Carousel Brainstorming

Rotating Review

UDL 3.1

In Carousel Brainstorming, small groups rotate through several topic-specific stations and students collaboratively brainstorm written responses (e.g., on chart paper posted at each location) to reflect their knowledge about each topic. First, a teacher sets up a desired number of stations, each highlighting a different brainstorming subtopic. Next, students in small groups visit each station to record as many ideas/terms related to the topic as possible before transitioning to the next station (i.e., 1-2 minutes). When the next group arrives, students first read through the notes left by the previous group before adding new ideas that have not yet been included to build reflection and grow conversations. This process repeats until each group has visited every station.

Implementation Tips

Selecting and Presenting Topics
Select topics that offer students opportunities to explore and express their knowledge in a variety of ways. Topics can be presented as a heading, in the form of a question, or through images.

Sample Topics:
* ELA: Read Aloud Take-Aways (e.g., main characters, themes, symbolism, setting, critical events)
* History: American Leadership (e.g., presidents, famous women in America, African American leaders)
* Writing: Writing Strategies (e.g., steps of the writing process, writing crafts, writing genres)
Classroom Preparation
Arrange the classroom to include multiple stations, making sure that stations have enough seating for the number of students that will be participating. Use large numbers to label stations and pre-set large chart paper for groups to write on at each station with the subtopic listed clearly at the top.
Clarifying Protocol
Clarify expectations by explaining how groups will rotate and record their ideas (e.g., rotate to the right, each group uses a different colored marker to make group work distinguishable, students take turns being the “group recorder”). Present this [[ | sample ]] to help clarify will what responses could look like.
Forming Student Groups
Form groups of no more than 4-5 students to make brainstorming at each station more interactive and to support smooth transitions when groups change stations.
Use a timer to help facilitate when students should transition to the next station. Allow time in between rounds for students to get settled (i.e., all students are seated at their designated stations and group recorders are prepared to write) before starting the timer.
Discussion Round
Host a discussion round after finishing a Carousel Brainstorming activity so the class can analyze response sheets. Students will reflect on similar and contrasting responses and other inquiries can be discussed further, thus encouraging active student participation and learning.


Community Building Activity
In order to set expectations while building a positive learning environment, a teacher decides to use Carousel Brainstorming. Groups are assigned to tables numbered 1-4. The teacher begins by introducing the four topics (e.g., What are the qualities of a terrific teacher, a model student, a great friend, a growing learner). When the timer begins, each group discusses and records their ideas (e.g., “A model student helps others and tries their hardest even when facing a challenge.”). After 2 minutes, groups rotate to the next station and repeat the process with the next subtopic. Once all stations have been visited, the class reflects on the positive effects these characteristics will have on the classroom environment.
Introducing New Content
To introduce a unit on animal habitats, a teacher uses Carousel Brainstorming to activate students’ prior knowledge. Stations highlight different habitats (i.e., forests, tropical forests, oceans, wetlands) and each group works together to record what they know and any questions they have about each subtopic (e.g., “Oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface.” / “How hot can tropical rainforests get?”). During the group discussion, the teacher asks students to name where they previously learned the content (e.g., a T.V. show, movie, article) to emphasize the importance of different resources students can use. These charts can be referred to throughout the unit to reinforce how students are discovering answers to their personal inquiries.

Related Strategies