Connect, Grow, Thrive

Brainstorming

Book Review: ETAS Journal Spring 2018

Gerhard Erasmus and Hall Houston

The Round (2016)

ASIN: B01ACW18OC

37 Pages, e-book

This e-book aims to provide teachers and educators with original go-to brainstorming activities that could be used to challenge and motivate students. We’ve all encountered situations when we’ve planned a group task only to discover that our students have no idea how to start up a conversation. This situation often occurs in group projects or creative writing tasks where students are expected to come up with an original topic to discuss or write about. The challenge most students face is generating ideas, identifying advantages and disadvantages, and keeping track of all the different categories of that idea. 

This is where these original brainstorming ideas come in handy. As teachers we need something productive but fun to do during class and Brainstorming allows us to help our students, all the while permitting them to improve their skills and have fun. This creative work by Houston and Erasmus not only provides readers with the traditional mind-map that we have all used at some point or another, but also a how-to guide to productive and lively lessons with step-by-step instructions and starting points for each brainstorming session. It offers pages’ worth of different situations and scenarios that encourage creative brainstorming. 

As a plus, the authors have provided possible solutions to problems that could occur during brainstorming, such as making sure that all students do equal amounts of work so no one feels that they have to carry other group members. Each and every situation provides the reader with details that could be adapted to their individual needs in order to serve as departure points. The idea of working through the expected issues that occur during brainstorming is particularly prominent as the authors go into precise detail about the causes and the different solutions that could be used to smooth out any bumps that come along the way. It also provides the reader with the do’s and don’ts of brainstorming, making it impossible to be unsuccessful. 

The Troubleshooting section also provided some key advice that guided me through different exercises. At times my students fell into silence and as a teacher you can only do so much. Having read through this book, I remembered some of the solutions provided and I was able to use them right then and there. I tweaked my instructions in order to make the students feel more comfortable and encouraged constructive criticism. This solution focused on the way that students perceived each other’s ideas and how they could help each other improve those ideas without feeling as if they were imposing their ideas on others. This e-book provided all of the guidelines that I needed to motivate my students and keep them focused on their goals. 

The activities enable students to discuss and communicate their thoughts and ideas in a positive environment where they are encouraged to question each other in order to have stronger arguments. These activities are designed to motivate students and maximize their creative thinking process. They are formatted in an easy-to-follow lesson plan style with step- by-step clear instructions and plenty of alternatives that can be used to add a bit of originality. Each activity can be adapted to suit students between the ages of 14 and 80 with B1+/C2 levels.

I particularly enjoyed this e-book because it gave my lessons a much-needed spark. I used several exercises in my conversation and exam preparation courses in which students are asked to form opinions and ideas on the spot. I adjusted some of the language as my students were B2 learners and explained that their ideas would influence the work of other groups. I combined two activities to steer them towards a desired outcome and at the end of the activity, I found that my students were more motivated and much less hesitant to participate during their classes. Giving them responsibility changed the manner in which they interacted with each other and made them more eager to help one another. As students had to rely on their knowledge of the language, this activity proved challenging and it motivated them to help each other, thus encouraging them to work so that they all could achieve their goals. 

If you are looking for some inspiration for your classroom and a new, fun way to spice lessons up, you’ve found it! This e-book is an excellent guide for teachers in all fields and I would recommend it as a precious addition in their libraries. 

Naida Vereget 

Wall Street English