Brainstorming Techniques for Students

Published October 19, 2018

High school students are asked to brainstorm on a daily basis to create a pool of ideas for writing assignments and projects. Find a brainstorming technique that works best for you by trying out a few creative methods.

Recorded Word Association

Use the voice notes on your smartphone or the microphone on a computer to record a session of word association. This activity can be done individually or in a group setting and works great for creative writing assignments or choosing a theme.

What You Need

  • Recording device
  • Paper: one full sheet and one sheet torn into strips
  • Pencil
  • Large bowl or bucket


  1. Write down your topic or question on the full sheet of paper.
  2. On each strip of paper, write a word associated with that topic. For example, when working on an art project using surrealism you might use words like new, automated, subconscious, and whimsical.
  3. Place all the completed strips of paper into the bowl.
  4. Turn on your recording device and pull out one strip of paper at a time.
  5. Call out the first word that comes to mind after you read the strip of paper.

Mental Walk-Through

This activity is great for individual brainstorming sessions, but could also work in pairs where one person describes a setting to their partner. Since you need to imagine a location, this activity works best for reports and visual presentations.

What You Need

  • Paper and pencil


  1. Think of a place associated with your assignment. For example, if you need a graduation speech idea you could imagine being at a graduation ceremony or inside your high school.
  2. Close your eyes and imagine stepping foot into this place.
  3. Slowly, in your mind, walk through the entire place.
  4. Open your eyes and write down what you saw and felt. Was the image in black and white or bright colors? Did you see any specific people doing specific actions? Were there things that seemed out of place?

Keyword Image Search

If you're a visual learner, look at images to generate ideas by searching keywords from your assignment on the internet. This individual activity can help you find essay topics or science and art project ideas.

What You Need

  • Device with an internet connection
  • Paper and pencil
Search bar


  1. Start by listing off keywords from your assignment or topic. For example, if you have to write about The Great Depression your keywords might be "Great Depression," "stock market crash," or "1930s America."
  2. Type one keyword or phrase into a search engine and run an image search.
  3. Look through the image results and write down your thoughts as you scroll.
  4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 for all your keywords.

Mini Idea File

For some people, ideas pop up at random. Be prepared to capitalize on these moments by creating a portable idea box. Since you'll be gathering ideas about all different topics, this can help with nearly any assignment.

What You Need

  • One index card case with built-in dividers
  • Index cards
  • Pen or pencil
  • Permanent marker


  1. Write your name and the words "Idea box" on the outside of the index card case with the marker.
  2. Label each divider using the marker with category headings such as creative, scientific, historical, wacky, or serious.
  3. Add a stack of blank index cards to the front or back of the case.
  4. Keep the case with you at all times and jot down ideas whenever they pop up.
  5. File the index cards with your ideas in the appropriate section of the case.
  6. Whenever you need an idea, flip through your idea box.

Magazine Mapping

Turn the basic idea of a concept map or mind map into a visual inspiration board. For the best results, use magazines related to your topic. For example, if you're brainstorming history presentation topics you might use National Geographic or Time magazines. This can be an individual or group activity. If you choose to do it as a group, you'll want a larger poster board and more magazine copies. In this case, you could hang the finished project in the classroom to serve as an inspiration throughout the year.

What You Need

  • One magazine
  • Permanent marker
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Small poster board


  1. Flip through the magazine and circle the one image or word on every page spread that jumps out at you.
  2. Go back through the magazine and cut out all the things you circled.
  3. Write your topic in the center of the poster board.
  4. Glue all your images and words around the written topic.

Get the Ideas Flowing

Brainstorming techniques help you see things from different perspectives and explore aspects of a topic you might otherwise ignore. Use the technique that works best for your learning style or vary your methods to keep ideas fresh and interesting.

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Brainstorming Techniques for Students