#MCHunter Tools for Creative Thinking

As our Master Class was debriefing yesterday on what we had observed in the World Peace Game, John Hunter began telling us about the “mental toolkit” he shares with his students to help them think creatively. We didn’t have time for John to share all of it, but it was interesting information and some of it was new to me.

The first tool John shared was teaching students how to use FFOE to assess their creative thinking. As a sample activity, John explained that he would show the students a coffee mug and ask them to brainstorm ways that the mug can be used other than as a container (i.e a door stop, a paperweight, a drum, etc.). At first they will find it hard to think this way, but as they practice, they will become better at it. FFOE stands for:

  • Fluency – producing as many ideas as one possibly can
  • Flexibility – producing ideas that demonstrate variety or different approaches
  • Originality – producing ideas that are unique or unusual
  • Elaboration – producing ideas with detail or enriched characteristics

Then, John shared with us his guidelines for brainstorming and his kinesthetic method for teaching it to his students. Fortunately, we captured his one on video:

The four guidelines are:

  1. Fluency – Produce as many ideas as you can
  2. Withhold Judgement – There are no bad ideas.
  3. Wild Ideas Ok – It is desirable to think outside the box.
  4. Piggyback Ideas – It is okay to have an idea that is similar to someone else’s thought or to expand on someone else’s suggestion.

Another tool that John uses with his students is something he calls a “Perspective Wheel.” I created a PowerPoint slide for my use that I thought I’d share. To use it, write the topic in the middle circle (yellow) then have the students identify four different perspectives that could be taken toward the topic (one for each blue quadrant) and explain how each perspective differs.This tool reminds me of the Visible Thinking Routine Circle of Viewpoints that I learned about at Project Zero last summer, and I think they might work well together.

The final tool John shared with us is the SCAMPER approach to creative thinking. SCAMPER is a mnemonic that stands for:

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Maximize/Minimize
  • Put to Other Use
  • Eliminate/Elaborate
  • Reverse

This tool was completely new to me so I did a little searching and found a nice website that helps explain the tool and gives an example of how to use it. You might want to check it out.

In talking with Jamie Baker about teaching creativity I realized that I tend to get hung up thinking about creativity in terms of being artistic. Artistry is one type of creativity, but most creativity is really problem solving and learning how to approach something from a different direction. Jamie recommended that I read Michael Michalko’s Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius so I’ve added it to my Amazon Wishlist and will try to read it when I get through my current reading list.

What about you? What tools do you use to teach students to think creatively? What are your experiences using these or similar tools? Please leave a comment and share your ideas, experiences, and recommendations.


  1. Laura Dearman

    This post is perfect for our MIR page on creativity. Have you seen Jonah Lehrer’s video on creativity and grit? It is a must see!

    • Mr. Cummings

      Thanks for the comment, Laura! I really appreciate it. I am aware of the video, but I haven’t yet sat down to watch the whole thing. I’ll add it to my “must see” list.

  2. Joan Young (@flourishingkids)

    Thanks for this post! I haven’t heard of SCAMPER but it sounds like a useful tool. The circle of viewpoints looks like a great way to gather multiple perspectives. As I look at it I am thinking of how it might be fun to use in analyzing perspectives of fictional characters too. The guidelines for brainstorming remind me of design thinking principles and a book I just read called InGenius by Tina Seelig. Anyway, so many fabulous ideas in this post. Thanks for getting me thinking!

    • Mr. Cummings

      Thanks for the comment, Joan. SCAMPER is new to me as well and I love your idea of using the perspective taking exercises to explore fictional characters. I think it might be a great way to get students to re-tell a story.

      Thanks for the book recommendation. My wishlist is filling up quickly this week, but I’m going to add InGenius to my list. Thanks again for reading and sharing.

  3. Beth Diaz (@bethdiaz)

    Thanks for summing all of this up so neatly in your blog! I have heard of most of this, but your summary together with the VIDEO for FFOE helps me immensely. In 2nd grade we need some movement and your 30 second video brings it to life! So glad I got to drop by the World Peace Game for a while today! See you soon!

    • Mr. Cummings

      Thank you for the comment, Beth. I really appreciate the feedback. I, too, need to think about ways to use move kinesthetic learning in my class. Not only do my students need to be up and moving, but I do, too.

  4. Alice Maund Parker

    Philip, Thanks for sharing the creativity piece to everyone. This is a crucial piece in how we guide our guys to become incredible thinkers and problem solvers.