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Journaling is a simple warm-up exercise whereby individual participants clear their thoughts and ready themselves for ideation. Students write their immediate thoughts down for a short and defined period of time, without pause.

The exercise is a warm-up for the creative processes to follow and trains the students to activate their association making abilities while mitigating or eliminating their self-censorship.

This method is also called ‘Free Writing’ and is used by authors to overcome writer’s block and self-criticism.


  1. Distribute lined writing paper to all and instruct them to jot their thoughts down for 20 minutes without any break.
  2. Clarify that students should use their first language, without regards to grammar, spelling, content, quality or style. The product will not be shared.
  3. If students stop, you should motivate them to continue with the writing process.
  4. If a student doesn’t know what to write, they should write about their inability to do so and move on!
  5. When the writing exercise is complete and all have been regrouped in the classroom, ask the students to reflect on the experience.

Worth Considering

You might suggest that students leave the classroom setting and relocate to wherever they feel comfortable. You could also play some music while they write. A variation of journaling prompts students to address a specific topic.

Some brainstorming fundamentals:

  • Individuals are better at generating ideas than groups (Girotra et al., 2009)
  • Groups are better at selecting the best ideas (Singh & Flemming, 2009), which can be related to “wisdom of the crowds” (Surowiecki, 2004)
  • Individuals are significantly worse at selecting their own creative ideas (Faure, 2004; Putnam & Paulus, in press; Rietzschel, Nijstad & Stroebe, 2006)


Lined paper/writing block, pens.


Brande, D. (1934). Becoming a writer. New York, Harcourt, Brace and company.

De Bono, E. (1971). The use of lateral thinking. Jonathan Cape.

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