Visually Think Through the Brainstorming Process

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So your students have sat down at their computers to begin brainstorming. They have a main idea in the center of their screens and maybe they’ve started to RapidFire® every concept that comes to mind on the topic. Soon their screens are full of words, pictures and symbols that represent their thoughts. This visual learning technique is often called webbing. It’s a free-form way to kick-start the brainstorming process for any writing assignment or project. Yet, this in itself is not the end result of brainstorming that embodies all the elements of 21st century skills. Your students aren’t done with the process  just because they’ve thought of some ideas and concepts. Instead, the creative process is an elaborate one that bridges the gap between scattered thoughts and organized thinking that is ready for the production of an essay or project.

Brainstorming as a Process

The full brainstorming process includes the generation, organization, evaluation, synthesis and analysis of ideas. So when your students have filled their screens with bubbles of ideas, they’ve simply completed the first step in the entire process of brainstorming – the generation of ideas. The next step is organizing those ideas.


The first step in organizing is to group the words, pictures and symbols from your web together. To do so, instruct your students to place similar terms that relate to one another, next to each other. This step helps students identify which terms relate to the main idea and other ideas on the screen. This requires them to think critically about the organization of their ideas to formulate refined thoughts and ideas around the relationships of their symbols.


Next, ask your students to begin linking their ideas to create relationships between the concepts. One way to do that is to organize them into a hierarchical framework. When your students break down ideas into topics, subtopics and additional subtopics, it requires them to evaluate the importance of each idea and how their value-based relationship should be organized. This step in the process really emphasizes the skills of evaluation, synthesis and analysis – all of which make up the 21st century skills of critical thinking and problem solving. It also helps students to identify where they need to add more information to round out their points.


Brainstorming as a 21st Century Skill

It’s the complete brainstorming process that will help your students utilize the 21st century skills of visual learning, which include, but are not limited to, critical thinking and problem solving. After students generate their ideas, they have to think critically about the connections and how to best organize the information in their web. Upon doing so, they can continue to organize the information into topics and subtopics that articulate hierarchical relationships to create a point of view, solve a problem or articulate a process. It’s at the end of this entire brainstorming process with a visual diagram like a web that students are ready to take on an essay or project to further apply their skills for the 21st century.

How are your students using the brainstorming process on writing assignments, projects or more?

See you next week!

Mona Westhaver, Inspiration Software, President

Mona Westhaver
President and Co-founder, Inspiration Software

Mona Westhaver, President and Co-founder of Inspiration® Software, Inc., has more than 30 years’ experience in visual thinking, systems thinking, and educational learning tools and technology. She has a passion for helping people learn to clarify thinking and feelings and to communicate knowledge and views in a positive way.
Mona Westhaver
View all posts by Mona Westhaver

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