Miss B.'s Classroom » Teaching critical thinking skills

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Category Archives: brainstorming

Jumpstarting the creative thinking process

Creating a ‘Tradition of Giving’

After substituting is a 4th grade class this week, I was reminded again of just how excited children get whenever they think about giving to others. We were talking about the meaning of the word volunteer, and after a lot of enthusiastic discussion, the class came up with their own definition, which was: To do something for others because you want to, not because you’re going to be paid for doing it.

Since they had been so creative with their ideas, I decided to extend the activity and asked them this question, “Can you think of some ways that you could volunteer to help someone during this Christmas Season?”

Oh my goodness! This was a brainstorming session on steroids.:)The enthusiasm and creativity of their responses made my day. Again and again, I was reminded of just how giving children really are. Some of their ideas may not have been the most practical (‘I could bake cakes for everyone in my neighborhood.’) or cost effective (‘I could buy a new collar and leash for every dog at the humane society and then take them for a walk.’) - BUT - they were all meant from the heart.

That got me thinking. As parents and teachers, we have such a wonderful opportunity during this season of the year to give a lasting gift to our children. We can help them to develop a tradition of giving by surrounding them with activities that will encourage them to share their creativity and love with others. You can help them to create positive memories about the joys of giving!

Giving isn’t complicated. It can be as simple as baking some cookies for a friend or helping a neighbor rake up their leaves. True giving just comes from a willing heart. I was watching a Hallmark Christmas movie recently and one of the characters said, “It’s not the presents that come wrapped in ribbons and bows that count as much as the ones that come from the heart.” YES, I do watch every Christmas Movie I can, and YES, I am a dedicated Softie; but, what a great concept for our children to grasp – heartfelt gifts count!

Sometimes what may seem like the smallest of gifts can bring lasting joy to the one who receives it. A personal example of one of those gifts is a ‘whale bookmark’ that my granddaughter made for me when she was three. It doesn’t resemble a whale in any form or fashion and it’s drawn and cut out from a piece of notebook paper; but, I have treasured it for over four years.:)In giving, it really is ‘the thought that counts’.

An easy and effective way to help your children begin to think creatively about giving to others is by asking them some brainstorming questions such as:

  • “Can you think of some ways we could help one of our neighbors this Christmas Season?”
  • “What could we do to show your teacher how much we appreciate him/her?”
  • “Think of something that we could make for Grandpa and Grandma that would show them how much we love them.”

Of course, you’ll probably want to fill in the underlined parts with your families (or classrooms) suggestions. Then, after choosing some of the ideas, work with your children to help them give to others. Remember, not only do you get to spend quality family-time together, but  you’re helping your children to create a ‘Tradition of Giving’.

Celebrate together as you think…imagine…create,

Miss B.

p.s.  To help you with ‘creating a tradition of giving’, some great projects for friends, family and holiday meal settings are coming soon!


Brainstorming 101/ Jump-start Your Child’s Thinking

When I asked one of my 2nd grade classes if they knew what brainstorming was, Amy came up with this definition:

“The fun activity where you get to share lots of ideas without being afraid you’ll get laughed at.”

Amy hit the nail-on-the-head, so to speak. Brainstorming is a process that will literally jump-start your children’s thinking skills into high gear; because, it gives them the confidence to express their unique and imaginative ideas without any fear of rejection.  It is the seriously fun and creative part of any problem-solving activity. Merriam-Webster Word Central defines brainstorming as: “a technique used to solve problems and encourage creativity in which members of a group share their ideas about a subject.” This skill plays an extremely important role in both the critical and creative thinking processes.

This skill plays an extremely important role in both the critical and creative thinking processes. That’s because it builds on the knowledge and experiences that your children already have and then encourages them to come up with a variety of new and unique ideas. This then enables them to solve their own problems more independently. Brainstorming helps your children become innovators, not imitators!

As adults, we have to consider a wide variety of options (brainstorm) all the time. For example, we might talk and dream about the all the places we want to visit on vacation next year; or, we try to figure out how we can possibly get all three kids to their different activities at 4:00 this afternoon. Fast forward twenty years. Your daughter, Sally, has her first job in a major toy company. The managers have put her on a team that’s in charge of developing a new interactive video game. With the brainstorming skills you’ve taught her, she will be able to play a vital part in the creation of this new product. Tommy, your son, has just figured out how to bring more people into his small business by using the same skills of brainstorming that he practiced at home. It is a valuable problem-solving technique for your children now and in the future!

 The guidelines for the brainstorming activities in Miss B.’s Classroom are simple:

  • First, someone asks a question or states a problem. For example, ”Grandma’s birthday is next week. What can we do to make it special for her?”
  • You encourage the responses to flow. The more the merrier! (i.e. “Good idea! Can you think of another way?” “Wow! What else?”)
  • Every idea, no matter how unique or zany, is accepted. Creativity thrives in your acceptance! :)
  • It’s ‘fair game’ to build onto someone else’s suggestions. If one child suggests making a card and another wants to draw a picture of flowers, then you can combine the ideas and create a beautiful card to give Grandma. (This is especially helpful for younger thinkers.)
  • The whole family, from 2 to 102, has an opportunity to express their own creative opinions and ideas.

Some of the rewards for you and your children are:

  • Your child will discover the fun of looking at a problem or puzzle from many different angles.
  • Learning and practicing this skill will give your child a brighter future by giving him/her a valuable problem-solving tool.
  • The bond your family will experience, by thinking together and sharing ideas, will be amazing. Being able to share ideas freely, without being made fun of (like my student Amy said) really does develop trust and confidence!

Most of the brainstorming activities found on Miss B.’s Classroom will be focused on fun, imagination, and creativity; however, the skills that are learned can be used to solve many of the problems, academic or real-life, that your child might face now or in the future. The practical made fun as you think . . . imagine . . . create!

Miss B.


Thinking Game | How Many Things?

This creative thinking activity is pure fun for the whole family.   It won’t cost you a penny and takes absolutely no time to prepare!  With just a few minutes a day,  you’ll be helping your children experience the excitement of brainstorming and creative thinking.  Another great benefit to you, is that this activity can be used anytime, anywhere, or anyplace.  It truly helps you turn wasted minutes into thinking ones.

You begin by coming up with a single characteristic, such as a color, shape or texture.  Then you ask:

“How many things can you think of that are red?”  (Other characteristics might be: small, round, slimy, stripped or sour.)

Now you and your children will begin the fun of thinking out loud.  (Later, to get the creative juices flowing even more, add a pair of characteristics such as: green & eatable, fast & furrysoft  & cuddly.)

learning game how many things can you think ofOf course, you can continue to increase the difficulty level of this activity by simply adding another characteristic or two.  (This depends on the ages and interests of your children.)  Questions for school age children might even come from their science books, such as: ’How many things can you think of that are brown, have four legs & are carnivorous?  How many things can you think of that crawl, bite & have an exoskeleton?’

Here are a few tips that might help:

  • start simple
  • encourage many different responses – giggles are welcomed and encouraged!
  • you are also brainstorming and giving answers right along with your children
  • let each child come up with their own characteristics
  • think… imagine… create!

Miss B.