Have you ever felt like autumn has arrived and your desk is covered with sticky notes like leaves falling from the trees? You have sticky notes on your monitor, on your computer, on the filing cabinet, on your desk …
There are stacks of sticky notes. There are stacks of stacks of sticky notes sometimes!
Can you relate?
But there’s something magical about using sticky notes …
- They’re only big enough for one idea.
- You can move them around easily.
- They come in SO many colors!
I love using them to brainstorm. I’ll write out all of my ideas on them — good or bad — and put them on the wall.
Then I’ll start moving them around and organizing ideas. It’s much easier to see what’s missing and what I have too much of this way.
Pretty soon, the butterflies start to fly in formation, as they say.
Sticky note brainstorming can be used for a lot:
- Lesson planning, unit planning, curriculum planning
- Organizing events for clubs, sports, drama, etc.
- Pre-writing for research reports
- Planning out student projects
- Writing speeches
- Debriefing after a science lab or physics experiment
Here’s the problem that I always run into with sticky note brainstorming …
Sometimes, I scatter all my stickies and organize them at a coffee shop and then I have to pick them up when I’m done. I stack them up and all the glorious organizing is gone.
Sometimes, I put them up on a wall at home. But then company comes over. Or my family gets sick of seeing them all over the place.
Sometimes, there’s a cat. Or a gust of wind.
Plus, you’re limited to the number of sticky notes you have — and the colors available.
I’ve found a new option …
Sticky note brainstorming with Google Slides
I use Google Slides for EVERYTHING these days. The slides serve as individual workspaces. You can add text, images, shapes, lines, videos, etc.
It’s a blank canvas, and the sky’s the limit on what you — and your students — can create with it.
I started brainstorming on a project a few days ago — a follow-up book to Dave Burgess’s Teach Like a Pirate called Tech Like a Pirate! (More details on that coming. Subscribe to the email newsletter for updates and opportunities to have YOUR story in the book!)
Wrote one idea on a sticky note and put it on the wall. Then, it hit me …
Why don’t I do this on Google Slides?
It made perfect sense to me:
- The sticky notes stay in place. I can open the Google Slides file any time and none of the slides have fallen off the wall or been moved around.
- I have unlimited sticky notes — in unlimited colors!
- I can add images, videos, icons, arrows, and more to my sticky note board.
In a matter of about five minutes, it was created …
The Google Slides sticky note template
Here’s how I created it:
- I added the sticky notes with the shapes (Insert > Shape > Shape … it’s in the center). When you click the sticky note, click the paint bucket icon in the tool bar to change the color of the note.
- I added some arrow shapes (Insert > Shape > Arrows) at the top that can be duplicated and added to show flow (if you want).
- I changed the color of the background to light gray (use the “Background …” button on the toolbar) so I could see it clearly.
- I resized the whole thing to 17 inches by 10 inches (File > Page setup > choose “Custom”). If the plan isn’t to print it, why stick to the regular slide dimensions? I wanted LOTS of space to work.
Some tips for using it:
- Leave the originals (sticky notes on the left and right sides and the arrows at the top).
- Add any extra shapes, lines, arrows, etc. that you think you’ll need. Keep them off the slide in the workspace along the edges. That’s a PERFECT holding area until you need them.
- Use the duplicate keyboard shortcut (Ctrl + D / Cmd + D for Mac) a LOT. Duplicate stickies, arrows … even slides by clicking on them and using the shortcut.
- Assign it on Google Classroom by creating an assignment, attaching the template and choosing “Make a copy for each student” in the drop-down menu for the attachment.
Why does this work?
The beauty of brainstorming this way is that it’s non-confrontational.
Ever stare at a blank document with a blinking cursor? (Does it ever feel like that cursor is laughing at you, mocking you for struggling?) Taking that first step is HARD.
Jotting all of your ideas down on sticky notes isn’t hard. Just tell yourself, “All of my ideas don’t have to be brilliant or perfect. I’m just getting everything out of my head.”
This type of brainstorming is a form of retrieval practice, too. Trying to remember something long-term? Practice by dumping everything you know about it into sticky notes.
Another important point: When you commit NOT to throw ideas away once you’ve put them on a sticky note, you make an important mental step. You’re turning off your filter, freeing up the free flow of ideas. When I criticize every idea that comes to me, I’ve found that my flow of ideas is severely restricted. Keep ’em coming, even if they’re not good!
This isn’t the only way …
Doing this kind of thinking isn’t automatically made better with technology.
In fact, when I have to brainstorm, I’ll turn to a notebook many times.
I have lots of ways to gather ideas (sketching images, making lists, creating sticky notes, writing on a document, Google Slides sticky notes, etc.). Here’s what I’ve found about finding the perfect way for me:
When I’m familiar with LOTS of options, one will instinctually come to mind when I’m ready to work. I go with my gut and use whatever feels best.
There’s plenty of benefit in using your hands, standing on your feet, and capturing ideas physically (not digitally).
Use what works best for you, and give your students options, too.
A cool paper/digital blend!
Brainstorm with paper sticky notes. Then capture them with the Post-It app!
This was an awesome app smash I learned about from Kelli Lane, a tech integration specialist from Illinois. Here’s how it works:
- Write out your ideas on sticky notes.
- Use the Post-It mobile app. The camera lets you capture those sticky notes in digital form!
- Drag the digital post it notes around on the screen to organize them.
- OPTION: Create your sticky notes on Google Slides or Drawings. Capture them with the camera on your Post-It app. Manipulate those notes in the app!
Hear Kelli explain it in her own words in this episode from the Ditch That Textbook podcast!
For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links:
Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!
Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:
[getnoticed-event-table scope=”upcoming” max=”15″ expanding=”false”]