Brain Writing/Silent Debate

Brain Writing
Brain Writing
Description of the strategy
Brain Writing
The strategy
This activity enables students to categorise and develop their ideas.
In brain-writing, students are arranged in groups of 4 or 5, each with a grid (like the one below). The
first student writes three statements in the top row, and passes the paper to their left. The second
person writes a related comment to the ones in the first row, and then the paper gets passed to the
left again. This cycle continues until the sheets are returned to their original owner. The paper now
contains a list of ideas and notes which should clarify and challenge the original ideas.
Example (of the strategy in action)
The thematic question is: The topic of the lesson is: Is Europe a place where expectations of women
are changing?
The lesson focus is: Are men and women treated equally in Europe?
To start, the students should look at the map: “being a housewife is just as fulfilling as doing paid
The first activity is for students to identify countries which agree with this statement and which
disagree. There may be some surprises here (for example, you may wish to draw their attention to
Finland who strongly agrees with the statement, and their neighbours Sweden who are more likely
to disagree).
Introduce the main question: what sort of a country agrees with the statement “being a housewife is
just as fulfilling as doing paid work”? And why would they agree with that?
1. In groups of four, give each student a grid like the one below:
Each student should write four factors that they think are important – one in each of the boxes 11 to
14. Once everyone in the group has completed this, they pass their sheet to the left.
Brain Writing
2. The students should now complete line two (21 to 24) on their neighbours sheet. They may
develop the argument given, ask a question or say something that contradicts. Once
completed, the sheet should be moved to the left again.
3. The process continues until the sheet is returned to its original owner.
4. Now each student has a completed grid. This can be used as a basis for some extended
writing or a class debate.
Debriefing questions could include:
a. How easy was it to consider the values of others?
b. How did you use what you know of different European countries to help you?
c. What other information would you need to see if your theories are correct?
Why is this a good strategy to use?
Brainwriting is a good strategy for getting students to extend their thoughts and ideas. Working in a
group enables pupils to rehearse and develop their arguments. They will select warrants, claims and
in discussion will encounter rebuttals. The group work enables them to encounter views and
perspectives that they may not have considered. The above example could be used in lessons that
explore contemporary Europe, or in lessons that explore gender relationships, or the emancipation
of women. Exploring the maps in this way enables pupils to consider why people may hold different
views. During the example above, it would be valuable to encourage students to consider what they
know about different European countries and how that may help them to think of different
Why does this work with the maps?
The maps from the EVS show what people think, but do not always help us to explore why they may
have these opinions. This activity encourages students to think about the factors that might
influence these opinions. It can be developed with clearer or more complex statements. You can
also supplement the activity with other maps to offer different opinions.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the
views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made
of the information contained therein.