Brainstorming – Part Three by Hall Houston

By now, you know the basic rules of brainstorming and are aware of potential problems that might occur.


This time around I will share with you some different formats for brainstorming.


Brainwriting – This is a great method for students who are not fond of speaking in groups.  Students write their ideas on slips of paper which they pass around for other students to write comments on.  You can also use post-it notes, which can be put on the board or sheets of poster paper later on.


Brainwriting 6-3-5 – This fast-paced version of brainwriting can help a small group of students to produce 108 ideas in 30 minutes! Students sit in circles, working in groups of 6. Each student in the group has just 5 minutes to write down 3 ideas. Then each student passes their paper to the next student, who briefly reads the previous student’s ideas, and adds 3 more during the next five minutes. This process continues, until papers return to their original authors. After 30 minutes, the group will have over 100 solutions for the problem statement.


Brainwalking – Kinesthetic students, who don’t like sitting down for an entire class, will enjoy this one. Put large sheets of poster paper on the walls. You write a few different but closely related problem statements on the paper (one problem statement per sheet of paper), and students circulate to write their solutions, read others’ solutions, and give feedback.


Negative brainstorming – This time you give students a problem statement that is the opposite of the real problem statement (How can I lose my job? How can I spend more money?) Once the class has produced a large number of ideas, students read them over and use them as a springboard to generate solutions for the real problem.


Rolestorming - Create a situation and several roles that relate to the problem you are trying to solve. Put students into small groups to plan out a role play that will demonstrate a solution to the problem. After they practice in groups, they perform their role plays for the class.


Electronic brainstorming – This involves using computers or smartphones to manage a brainstorming session. You might want to use e-mail, Facebook, Skype, or some other platform for brainstorming.


In the last installment of this series, I’m going to give you a few more suggestions for making a brainstorming session even more special.



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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