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Brainstorming in the Drama Class: Coming up With More Ideas Than You Need

The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer because, truthfully, you can never have enough ideas! While you may not need every idea you’ve ever had at this very moment, the ideas you come up with can definitely be useful in the future. You never know when a past inspiration can become useful going forward.

This exercise is inspired by entrepreneur James Altucher’s “idea machine” concept, which is simply to come up with ten ideas every day. The goal is to strengthen your idea-creating muscles so that coming up with new ideas becomes easier and easier. You can then use your ideas for pretty much anything within your drama classroom – ideas for future topics or lessons, ideas for classroom games and activities, ideas for shows you might produce in the future, ideas for a class-devised theatrical piece, ideas for playwriting… The list goes on and on. And if you are ever feeling blocked creatively, you can go back to your lists of ten ideas for inspiration.

For at least one week at the beginning of class, write a prompt for students to use as a jumping-off point. For each prompt, each student will individually come up with ten ideas and write them down. At the end of the school week, every student will have generated 50 ideas each!

Here are the rules:
  • Students must force themselves to write ten ideas. More is fine, but ten is the minimum.
  • If a student misses a class, they still have to complete their list of ten ideas for that day based on the prompt of the day. Consistent practice is the key to success in this exercise.
  • No self-censorship! Write it all down. Some ideas will be good. Some will be not so good. Some ideas will be downright silly or dumb. The point is not to judge yourself. It’s the practice of forcing yourself to come up with ten ideas daily that will help to strengthen the idea-creating muscles and help you to eventually come up with more good ideas than not-so-good ones.
  • I strongly encourage teachers to participate in this practice each day as well.

Here are ten prompts to get your students started on creating their ten ideas lists:
  1. Ten ways to communicate onstage without using words.
  2. Ten ways to create a scene using little to no technology.
  3. Ten ways to costume your show with zero money.
  4. Ten ways to get in contact with Lin-Manuel Miranda.
  5. Ten ways to fundraise $1,000 for your upcoming production.
  6. Ten different topics for a playwriting assignment.
  7. Ten plays or musicals you’d like your school to produce.
  8. Ten celebrities or well-known people to impersonate in an improv game.
  9. Ten drama classroom activities that you’ve particularly enjoyed.
  10. Ten more ideas for future “Ten Ideas” brainstorming sessions.

You can build on each individual brainstorming session by having students come together into small groups (four to five students) to share their ideas, and come up with their top ten favourite ideas to present to the rest of the class. Have students look for patterns and similar ideas that they came up with individually, as well as ideas that combine well together to create an even more exciting idea.

At the end of the week, students will complete and submit a Reflection.

Where will your ideas take you and your class? The possibilities are endless!

Click here to get the free Reflection.
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