let's think

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    An aid to creative thinking, taken from Tony Ryans 20 Thinkers Keys.


    Using imagination to list some widely different uses for a chosen object (from area of study).


    The concept of recycling is an important one. This key is worth applying to many everyday (and often disposable) products.

  • Find 10 uses for old red plastic noses.

  • How many different uses can you think of for each of

    a brick?

    a paper plate?

    a single sock?


    List ways in which to complete a task without using the normal tools or implements.


    Necessity is the mother of invention. Take away the normal tool and spark someinnovative solutions.

  • Give 3 ways to

    read a book that is 100 metres away

    keep your valuables safe without a locker

    drink soup without a spoon

  • Work out 3 ways to clean your teeth without a toothbrushcook toast without a toasterpaint a chair without a paintbrushmow the lawn without a mower


    This key employs a special group of words. Start each question with How many ways can you


    Another one for expanding your thinking. Some very practical ideas often result from usage of this key.

  • How many ways can you:

    paint a house?

    wash an elephant?

    make new friends?

    turn a TV on?

  • Key - REVERSE

    Place words such as cannot, never and not in sentences which are commonly displayed in a listing format.


    Students are too often required to regurgitate endless lists of facts. Moving in the opposite direction still requires a sound knowledge base, but it forces students to think.

  • List things you cant put in water

    List things you cannot measure with a ruler

    List things you would not find in Scotland

    List things you cannot do with a pencilCAN YOU:

  • Name 10 things that you could not clean.

    List 5 sounds that you have never heard.

    Name 10 things that you could not photograph.CAN YOU:

  • Key - The ALPHABET

    Choose an object or general category of objects (possibly which features in the area of study) and compile alist of words from A to Z which have some relevance to the object/s. Then try to expand on some ideas which link with each of the words.


    Using the alphabetical format clarifies students thinking. It is a sorting process which is made easier by considering one aspect at a time.

  • The Alphabet Key

    Write an A-Z of

    things in a school

    means of transport

    famous people



  • Key - BRAINSTORMINGState a problem which needs to be solved and brainstorm a list of solutions. Start the brainstorm statement with the words How to .....

    JUSTIFICATION:Great for solutions to everyday problems. Make sure that the freedom offered within the rules is available to all participants.

    THE RULES OF BRAINSTORMING:1. Think of as many ideas as you can; dont hesitate and consider the implications; simply write them down.2. Unusual or silly ideas are acceptable.3. Tagging onto other peoples ideas is encouraged.4. No criticism of any ideas is allowed.

  • Brainstorm as many ways you canto encourage people NOT to drive their cars to work.

  • Key - The QUESTIONStart with the answer, and try to list 5 questions which could be linked with that answer only.

    JUSTIFICATION:An excellent break from the pattern of the teacher asking all of the questions. Studentsstill need to demonstrate a solid knowledge base.

  • List five possible questions for which the answer is Midnight.


    Describe an unusual situation and then think of some different explanations for the existence of that situation.


    Another innovative thinking exercise. Develops the ability to consider a wide range of consequences.

  • Give three possible reasons for each of these:

    a boy is running away from a woman carrying her handbag your next door neighbour carries a dog lead when he has no dog a man is on a cliff waving his arms about frantically

  • Key - FORCED RELATIONSHIPSDevelop a solution to a problem by employing a number of dissimilar objects.For Years 3/4 - two objectsFor Years 5-7 three objects

    JUSTIFICATION:The dimensions of problem-solving are expanded dramatically with this key. Never underestimate the importance of constantly developing alternative strategies.

  • Solve the problem of two friends arguing by using:DiceMarbles

  • Solve the problem of getting wet in the rain by using:A toilet rolla paper plateand

  • Solve the problem of being bored by using: A pencil andfive old compact discs

  • You need to retrieve your kite from a very tall tree without breaking it, by using only:

    a packet of sweets

    a hairbrush

    a comic

    How would you do this?

  • Key - The RIDICULOUS

    Make a ridiculous statement that would be virtually impossible to implement, and then attempt to actually substantiate it.


    The expressions Its not possible and Thats ridiculous often prevent the development of many excellent ideas. Learn to break through them.

  • We would be better off if:

    dogs could talk to us

    school started at age 20

    children taught each other

    State how and why these ideas might work.


    Decide upon 2 objects which would generally have nothing in common, and try to outline some points of commonality between them.


    Another mind stretcher. Great for creative ideas as well as the development of unusual concepts.

  • What do the following have in common

    a toilet and a car

    a cat and a book

    a flower and a packet of crisps

  • List as many things as you can thatAyers Rock and the Pacific Ocean have in common.


    Ask for a series of predictions in regard to a particular situation, product or set of circumstances.

    JUSTIFICATION:Attempting to predict the future is not the timewaster that some would lead us to believe. The journey is always easier if you know where you are going.

  • Predict 5 present day household appliances which will be obsolete in 20 years time.Say why - and what, if anything, will replace them.

  • Predict the power source of the family car by the year 2020.

  • Make some predictions about

    what school will be like in 100 years time;

    what you will be like aged 50;

    how we will travel in the year 2100.