the activity, you can assign each group to write out a 3-point action plan for carrying out their solution.


One final tip – you can connect a brainstorming activity to your lesson by choosing a problem statement that relates to the topic of the current coursebook unit. This can make for a more focused lesson.



Hall Houston teaches at Kainan University in Taoyuan County, Taiwan. His articles have been published in periodicals such as It's for Teachers, Modern English Teacher and English Teaching Professional. He has written 3 books: The Creative Classroom: Teaching Languages Outside the Box, Provoking Thought: Memory and Thinking in ELT, and The ELT Daily Journal: Learning to Teach ESL/EFL

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