Knowing and Thinking Level 1


Brainstorming / mind mapping a theme

This is a key process in a MyScience investigation. It occurs in Teaching Phase 2, Preparation, and follows from students researching a topic area and leads to selecting an area of interest.

Brainstorming is a creative thinking strategy to generate ideas rapidly and without evaluation. Mind mapping is the process of showing the relationships between ideas. This combined process involves the students generating the ideas or topics that belong to the theme they have just been researching and the teacher ‘thinking aloud’ to model visual presentation of the relationships.

Primary students in the context of brainstorming and mind mapping around the theme of energy would often come up with quite different set of ideas and links to the one (.docx 25kB) shown. They may include forces along with energy or omit or add several other types of energy. Students frequently blend the types of energy with sources of energy. The teacher’s role is to question and prompt students using the context with which they are familiar, to elicit their ideas.

Types of teacher questions used in brainstorming/mind mapping:

  • Prompting — Engaging students with the topic to draw our prior knowledge and understandings. ‘Who can think of...?’ ‘What do you know about...?’ ‘What are some examples of...?’ These questions are used extensively at the beginning of the brainstorming session.

  • Expanding — Ensuring that the theme is expanded to provide more opportunities for students to find an area that interests them. ‘What are some other types of energy?’ These questions are often used in the early stages of brainstorming.

  • Clarifying — Sometimes student suggestions are not clear. Clarification questions can help students communicate their ideas and prompt the ideas of other students. ‘What aspect of energy conservation are you interested in?’

  • Linking — Eliciting links between ideas can make areas more relevant. ‘Is there a link between solar energy and plants?’

  • Analysing — Some ideas can be analysed with the view to developing practicable investigations. ‘What are some ways that we use wind energy? How could we investigate the effects of solar energy on plant growth?’

Watch a group of students recount how they decided on a question for investigation.

Review your understanding of the types of questions to ask to promote the brainstorming of topics around a theme in this drag and drop activity.

A mind map should not be regarded as correct or incorrect, but rather as a reflection of the students’ current perceptions. The whole purpose of the exercise is to get students to find an area within a theme that interests them and that they would want to explore further through a scientific investigation.

The Student Research Project has advice for students starting to plan an investigation. Another link is to ideas for science projects.