Stimulation Method – brain storming, a fable from a mug, question star, snowball

A description of 4 simple techniques practised in a Polish elementary school which enable students to think creatively when dealing with problem solving situations. They can be used as whole class starter activities, individual thinking opportunities or during group work for sharing one's ideas with others and coming up with a group decision

Purpose and process

Brain storming – also known as a “factory of ideas”, “idea market”, “farmers market of ideas” and “a session of postponed valuing”. It allows a large amount of various propositions about a given topic to be presented in a short amount of time. Anyone can respond at any given time. The key is to have a large amount of ideas, criticism is not allowed, rather improvement and cleverness.


  1. Coming up with ideas,
  2. Judge and analyze proposed propositions,

 A fable from a mug – method, also known as “answering from under a hat”, encourages and inspires to come up with answers. 

Teachers prepare a couple of cups, and on them they put stickers labeled: figures, situations, action places. In the cup named “figures” there are cards with different types of figures. In the cup named “situations”, there are cards showing general situations. In the cup called “action places”, there are cards describing present situations.

The students work in groups. Their task is to draw one card out of each cup and together create a story (using randomly chosen words), and present them to the rest of the group. The students can also create illustrations to go along with the story.

 While realizing the project “From penny to pound” (Od grosika do złotówki) I applied the method “fable from a cup” during ‘penny’ May. In the cup called “figures” I placed words like Penny (Grosik), students, a woman, children, police officer, fireman, forest ranger; in the situation card – for example someone threw away an empty bottle into the bushes, were loud, left something, was playing, heard sirens, found a small deer; in a cup called “action place” there are cards like: in the forest, in the park, in the zoo, in a botanical garden.

I enriched the children’s vocabulary placing a cup with a sticker “characteristic traits”, for example not careful, glass, lonely, frightened, keen, anticipator.

 Question star – a simple planning technique done either individually or in a group during each endeavor by trying to find an answer to the following question: What for (why)?, What? When? How? Where (going where)?  Who?

While realizing the project “From penny to dollar” we planned an extended May weekend with Penny’s (Grosik) taking advantage of  a “Question Star”. The students worked in groups, where each group received an A4 piece of paper with a question star drawn on it. The children’s task was to plan an extended May weekend with Penny’s, by writing on stick on cards answers to the question star. Next, they stick the answer card next to the appropriate question on the question star, as well as present the newly created plan for the extended May weekend.

After the presentation, each of the group of teachers stick a question star on a carton labeled “Penny May”, and together with the students choose answers to particular questions, which occurred most frequently in the childrens’ answers. Through this activity a final plan for the May weekend was created.

Snowball – using this method is based on going from working individually to working in a group.  Each person has a chance to say what they think about a certain topic.  It helps gain experience and allows students to train and keep track of the process of discussing positions.


  1. students individually write down for example information they found out about a certain planet,
  2. they pair up, compare their notes and mutually decide on a set of information, 
  3. the pairs join in fours – jointly decide upon their views on the matter, they exchange their definitions creating a mutual one in the group,

the fours join into eights and so on.

Learning outcomes

Using these methods can help students to: •Expand their knowledge, deepen their interests and develop new concepts and ideas •Develop their ability to communicate with others, through learning how to debate and contest different topics and opinions •Build their interest in the subject under consideration and encourage them to check what they already know about it •Improve skills which are not only useful during class but also in everyday life, such as their ability to form conclusions, and to practise analytical and critical thinking.

Curricular or thematic relevance

Any of these stimulation methods can be used to support national curriculum subjects and related activities

How to organise:

Can be used in timetabled lessons, suspended timetable time or as part of an extra-curricular activity

Assessment and evaluation approaches

These methods can themselves be used for assessing/evaluating students' progress and the extent to which they have understood the topic in order to gauge when they are ready to move on to the next stage of a problem-solving activity

Volunteer involvement

During problem-solving activities involving external partners, including employers, these techniques can be used to develop discussion and debate between students and adults in order to plan next steps, for example

Provider country


Has been provided by school:

Janusz Kusocinski Primary School no. 3, Lodz

helper do TM detail body (June 6th, 1st half)

    Livia Di Nardo

I think it is really crucial to start entrepreneurship education at primary level. These 4 methods are a good combination of creativity and innovation to start focusing on problem solving and learn in an innovative way.

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The latest review

I think it is really crucial to start entrepreneurship education at primary level. These 4 methods are a good combination of creativity and innovation to start focusing on problem solving and learn in an innovative way.

Livia Di Nardo 04.03.2014

helper do TM detail right side (TM June 6th, 2nd half)

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