Brainstorms are free-flowing idea/concept capture. They are the least structured in our examples of activating prior knowledge. For instance, with a brainstorm, you're generally just asking learners to write as many ideas or words as they can think of that relate to a given topic.
Brainstorms can give learners an uncomplicated (although busy), broad view. They're not particularly sophisticated, but can be a good affirmation for learners that yes, they do know related things for this topic, if not exactly how those concepts fit or operate. For this reason, they can be a great option for more novice learners.
A brainstorm is not a concept map. Concept maps focus on structure and relationships. Brainstorms are more often about generating a range of ideas or related concepts, they are unstructured, the important thing is surfacing concepts. So, try to encourage learners not to worry to much about where things fit.
Use the hint field of a task to give learners prompts to help them generate more and more ideas.
You could use a range of task types for this:
- File upload: Take a picture/scan of a drawn brainstorm
- Video: Present and explain a brainstorm (sharing screen or with drawn brainstorm)
- Image shading: Blank white image or part-filled framework that learners can draw on
Try making it a restricted brainstorming (restrictions can lead to greater creativity). For instance, ABC Brainstorming where learners need to come up with a concept/word that connects the the topic somehow for specific letters of the alphabet.
Have learners create a brainstorm at the beginning and end of a topic, then when they've learned more a concept map. That way they can compare unstructured and structured as well as what they've learned.
Create areas for your brainstorm for instance: Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?
Give learners a brainstorm with "mistakes" in it and ask learners to identify what doesn't fit and/or describe what needs to change.
Have a brainstorm for a related, but different topic and compare how they are similar/different.
Make it social
Have learners co-create a brainstorm. This could be face-to-face, in a video conference or using a collaborative tool like Mindmeister or Google drawings.
Have learners share or their brainstorm.
Get learners to share brainstorms and look at things like: In what ways are they similar/different? Is there concepts or connections they forgot they knew that they can add now?
Give learners a pulse to poll them on whether concepts would fit in a brainstorm for this topic or wouldn't.
Concept maps are just one way of activating prior knowledge, be sure to check out the rest of the articles in this set.
Concept maps - Reveal the structure of learners' schema.
What I KNOW, THINK I know and WANT to know charts - Help learners set their own learning goals.
Image prompts - Use visual decoding to help learners make associations and recall concepts.
Simple story prompts - Help make concepts sticky by connecting it to simple stories.