Strategy: Carousel Brainstorming

What is it?

Carousel Brainstorming is a cooperative learning activity focused around movement, conversation, and reflection that can be used both to discover and discuss background knowledge prior to studying a new topic, as well as for review of content already learned. This technique allows for small group discussion, followed by whole-class reflection.

How does it work?

Small groups of students rotate around the classroom, stopping at various “stations” for a designated period of time (usually 1-2 minutes). At each station, students activate their prior knowledge of a topic or concept and share their ideas with their small group. Each group posts their ideas at each station for all groups to read.
Carousel Use in the Middle School ELA Classroom

Strategy in Practice

  • Here are some examples that you might use in your classroom:
    • Before beginning a lesson on the civil rights era, you might post the names of some key people and events from this time in history to draw out students’ background knowledge.
    • Upon finishing The Diary of Anne Frank, you might choose to pose different critical thinking questions about the novel as a means to review the story.
    • After a unit on plants, you might post guiding questions about the major topics covered in the unit to review the material.
    • Use carousel brainstorming strategies to review factors and multiples before a math test.
    • During a novel study, have students explain in detail which of the character's strengths they find admirable and which weaknesses they could relate to and understand.
    • Have students analyze different types of graphs, their purposes, and their strengths.

Technology Spin

Take away the chart paper and go digital!


* Use a google doc or google presentation instead of chart paper! That way, students could still rotate through the questions and respond with their answers. To get students moving, have each student open a specific slide or be in charge of one question on their own computers and have each child rotate through the computers in their teams. Links to each groups' docs could then be shared as a "gallery walk!"


*Students can use their school gmail accounts to sign up for a Stormboard account. This would allow them to work on boards collaboratively based on the questions posed and work to generate and organize their ideas using virtual sticky notes. The boards can also be exported into a detailed report, PDF, or spreadsheet!

Additional Digital Brainstorming Tools