To encourage creative thinking further, these strategies are designed to help students expand and develop their initial ideas by encouraging them to see new possibilities through playful experiment and discussionpdf-3984668

Scamper template.pdfpdf-3984668 Scamper exemplar.pdf

Thinking tool no. 1: Four by Four

Four by Four is a strategy that encourages students to explore and experiment with ideas before making judgements about their quality and viability.

Four by Four: instructions

  1. Explain that Four by Four is an activity to produce four ideas in 4 minutes each.
  2. Give each pupil a sheet of A4 paper. Ask them to draw a rectangle, about 6cm by 8cm, in the centre and then use vertical and horizontal lines to divide the area around the rectangle into four regions.
  3. Allow 4 minutes for pupils to draw and annotate one of their design ideas in the centre space.
  4. Ask them to pass their sheet to the next pupil in the group.
  5. Allow them 1 minute to read the drawing they have just received and then 3 minutes to develop the idea in the top left-hand space on the sheet.
  6. After 4 minutes the sheets are passed around to the next member of the group and the process is repeated, with pupils drawing in the top right-hand space. This continues until the sheet arrives back at the originator, complete with four developments of the initial idea.
  7. The originator can then review the four developments and select or reject the suggestions.

Four by Four: teaching tips
The above instructions are for groups of five students. For groups of four, the brief or stimulus can be placed in the centre, and the initial idea drawn in the top left-hand space.

Four by Four is well known within design and technology departments, but can also be used in a range of other contexts. For example:

  • Exploring different possible problem-solving methods in maths or different responses to a case-study scenario in business studies. (The problem itself is placed in the central box.)
  • In the context of creative writing of MFL, Four by Four could be used to experiment closely with different aspects of language, and also to structure some collaborative editing.
  • And in PE, Four by Four could be used to develop a tactical response to a given situation or problem posed by the opposition, in any competitive game.

Where the initial idea is developed collaboratively by a small group, here is an alternative oral process:

  • The class is divided into small ‘home’ teams (four students), and each group develops an idea in response to a given brief or problem.
  • Home teams now spilt up to form new ‘away’ teams, with each student now in the role of ‘ambassador’ for their home team. In the new group, each ambassador is given 1 minute to present (or demonstrate) their home team’s idea, and the other three students are then given 1 minute each to suggest a development idea – or 3 minutes collaboratively. (16 minutes in total).
  • When the students return to their ‘home’ teams, each will have three developments for their team to consider.

Thinking tool no. 2: Scamper

The Scamper strategy fosters creativity when students have trouble coming up with ideas, or when all the ideas seem to be very similar. It encourages students to expand ideas or develop them into complete new possibilities.

SCAMPER is an acronym which stands for:

S Substitute: What could be used instead?

C Combine: What can be added?

A Adapt: How can it be adjusted to suit a condition or purpose?

M Modify: How can the colour, shape or form be changed? or Magnify: How can it be made larger, stronger or thicker?

or Minimise: How can it be made smaller, lighter or shorter?

P Put to other use: What else can it be used for other than the original intended purpose?

E Eliminate: What can be removed or taken away from it?

R Reverse: How can it be turned round or placed opposite its original position?
or Rearrange: How can the pattern, order or layout be changed?

Each letter of the acronym, therefore, serves as a prompt to help students consider the range of creative adjustments they might make. The specific prompt questions above are those that might be used in a design context. However, the SCAMPER acronym itself could be used in many creative contexts with new questions devised by the teacher to suit the task in hand.

Scamper: teaching tips
To use the Scamper technique, begin with a particular idea in mind then ask pupils to think of ways to change or develop it using the prompts. Ideas can be recorded in a grid or table.

When introducing the technique, it is usually helpful to begin using only one or two of the letters at a time. In a design context, P (put to other uses) and M (modify, magnify or minimise) are often successful starting points. If the focus is creative writing, S (substitute, eg viewpoint or type of character) or R (rearrange, eg narrative sequence) are useful starting points.

It is not necessary to use all the letters or words, or to use them in the order in which they are listed.

Once students are familiar with both techniques, Four by Four and Scamper can easily be combined: when engaged in a Four by Four activity, students will be able to use the Scamper acronym to trigger the suggestions they offer to their peers.

Click here for a template to use with students that combines both approaches.

Click here for a filled-in exemplar.

Talking about creative thinking – Group Crits

A ‘Group Crit’ encourages students to reflect on their creative work and their creative process through discussion. It can be used at any stage in the development of creative work to help students develop and move their ideas forward.

At an appropriate point in the lesson, call for a Group Crit. Students work in groups of four.
In each group, each student in turn has exactly 1 minute (time this with a stopwatch) to describe the current situation of their work or outline their thinking in a problem-solving context.

Each person starts by saying:

  • what they are working on;
  • why it is like it is;
  • what they are pleased about;
  • what they have worries about.

The other three students in the group then have 2 minutes (again, time this) to comment, suggest, evaluate, constructively criticise. Each person in the group should aim to give one positive comment and one suggestion that they feel will help with what they see as the weak points in the work they have seen or heard.

After 12 minutes each pupil writes down at least three action points to describe what they need to do immediately to develop their work.

The pacy nature of this activity works well in a design context, but will not always be appropriate. In a different context, such as creative writing, music or dance, students will need additional time to read out a poem or prose piece, perform a short musical composition or demonstrate a dance sequence.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2009

About the author: Anne de A’Echevarria is the author of the award winning ‘Thinking Through School’. Previously a teacher, PGCE tutor and head of ‘Thinking for Learning’, a research and development team partnered with Newcastle University, she now works as a freelance education consultant and writer.