The Brainstorm Artist: Color Carousel Brainstorming

Feb 26, 2019

The following is part of the 'Remix Archives', a catalogue of articles I'm 'recalling to life' from my days of blogging over at the Global Pen (circa 2012!). Specifically, this archive involves those posts my audience has known and loved over the many years we've been colleagues and friends, so consider these ones 'back by popular demand'! Enjoy!

The original version of this post was published on: April 8th, 2015 @ the Global Pen.

Talented writing teacher that you are, you've been hand-picked to host our Global Gallery exhibition!  In this post, ideas will be brought to life, arguments will be expressed in-living-color, and the final product will be showcased for all to admire!

That's right, we're mixing the written word with some colorful creativity to make our masterpiece.  Our muse?  The globally-issues essay prompt. Our canvas?  The brainstorm sheet.  Our masterpiece?  A finely crafted judgment.

Just as any Gallery Owner knows, it's all about how one structures the artwork that makes it sell, but before we have our students organize their ideas into an essay, we've got to help them mold these thoughts into concepts worth showcasing.

To prepare for our gallery, let's gather our artists together for some creative sharing and artsy inspiration!

To the studio!

In this activity, student groups will be presented with a number of essay prompts, and they will work together to generate on-the-spot ideas to satisfy the question's demands.  They will then read and respond to other groups' contributions to these same prompts; this will require them to analyze the validity of others' ideas, agreeing with some, challenging others, articulating all the while.

Getting Started:

Before class begins, you'll need to do some light prep work. Specifically, you'll need to curate a working list of essay questions for the activity, ones that are either specific to content you're currently studying (or have recently studied) in your classroom or simply topics that students can take an interest in and have a natural conversation on.

Expert Tip | as you create your working list of questions, aim for a range of topics, from technology to education, social issues, energy, health, etc. Really try to run the gamut of topics!


  1. From the list of debate topics, either co-select 6-8 questions for your carousel or let students decide.
  2. Write each essay prompt in the center of its own poster-board or large Post-It note poster.
  3. Break students into groups, then randomly issue a prompt poster to each group. Each group should then be given their own marker color.  This is because when this color appears on the posters as they rotate around the room, it will signify which group has contributed the various, different ideas.  This will also help you keep track for grading purposes.  

Oh, and I think it goes without saying, but this is what will give our posters that artsy, abstract flair ;-)


Off We Go!

Each group starts with their own poster, which they record their ideas on, but after about 5-7 minutes of brainstorming, the bell will chime and they will travel to the next poster over, which exists in a different corner of the room.

If you have a small space for learning, however, you may need an alternative to the physical carousel. If this be the case, I recommend letting the posters do the traveling, as opposed to the students!

So in this case, once Round 1 ideas are recorded, groups would then send their poster over to the next group.  As their poster goes out to the right, the neighboring group to the left will be sending in a new poster prompt for the group to consider.  

Either way, a rotation of *some* sort will continue until all groups have thoughtfully considered each of the 6 or 8 prompts floating around the room.  

Here are the ground rules for adding to the various brainstorms...

  • Each group must contribute at least two ideas on the sheet.  If you require 'opposing views' as the ideas to be contributed during the first round, just be sure that your students recognize the nuance of perspectives that exist beyond this (which will undoubtedly bubble to the surface during this activity, by the way!)
  • Students are welcome to use symbols to indicate the general direction of the perspective they're including (e.g. plus/minus signs, smiley/'meh'/frowny faces, etc.)

Ideally, groups should strive to include concrete ideas to support the views they add offering a specific example to prove a general point can help other groups better understand/conceptualize the point being raised.

But if students record a more general idea, it leaves the concept open for other groups to add to/reinforce with more specifics.  By the end of the rotation, all ideas should be as specific as possible.  Definitely, a collaborative activity that encourages critical thinking!

Once groups get their two required ideas onto the page in that first round, they'll just need to wait for the bell to chime.  When the teacher signals for the carousel to rotate, they'll move on to the next one and begin anew.

At this new station, the groups will read the essay question, then review the ideas contributed thus far by the team previous.  Group discussion will follow...are the ideas contributed valid? Are they relevant to the question?  To what extent do we agree with these points of view?  Can we think of other instances/examples that might add to the points listed? Or challenge them? Complicate or qualify them? Do we see any ideas that we flat-out disagree with?  Can we offer any counters to these original claims to be considered as well?

Suggestion: Have students use happy/sad symbols or some other symbol to indicate if they agree/disagree with the point they're adding on to. Reserve plus/minus symbols when they're adding something entirely new to the brainstorm (as opposed to adding on to the ideas of others).

One rotation at a time, carouselers breathe living-color into the brainstorms...

Again, each group should add at least two perspectives, comments, or ideas of some sort to each poster they visit.  

They can add additional comments to a previous group's existing point OR the group can add a new point altogether. As a class, you're welcome to develop a symbols system to help differentiate the direction different points take.

For example, students might use emoji-inspired faces to represent the 'extent to which' they agree or disagree with a perspective. Or they might utilize symbols like question marks or asterisks to offset those comments they're skeptical of in terms of meaning, relevance, etc.

You're welcome to step up the requirements for each group.  For more advanced-level brainstorms, you might have groups generate more than two unique perspectives, plus make at least 1 or 2 additional remarks to other groups' ideas.  Any way can work so long as it fits their level of understanding!

Gallery Reflection

But we aren't finished with our masterpiece yet until we've reflected upon our hard work...

Once all poster brainstorms have been given equal attention by every group, have students take a step back for all to see and admire.  (Talk about abstract art!)

Distribute the "Gallery Twitter-feed" sheets located in my Free Resource Library to each student and read the Tweet Rules with them.  The aim of this post-learning activity is to have students consider the big picture (literally) now that all ideas have been offered.  

Based on the perspectives shared and any evidence presented, what is their final position on the issue?

By considering what is written, they're learning to draw conclusions based on multiple perspectives, not just on their own opinion. 

Students will offer a judgment in classic, Tweet format and share out.

(DISCLAIMER: The Tweet handout I share provides a sample to demonstrate the look, tone, and feel of this task, but it features 'wearable technology' as the topic, so it's a lil' may want to consider creating a fresh model to introduce this activity to your students!)

Yours In Collaboration,

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