A Lesson Plan for More Effective Brainstorming

Here’s a quick lesson plan for those who are getting started with group brainstorming in the classroom. If you love a Socratic style, harnessing the collective thinking of the class or you are looking for a way to flip the classroom, then here’s a way to amp up your lesson plans.

Objective: To get the group to brainstorm ideas, critically analyse ideas from others and to vote on the best ideas and responses.
Timing: 20-40 mins
Number of people : 5-100
What you need: A focus question – e.g. what do you think are the key issues in this case/story? Devices (laptop or iPad) for individuals or per team
  • Each person or team has their own responses (individual view)
  • An overall response from the whole team (the group view)
  • A list of ideas that have been commented on, voted and prioritised.

Step 1 – Provide the background
Provide a little background or explain the subject matter you want to group to think about. Are there any constraints or would you like them to go as widely as possible. Providing videos, reading material, images or case examples will help with the depth of discussion and stimulate initial thinking. Alternatively, you may simply wish to see what the group already understands about the subject matter.

Step 2 – Individual brainstorming
Have each person/team, enter the GroupMap session and without any initial discussion put down 3-5 things around the question.. Studies show that individual brainstorming produces greater diversity and more implementable solutions, so allow 5 minutes or so for this activity. Make sure the map setting is set so that people work independently.

Step 3 – Small group discussion (optional)
Ask people to form teams, if not already and to share their individual responses with each other. People may decide to change their top 3-5 based on those discussions…or not.

Step 4- Group brainstorming
It’s now time to open up the floodgates and let the ideas float around the whole room. Change your map setting so that people are now working collaboratively. This will allow people to see from 1 or all ideas at the same time. They can then look at ideas and decide which one they want to add or remove from their map. Use the comment function to allow people to add in any additional thoughts and to capture their rationale behind their idea.

Step 5 – Prioritisation and voting
Now get people to like/dislike or allocate them with a few dot votes. This will allow you to gauge where people are gravitating towards and will allow you to get a sense of where to focus the conversation and thinking.  It help[s if you give them some criteria as to how they are allocating their votes… e.g. “which ones should we action?”

Optional: You may also ask individuals to reflect on why their responses are very similar or very different to the group’s perspective and why that might be the case. Some may wish to share this with the group. GroupMap is an innovative group response tool that allows individuals to capture, sort and prioritise their own ideas. These ideas are then suggested in turn to others who can add, reject, move or merge these to their views. All individual views are then merged in real time to reveal what the Group is thinking instantly. GroupMap is an online brainstorming and consensus building application that has been used by government, universities and corporate to improve productivity, speed of knowledge exchange and enhance collaboration and consensus decision making in their organisations.

How smart are your kids?

Teacher looks for the “Smart” kids in class.

Most people know about IQ… but our kids can be smart in so many ways. In this example, Mrs Cotham explores the dimensions of intelligence and asks the students what they do to show off their talents. Before you know it, the GroupMap is filled with aspects of art, music, sport, writing and even concepts of social intelligence. Things like helping others to learn, playing fairly  and being kind to others were some key stand outs.

Watching them move ideas on the electronic whiteboard and working out where and how to cluster ideas was a joy to watch..it’s a shame lunch came around so quickly. Here’s how they did it:


They talked about what it meant to be smart… or to be good at something – it’s about breaking down the paradigm that if you can memorize and repeat that this makes you smart.

They talked about why it was important to have different types of “smartness” in a group, and in fact, the world, making sure that differences are valued. The students then formed teams and as a group had to start making a list of examples of different kinds of smart.

And whilst academic prowess remains in the foreground of assessment and provides at least evidence that satisfies moderators and auditors of a grade, it’s comforting to know that we can all be a little smart in our own way.. and in many ways.

Great job guys and gals! Great concentration, focus, and sharing of ideas.
Our thanks to Mrs. Cotham and Mrs. Kelly and the class for allowing us to share a GroupMap experience with them.