Teaching Students to Generate New Ideas & Create Original Work

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Coming up with a new idea on cue can be difficult, but it's not impossible. This lesson provides educators with tips and techniques for teaching students how to generate new ideas and create original work.

Fostering Creativity

Creating original content, especially in an academic setting, can be challenging for a variety of reasons. First of all, creativity often comes from a place of motivation. If students are unmotivated or uninspired by a topic, it may become even more difficult to generate new ideas or create original work. Additionally, the time constraints that are sometimes placed on students can dampen their creative flow because of the added pressure.

Regardless of the topic you teach, there are many instances that require students to generate new ideas and content. Inevitably, some students may be better at thinking of new perspectives or concepts than others, but the following teaching techniques can benefit all of your learners.

Brainstorming 101

The classic technique of brainstorming is a thoroughly tested and vitally useful method to help students generate new ideas and create original work. However, simply telling students to brainstorm isn't always the best way to inspire them. Providing specific brainstorming techniques can provide your learners with a framework in which to develop and expand on original thoughts and ideas.

When using any of the following brainstorming techniques, be sure to remind students to write down everything that comes to mind and not to worry about whether an idea is good or bad. It's also important to remind them that spelling and grammar don't matter during brainstorming. This point is especially important because if a student stops to figure out how to spell a word correctly, they may forget a relevant idea or point.


  • This brainstorming technique involves students listing as many words as phrases as they can think of based on a topic. Once the list is completed, students can look at the list and cross out ideas they don't want to pursue and organize the ideas they do want to pursue. This technique is especially helpful for coming up with paragraph topics for a variety of essay types.

Free writing

  • Free writing is a great way to generate original ideas because it allows students to record their thoughts unfiltered and unedited. If you use this technique in class, it can be helpful to set a time limit. A time limit is useful because it encourages students to start writing and discourages them from wasting time thinking about what to write. Your students can free write with or without a topic in mind. You'll also want to remind them that it doesn't matter which direction their writing takes, the point is to get down everything that comes to mind. For instance, a free writing session that begins with a sentence about a student's dog, could involve into an idea for a group biology project.

Spider or web chart

  • This brainstorming technique begins with a circle in the middle of a piece of paper. The student should write a topic in the center circle and then draw lines off of the center circle that connect to smaller circles in which subtopics are written. For example:
    • Center circle: Story of my life
    • Related circle 1: Family
    • Related circle 2:Friends
    • Related circle 3: Important events
    • Related circle 4: Bad times
    • Students can continue to draw more connecting lines and related circles that contain names, details, and ideas.

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