In general, the process includes these steps and thinking processes: Depending on the complexity of the concepts and/or data to be used as a basis for the activities, all of these steps could be used in a single lesson, or the sequence could be broken into several subsequent lessons over time, with more time for reflection, sharing, and elaborating on first thoughts with more complex ideas and more time for creative incubation as the content demands.
This sequence of activities involves students in playfully generating and examining data in a variety of ways, requiring both divergent thinking (fluency, flexibility, elaboration, and originality) and convergent thinking (evaluation, providing justification for choices, drawing conclusions based on evidence presented).
The activities can be adapted for almost any content at various levels of complexity: literary or historical events or characters, contemporary or historic issues or problems (literature, social studies); concepts or operations, inventions or discoveries (math or science); or almost any other content that is a focus of study.
The more data students have to work with on the topic, the better.
Unique or original ideas that fit are especially valued as they reflect flexibility in thinking.
This idea was suggested by one of my graduate students, a middle school math teacher, to encourage students to play with the concepts related to understanding and using percents while developing recognition and understanding of many of the ways in which percentages are used in everyday life and how this affects them personally.
Step One: Listing (Individual Brainstorming) Begin by having students quickly list as many situations as they can think of in which percents may be used in real life.
Step Two: Ranking and Prioritizing Next, tell students to consider the items on their list and, without any discussion or sharing, to rank them in order of most significant to least significant (they may determine “significance”).
They must be prepared to explain and justify their top two or three choices. When students have completed ranking at least through their top three items, have students volunteer to share their top one or two items and explain their reasons for those choices.
In order to teach any skill or content effectively, we must first have a clear understanding of the nature and purpose of the skills and/or content to be taught.
Employing critical and creative thinking strategies without first understanding what is involved in these skills and processes or without connecting these thinking skills to appropriate content is likely to result in missing the point and wasting time.