There are many ways to approach creative thinking including the use of De Bono's hats. All teachers should find a method that suits them and extends their students. The two methods below are simple and easy to implement in the classroom and have been used extensively over the last 20 years. A google search will find more.

To start with, the ubiquitous mind-map is always a favourite. Here is an animation used to assist students in learning how to create in depth mind-maps. That is with more than one level with many branches. The students have to create mind-maps that are about 4 - 5 levels for a small project and about 15 or more for extensive projects.

To start, the students all get a sheet of paper. If the mind-map is part of group work a large sheet of paper can be used and the small group all sitting around the sheet can add to the mind-map.

The students should not be researching yet as they need to utilize what they already know, to make sure their learning is being applied across all disciplines. On the pretext that some of the best ideas come from the most innocuous things, the students are not allowed to use erasers and their mind-map is not to be beautiful. In my classes I try to get the students to keep the pencil moving at all times even if it is to doodle on the paper while their brain is ticking over (I watch this closely so the doodle does not become the main focus of the mind-map). It is not hard to get all the 3 main learning styles of auditory, kineasthetic and visual, in use at the same time and the students generally love the activity.


If the students ideas start to wind down too quickly make them swap maps with another student and add ideas to the new map. If the teacher stops the students from asking questions about the new map they will have to use their own imagination and will often generate new and creative ideas.

There can be much made of the comment "There is no such thing as a bad idea; It is what you do with the idea that is good or bad".


  Mindmap tips


Another simple design and ideas process htat can be used is for the students to get a book or dictionary in their hands.

  1. The student closes their eyes, opens the book and puts their finger on the page.
  2. The word from under the finger goes in the top left of a sheet of paper.
  3. The desired goal is placed in the bottom right of the paper.

Starting from the top left and in small increments or drawings (stick figures are ok as it is not an art exercise) try and arrive at your goal.
design idea process

In the picture it can be seen that 4 usable ideas that have a certain amount of originality would satisfy the goal at the bottom.

Using paper for generating ideas is often better than the computer as the ideas tend to be generated quicker and the action makes better use of Kinesthetic learning styles. After the students have a good and extensive collection of ideas they can do more planning on the computer using any number of mind-mapping or 'organising ideas' software.

Another choice is to start a journal / diary where the students can order their thoughts and start their research. This style has the benefit of the teacher being able to look at the document and offer guiding questions to help the students understand their topics. The offering of guiding questions such as 'how are you showing evidence of this'? and the students giving their ideas maintains a student centred classroom.

The teacher should be aware that when they tell the student what to do they often move into a teacher centred environment and can get training and education very confused.

Additional information