Unlike trigonometry, brainstorming is one of those school-taught skills that actually comes in useful in adult life. Still, teaching brainstorming and trying to get students enthused for group thinking sessions, whether virtual or in class, are never easy tasks.
These 10 fun brainstorm activities for students are sure to change their opinions on group thinking.
Individual Brainstorm Activities for Students
These 5 classroom brainstorm activities are suited for individual brainstorming. Each student in the class submits their ideas before the whole class discusses all submitted ideas together.
💡 Don’t forget to check out our quick-guide and example questions for school brainstorm ideas!
#1: Desert Storm
Don’t worry, you’re not sending anyone to war in the Gulf with this student brainstorm activity.
You’ve likely performed an exercise like Desert Storm before. It involves giving students a scenario, such as ‘If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 items would you like to have with you?’ and letting them come up with creative solutions and explaining their reasoning.
Once everyone has their 3 items, write them down and give all students a vote on their favourite batch of items.
Tip 💡 Keep questions as open as possible so you don’t pigeonhole students into answering a certain way. The desert island question is great because it gives students free reign to think creatively. Some students might want items that help them escape the island, while others might want some home comforts to make a new life there.
#2: Creative Use Storm
Speaking of thinking creatively, here’s one of the most creative brainstorm activities for students, as it involves really thinking outside of the box.
Present to your students an everyday object (a ruler, a water bottle, a lamp). Then, give them 5 minutes to write down as many creative uses for that object as possible.
Ideas can range from traditional to absolutely wild, but the point of the activity is to lean more on the wild side and encourage students to be completely free with their ideas.
Once the ideas are out, give everyone 5 votes to vote for the most creative use ideas.
Tip 💡 It’s best to give students an item that serves only one traditional use, like a face mask or a plant pot. The more restrictive the object’s function, the more creative the ideas will be.
Live Brainstorming for Free!
Host organised brainstorm sessions in class. Students submit ideas and vote for their favourites using just their phones (template included).
#3: Parcel Storm
This student brainstorm activity is based on the popular kids’ party game, Pass the Parcel.
It starts with all students sitting in a circle. Announce the topic of the brainstorm and give everyone some time to write down a few ideas.
Once time is up, play some music and get all students to continually pass their paper around the circle. Once the music stops, students have a few minutes to read whichever paper they ended up with and add their own additions and critiques to the ideas in front of them.
When they’re done, repeat the process. After a few rounds, each idea should have a wealth of additions and critiques, at which point you can pass the paper back to the original owner.
Tip 💡 Encourage your students to focus more on additions than critiques. Additions are inherently more positive than critiques, and are much more likely to lead to great ideas.
Apologies for the crass title, but it was too big an opportunity to pass up.
Shitstorm is a fairly well-known brainstorm activity that you’ve probably experienced before. The aim of this one is to get as many bad ideas down as possible in a strict time limit.
It may just seem like a brainstorm ice breaker activity, or maybe a straight-up waste of time, but doing this actually frees creativity enormously. It’s fun, communal, and best of all, some of the ‘bad’ ideas’ may turn out to be diamonds in the rough.
Tip 💡 You’ll need some classroom management here, as some students are bound to drown out others with their bad ideas. Either use a ‘talking stick’ so that each person can voice their bad idea, or keep everything orderly with free brainstorming software.
#5: Reverse Storm
The concept of working backwards from a result has solved a lot of big questions in human history. Maybe it can do the same in your brainstorm class?
This one starts by giving students a goal, reversing it to aim for the opposite goal, then reversing it back to figure out the solutions. Let’s take an example…
Let’s say that Mike has to give a lot of presentations for his company. His presentations are incredibly dull, and usually have half the audience scrolling through their phones after the first few slides. So the question here is ‘how can Mike make his presentations more engaging?’.
Before you answer that, reverse it and work towards the opposite goal – ‘how can Mike make his presentations more boring?’
Students brainstorm the answers to this reverse question, maybe with answers like ‘make the presentation a total monologue’ and ‘take everyone’s phones away’.
From this, you can re-reverse the solutions, ending up with great ideas like ‘make the presentation interactive’ and ‘let everyone use their phones to engage with the slides’.
Congratulations, your students have just invented AhaSlides!
Tip 💡 It may be easy to get a little off-topic with this student brainstorm activity. Make sure you don’t ban ‘bad’ ideas, just ban irrelevant ones. Read more about the reverse storm activity.
Group Brainstorm Activities for Students
Here are 5 brainstorm activities for students to complete in groups. Groups can vary depending on the size of your class, but it’s best to keep them to a maximum of 7 students if possible.
#6: Connect Storm
If I asked you what ice cream cones and spirit level measurers have in common, you’d probably be puzzled for a few seconds before coming to your senses and calling the police on me.
Well, these kinds of seemingly unconnectable things are the focus of Connect Storm. Start by splitting the class into teams and create two columns of random objects or concepts. Then, arbitrarily assign each team two objects or concepts – one from each column.
The teams’ jobs are to write down as many connections as possible between those two objects or concepts within a time limit.
This one’s great in a language class for students to brainstorm vocabulary they might not otherwise use. As always, ideas are encouraged to be as creative as possible.
Tip 💡 Keep this student brainstorm activity going by passing each team’s task to another team. The new team must add ideas to those already laid out by the previous team.
#7: Nominal Group Storm
One of the ways that brainstorm activities for students are often stifled is fear of judgement. Students don’t want to be seen offering ideas that get branded ‘stupid’ for fear of ridicule by classmates and low grades by the teacher.
The best way to get around this is with a Nominal Group Storm. Essentially, this allows students to submit their own ideas and vote on other ideas completely anonymously.
A great way to do this is through brainstorming software that offers anonymous submission and voting. Alternatively, in a live class setting, you can simply get all students to submit their ideas by writing them on a piece of paper and dropping them into a hat. You pick all the ideas out of the hat, write them on the board and give each idea a number.
After that, students vote for their favourite idea by writing the number down and dropping it in the hat. You count the votes for each idea and chalk them up on the board.
#8: Celebrity Storm
For many, this is one of the most engaging and fun brainstorm activities for students.
Start by putting students into small groups and presenting all groups with the same topic. Next, assign a celebrity to each group and tell the group to offer ideas from the perspective of that celebrity.
Let’s say, for example, that the topic is ‘how do we attract more visitors to the nautical history museum? You’d then ask one group: ‘how would Gwenyth Paltrow answer this?’ and another group: ‘how would Barack Obama answer this?’
This is a great student brainstorm activity for getting participants to approach problems from a different point of view. Needless to say, this is a crucial skill to develop for tackling future problems, and even for developing empathy in general.
Tip 💡 Avoid looking hopelessly out of touch with youngsters’ ideas of modern celebrities by letting them choose their own celebrities. If you’re worried about giving students too much free reign with their celebrity perspectives, you can give them a list of pre-approved celebrities and let them choose who they want.
#9: Tower Storm
All too often when there’s a brainstorm in the classroom, (as well as at work) students tend to latch onto the first few ideas that were mentioned and disregard ideas that come later. A great way to negate this is through Tower Storm, a student brainstorming game that puts all ideas on an equal footing.
Start by separating your class into groups of about 5 or 6 participants. Announce the brainstorm topic to everyone, then ask all students except for 2 per group to leave the room.
Those 2 students per group discuss the problem and come up with a few initial ideas. After 5 minutes, invite into the room 1 more student per group, who adds their own ideas and builds on the ones suggested by the first 2 students of their group.
Repeat this process until all students are invited back into the room and each group has built a ‘tower’ of well-crafted ideas. After that, you can have a debate amongst your students to discuss each one in-depth.
Tip 💡 Tell the students waiting outside the room to think of their ideas. That way, they can write them down immediately upon entering the room and spend most of their time building on the ideas that came before them.
#10: Synonym Storm
Here’s a great brainstorm activity for students that you might want to use in English class.
Put students into groups and give each group the same long sentence. In the sentence, underline the words that you’d like your students to offer synonyms for. It would look something like this…
The farmer was horrified to find that the rats had been eating his crops all night, and had left a lot of food debris in the garden in front of the house.
Give each group 5 minutes to brainstorm as many synonyms as they can think of for the underlined words. At the end of the 5 minutes, count how many synonyms each team has overall, then get them to read out their funniest sentence to the class.
Write all the synonyms on the board to see which groups got the same synonyms.
Tip 💡 Sign up free to AhaSlides for a school brainstorm template! Click here to get started.