Something I’ve been trying to incorporate into recent Byrdseed.TV lessons is to ask students to regularly generate more than one idea. E. Paul Torrance used to term “Fluency” to describe being able to come up with many ideas.
What are TEN ways to…
Fluency is a key trait of high-level thinking. Your brain works very differently when you try to come up with five or ten ways to solve a problem rather than just a way.
Think about how it feels to approach these tasks:
- What are seven ways to group 12 objects?
- Come up with ten different ways to teach this lesson.
- Write five sentences to describe this photo. Use a different style each time.
- Categorize these animals into 3-5 groups. Now do it again using different groups. One more time!
- Come up with five possible themes the author was trying to get across.
Perhaps the first couple of ideas come quickly. Then you hit a rough spot (this is where we practice pushing through and feeling our brains start sweating). Then, sometimes, that 9th idea turns out to be the best — and sometimes it doesn’t.
Caveat: This must be a creative task where there is room to develop unexpected, interesting ideas. This does not mean giving ten math worksheets to “early finishers.” Beware that this idea doesn’t just become “more work.”
Caveat 2: For some students, 10 ideas will break their will. They’ll freak out. So let them start with 5 or 3. Or ask them how many they think they can do. Scaffolds are ok! But also push them to work their way up to 10 eventually.
Not All Ideas Will Be Great
Asking for many answers is also a tool to fight perfectionism. When students have to create just one idea, there’s so much pressure to make it the best it can possibly be.
But when they need to create ten ideas, well, some of those ideas are probably going to stink. But we need to get those stinkers out on paper so that the real gems can rise to the surface.
Not every idea is going to be great — or even good. And that’s ok!
Ideas Need Room To Evolve
We’re so used to enjoying finished products (whether its a song, a movie, a book, or an app), but those songs and movies went through many (sometimes terrible) iterations to get there. An app may have had a dozen different designs before something finally worked.
I love reading the early versions of The Lord Of The Rings because it’s incredible how different the story once was. I mean… Frodo Baggins (the main character) didn’t appear until the third draft. And his name was Bingo!
We also see this in early ideas for characters (like Buzz and super-creepy Woody) or demos of songs. Some ideas don’t work out, but they help us get to the good ideas.
Once students start generating many ideas, you can easily push them up Bloom’s Taxonomy. Ask them to categorize their various ideas (you wrote five sentences, how might you group those?), or pick and defend their favorite (which idea was the most surprising), or synthesize the best of multiple ideas to form an ultra-idea.
Torrance’s trait of Fluency is just another classic tool to make sure that students are thinking and not just remembering. Take any question and ask for a whole bunch of answers instead of just one.
If you’re a subscriber over at Byrdseed.TV, hopefully you’ll note that some newer lessons are including a “come up with another idea” component.
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